Rose Camastro-Pritchett

Rat Sighting
artist book: handmade paper, thread, lace and ink
5 x 4 x ¼ in.

August 2, 2000, I saw my first Chicago rat. It scurried through my hostas under the garden gate into the back alley. I was horrified and amazed. At the end of the week I saw a rat climbing out of my garbage can. Days later, I saw a dead rat lying on its side, a line of blood coming out of its mouth. I became consumed with a fascination for rats. When would I see the next one? And where? I started reading about rats. Did you know that rats could come up from Chicago sewers into your toilet? Or that 16 ounces is the average weight of an adult brown rat? My neighbor Dave told me that his dog Molly was a rat trapper. Her record to date was 304. Would I like to see her get 305? I declined.

My relationship with Chicago rats changed after rat sighting 17. It was one of those cold winter days where snow had covered the ground and muffled the city sounds. A dark brown rat burrowed its way through the clean snow, leaving footprints as it crept under the garden gate and into the back alley. I was fascinated and amazed and the horror was not there.

My artist books are intended as mini-performances and are not complete until a reader turns the pages. I find that the paper I make from collected plants provides a rich ground for books — such as this one — dealing with memory, perception and nostalgia. Sewing, as a drawing tool, connects me with my Italian relatives, immigrants who used sewing as a means of economic survival during their challenging transition into the United States.

© Rose Camastro-Pritchett