Cities of You

"Cities of You" is a project that envisions people as imaginary places using words and paintings.
Part of a related project I’ve been working on called Continuous City, exploring imagined landscapes and topographies for New York City. I am currently raising funds on Kickstarter to launch a book and print posters!

Part of a related project I’ve been working on called Continuous City, exploring imagined landscapes and topographies for New York City. I am currently raising funds on Kickstarter to launch a book and print posters!

City #55: Noonine (Bonnie J)16 x 20”, Gouache and Ink on Paper
The round houses of Noonine are tossed in the air and caught in a cascading pattern, loosely resembling a figure eight. This activity is performed by the two sides of Noonine—East and West. Though complex and dizzying at first, when you live in Noonine for a long enough time, the repeating patterns become a source of tranquility. The gentle rising and falling, like a lullaby sung by streets and avenues, cradle its residents. Some describe the juggling pattern as hypnotic if you are tightly focused on the city’s skyline, as the figure eight—or the sign for “infinity”—slowly begins to expand, like the Fibonacci sequence, first encompassing you, then the neighborhood, then the entire city, then the continent, until you and the universe are equally large.

City #55: Noonine (Bonnie J)
16 x 20”, Gouache and Ink on Paper

The round houses of Noonine are tossed in the air and caught in a cascading pattern, loosely resembling a figure eight. This activity is performed by the two sides of Noonine—East and West. Though complex and dizzying at first, when you live in Noonine for a long enough time, the repeating patterns become a source of tranquility. The gentle rising and falling, like a lullaby sung by streets and avenues, cradle its residents. Some describe the juggling pattern as hypnotic if you are tightly focused on the city’s skyline, as the figure eight—or the sign for “infinity”—slowly begins to expand, like the Fibonacci sequence, first encompassing you, then the neighborhood, then the entire city, then the continent, until you and the universe are equally large.

City #15, Visit #1: Otagani20 x 16”, Colored Pencil, Marker, and Gouache on Paper
In the beginning of every spring in Otagani, there is an annual Festival of Exhalation. On the day of the official spring equinox, there is a city-wide countdown. The numbers are not shouted as they are during New Year’s Eve; rather, the citizens murmur them under their breath to conserve precious air. When they get down to one, the citizens take one deep concerted breath, sucking all the city’s air into their lungs, collapsing the fabric walls around them. Then there is complete silence for about twenty seconds. Then the city starts to toss and twitch. The children burst in a barrage of exhales at first, as their lungs have not yet grown to full capacity. The soprano panting and puffing slowly give way to baritone hacking and hemming as the elder citizens struggle to recover their breath. The walls of the city slowly start re-inflate, starting with the outer edges of their citizens—the young and the old. Moving inward, the tweens and the middle-aged exhale with frustration, wishing they were just a little older or a little younger. Then the teens and their parents prove to each other they can last as long as the other. The twenty-somethings are left glaring at each other with delirious pride. Their faces are like bright red tomatoes; they would pass out before they concede to their peers. Towards the end, the city is like a stadium, with just a handful of athletes in the center, surrounded by a sea of wind, cheers, and jeers. There is old air, there is young air. There is air that births more air. There is prideful air, there is modest air. In Otagani, the air is as alive as its citizens.

City #15, Visit #1: Otagani
20 x 16”, Colored Pencil, Marker, and Gouache on Paper

In the beginning of every spring in Otagani, there is an annual Festival of Exhalation. On the day of the official spring equinox, there is a city-wide countdown. The numbers are not shouted as they are during New Year’s Eve; rather, the citizens murmur them under their breath to conserve precious air. When they get down to one, the citizens take one deep concerted breath, sucking all the city’s air into their lungs, collapsing the fabric walls around them. Then there is complete silence for about twenty seconds. Then the city starts to toss and twitch. The children burst in a barrage of exhales at first, as their lungs have not yet grown to full capacity. The soprano panting and puffing slowly give way to baritone hacking and hemming as the elder citizens struggle to recover their breath. The walls of the city slowly start re-inflate, starting with the outer edges of their citizens—the young and the old. Moving inward, the tweens and the middle-aged exhale with frustration, wishing they were just a little older or a little younger. Then the teens and their parents prove to each other they can last as long as the other. The twenty-somethings are left glaring at each other with delirious pride. Their faces are like bright red tomatoes; they would pass out before they concede to their peers. Towards the end, the city is like a stadium, with just a handful of athletes in the center, surrounded by a sea of wind, cheers, and jeers. There is old air, there is young air. There is air that births more air. There is prideful air, there is modest air. In Otagani, the air is as alive as its citizens.

City #55: Vorotha (Evan R)16 x 20”, Gouache on Paper
Tall leafless trunks cover the island of Vorotha, a barren forest at first glance. When you look a little closer, you see the wooden pillars slowly expand at their bases, then gently spread upward. Beneath, what is happening is some form of diffusion—of people, of things. It is quite efficient, actually; transportation requires absolutely no added energy. One only needs to join a crowd (the more concentrated the better) and Vorotha will naturally pull the cluster apart, hopefully in the direction they need to go. The same goes with things. For example, there are no hoarders in Vorotha. Hoarding—let’s say, newspapers—will simply result in a papery explosion. And similarly with emotion, there’s nothing like grudges or crushes in Vorotha. You cannot bottle up hate or love for too long, as the city will force you to distribute them evenly. 

City #55: Vorotha (Evan R)
16 x 20”, Gouache on Paper

Tall leafless trunks cover the island of Vorotha, a barren forest at first glance. When you look a little closer, you see the wooden pillars slowly expand at their bases, then gently spread upward. Beneath, what is happening is some form of diffusion—of people, of things. It is quite efficient, actually; transportation requires absolutely no added energy. One only needs to join a crowd (the more concentrated the better) and Vorotha will naturally pull the cluster apart, hopefully in the direction they need to go. The same goes with things. For example, there are no hoarders in Vorotha. Hoarding—let’s say, newspapers—will simply result in a papery explosion. And similarly with emotion, there’s nothing like grudges or crushes in Vorotha. You cannot bottle up hate or love for too long, as the city will force you to distribute them evenly. 

System #6, Visit #1: Vumaaste20 x 16”, Ink and Gouache on Paper
The thread between father and daughter is violet, with hues of extravagance when the violet is saturated, frustration when darkened, and magic when brightened. The thread between mother and son is red, with moments of strength when ignited, danger when flickered, and desire when cooled. Between friends, the thread is chartreuse that mimics growth and healing. Between lovers, orange implies the sensation of heat, and symbolizes endurance when mixed with yellow and pleasure when mixed with red. Between ex-lovers, azure is the color of the sky, mist, eyes, and steel. Strangers and the estranged are treated similarly with yellow and gold, the color of bittersweet, cowardice, and imagination.

System #6, Visit #1: Vumaaste
20 x 16”, Ink and Gouache on Paper

The thread between father and daughter is violet, with hues of extravagance when the violet is saturated, frustration when darkened, and magic when brightened. The thread between mother and son is red, with moments of strength when ignited, danger when flickered, and desire when cooled. Between friends, the thread is chartreuse that mimics growth and healing. Between lovers, orange implies the sensation of heat, and symbolizes endurance when mixed with yellow and pleasure when mixed with red. Between ex-lovers, azure is the color of the sky, mist, eyes, and steel. Strangers and the estranged are treated similarly with yellow and gold, the color of bittersweet, cowardice, and imagination.

City #54: Gdilila20 x 16”, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper
There are two pieces that make up the city of Gdilila: the body and the hands. The body is no surprise; the streets are the arms and avenues, the legs. The temple is the temple (of course), the bridge is the neck, and so on. But the city’s hands are more interesting. Ever wonder where traffic jams come from? It’s when the index finger lifts the avenues ever so slightly. Thunderstorms are jazz hands, while a gentle breeze is born from a swift flick of the wrist. Serendipity is actually caused by the touching of two pinkies. Tragedy can be endured by firmly, gently pressing hands together, and can be overcome by slowly pulling them apart. And something that is lost can be found by running a finger along the wrinkles of the palm.

City #54: Gdilila
20 x 16”, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper

There are two pieces that make up the city of Gdilila: the body and the hands. The body is no surprise; the streets are the arms and avenues, the legs. The temple is the temple (of course), the bridge is the neck, and so on. But the city’s hands are more interesting. Ever wonder where traffic jams come from? It’s when the index finger lifts the avenues ever so slightly. Thunderstorms are jazz hands, while a gentle breeze is born from a swift flick of the wrist. Serendipity is actually caused by the touching of two pinkies. Tragedy can be endured by firmly, gently pressing hands together, and can be overcome by slowly pulling them apart. And something that is lost can be found by running a finger along the wrinkles of the palm.

City #22, Visit #1: Jirameas16 x 20”, Ink and Gouache on Paper
The boulders that balance Jirameas are not the kind that you would find laying on the ground or cut by the forces of erosion or ice. Each mass of rock is hand-carved by citizens of Jirameas to reflect the appropriate size and shape of the ailment it represents. For example, to create the boulder for disease, they swing sledgehammers to create visible and hidden fractures that permeate the rock. For poverty, they rub sandpaper on the rock’s surface until it bleeds . To create the stone of corruption, they hollow out the rock, creating a just shell that will shatter if thrown too hard.  And when pondering how to carve the boulder of ignorance, they sat and sat and thought, until they gave up.

City #22, Visit #1: Jirameas
16 x 20”, Ink and Gouache on Paper

The boulders that balance Jirameas are not the kind that you would find laying on the ground or cut by the forces of erosion or ice. Each mass of rock is hand-carved by citizens of Jirameas to reflect the appropriate size and shape of the ailment it represents. For example, to create the boulder for disease, they swing sledgehammers to create visible and hidden fractures that permeate the rock. For poverty, they rub sandpaper on the rock’s surface until it bleeds . To create the stone of corruption, they hollow out the rock, creating a just shell that will shatter if thrown too hard.  And when pondering how to carve the boulder of ignorance, they sat and sat and thought, until they gave up.

Landmark #15: Anirsti20 x 16”, Gouache and Marker on PaperAs old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #15: Anirsti
20 x 16”, Gouache and Marker on Paper

As old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #14: Amelhi20 x 16”, Gouache and Marker on PaperAs old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #14: Amelhi
20 x 16”, Gouache and Marker on Paper

As old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #13: Arnond18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on PaperAs old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #13: Arnond
18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on Paper

As old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #12: Anatati18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on Paper
As old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #12: Anatati
18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on Paper

As old as the continents, there are four permanent ocean waves, given the names: Anatati, Arnond, Amelhi, and Anirsti. These are the only four waves that have been recorded to change the geography (and thus history) of entire land masses, and each has been noted to abide by a unique temperament.  Anatati, the Wave of Sanguine, plays with how she crashes upon the coasts, with her accidental brush strokes that paint the many unique natural wonders that we worship today.  Arnond, the Wave of Resolve, is the force that pushes the ocean currents, taking direct instructions from the Moon and Sun.  Amelhi, the Wave of Reasoning, with a long and pointy body, supervises the direction, flow, and temperature of our bodies of water by thrusting and cutting lesser waves as necessary.  Anirsti, the Wave of Mindfulness, creeps at the ocean floor, tasked to contemplate the entirety of the world as it existed and what it will or will never be.

Landmark #11: Teslaeryl18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on Paper
Teslaeryl “The Mischievous Mountain” is made up of clay and whimsy. It will scrunch and fold its face as you climb to its summit. It will pose riddles through its cracks and crevices, making you question the meaning of “up” and “down.” Those who aim to race to the top tend to find themselves unable to leave the ground as Teslaeryl continuously redefines its meaning of “top”. Veteran climbers explain that one does not climb Teslaeryl, but the mountain “climbs you” so-to-speak. Someone who is fixed on a specific target has a mountain that is flat. Someone who is wandering or lost has a mountain that is rugged and uneven. And there are some who carry a void—a deep void of time, feeling, or being—who have a mountain that is boundless.

Landmark #11: Teslaeryl
18 x 24”, Gouache and Pen on Paper

Teslaeryl “The Mischievous Mountain” is made up of clay and whimsy. It will scrunch and fold its face as you climb to its summit. It will pose riddles through its cracks and crevices, making you question the meaning of “up” and “down.” Those who aim to race to the top tend to find themselves unable to leave the ground as Teslaeryl continuously redefines its meaning of “top”. Veteran climbers explain that one does not climb Teslaeryl, but the mountain “climbs you” so-to-speak. Someone who is fixed on a specific target has a mountain that is flat. Someone who is wandering or lost has a mountain that is rugged and uneven. And there are some who carry a void—a deep void of time, feeling, or being—who have a mountain that is boundless.

City #53: Nezzanbetti24 x 18”, Gouache and Pen on Paper
The citizens of Nezzanbetti have an unusual relationship with birds. The city’s human inhabitants model their homes after their feathered friends, who, in exchange, build their nests in the shape of their hominid counterparts. The people have also adopted fowl-like behavior, often moving in complex patterns as a synchronous group, sometimes drawn to congregating on thin wires at hazardous heights. The birds are unnaturally independent, occasionally moving in monogamous pairs or exclusive posses. Some birds are hunters, some are gatherers, some are builders, leaders, or performers. The human residents do not speak, but sing and dance to communicate. They wear elaborate, colorful wardrobes to court their mates. They cannot fly, but they walk with a certain weightlessness. And the birds do fly, but always in straight lines, as if following invisible roads and imaginary signs.

City #53: Nezzanbetti
24 x 18”, Gouache and Pen on Paper

The citizens of Nezzanbetti have an unusual relationship with birds. The city’s human inhabitants model their homes after their feathered friends, who, in exchange, build their nests in the shape of their hominid counterparts. The people have also adopted fowl-like behavior, often moving in complex patterns as a synchronous group, sometimes drawn to congregating on thin wires at hazardous heights. The birds are unnaturally independent, occasionally moving in monogamous pairs or exclusive posses. Some birds are hunters, some are gatherers, some are builders, leaders, or performers. The human residents do not speak, but sing and dance to communicate. They wear elaborate, colorful wardrobes to court their mates. They cannot fly, but they walk with a certain weightlessness. And the birds do fly, but always in straight lines, as if following invisible roads and imaginary signs.

City #52: Vimayali20 x 16”, Gouache, Pen, and Marker on Paper
The two sides that make up the city of Vimayali gently rise above the ancient and rugged river of Wothmella. East and West Vimayali are tied together by a series of delicate rope bridges. However, it is rare to see the bridges occupied by anything other than birds and seaweed since Vimayali Law states that a citizen must cross the bridges once and only once during their lifetime. As one would expect, the elderly cross the bridges to retire, and the wretched cross to start anew. Some cross with families, some cross with loved ones. Each side of Vimayali is both temporary and permanent, life and afterlife. For most, the decision to cross over is paralyzing. Some just take off in the night, chasing the moon. Some wake up early and cross in time to see the sunrise. 

City #52: Vimayali
20 x 16”, Gouache, Pen, and Marker on Paper

The two sides that make up the city of Vimayali gently rise above the ancient and rugged river of Wothmella. East and West Vimayali are tied together by a series of delicate rope bridges. However, it is rare to see the bridges occupied by anything other than birds and seaweed since Vimayali Law states that a citizen must cross the bridges once and only once during their lifetime. As one would expect, the elderly cross the bridges to retire, and the wretched cross to start anew. Some cross with families, some cross with loved ones. Each side of Vimayali is both temporary and permanent, life and afterlife. For most, the decision to cross over is paralyzing. Some just take off in the night, chasing the moon. Some wake up early and cross in time to see the sunrise. 

City #51: Elinelila16 x 20”, Gouache on Paper
Lines, colors, shapes, form. The citizens of Elinelila converse through design, who think of themselves as points that make lines through the city’s plane. They achieve unity through repetition. They attain harmony through symmetry. There are no hierarchies of wealth and status—only hierarchies that guide visitors through the story the city wants to tell. This causes debate about where the focal point of their city should be, without sacrificing the unity of the whole. Luckily, conflict and tension delivers balance, a fundamental principle of design.

City #51: Elinelila
16 x 20”, Gouache on Paper

Lines, colors, shapes, form. The citizens of Elinelila converse through design, who think of themselves as points that make lines through the city’s plane. They achieve unity through repetition. They attain harmony through symmetry. There are no hierarchies of wealth and status—only hierarchies that guide visitors through the story the city wants to tell. This causes debate about where the focal point of their city should be, without sacrificing the unity of the whole. Luckily, conflict and tension delivers balance, a fundamental principle of design.