"Art as Passion", by Laura MacDuff
Hanover Post, November 14, 2009
WEST GREY- When asked what makes him feel inspired, artist Tony Luciani, 53, looks away, and smiles. He says “I just need to do it. It's a passion. If I can't do it for whatever reason, after three days I start to get anxious.” Luciani then laughs. Surrounding him are his paintings-a collection of works that demonstrate his transitions in life, his personal feelings, his emotions. Neatly hung on the walls of the Durham Art Gallery, his 40 works are being showcased until December 6.
“I try to capture the feeling I get from a mental visualization of my subject. I imagine it rather than copy it. Subject matter is less important than mood and feeling, both of which come within myself. This is why I would call my work interpretative. I put so much of myself into my paintings that, in a sense, each one becomes a self-portrait,” says Luciani. His paintings feature musical instruments, buildings, portraits, skies, and even a mannequin who finds itself in the oddest of situations for a mannequin to be in. The paintings make you stop, comprehend, and stare in fascination at the detail, the grace, and the extreme talent and passion.
“Do you remember TV Guide magazine? They used to have these contests on the back page, where you were asked to copy an image, and mail it in for a prize. I did this week after week, too young to even know what a postage stamp was” says Luciani.“One day I got a disturbing letter back, with all of my drawings I had previously sent, and the accusation of cheating. I cried my eyes out. I remember my older brother saying, ‘Well kid, you must be darn good, if they think that.’ I was seven, or eight at the time.”
In the years following, Luciani attended Central Technical High School in Toronto, taking the art program. Then, after a year at Sheridan College, he was accepted into 3rd year at the Ontario College of Art. At age 21, Luciani did his post-graduate studies in Florence, Italy. His work has been featured in many exhibits in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Monaco, London, along with closer venues such as in Owen Sound, Kitchener, Guelph, Fergus and Bayfield.
Luciani even was awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, funding which is given out to promising young artists to assist them in their formative years. And Luciani wasn’t just awarded this once, he received it two times (1977, 1979), and was also given a purchase award by Greenshields in 1989.
“For someone to get it twice, that's a great accomplishment. I'm very proud,” says Luciani. “Greenshield’s, in fact, thought of awarding an unprecedented third grant, but they decided to purchase a painting from me instead.” That work permanently hangs at Canada House in London, England.
Years later, Luciani, spends his days in his studio at home stretching canvas and cleaning brushes, and pouring his heart out from brush to canvas.
Among his latest accomplishments is being a finalist in ‘The Kingston Prize: Canada's National Juried Portrait Competition’, a travelling exhibition with artists from all over Canada.
“It was one of the thirty selected, from 471 submissions.” says Luciani.
“This particular portrait is very personal. It’s about healing and resolve. It was never meant to be shown to anyone. Infact, this showcase has been a difficult one to accept. It's called Wonder Woman”. And upon first glance, the portrait strikes you with sadness, but it’s all about hope and strength. Luciani’s artist’s statement reads:
“The painting 'Wonder Woman' began as an intense emotional response to my partner's breast cancer diagnosis and her courageous voyage to find healing. I witnessed first hand the many setbacks of the psychological and physical challenges that people in her position were being subjected to. Through all of it, however, my life deepened in profundity. In the portrait, I tried to capture the meaningful spirit of quiet strength, yet acknowledging the helplessness cancer brings.”
A woman, unclothed is standing, placing a protective hand over the fresh, painful markings of breast surgery. The surrounding bruises discolours her skin, and her hair is gone, but beyond the end result of a mastectomy, the viewer is struck by the woman's eyes.
“'Wonder Woman' is about humanity's fragility and vulnerability, about life and the power to endure and overcome. It is about our questions of who we are, where we are going and how to uncover a way to achieve our dreams, no matter what obstacles fall onto our paths. 'Wonder Woman' is my ultimate hero,” says Luciani in his artist’s statement.
The portrait, along with all the other finalists, is available for viewing at www.kingstonprize.ca.
“I love living in Durham. It seems it’s a gathering spot for so many talented artists, writers and musicians. And all very nice people too,” says Luciani. “I feel so much a part of it now.”
Luciani lived in Harriston for 18 years before moving to Durham. He was born and raised in Toronto.
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