In intricate hand-cut paper maps layered through glass, Joanathan Bessaci examines the themes of transience, migration, and belonging. Born and raised in Lyon, France, the country’s geography and roadways became a symbolic fascination. The child of Vietnamese and Northern Algerian immigrants, family histories became intrinsically tied to space and place as he traced their journeys to their new home country.
Bessaci began collecting French Michelin road maps in his youth, drawn to their vibrant colors as well as their potential for storytelling. Further compelled by a move from France to Washington D.C., the artist began incorporating his collection of maps, dating between 1920 and 1960, into his artwork.
Bessaci’s meticulous compositions are predicated on a careful study of human and animal anatomy. Using the varied textures and shades naturally found in the vintage maps, he cuts away at the geography, using lakes, rivers, oceans, roads, highways, parks and city centers into his images to represent various anatomical and biological features. These cut elements are then layered between panes of glass, with his most complex images holding as many as seven layers.
His work was shown for the first time at the Outsider Art Fair 2020 in New York.