A multimedia artist working in collage, painting, and book art, Matthew Cusick is best known for his map collages of intricate, warmly colored portraits and landscapes. “Maps have all the properties of a brushstroke: nuance, density, line, movement, and color,” he says. “Their palette is deliberate and symbolic, acting as a cognitive mechanism to help us internalize the external.” Many of Cusick’s works depict Southern California with its sprawling freeways, celebrity culture, mansions, and themes of nihilism and escapism. In his “defacements,” Cusick alters pages from old schoolbooks by sanding and scraping away everything except the page number, an illustration, and a few chosen words. While much of his work expresses the darker sides of American culture, Cusick’s inherently optimistic habit of “contemplating the enigma of our existence” shines through.