Karen Aqua Gallery to Host French Artist

Sarah Beth Campisi's picture

Toni Morrison once said all good art is political. The work of Marica Quartuccia — a visual artist living and working in Marseille, France — is an embodiment of this ideal. Quartuccia will be showing an exhibit at CCTV’s Karen Aqua Gallery later this year. Though Quartuccia lives in Marseille, she visits Cambridge frequently to see her children and grandchildren.

From the ages of 14 to 18, Quartuccia studied at the Marguerite Allard Academy in Marseille. Quartuccia wanted to study art in college, but was faced with opposition from her family.

“My father did not want that,” Quartuccia said. “I was the first woman in my family to have a high school degree. At this time, it was 1968, and everything was all ‘Peace and Love’ back then. It was impossible to have an artist daughter because it was bad to be an artist.”

Quartuccia then studied political science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Aix-en-Provence, but continued on to take classes at the Ecole du Louvre, the Louvre Museum art school.

“My work with painting and political science were mixed. I became conscience about equality, climate change, and women’s education. I think if women are educated, the world is better,” Quartuccia said.

From 1989 to 1998, Quartuccia shared a workshop with two other artists and created a nonprofit organization called, “Le Hors-Là.” The nonprofit helped artistic exchanges across countries, especially France and Brazil. The exchange promoted diversity and communication across borders and between artists.

“All of us artists said diversity is the most important thing. In the eyes of the other, you see yourself. Life is diversity. To us, this was like a utopia,” Quartuccia said.

Quartuccia participated in other movements and organizations, such as “Etno Savannah,” which encouraged French artists to communicate with people in Kenya and raise awareness to their daily struggles. Quartuccia and her friends also strongly opposed a far-right movement that was gaining much traction in France at the time. Quartuccia always kept politics in her paintings, and participated in exhibits that were specifically to demonstrate political messages.

Quartuccia is influenced by many artists, including Pablo Picasso, and Bosch, an artist from the Middle Ages. Quartuccia used a technique in her painting that she later learned was called “dripping,” a technique made famous by Jackson Pollock. Quartuccia paints by laying her canvas on the floor, where she feels she can better penetrate the piece and be more engaged with it.

In her work, Quartuccia focuses heavily on her subjects’ eyes.

“The eyes are the mirror of life,” Quartuccia said. “The look has to stand out of the picture. When you see someone, you see what they’re feeling. The eyes speak also.”

Quartuccia’s work possesses a theme of keeping people and things alive. She paints pictures of disenfranchised and oppressed people in order to raise awareness of these issues. By painting their picture, Quartuccia said, she keeps their memory and their struggle alive.

“There are African women who walk 40 kilometers to get water, with the water on their head, every day,” Quartuccia said. “Women living in the bush, in very rural and removed places, know nothing of contraception or their options, and have four, five, six children. There’s a woman I heard of in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who takes care of the children that have been abandoned by their own families. She tracks them down if they don’t go to school, just so they get an education. Ordinary people do fantastic things, and it is very important to say we can do fantastic things.”

Quartuccia’s upcoming show, currently untitled, will consist of work that depicts the stories of women. The show will open on Dec. 19 in the Karen Aqua Gallery at Cambridge Community Television, 438 Massachusetts Ave. in Central Square.