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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Master Mosaic Man A Conversation with Aureleo Rosano

Jul 30, 2021 07:00AM ● By Suzie Agrillo
Master Mosaic Man: A Conversation with Aureleo Rosano [16 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Home is a working studio for Aureleo Rosano, whose peaceful space in the far northwest desert is surrounded by his art. He built the house himself, including making his own bricks. His unique and vibrantly designed glass art is ubiquitously present.
When Rosano was growing up, both of his parents were admirers of the arts. While his parents pushed the arts strongly as something important in life, his father instilled in his son’s mind the concept that one can’t make a living creating art. Proving his father wrong, the self-taught artist has created glass and sculpture works that he has been perfecting over a lifetime of experience, many of which are exhibited and sold at Toscana Studio and Gallery (Toscana) in Oro Valley.   
Rosano was born in New Britain, Connecticut in 1939 to Italian immigrant parents. In 1960, he was going to register for college, but when he looked out a window and saw snow, slush and a light coating of soot, he told himself, “I just can’t do this.” Instead, he went to a bookstore and bought a map. He tore off the northern half of the map and looked at cities along the south. He settled on two cities, Tucson and San Diego, because they were both close to Mexico. Flipping a coin to make the decision, it came up Tucson. “Twenty-four hours later, I was here,” he recalls.
His first job was working as a dish washer at the Arroyo Café for 10 days. After that, he was hired to wait tables at the old El Conquistador hotel in El Con shopping center. At the time, Rosano’s sister had just started doing mosaic work with Italian glass, and he decided he liked the medium. Still working his day jobs, in 1973 he became a journeyman steamfitter after a five-year apprenticeship. A lot of that trade involved welding, and he now combines metal and glass in his art.
A spry octogenarian, at 82 years old, he is grateful for his life journey. “I never thought I’d reach 60, because I led kind of a wild life. When I turned 60, I told my kids, ‘60 is the cake and the rest is icing.’ I’ve had a wonderful life full of experiences and crazy things,” he reveals.
One of the most salient of his adventures transpired in 1960, which was memorialized in Rosano’s book, Scoot Across the USA. While he was a waiter at the El Conquistador, he met an airman who was being transferred. He bought a slightly used 1959 Lambretta Motor Scooter (Italian-made, like the Vespa, top speed 43 mph). Upon learning his sister was getting married in Connecticut, Rosano took a zig-zag path from Tucson to the east coast on his scooter.
This impulsive and somewhat perilous journey involved a circuitous route via Tucson to Denver, where he met an exceptionally beautiful woman who was going to New Orleans. “I told her, ‘What a coincidence, so am I,’” and the two of them went together to New Orleans. From there he went to Chicago, Jacksonville, Boston and New Britain, arriving in time for the wedding.
Rosano volunteers at the Toscana, where he likes to teach children. He jokes that, “Kids are so original, I like to steal their ideas.” In addition to volunteering, he teaches mosaic classes for beginners and advanced students. He has authored the book, Mosaics with Rosano: A Beginners Guide to Creating Artful Mosaics. “The goal of the book is not to provide a reference source into every aspect of mosaic work, but rather to provide a guide for a beginner to create a relatively small art piece—a mosaic with some genuine bragging rights,” he explains.
Rosano’s personality exudes a certain joie de vivre which is sometimes reflected in his work. The mosaic “Red Forest, Yellow Burro” was a slowly developed surprise for Rosano. As he tells the story, “I just had the urge to create a reddish woodland, began to cut long elegant strips of red glass while a few of my students were engrossed in their own projects. Next was the placement of the glass, with which I felt extremely comfortable, and finally, I began to glue pieces in place. My thoughts had gone no further than that when one of my students asked, ‘What is going to be inside that red forest?’ I answered completely in jest, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll just put a yellow jackass in there.’ Three or four days later, when I got a chance to work on the mosaic again, I laughed at my own nutty idea, then thought maybe not so nutty,” he relates.
What is it that seems special about creating a mosaic art piece? “Certainly, creativity itself is satisfying…but the mosaic process seems to satisfy some inner part of ourselves…more so than drawing on paper or painting on canvas might. Creating a mosaic is a therapy, a meditative process, and at the same time, tactile, requiring that each piece receives some attention and handling by the artist,” Rosano observes.
The art Rosano creates resonates with his audience because his pieces serve as a metaphor for a variety of contexts. One mosaic hanging on his living room wall that he calls “LIFE CYCLE” resembles an EKG result. It symbolizes birth, life and death. “The mosaic process can reach into our subconscious and touch our soul,” he notes.

How did you get the moniker Rosano?
The reason people started calling me Rosano is that people had problems pronouncing my first name.

What inspired you to make the trip across the U.S. on a scooter?
I was inspired by On the Road, a Jack Kerouac book. I figured if he could do it, so could I.

Why do you mosaic?
Mosaics were my first interest in the visual arts. When I was a kid, I fiddled with pebbles, seeds, feathers and bits of glass as mosaic material, gluing these together to create a picture. When I moved to Tucson, my older sister was doing mosaic work with Italian glass, and I was smitten.
Several factors contribute to my 60+ years of involvement with mosaic making. Most attractive are the qualities of the material itself…hypnotically beautiful, colored glass, in thousands of colors and variations, each fragment playing its small part in the light show of a completed work.
In my work there are occasional metal pieces combined with the glass…all the materials being durable and, with little maintenance, able to endure for centuries. It is these factors—beauty, durability and permanence—those are the attractions. Additionally, with mosaics, there is a certain “something”.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
If I weren’t a visual artist, I’d be a writer. I enjoy writing essays and books.

What mosaics are you working on now?
I’m working on two large custom logo pieces for the Casa Blanca Community School. The pieces use vitreous and stained glass and each one features a desert roadrunner.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
All my life I’ve listened to jazz. I’m enthralled with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis and Stan Getz. I also enjoy music with Brazilian influences. One of my favorite pieces is “The Girl from Ipanema”, a seemingly simple composition, but actually rather complex.

What item would you be lost without?
My glass nippers.

What would you do if you were given $1,000,000 today?
I’d have a few sculptures enlarged, and I’d open a big school for mosaics with no charge. For me that’s so much fun, to teach students and watch people grasp ideas.

I know you like lasagna. What is your favorite restaurant in Tucson?
I like Caruso’s. I’ve been going there for 62 years. I met the current owner when he was five years old, running around the restaurant getting in everyone’s way. It has a great patio and standard food at reasonable prices.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto on creativity?
Yes, my creative process depends on not being afraid. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to fail. Try something. And don’t be afraid to break all the rules. That’s it!

Connect with Aureleo Rosano at 520-297-3606 or [email protected].

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection, and she enjoys reading all things true crime. Connect at [email protected].
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