When I think about America, my head flurries with images, feelings, and history. As these blips of culture phase in and out of focus, I begin to realize that there is simply too much information. From regional delicacies to tourist traps, America itself is unique, everchanging, and yet, somehow still rooted in the past. There’s just something about the “Land of the Free” that many deem to be special. Unlike many of my peers and fellow American citizens, I’ve never made a trip abroad. No summer vacations in the islands, no spring break trip to Mexico, and no semesters spent in Europe. While I do lament the fact that I’ve been somewhat deprived, I can consider myself to be an expert in “USA today.” This week, I worked to simplify my home country into a singular concept: Regional Stereotypes.
If you’ve lived in America for any period of time, you’d know that while we are a hodgepodge accumulation of culture, beliefs, and practices, there is an overwhelming need to simplify groups and regions into digestible chunks. These digestible chunks take the form of stereotypes. While sometimes crass and somewhat inaccurate, regional stereotypes help us make the vast land of America seem a bit smaller.
After definitely choosing regional stereotypes as my concept, I called upon all of those cultural blips in my brain to guide my creative process. The easiest way to begin was to start depicting the regions with the most stereotypes first. This led me to the creation of my Florida gator, the cowboy home of Texas, the historically-valuable documents of Pennslyvania, and the colorful characteristics of California. With those states accounted for, I was able to frame America from four points. Although not every state is represented within my illustration, the symbols I have used to classify that region do enough to help the viewer contextualize where they are looking at and what that stereotype is.
For example, when one looks towards the northwest, one can see the icons of a cell phone and a coffee cup. Washington state is notoriously known for its coffee and tech scenes, with many global companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft calling this place home. In other areas of my drawing, the stereotypes begin to be a little bit more abstract. In Minnesota’s general location, I depicted an axe. This harkens to several different cultural ties. The first being the folklore stories of the giant lumberjack, Paul Bunyan. The second cultural tie is Minnesota’s football team, the Vikings. To really help the viewer grasp that this area is Minnesota, snowflakes were added to harken to the area’s frigid weather.
While creating this drawing, I was careful not to use any signs or names that might tip off the viewer about states, cities, etc. I could have easily used the Las Vegas sign to demonstrate Nevada – but it wouldn’t have fit the theme of stereotypes because it would just be referencing that one singular place. Instead, the slot machine and coins did well to get that point across while feeding into other regional stereotypes like Native American-owned casinos, gambling problems, and the greed of the West (think about the gold rush).
After looking at my final product, I think that it is a well-balanced mix of obvious and subtle cues. The organization of all the elements mimics the shape of a map of America without including the dead giveaway of outlining its iconic shape. The distribution of bright colors helps balance the piece and allows the eye to travel through it without too much difficulty. As a whole concept, I am very curious to see if this concept is easily identified by new viewers. Some of the symbols used can easily be mistaken for a category like agriculture/industry or tourism spots. Hopefully, there are just enough cues that push stereotypes as my inspiration to the forefront. I cannot wait to see the results of this test next week.