Her landscapes are legendary. Her images and use of color, unforgettable. She captures the world in its most provocative moods with startling emotional power.
Meet Your Neighbor: Diana Nicosia — Gulf Stream
Posted by Mary Kate Leming on February 1, 2012 at 5:00pm
In the late 1990s, internationally acclaimed artist Diana Nicosia of Gulf Stream was waiting at the Rome airport for a delayed flight when she struck up a conversation with a man in a black suit sitting next to her. He turned out to be Cardinal John Foley, a former Philadelphia priest who served for more than 20 years as the Vatican’s chief of communications.
Nicosia told the cardinal it was her lifelong dream to paint the private papal gardens at the Vatican. He said something like, “Let me see what I can do.” She was later granted her wish, causing tongues to wag in Rome.
“First of all, I’m not Catholic,” says Nicosia. “Secondly, I’m an American. Every artist in Italy is vying to paint the papal gardens, and the Vatican usually says no.”
Nicosia (pronounced “nic-OH-see-ah”) says it was one of the most moving experiences of her career. “I kept thinking about Michelangelo,” she says. He had painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel nearly 500 years earlier.
The invitation was just one of many Nicosia has received since she began painting in her 20s. She was invited to paint at Claude Monet’s Giverny in France. The family of Sir Winston Churchill invited her to paint on the grounds of Chartwell, Churchill’s country estate. The Brazilian government invited her to photograph and paint the destruction and re-growth of the Amazon rainforest.
After Iraqi soldiers set fire to more than 600 oil wells as they retreated from Kuwait in 1991, Nicosia was invited by the Kuwaiti government to paint scenes from that environmental catastrophe. Her series, called “Tides of War: The Oil Fires of Kuwait,” went on exhibit in Kuwait City and Washington D.C. The paintings have been described as “beautiful in an eerie sort of way.”
Forty-five of Nicosia’s original oil paintings are on display through April 15 at the Cornell Museum of Art and American Culture at Old School Square in Delray Beach. The exhibit, called “The World of Color: Italy, Brazil, France and Kuwait,” features a few of those beautiful yet eerie burning-oil-field landscapes. On the evening of March 14, Nicosia will lecture at the museum, describing the summer she was allowed to paint the Vatican gardens.
When Nicosia isn’t traveling or working from her studio in Boston, she enjoys painting “the light on the ocean and the beach” from a fourth-floor portico at her Gulf Stream home and studio.
She is known for her unforgettable, powerful use of color.
Now in mid-career, Nicosia says for years, the biggest compliment other artists could give her was this: “You know, your works are really powerful. You can’t tell a woman did it.”
Today, this woman paints six days a week, morning and afternoon, with a break in between to refresh her mind and let the oil paint cure. She believes in discipline.
“That’s what art is all about. Flaubert had a saying I agree with: ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ ”
— Paula Detwiller