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13 works of art made from Google Maps images

Artist Jenny Odell has brought together satellite images of common topographical features to create unusual works.

CAN PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN by satellites be considered art?

They can in the capable hands of Jenny Odell, a San Francisco-based artist who collects Google Maps images of inanimate structures and arranges them on blank backgrounds.

At first glance, Odell’s Satellite Collections merely appear to be snapshots of similar objects placed together.

But looking more critically, what she creates is undeniably human. She chooses man-made objects that are indicative of our presence on the planet — from pools to power plants — and arranges them as though they were specimens and she was an “alien anthropologist” sent down to catalogue our existence.

She has been working on the project since 2009, inspired after collecting images of empty San Jose parking lots and seeing how different each one was, she told The Atlantic in an interview.

Since then, Odell has made 18 different compositions, often composing more than one collage at once as she peruses Google Maps searching for satellite images that intrigue her.

Her work will go on exhibit tomorrow at SOMArts’s Electronic Pacific show in San Francisco. You can see more of Odell’s Satellite Collections over at her website, or visit her Satellite Tourist Tumblr to check out bizarre Google Maps images she has come across in her “travels.”

13 works of art made from Google Maps images
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  • Circular farms

  • Nuclear cooling towers

  • Waste and salt ponds

  • Great Salt Lake (each square represents exactly one square mile)

  • Airplanes

All images courtesy Jenny Odell.

- Dina Spector

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