Rosato uses a Stanley knife to hand cut away all of the landmasses between the roads and waterways and then uses the delicate paper left to create portraits — some in 2D and some sculptural pieces. For the sculptural pieces, such as a bust she created of herself, she first of all creates a structure out of packing tape to act as a mold and then shapes the map around the head, using a gel to stiffen the material and supporting the overall frame with an internal structure of small wires. Larger pieces require a number of different maps glued together.
Rosato told Wired.co.uk: “Through the removal of the land masses, the places almost become ambiguous since all of the text is lost. Unless someone really knows the roads and highways, it is almost impossible to identify the place.”
She first started playing around with maps after finding a box of vintage maps in a used bookstore at a printmaking conference at Virginia Commonwealth University. She bought a few and took them home to experiment with, noticing how there was a parallel between the road lines and the lines that cover the human body.
She explains: “I was thinking of what it means to have a physical body and what it feels like when one is treated like one is just a body — simply regarding the body as a structural casing. I was breaking apart the body into lines, thinking about fingerprints, footprints, wrinkles, creases in the skin and how this relates to issues of identity. The surface of the human body is literally covered in lines, and these physical lines hold stories about our lives. ”
For her first map series — If you were a place you’d be… — she took photos of friends and asked them which place they felt best represented them or that was important to them. She then used a map of that place to create a likeness of them.
She adds: “By making portraits in this way, the map tactually becomes a delicate skin-like structure. The map serves as a visual system mimicking skin or veins, etc, and it is a system that shapes identity. The map is a memory.”
Rosato notes that because paper maps are rarely used any more, they are easy for her to acquire. “For my birthday this year, my mom surprised me with about 20lbs of used road maps that she obtained from online sources such as eBay. ”
More recently Rosato – who is studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston — has been using the cut-away maps as stencils to aid the creation of large-scale drawings. “I’m hoping to create a narrative through the visual figural relationships that I lay out across the drawing paper — touching on ideas of loss, abandonment, memory, identity, and relationships,” she explains.