Wandering the wilderness of Michi Meko’s practice in a multivolume publication

Client: Michi Meko

Michi Meko: Black Navigation. Edited by Phillip Barcio and Alex Belardo Kostiw. Artworks, writing, and photographs by Michi Meko, with contributions by Phillip Barcio. Published by Kavi Gupta, 2022. Three books and a map-folded print in a slipcase, 6 x 9 inches.

Being Black in the wilderness is an idea I’ve been trying to chase down for a long time. A lot of it was trying to hear my own voice in wild spaces. What does a Black man sound like in a wilderness, versus the voice of John Muir or Ernest Hemingway? —Michi Meko

Michi Meko: Black Navigation invites readers to wander across multiple volumes and map connections among the artist’s bodies of work, nature photographs, field notes, and sketches.

Michi Meko’s practice is rooted in Black experiences navigating American spaces and remaining buoyant within them. Romanticizing cartography and found objects, his paintings, sculptures, and installations become spaces of resilience where the psyche can roam.

Latitudes of ideas

Black Navigation is a field guide to Meko’s practice. Inspired by his creative process and love for Walt Whitman’s chapbooks, writer Phillip Barcio and I conceptualized three volumes, each dedicated to a facet of Meko’s work.

Housed in a slipcase, they cover wayfinding across his diverse works; reflections on nature through his photos, field notes, and poetry; and observations and explorations in his sketchbooks.

The design and material choices are grounded in conversations with Meko about his themes, motifs, and camping trips.

Felt-weave covers allude to sketchbook paper. Fonts in use, Kepler and Geographica, evoke maps and literary works. Layouts suggest nesting and movement in institutional spaces and wilderness. Graphics trace the topography along Meko’s hiking trails and echo his drawings. 
Meko generously provided materials for the publication and entrusted Phillip and I to curate and sequence the content. Poring through photos, notes, and sketchbook pages, we crafted a vivid visual narrative about the spaces Meko explores and constructs in his work.