Mapping China, painting a picture

I’ve been told that radio is a particularly visual medium. It’s one of the big lessons I took from Jessica Abel and Ira Glass’s comic How To Make Radio. Generally, this means really illustrating the action of a scene so that it can come alive in the listener’s imagination.

But painting a picture with words is one thing. What about talking about painted pictures? I thought this would be an interesting challenge when I walked into the exhibition All Under Heaven: The Chinese World in Maps, Pictures and Texts from the Collection of Floyd Sully. 

Under the curation of Walter Davis, Floyd Sully’s collection charts a course through 300 years of early-modern China. A business and IT professional, Sully’s tastes veered away from traditional art objects, things like sculptures, luxury goods, caligraphy or sacred objects. Instead, he sought out pragmatic tools like maps and technical illustrations. Altogether, the exhibition gives a unique vantage on China in the time of the last dynasty and the growing influence of Western powers.