A Portrait of the Artist: Marie Riccio
Marie Riccio unites her academic and professional training in design and fine arts with an eye for color and composition.
An ardent student of design and art, Marie Riccio went to art museums, browsed art books at the library, and as early as third grade admired 3D works by Calder next to Van Gogh's "Starry Night."
She drew a lot but never really painted.
In college she took a painting class while studying Art and Design at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, New York.
"It was clear from the beginning that the class was a disaster, and it really turned me off to painting," she said. Instead she focused on drawing, printmaking and design in an academic setting.
When she graduated, she took her talents outside of the classroom environment and started doing large abstracts on her own. With a revamped portfolio, Riccio applied to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where she had the opportunity to study with renowned American landscape painter Neil Welliver, who was also the dean of the art program.
"Neil painted large landscapes that you could almost walk into. He taught me to paint by looking, and I fell in love with painting from real life," she said.
An appreciation for and deep understanding of color percolates throughout Riccio's work, even from her undergraduate years.
"When you look at nature there are so many more options for color than what you might imagine otherwise. This is why I started doing more representational work. When I am looking for something to paint I look for color relationships," explained the artist who finds her inspiration in the sky, the side of a barn, strong light reflections on a metal roof against the dark trees surrounding it.
"The high contrast is quite exciting for me, as are subtle color relationships," she said.
Her background in design also influences her work. Her admiration of early modernist painters like Piet Mondrian reflects this influence.
"I think my understanding of design contributes a more contemporary feel to my compositions," said Riccio who took ten years off from painting to pursue a career in graphic design.
She art-directed and designed magazines in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Eventually Riccio established her own graphic design business - Riccio Design - which she still runs from her home studio.
Running her own business gave the artist the flexibility to return to painting. She works on the computer nights and weekends, so she can paint during the day.
"I got back to painting five years ago. I took some plein air painting courses with Walt Bartman to get back into the arts community," said Riccio who loves to paint outdoors.
On June 18, 2011, she participated in the annual Barnstormers event in Frederick, Maryland. The event benefits the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation and features guided tours of ten barns with four or five painters painting on site at each location. It culminates in an end of the day art sale.
"My paintings capture the loose feel of the daytime and the quality of light. I spend a lot of time in Laytonsville and Poolesville on private farms where the owners invite me to paint. I practically haunt the Agricultural History Farm Park on Redland Road. It's a preserved farm with a barn, animals, a flower garden and big, open fields."
Like many other local plein air artists, Riccio has also scaled the C & O Canal. Riley's Lock is her favorite spot to paint because it is a little messy, she says.
Although she prefers painting outdoors with the wind blowing and roosters crowing across a rural landscape, Riccio does not forget her academic design roots. Some of her favorite artists tend toward abstraction.
She likes Fairfield Porter for his ability to capture the moment and not get bogged down in depicting every piece of gravel, she says. She also mentioned Jane Freilicher, Leonard Anderson and Antonio Garcia. Avigdor Arikha, a still life and figure painter, is someone she looks to for composition.
"I always start out with something I have in mind, but I don't always end up there," said Riccio. "In the end, it's always about what the painting needs. It's like having fun all the time, but it took a lot of time to get here," continued the artist who applies the same philosophy to her design for print work and worked as a puppeteer, designed Macy's window displays and even painted parking lot stripes before settling in as a painter/graphic designer.
She is a member of the Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association, the Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery, the Montgomery County Art Association and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Group.
In 1987 she won a scholarship to paint with renowned classical realist painter Jack Beal as part of a University of New Hampshire program called "Aspects of the Real." After receiving her masters degree, she showed at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia and at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland.
For the past three years, she has been a part of the annual Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association shows at Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Two years ago, an exhibit titled "Ten 10x10s" featured her landscapes at Rockville City Hall. Last year, she exhibited 55 pieces of her artwork at the Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery. Her current show "Contemporary Landscape Oil Painting" at Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg includes 20 pieces of her artwork. The exhibit is on view through July 31, 2011.
To contact the artist, email email@example.com.