map room

Credit: Jeff Woodward

Credit: Jeff Woodward

 We shared the incredible work of Jerry Gretzinger in issue #12 and before on the blog

Last week an exhibition of his work opened at The Battleboro Museum & Art CenterJerry’s Map, is a room-sized installation of hand-drawn panels comprising a highly-detailed map of an imaginary world. The map started as a doodle in 1963 and Jerry has been working on it ever since. What he adds to the map each day and what happens to the sections he has already created are determined in part by cards drawn at random from a customized deck. Gretzinger’s ongoing interest in the project, he claims, is in seeing how the map will evolve, since that is not totally within his control. 

The exhibition runs until March 8, 2014 at The Battleboro Museum & Art Center In Battleboro, Vermont.


Detail images via The Battleboro Museum & Art Centre's  flickr . 

Detail images via The Battleboro Museum & Art Centre's flickr


Get your hands on out-of-print back issues!


Do you love UPPERCASE magazine but you're missing a back issue? Have you recently been introduced to this quarterly magazine for the creative and curious and now you wish you had them all?


Here's your chance to purchase an entire stack of all the issues we've ever printed! We have taken a few of our early issues out of our archives for this one-time only auction. (Issues #1-#7 and #12 are completely sold out elsewhere.)


The purpose of this auction is to raise funds for the upcoming studio move (our current home of the past 8 years is in a building slated for "redevelopment" and so we'll be moving to new accommodations later this summer).


Due to the heavy weight of the package, this stack is only available to ship within North America. However, we have created other listings for individual out-of-print back issues #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #12 that we can ship internationally.


Click here to see the listings on eBay. 

Bidding ends next Friday, May 31.

Thank you for your support!

my life with paper: Francisca Prieto

Francisca Prieto at work on her intricate folded paper works.

Francisca Prieto at work on her intricate folded paper works.

This text written by Francisca Prieto was originally published in the now sold-out issue #12 of UPPERCASE magazine. In that issue, we asked various artists to describe their "life with paper."

To me there is something magic about paper; it is hard to point out something specific, though it is probably the endless possibilities that it offers... It all starts with a blank page!

Over the years I have been collecting a variety of things made of paper and those things inspire me, from old tickets and catalogues to vintage ledger books and all kind of unusual finds. Each has something fascinating about them, the colours, texture, concept or simply because they make me smile. I choose them because I feel that somehow they have a story to tell.


Each leaf of the book is folded using a traditional origami technique, to form a single modular structure. Selected and folded in a planned and considered way so that the dominant image, be it a chair, a bird, or a musical score, relates to the connecting pieces forming a multilayered artwork made up of many tiny compositions. By consciously linking each module a hidden narrative emerges in each of my works through the conceptual connections, thus combining my interest as an artist, mathematician and typographer, whilst searching for precision and fluidity in each artwork. 

Paper, as you can imagine, is quite fragile, so there are no mistakes allowed. You can easily tear it or leave a mark on it. Working with old, often rare books, I find that each page is irreplaceable, so I have to work very carefully. But the experience of transforming something very fragile into something totally new is what drives me. I just want people to look at them in detail and treasure them in a different way.

Prieto-Francisca-British Scenery-2.jpg

For the last 2 years I have been working with old books. Books excite me and inspire me: the intimate relationship with their texture and colour and even their smell - all unique and distinct to each – ultimately feeds into the work. I have been working on a series entitled Between Folds, an ongoing body of work which draws together many of my interests: exploring the deconstruction of rare illustrated periodicals and books using modular structures whilst incorporating typographical elements. The delicate pages of these beautiful, often rare books are released from their bindings and restructured into new three-dimensional artworks. By dissecting, folding and re-connecting the pages, viewers are invited to experience looking at a book and all of its pages at once, yet without being able to read any one page individually.


I admire the dedication with which so many people work together into making these old journals, encyclopaedias, catalogues and books in general. The quality of their illustrations, the dedication with which the typesetter puts the text together, the precision of the binder, all contribute to create stunning art pieces. But the ones I work with have somehow lost their value due to damage by water, worms, missing pages, a broken spine, or they simply have been forgotten, so I love to give them back their glory.
Each book has a unique character and I enjoy translating that. I also like to keep as much of the book as possible, sometimes managing to use every single page, including the end papers and a bit from the cover. I like to keep any dedications, comments, fingerprints or other things that I find inside of them and that inform of their previous mysterious life.

Prieto-Francisca-British Scenery-4.jpg

Jerry's map

Article and photographs by Gail Anderson

This article was originally published in issue 12 (January 2012) of UPPERCASE magazine. 
Video by Greg Whitmore (2009).

Jerry Gretzinger is a musser. "My mother called me a "musser" because I liked to mix things together," he says. "I once mixed ammonia and Clorox and then took a whiff. I invented games and forced my younger brother to play them, and then got pissed off when he won." Many of Jerry's games had their basis in maps, with fully operating railroads, airlines, and hotels. There were armies and wars. But saying that Jerry's maps have become considerably more involved since his Michigan childhood is a bit of an understatement. In fact, he's been chipping away at the same map since 1963, though he did take a break to raise a family. The map is now made up of over 2400 individual 8x10 sheets.

An example of one of Jerry's panels.

An example of one of Jerry's panels.

"The map began as a doodle," Jerry says in Greg Whitmore's 2009 documentary trailer — a sudden viral hit on Vimeo with almost 100,000 hits. "I just made little rectangles and crosshatched them carefully." Using typing paper allotted by his mother sparingly, Jerry began to create a city, and soon, countries with their high-speed monorail lines, freeways, and void defense walls (more on the "void" later). With each new panel, Jerry's world expanded.

Jerry’s various logs include books that document parishes, populations,    and other vital statistics. He occasionally makes copies of map panels   available for sale on eBay.
Jerry’s various logs include books that document parishes, populations,and other vital statistics. He occasionally makes copies of map panels available for sale on eBay.

The detail of one particular panel.

The detail of one particular panel.

"Not only does he build his world, he also destroys it," a Vimeo fan writes on Jerry's page. "What I found most fascinating about this was that my preconceived ideas of what he was doing changed every 30 seconds as I discovered just how deeply into his world he got." Jerry is into his world in a big way, with over 2400 completed map panels methodically categorized on metal shelves. The stacks represent almost a half-century of evolution in his virtual world.

Jerry, 69, begins each day in his Cold Spring, NY basement with some early morning map time. He and his wife, Meg Staley, are working on their next life chapter, having sold the clothing company they created together, Staley/Gretzinger, about seven years ago. They divide their time between New York and their 100-acre working farm in Maple City, Michigan, where Jerry tends to sheep, goats, chicken, and turkeys. "I don't feel deprived in the least without television when I'm at the farm," Jerry says as I clutch my chest in horror. "I get pretty unplugged when I'm out in Michigan. I'm in the garden a lot."

"When I first met Jerry he was living with my sister in an illegal loft in a former thread factory in SoHo," Jerry's sister-in-law, artist Lynn Staley recalls. "The venue itself was unconventional enough, but Jerry was in the process of papering the long hallway leading to the living space with bits of torn New Yorker magazines. Not the pretty covers, mind you, but the black and white text pages punctuated by an occasional cartoon. You'd be talking to him and he'd be papering, homemade paste pot in hand, as if it was the most normal thing in the world." I met Jerry through Lynn in the late 1980's, and was completely taken by his good humor and eccentricities. But I had no idea about the map until only this past summer. And now, even Oprah's a fan since it was recently featured on her website — the ultimate seal of approval.

Organized paints, with the colours and dates indicated on the cap.

Organized paints, with the colours and dates indicated on the cap.

Each morning before sunrise, Jerry re-tints his colors. Two rows of small plastic bottles are lined up in sequence on a large table in the dark, low-ceilinged basement in the Cold Spring, NY, house that he and Meg share. Jerry listens to music on Internet radio as he begins his morning ritual, adding notes and sample chips to a massive, one could say, "obsessive" color journal. Next, Jerry draws a card from the bottom of a deck of elaborately retooled playing cards that dictates how many panels he moves in the rotation; which panel will be worked on next. There is mind-boggling ritual involved in every step — logging elements into a spreadsheet in now-obsolete HP software on a computer that's missing part of its case. "The housekeeping takes so much time that the execution suffers," Jerry says with a smile. One day, he's scanning and reworking an archival page, and the next, he's forming parts of a new world. 

Jerry began mixing new paint colors around 2003, and documented   them in this ongoing journal.
Jerry began mixing new paint colors around 2003, and documented them in this ongoing journal.

"I love the interplay between what's out there and the map," Jerry says. "Anything goes. Yesterday, my little cheap printer was running out of ink and was giving me totally mis-colored prints. Still, they get incorporated into the map. Then, my younger grand daughter scribbled on one, and that became part of it. I encourage people to touch and feel the map, and not to be shy."

Jerry started using his most recent cards around 2003, though the   system dates back much earlier. He is protective of maintaining the     cards’   order, and seemed slightly concerned when I had them on the     table. They are as beautiful and quirky as the map itself.

Jerry started using his most recent cards around 2003, though the system dates back much earlier. He is protective of maintaining the cards’ order, and seemed slightly concerned when I had them on the table. They are as beautiful and quirky as the map itself.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Jerry's map is the structure and rules he imposes on his virtual world, complete with implications of destruction. For example, there's a "void" card. When Jerry draws it, all bets are off — entire countries are sometimes wiped out, and new worlds emerge from the ruins. The ritual appears to have been created to expunge Jerry's own creative process; he becomes simply the executor of the cards' fastidious dictations rather than the architect of a vast universe. The randomness of the card's instructions helps Jerry maintain the vitality and evolution of his world, and/or can lead to its destruction. By contrast, many outsider artists attempt to compensate for their lifelong instability by constructing a comprehensible world that is completely fictitious. What Jerry Gretzinger has done instead is to build in the possibility of total destruction to his virtual world, which actually makes it beautiful. 

"Jerry's willingness to bend, adapt and break his own rules extends freedom to the map itself," says filmmaker, Greg Whitmore, the creator of Jerry's documentary trailer. "I should add that though Jerry is permissive and liberal when it comes to the process, he is dogmatic in one regard: that this 'thing' is, in fact, a map and he is responsible for it."

The original map was mounted and preserved on cardboard about 40   years ago. It is now yellowed, but still fascinating in its complexity.
The original map was mounted and preserved on cardboard about 40 years ago. It is now yellowed, but still fascinating in its complexity.

Jerry is able to abandon himself to the randomness of his map, which, ironically, he's designed himself, choosing all of the variables. For example, a limited color palette means that there can only be a certain amount of disharmony. In aggregate, the work is remarkably integrated, and therefore breathtaking in its scope. And it's just a little crazy — but that good, quirky crazy that you can't help but love.

The map has never been displayed in its entirety*, and no one, not even Jerry, knows what his world looks like. "Even he is powerless to say what the outcome will be," says Lynn Staley. "So not only is there great beauty in the map's texture and variation, there is potentially galactic suspense. Will this place, whatever it is, survive or be consumed by the void? What about its inhabitants? And what can we learn from it about our own fate? Is there someone somewhere with another deck of cards like Jer's?"


*This article was originally published in issue 12. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has been preparing to mount an exhibition of the project, A Half Century Project of Imagination, on view October 5–14, 2012.

start your subscription today!


If you'd like your subscription to start with issue #14, please place your order today! Issue #15 is almost ready to ship, so we will send them both at the same time. After today, subscriptions will automatically start with #15 and you will have to buy #14 separately. thank you!


By the way, our pigeon-covered issue #12 is down to just 10 copies, so if you need it to complete your set, fly on over to our online shop.

Etsy & UPPERCASE: Linzee McCray

I "met" one of our regular contributors, Linzee McCray, through Etsy. I was doing some research on a story about Type Truck and discovered Linzee's excellent article on the Etsy blog. She covered everything I was hoping to write about in the article, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I contacted Linzee and Etsy to see if we could update the article and run it in issue #12.

Later, I commissioned Linzee to write about oilcloth, featured in the current issue #14. The article features two Etsy sellers:

Modern June

Modern June

Oilcloth by the Yard

Oilcloth by the Yard

We can all look forward to a new article from Linzee in issue #16 next year! 

Read through Linzee's archive of Etsy posts here >>>