In this interview with artist Marian Dioguardi, we take the opportunity to learn more about her uncommon start as an artist, continued inspirations and muse, and about the single greatest piece of art, in her own opinion, that she created and will likely never see again.
Read on to learn more, and be sure to visit Marian at the 2023 Open Studios event happening April 29 & 30. You can find her at Art In and Out of The Villa, 22 Burnham Road, West Newton, MA 02465.
Tell us about your work and your process. What do you make and how do you make it?
I have never not been making art. However my call to painting happened at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. I was going to study painting! The announcement to friends and family surprised no one but me.
After sensible careers in teaching, private investigating, jewelry buying and electronics manufacturing, I took night and weekend classes at the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. While others were accruing retirement funds, I had jumped into painting and I never looked back.
Tell us about how your journey as an artist started. What is your background and what inspired you to commit yourself to a creative practice?
I am an oil painter. I work in oil paint because I am comfortable with working with texture, intensity and goo. I paint primarily with painting knives but I no longer restrict myself to any one tool. My comfort with painting knives are connected to my childhood, back when I would frost my mother’s cakes.
I am an observational painter. I prefer to work from life because I value the challenges, changes and adaptations that happen moment to moment. There are surprises in working from life, unlike technical painting from a taken image.
I no longer rely on any one process, system, style or dogma. I approach every painting as I see them in my mind’s eye. That means that every painting is subject to struggle, impressions and interpretations. I’ve grown away from formally defining my style or work. I just “go for it” and let the art speak for itself.
My art is quirky, colorful and sometimes chaotic (like my life). I always listen to the muse. In my subject choices, you will see a bit of this and maybe a lot of that. It’s the changes and surprises that keep me searching.
Tell us more about how your practice has evolved. What are some creative accomplishments you are proud of or milestones you have reached along your way?
My greatest accomplishments may shock people. It’s not what one would think. I consider my greatest accomplishment and a professional milestone to be my ability to recognize my failures, learn from them and throw them out. I value the struggle.
Tell us about your creative community. Are there any friends, collaborators, teachers, patrons, or organizations who have supported you along the way?
If it weren’t for my teachers and the creative community, my paintings would still be in an attic or a barn somewhere.
When I attended art classes, the standard method of teaching was critique not encouragement. In the face of an instructor’s rebuke one could 1) give up painting 2) learn to conform 3) learn to listen to yourself. I chose to listen to myself. For every teacher’s “give it up,” “never do that” or “someday you’ll be embarrassed by that,” I learned to justify my choices and persevere.
25 years ago, an entirely different world opened up to me through a very early Newton Open Studios sponsored by the New Art Center. While showing my student art in a dark leaky barn, I was encouraged to join the Newton Art Association by Jack and Marilynn Lifszt. NAA was my chance to not show in a leaky barn so I joined! That membership opened up a world of art exhibits, sales, awards and wonderful opportunities. I became involved in the artist organized Newton Open studios to help make opportunities happen for other artists.
My audience and patron relationships built from Newton Open Studios has been instrumental in the continuance of my practice.
Describe a particularly significant artwork you have created. Why was that piece significant to you and how did it impact your art making practice?
Nonna della Catania, 72 X 36 in., 2019, is my most significant painting to date. It took months in the making. I sketched. I composed. I scaled reference drawings and reference images taken on a trip. I painted what became a composite street scene from images of graffiti in Catania, Sicily where I had spent time. This painting called for a witness to chaotic beauty and changing times of a once venerable street. La Nonna answered the call. A figure from one of my fondest paintings of Venice now found herself in Catania, Sicily. What would she think? That, I left up to the viewer to decide. I decided I was in love with the painting. It sold in its first public viewing at a Newton Open Studios. It was gone. I was thrilled and crushed.
I felt as if I had nowhere to go now. I was a sailing ship without wind. I realized then that I had painters block. I did not paint a painting for months. Nonna della Catania was particularly significant because it taught me how to deal with and overcome painter’s block.
What’s next for you and your artwork? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
There is an inside joke that an artist’s favorite painting is the next one. It couldn’t be truer for me. One painting leads to another but I never know where that will take me. I listen to the muse and then ask myself if I’m crazy but then I get to it. It’s an adventure.
Casey Curry is a writer and curator guided by the belief that the transformation our world so desperately needs can only come from deep cultural shifts sparked by visionary artists who make fundamental change irresistible. Her research is rooted in thinking creatively about arts administration to uncover what is possible when visionary artists are not just supported by administrative allies, but truly understood and valued by co-creators with complimentary skills that level bureaucratic barriers to societal impact through art.