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Cathartic Experience
West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, May 28, 2015 5 years ago

Cathartic Experience

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by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

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WINDERMERE — Maura Lucchese has been exposed to art her entire life. When she was a child, her mother and grandfather, both artists, regularly gave her paper and a pencil and asked her to draw different objects over and over, until she perfected the details.

In high school, she continued her passion for creativity as art club president.

“I was always the one pushing for something different in the high school,” she said. “I was always challenging people to change their way of thinking, not in a rebellious way, but in a creative way.”

When that wasn’t happening the way she wanted, she moved to Seattle in her 20s and was motivated by nature and the grunge scene, enamored with its ability to embrace multiculturalism on a multigenerational level.

“Here were all these young people who wanted to express themselves and what was inside and their experiences in life, and, thank God, Seattle had that climate that it was OK,” she said. “You make this nasty music, and it’s OK. … You open the possibility that all people can start to think creatively. Creative thinking is not a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of evolving into something better and better.”

A LIFE REDEEMED

Lucchese, a new resident of Windermere, has spent the last half of her life reflecting on choices — some her own, some she had no control over — and has found a way to channel her pain, her disappointments and her depression into beautifully unique works of art.

Now 46, she has survived several physically abusive relationships and has grieved the death of a boyfriend, a fiance, her father and her brother — the last three within a four-month period.

“Finding strength — it’s not about the crappy stuff in your past that you can’t do anything about … it’s about learning to navigate (your emotions),” she said.

Although the artist was in a dark place with those raw emotions, she was determined to “focus on something lovely and beautiful.”

She attended a workshop on collage art a few years ago and then took the artist’s information, “broke all the rules and applied all the rules about abstraction and conceptual art and made it my own,” she said.

What emerged from the depths of her heartache was artwork that allows people to delve below the surface of the piece.

Lucchese peruses magazines, looking for bits of color and phrases appropriate for the piece she is working on. Up close, it appears to be an abstract collage of scraps of paper glued together. It’s when you zoom out and look at the whole picture that you begin to see a woman’s face, her arm or her hair and the words blend in the background.

“I’m not looking for specific words,” she said. “I’m looking for a certain feeling of who this person is inside.”

And the number of magazines she goes through varies with each project.

“I did a portrait of Abraham Lincoln from a single Vogue magazine, and I’ve also done pieces where I’ve gone through maybe 100 magazines looking for the right pieces.”

One project takes about three weeks to complete. She had finished more than 50 originals, which are for sale, and she also sells smaller reprinted versions.

“What I want to do is show people you can make something beautiful out of garbage; something beautiful, something compelling and inspiring out of garbage — and that is a metaphor for life.”

SHOWING HER WORK

Lucchese belongs to an international collective of artists who use recycled materials.

“It’s not just about helping people with domestic abuse, but it’s also about saving our planet,” she said. “It’s about putting people in a place of empowerment. We need to learn how to harness all these things that come at us. We can create something productive, something beautiful; we can do things we never thought we could do.”

Last October, Lucchese was one of 20 artists chosen worldwide to participate in the prestigious “Nest Gen” project, which brings global awareness to pressing environmental issues.

In November, she was among 31 artists in an ecological exhibit at Florida International University in Miami.

Later this year, she is participating in the Art Basel in Miami, an international art show for modern and contemporary works.

Brain Candy Art Co. is the brainchild of Lucchese. The idea behind the name, she said, is “to entertain people’s minds a little more than surface level.” She hesitated to put her own name on the company, because people don’t know her — and if they don’t know her, how can they understand her and her art?

She said she started doing art shows only a few months ago and before that was gaining awareness solely through Facebook.

Private commissions are available and range from $4,000 to more than $6,000. Lucchese said the best way to contact her is to like her Facebook page and message her.

“Brain Candy Art Co. is all about empowering women,” she said. “It’s important for people to get in tune with their love and beauty. As things decay, we get the rebirth and get to continuously rewrite that story. You can encourage people.”

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].

STORIES BEHIND THE ARTWORK

Strawberry Smoothie (ABOVE). “My father was very restrictive in my life, a Sicilian Catholic father,” Lucchese said. “It was always, ‘You’re not going to do this; you’re not going to wear that.’ I had to wear an extra-large T-shirt over my one-piece bathing suit growing up, and I lived in Cocoa Beach. … I thought about the time my dad grew up in; pin-up images back then were absolutely scandalous and un-Christian-like.

“I found that picture of Rita Hayworth, and here’s a girl in a miniskirt with one leg up,” she said. “It’s one of the most innocent-looking pieces I have. I was going to make it all in pink … but it was too saccharine. So I put in the letter X, (phrases like) ‘let’s go and see boyfriends,’ ‘budding love’ and ‘fashionably dressed.’ It’s like this innocent naughtiness.”

Liquid Courage: “I had just moved to Park Avenue (in Winter Park) and had just gotten out of another abusive relationship. … My ex-boyfriend used to isolate me, and all the while I lived (within) walking distance to one of people’s favorite places. … I was looking at these young girls and seeing how cute they were in their dresses and watched them flirt with the boys. I was looking through a magazine and wanted to do something to represent Winter Park.”

She glanced at a friend’s portfolio of images.

“(I) saw this woman with her finger in her mouth and her Cosmo, and I said, ‘That’s Park Avenue to me.’ It’s young, it’s flirty. It’s not trying to be edgy; it just is. It’s just a happy, ‘hang out with your friends’ kind of place.

“It just has this carefree, ‘let-them-eat-cake’ kind of vibe to it, and I want to capture that because that’s where I am now,” she said. “And so I thought, ‘Who is that girl? If I was that girl, who would I be?’ She’s smart, she’s real, she’s colorful. She’s got a lot going through her mind, and to indicate this, I included stuff going through her hair. She’s confident, she’s quirky, she’s inclusive. She understands her presence affects the people around her.”

Positive phrases such as “cherish who you are,” “brave heart,” “elegance is an attitude” and  “live for greatness” are incorporated into the piece.

“She is the liquid courage, not the drink,” Lucchese said.

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