Above: A detail of Dave Imus’ new map of Oregon; an exhibit of his work is on display through August at Vistra Framing & Gallery in Eugene. The artist’s reception will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, during the downtown Eugene First Friday ArtWalk. (Photos by Paul Carter)
By Randi Bjornstad
Unlike many ways in which using paper has gone out of style, cartographer Dave Imus believes that when it comes to maps, the techniques are just getting better and better.
One example of that, he said, is the way his brand-new, razor-sharp map of Oregon is created, using inkjet printing on cotton rag, archive-quality paper.
“It used to be that a paper map hung under fluorescent light would be faded out within a few months,” Imus said. “With this new technology, these maps are rated for 200 years — people can get them and hang them, and they can become heirlooms for future generations.”
That applies especially to his work, the 60-year-old Eugene cartographer says without irony, because he considers his mapmaking to be art, not merely the faithful recording of geographic names and places.
“I’m trying to create a rich image, like an oil painting,” Imus said. “I use the computer as a drafting tool, but I still work layer by layer by layer when I create my maps. I am the only cartographer in the western hemisphere who does what I do. I am an illustrator, an artist — not a technician.”
If that sounds a trifle immodest, it may not be. In 2010, Imus won what amounts to the “best in show” award from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society for a map he designed called the “Essential Geography of the United States of America.”
Before that, he won top cartography honors for at least three of his other maps: Alaska’s Chugach State Park, an earlier Oregon map and a map of the Wallowa Mountains.
Several of Imus’ maps are on display at the Vistra Framing & Gallery in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, which in addition to the new Oregon map features one of the Willamette Valley Watershed. Much of his work now is printed, laminated and framed at Vistra’s huge new gallery, classroom, printing, framing and shipping location, where he also rents studio space.
His many other maps include states such as California and Washington as well as a rendering of the Missoula floods. Imus also creates custom maps on commission.
Several of Vistra’s employees — including Diane Lewis, who co-owns the facility with her woodworker husband Lloyd and photographer son Scott — are also working artists who show their work along that of other area painters and photographers.
“One of our framers has a bachelor’s of fine arts in sculpture, and another is a professional musician,” Diane Lewis said. “Working here with all these people, everything is done at the level of fine art.”
The couple originally started the Vistra framing shop in 1980, and it eventually grew enough to support both framing and gallery spaces in two locations in downtown Eugene, first at Eighth and Charnelton streets and later also on East Broadway. But the entire business was threatened during the Great Recession.
“We had just signed the lease for the gallery space on Broadway just before the crash,” Lewis recalled, “and we had to make a decision whether to branch out with the business or close down.”
Lloyd Lewis, whom she describes as “a visionary,” was the one who came up with the idea to go all-out online with an extension of the framing business, and its success helped them weather the economic crisis and thrive during the recovery, including moving to their new location.
“When he first brought me over here to see this space, I was completely blown away by its size,” Diane Lewis said. “Now we have it filled with all kinds of activities.”
The framing operation moved in first, in January, and the downtown gallery relocated to the 411 W. Fourth Ave. location in March.
Vistra Framing & Gallery
Now showing: “Essential Geography of Oregon” and other maps by Dave Imus, plus work by other area artists
When: Through August; opening reception from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, during the downtown Eugene First Friday ArtWalk
Where: 411 W. Fourth Ave., in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday