APRIL 9 – MAY 1, 1999




STREETFINDER is an exhibition of twelve bookworks by Sara Graham that she developed by altering Rand McNally StreetFinder Mapbooks of major cities across Canada. Graham has altered each book by painstakingly cutting away all the information except the major roads, highways and expressways. What remains is a complex, abstract, lace-like network of roads accompanied by numerical or alphabetical coordinates for each road and the map legends. The bookworks were installed in the gallery on transparent shelves that were position on the walls relative to each city’s geographic position.

With the support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Artist in the Community Residency Program, Graham simultaneously participated in a three-week residency at the Stride Gallery. Graham devoted much of this professional development time to researching and documenting Calgary communities and their cartographic representations. She will use this research to develop new work that furthers her analyses of how visual representations of communities determine, in part, the social, economic and cultural values of these communities.



SARA GRAHAM attended the Ottawa School of Art between 1993 and 1994. In 1997, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Most recently she participated in a group show at the Muttart Public Art Gallery, Calgary, and she will be having a solo show in November 1999 at Eyelevel Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sara Graham is an artist who has lived in many of Canada’s major cities including Ottawa, Halifax, and now Calgary. Her somewhat nomadic lifestyle is common in today’s culture where people travel and move to places where there is the potential for work, school, or pleasure. Her current practice is due, in part, to her frequent relocations.



This Stride Gallery publication was produced in collaboration with Child Friendly Calgary’s Youth Volunteer Corps; a local, non-profit organization that helps teenagers find ways to enrich their community and their lives through volunteer opportunities. With the generous support of Alberta Community Development’s Community Lottery Board Grant Program, Stride Gallery produced two publications about contemporary art written by Calgary youths. During the month of April, a group of teenagers collaborated with arts professionals and volunteered their time to write, illustrate, design and layout the publication for Sara Graham’s STREETFINDER. Interviews and workshops involving the artist, other arts professionals and the students, were held to help these Calgary youths understand more about contemporary art issues specific to the artist’s practice and her exhibition at the Stride Gallery.


I sit in the car with my mom and watch her drive. On occasion, I remind her where to go left and where to go right. Our sense of direction are totally opposite: my mom sometimes seems like she’s driving down a pitch-black street where all her sources of light are cut off, while I feel like I’m strolling around in broad daylight.

Sara Graham has created several different cut out maps. She removed less important portions of the whole mapped area from the piece itself and left the main roads and highways for us to see. The detail is remarkable, as is the feeling of confusion created by the whole piece.

Graham’s work is a reality check for me. I look at the roads with all the added features removed and I begin to feel like my mother driving down her dark road. I rely so much on the physical features and the visuals in an area to know where I am. When those seemingly less important features are gone, I’m lost, and that’s what Graham’s work does to me. The amps impair a strong sense of mine, which goes to show that we are only human. Graham’s intentions of what she wanted to express remain somewhat unclear to me. She mentioned that she wanted to make her work interactive. “A book is intimate…” she says. When you look at a book, you have to touch it, you can’t look at it from a distance. She wanted to attract people naturally through the idea of looking at a book. Her method leaves a huge personal impact that is unique for each person. I feel confused and lost while another individual might think of travelling. Her work is even more powerful because the viewer looks at it in his or her own way and creates their own perspective on how they would like to view the piece and judge what the impact should be.

It’s amazing how taking away certain things can add to your imagination. Just look at one of her pieces and you’ll see what I mean. At first you may go “What? Huh? What is this?”. But that’s the part that gets the gears going inside of your head and brings out your own personality.

Text by Roslyn “Rose E” Murphy

ROSLYN “ROS E” MURPHY is a student at Bownes High School in Calgary. Sh’s very involved with the visual and performing arts. She enjoys music, drawing, painting, web design and singing. Roslyn absolutely loved this opportunity to volunteer, especially since she got the change to express herself through art.


We have all been lost. Lost from our souls, lost from our directions, and lost from our paths. After seeing Sara Graham’s work, we realize that the way we see our lives is not always as they are. We often think that our roles in society are transparent, but we can also find ourselves lost on interlocking paths, trying to find our way back to where we belong. What was once our home now becomes a window of opportunity for unaccustomed and more important events to show their faces.

Our perplexed souls are mimicked in the map; simple lines and simple roads become a mass of confusion that forces us to travel to a better place. When we go back, we see that what is needed is not always obtainable. Importance has changed, priorities have changed, lives have been changed. But when we take out what is unessential and see transparently using the map, we can look deeper and find new beginnings that were never before conspicuous. We flip the pages of our lives with exhilaration trying to find what is appealing, stopping only for a moment to enjoy the discovery, and then continuing once again. What was once familiar as a place of comfort and contentment, transforms into a place of irregularity and identifiable confusion.

Sara Graham’s bookworks are simply displayed. They can only be experienced by close inspection and the display encourages genuine interaction between viewers and the mapbooks. This interaction is an important aspect Sara wished to have incorporated into the final exhibition. As in her work, only what is essential is displayed. The exhibition leads us to ask ourselves many questions. Who is to choose what is essential and what is not in our own lives? Do we choose for ourselves the paths and roads that we shall take, or is it seemingly an omniscient being that carves away the paths so we can see what is on the next page? Can we make sense of our lives when such familiar roads are presented in such unfamiliar ways?

We must quickly evaluate that we possess, and enjoy what we find, because at any instant it may be removed from our lives, never to be recovered again. We can try to prepare, but where we search is unfamiliar because everything is always changing. We can choose to flip our own pages, or watch someone else do it for us. Either way, looking back never changes the past, it can only change the future.

Text by Stanley Sun

STANLEY SUN was born in 1983, and he is a Grade eleven student at William Aberhart High School. He enjoys musical arts and plans to attend the University of Victoria to pursue a career in marine biology. Stanley wrote this text for Sara Graham’s exhibition Streetfinder to provide youth commentary on the visual arts.


Sara Graham’s work can be put into a category of its own. Her work brings new meanings to maps. It is remarkable how Sara could have thought of these mapbooks. Her experimentation with them brought out so many viewpoints. Numerous hours have been spent on each age making every detail perfect. Her cutting out around major roads and highways has been so exact and precise. After observing Sara Graham’s mapbooks, I will never again be able to visualize maps in the same way.

Sara is a unique person and this is brought out in her work. She has concentrate on a concept so distinct from any other artwork I have ever seen. The fundamental idea of her work is cutting out areas on maps that surround major roads/highways and that could be used for cars in the future. Coming up with such a distinguished idea probably took a really long thinking process.

Sara attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. During the course, Sara did some prints and displayed them. Everybody would look at them like paintings, but Sara wanted people to touch her work. She thought books were more personal than paintings. You can touch and feel a book; interact with it rather than just looking at something on the wall. Sara had just graduated from art school and was not sure about what she wanted to do. Doing some kind of art with books seemed to fit perfectly for Sara.

My opinion about Sara’s works is that it is appealing and her thinking is unique. Her work has opened up a new window onto art for me. It’s amazing how much effort and time she has put towards these books.

All people have their own peculiar way of doing some kind of art. Whether it is blobbing paint on paper, or drawing a beautiful picture of nature. Sara does not use drawing or painting techniques, but she has her won way of making art. It separates her from all other artists. Many people admire artists, wishing that they could do the same. Really all it takes is a little time and imagination.

Text by Nafisa Jadauji

NAFISA JADAUJI was born in 1984, and she is a Grade nine student at John Ware Junior High School. She loves science and hopes to become a doctor one day. She chose to do this project because she is interested in art.

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