Maps and Art: Walter Thompson-Hernández

Using Los Angeles as a canvas, Walter Thompson-Hernández remaps narrative art

The most important role a map plays in a story—be it a novel, a film or a documentary—is to structure that story. It becomes the blueprint for how we construct our ideas of place and identity. It frames our imagination. It helps us orient ourselves as we enter foreign locales. I recently spent a week visiting museums and galleries in Los Angeles to talk about maps and art with artist Walter Thompson-Hernández.

I spent the week learning to walk again and visiting museums and galleries in Los Angeles, an important city to me because it is the epicenter of art and storytelling in this country, along with New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. It has become something of a crossroads for artists and art-historians, a place that both encourages and stifles creativity.

The most important role a map plays in a story—be it a novel, a film or a documentary—is to structure that story. It becomes the blueprint for how we construct our ideas of place and identity. It frames our imagination. It helps us orient ourselves as we enter foreign locales.

—Walter Thompson-Hernández

Walter Thompson-Hernández is an artist, writer and professor who uses Los Angeles as a canvas to reimagine the way we tell stories. He creates art that helps us understand the role of place in storytelling, while also being a vehicle for social change. His work has been featured in Los Angeles Magazine, where he’s an associate editor.

Walter and I met recently to talk about Los Angeles as a canvas, how he maps narrative art and why he has chosen to take such an interest in Los Angeles as a canvas.

Where did you live growing up that enabled you to explore art and storytelling?

My family was very artsy. We were part of the “New York” generation, so I grew up right in the heart of that art explosion, which is now in New

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