Interview: Judith D’Agostino aka Gina Rossi

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Name: Gina Rossi: Nome De Brosse, (Given name: Judith D’Agostino)

Where do you live:
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Known for:
I am most known for my expertise in color.

Currently working on:
I am currently working on both abstracted landscapes and non-objective art.

When did you realize that you were going to work with this/in this area?
I have always worked in both these genres.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
If I were to choose one place to live in the USA, It would be Santa Fe, NM but if I could live in Italy part of the time I would be very content to do so.

How would you describe your creativity?
My creativity comes from what I see around me. I can often translate that into abstraction because of my strength in color and design.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
I have always painted but working seriously in this field was when I chose art as my path in undergraduate school.

What do you do at the moment?
I am a full time painter now but previously was a professor of art at a university and director of education at a museum.

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
My recommendation for starting a career in the arts would be to understand it is not easy, it requires a great deal of discipline and the financial rewards do not come easy so it would be best to have money put away for a rainy day.

Tell us how it all started.
I would guess that most artist will tell you they were born with a pencil in their hand. I was born with a keen sense of color in my DNA. At the age of five it appeared that the only thing I was interested in was color. I did drawings but color with all of is messiness from smearing on paper was my favorite. Fingerprinting was my favorite pastime. I was a pretty social little girl and that in and of itself proved to help me progress toward an art career because my mother found that working with art supplies occupied me for hours on end which gave her relief from my constant chatter. I remember, at a very young age, being fascinated by the World Book Encyclopedia which had color plates of the color wheel. I didn’t read about it, I looked at it. I copied it. At about seven years of age, my uncle who was quite a draftsman and knew that I loved to draw but particularly loved color gave me my first set of chalk pastels. They were a professional grade, nothing like children’s pastels. I fell in love! I could draw with color.

I challenged myself to copy at first. There wasn’t much in the way of art lessons at my elementary school but my dad had a book called “How to Draw Funny Pictures”. This book was illustrations of all sorts. Very funny and easy to copy. After going through the entire book, I went on to read and look at books about the structure of the figure and in particular the differences in young and old, black people, white people, Asian and so on. In school, I was the “go to” child who could draw just about anything. I was recognized for this talent by fellow classmates and teachers. Many saw it as magical and mysterious. My mother enrolled me in summer art classes but I became pretty bored with the lack of instruction and elementary information.

At the age of twelve, dad informed us that we were moving to Italy. I was devastated. I had never been out of my state, Rhode Island, let alone fly on a plane or travel to a foreign land. I didn’t speak Italian and I had no desire to leave my group of friends. I had no say in the matter and within two weeks, we were packed up and flying to New York City and then to Europe. We spent a few days in New York City where sleeping in a hotel room and going to restaurants was great fun. When we arrived in Pisa, I got my first glimpses of the amazing architecture of Renaissance buildings, churches and sculptures. The churches were filled with amazing paintings and I was hooked.  Everywhere you went there was art – amazing art!

I continued my studies in academics and in art and quickly became the school’s artist. We visited many museums and several countries during the three years I was there and when it was time to leave, I didn’t want to leave. Just prior to leaving, I got the measles. My mother had taken a few art classes and was very good I thought. She had oil paints and canvas and during my convalescence, she gave me her supplies. That is when I made my first oil painting. Now sixteen, our return on an ocean liner back to the USA was thrilling. As much as I loved Europe, I remember being full of love and emotion on seeing the statue of Liberty. The one great lesson I learned was that the Italian people throughout history were lovers of art and science. In many cases, they were ahead of their times.

I had found my roots. After completing high school, I found my way to college and at first, studying creative writing, realized after my second year that art was my calling and began to take as many art classes leading to a BFA in painting with honors my thesis centered on color theory. By this time, I had become a mother of male twins and although the prospect of continuing in an art career was daunting, I pressed on and got an MFA in painting. Because I had received a scholarship where teaching was part of my contract requirements, I taught several classes and once again concentrated in the area of color theory. I discovered that I was a born teacher. I was passionate about art, a good communicator and generous with my knowledge. I taught at the university level for many years but realized that I was not cut out for university politics. It got in the way of my creativity and I felt that it had little to do with teaching. So, I moved onto paint full time. After a divorce, I decided it was time to get a job and I became Director of Education at the Tucson Museum of Art. I loved it but found it a full time plus job and my art was taking a back seat. I retired from that position after eight years and am now painting full time in Santa Fe, New Mexico writing the next chapter of my life’s story.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
I feel a studio needs good light and space so that you can experiment without the worry of being careful. Sometimes being messy can be very creative. Fingerprinting is still my favorite!

What is your favorite film?
I have many favorite films. Probably my most favorite and one that had a lot of artistic impact on me was “The Wizard of Oz”. I remember the yellow road and the emerald green palace and one of the first color films I had ever seen. It was so colorful it made my head swim.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
I once met Georgia O’Keeffe. She came to an opening at my university to honor her friend, Ansel Adams who was given a one person show posthumously at the University’s museum. We were not allowed to ask questions of her. This was her request. So, I find myself now living in an area close to where she lived a good portion of her life. I would want to sit down to dinner with this lady. My questions would not be about art technique but more about the politics of art as a women in her lifetime.

How do you like to spoil yourself?
I would like to spoil myself by going to an art store and buying any art tool or supplies I want. That would really be something!

What is luxury for you?
Luxury to me is my life right now. I have the luxury to paint full time. I have a studio in my home, a lovely home in a town filled with artists and galleries.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your creative work, and from whom?
The nicest compliment….that is an interesting question. I don’t think it was words. It was someone, who sat on the floor of a museum cross legged staring at my work for what seemed to me a very long time; someone who found a kinship with what they saw and spent time to really look. I think that is the highest compliment anyone could receive. Oh yes, and the idiot who told me “I painted like a man”. I think he thought he was giving me his highest compliment.

What do you fear most?
My greatest fear is that I will lose the capability to hold a brush or see with my eyes.

What is a happy life to you?
A happy life for me is being able to paint full time, what I want whenever I want and to be surrounded by creativity.

What does a regular day look like for you?
A regular day for me starts about 6 am with coffee. Then a quick look at emails and my calendar to make sure I don’t miss an appointment. I go to a gym in the morning for an hour, run errands, if necessary, and end up in my studio the rest of the day. In the evenings I spend time with friends for dinner, a glass of wine or even sometimes a shot or two of tequila talking over the day, discussing art techniques, the latest piece of art gossip or often discussing politics. Some evenings I attend critiques, where I continuing to mentor students and get art critiques for my latest work.

Tell us about your dream project.
My dream project would be to return to Italy and paint for a year culminating in an exhibition of that work.

Who is your professional role model/inspiration?
I don’t think I have a professional role model. I certainly have many artists I admire for who they are and their work but no one specific individual comes to mind. My all-time favorite artist is Sargent.

How would you describe your work style (academic field or fashion style, or both, or something entirely different)?
My work has its roots in studio training but I have moved from academics to something more hybrid and more me which includes my love for color and design, space and atmosphere.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
The one thing I cannot live without is my ability to make art.

What inspires you?
Many things inspire me but while living here in Santa Fe, it has been the open spaces, sunsets and sunrises, the quality of light and atmosphere. You literally can see forever.

A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?
A book that made the most impression on me was Josef Albers’ “Interaction of Color”. I even have an app for that on my iPhone.

Connect with Judith via LinkedIn & Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @dagostinoartist
Check out her website

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