Art: Jerry Gretzinger has spent 50 years creating a map of an alternate world

Posted by Maisie Skidmore,

Meet 79-year-old Jerry Gretzinger, a very methodical worker. For 50 years now he has been creating a map of a fictional world, and not just any, fold-it-up-and-shove-it-in-the-glove-compartment map; spreading over more than 2,500 sheets of A4 paper, Jerry copies and adds to the imagined landscape each day in his coffee break, deciding which sheet he will work on according to which card he draws from a specially customised deck.

To say that the artist is completely immersed in his alternate reality would be an understatement; as the map grows he creates “airports, high courts, capital buildings, railroad stations, cemeteries, commercial blocks” to provide for the population, all of which information is then logged into a corresponding spreadsheet on his computer. Similarly, the colour of paint he uses represents different altitudes, and to prevent the map from becoming purely representational he also adds tickets, photographs, magazine cuttings, drawings and other bits and pieces and adds them to existing pages to create a collage effect.

He explains: "I estimate that I have averaged 20 minutes a day over 30 years. I stopped working on this project in about 1983, and it was stored in my attic until 2003 when my son, Henry, found it. He brought the box down to me and said, "’Hey, Dad! What is this? And can I have it?’ I got re-inspired and took up working on it every day… So I have worked on this for a total of 219,000 minutes. If I worked eight hours a day that would come to 456.25 days or 1 year and 3 months. To have “wasted” 15 months of my 70 years and nine months doesn’t seem too bad."

Squeezing the details of this life-long project into a short post simply doesn’t do it justice – if you’re still curious about how this incredibly routine-driven and ambitious artist has created an alternate universe from his basement studio, watch Gregory Whitmore’s brilliant short detailing his process above.

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    Jerry Gretzinger: Jerry’s Map

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    Jerry Gretzinger: Jerry’s Map

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    Jerry Gretzinger: Jerry’s Map

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    Jerry Gretzinger: Jerry’s Map

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    Jerry Gretzinger: Jerry’s Map

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Posted by Maisie Skidmore

Editorial Assistant Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.