I met Georgianne Fastaia in her studio at Art Explosion. Over the next couple of months, we exchanged numerous emails as I worked out how to tell her powerful story. Born into a Sicilian family in Brooklyn, Georgianne Fastaia had a middle-class upbringing in Connecticut. As an art teacher, her mother's influence kept the family very arts oriented and weekend treasure hunting in flea markets left a lasting appreciation for the dilapidated. "I kind of like the immigrant experience [...] I have that work ethic that I think comes from, 'Hey, I've got the opportunity, let me do something with it' she says.
A self-described "loner" in school, Fastaia developed a passion for reading and literature. However, a tragic misunderstanding with her parents caused her to leave home at 16. "Right then and there, I wasn't having a normal childhood, like going to the prom. I was already thinking, 'How am I going to survive?'"
After high school, Fastaia hitchhiked to California and worked multiple jobs to put herself through San Francisco State University, ultimately graduating with Magna Cum laude. Though she had been fond of sketching while growing up, Fastaia took only one painting class with Robert Bechtel. Her love of reading, which had driven her to San Francisco in the first place, prompted her study of creative writing instead:
"My refuge had been in books. I loved Jack Kerouac, I loved The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. [California] seemed like such a free place, it seemed in line with my personality [....] That's where I was going, as soon as I could"
Amidst the challenges of supporting herself through school, however, Fastaia had a life-altering encounter that left her battling addiction for years. Ten years ago, she successfully extracted herself from dependency, which required deep introspection and deconstruction of her existence:
"The process of recovery required rigorous honesty: a willingness to try to confront the unappealing parts of myself. And it required the willingness to do anything to rebuild my life"
Painting proved to be a critical new heading as she navigated farther away from her past. Despite minimal formal art training, she took up a small studio at Art Explosion and began experimenting with supplies that had been discarded by other artists, scrubbing the canvases with soap and creating a unique texture:
"The process is completely unpredictable and requires a fearless leap of faith […] By giving up control, this process forces [me] to stay lighthearted and adaptable to the paintings' evolution, while staying sensitive to the moments of beauty as they are revealed"
Over time, she continued to develop her technique of layering paint and then scrubbing away parts of the surface with Murphy's oil soap. The process has become her own form of story telling:
"From an early age I was aware of things having many layers. I seek to reveal these layers which give depth, history, and complexity to my forms. My route is a process which goes against all standard painting instructions: never mix oil and water. I am actively seeking to create "catastrophes" on the canvas and to work them slowly until their beauty is recognizable."
Indeed, catastrophe was a notion both familiar and inspiring. After Hurricane Katrina, Fastaia did a moving series on the flooding of New Orleans, recalling her own encounter with Mother Nature in New England:
"During the ice storm of 1972 we had to evacuate the house. My family spent Christmas in the Salvation Army. What I remember clearly about this were two very contrary ideas coexisting; this awful disaster somehow also held within it a natural beauty that I had never before witnessed, it was as if the world had disappeared into shades of gray"
The devastation and destruction left by both storms parallel some of Fastaia's own turbulent story. Many of her subjects appear desolate and as weathered as the canvas beneath them, reflecting the toll taken on life by such catastrophes:
"Periods of my past had been so self-destructive that all the artifice which preserves our sense of self -- education, love, family, everything had been stripped away"
Guided by her own journey from tragedy to joy, Fastaia explores notions of transformations that emerge from these catastrophes. Ultimately seeking an uplifting message, she embraces the distressed aesthetic to create raw and emotive images:
"I think an artist who is really serious has to have something to say, has to have something to share that is authentically their own experience"
Having started a new chapter in life ten years ago, Fastaia finds peace in producing her enigmatic and beautifully distressed paintings:
"I produce a lot of work quickly because I feel like I wasted ten years [... Creating art] is a pure, creative exchange, and I feel blessed to be able to do it. I really appreciate my life now"
The Floating City of New Orleans is a series of abstract floodscapes inspired by images of the Ninth Ward after Katrina. I did not set out to record the reality of the flood but rather the emotional aftermath of an inexorably altered world. Painting is intuitive, suggestive and, for lack of a better word, poetic. I strive for emotional honesty in my work and rely on an intuitive sense of color and an immediacy of gesture to achieve it. Each Flood-scape is meant to affect the viewer on a visceral level.
The changed landscape reminded me of a Christmas spent in the Salvation Army during the ice storm of 1972. The heavy creaking branches of the trees encased in ice is a memory that brought beauty and tragedy together for me,in the same moment.
A square with a triangle atop it is one of the first symbols a child draws. These naively shapes represent our longing for home. As the series evolved, these symbolsbecame more elongated and totemic while "the Flood" became a metaphor for displacement. My challenge has been to translate this story of loss and disembodiment into the language of paint-- texture, composition, and color.
I have given each painting a “textural history” through a long distressing process: scrubbing, scraping, and wiping away paint to reveal shadows, faded colors, and echoes or ghosts of underlying imagery. This creates surfaces in which most of the information is buried below layers of paint, visually communicating the concept of impermanence, time passing, erosion.
I use composition deliberately to reinforce a sense of our smallness against the "bigness of nature" by placing most of the information in the bottom third of the canvas, dwarfed by the sky. "Houses in the air" plays with composition in a unique way. I used multiple horizon lines to shift the imagery into the center of the picture plain, as if floating, a composition designed to dislocate the viewer from their normal frame of reference.
The emotional use of color plays an important part in creating mood. I use a palette of somber violets, green-grays and translucent layers of milky white to convey the saturated air and quality of light in the aftermath of storms.
Add cConnecticut Tobacco Barns 40x40 oil SOLD
“Connecticut Tobacco Barns" is extraordinary. It is apparent that Georgianne Fastaia has the wherewithal to paint her innermost visions. Whether her subjects are rooftops rising
above flood waters, or solitary figures alone in their deepest beliefs, they are unified by her
treatment of the canvas; a testament to the power of transformation.” Darrell Baschak 2009
This article is by Carrie Turner, editor of FineArtViews. During her tenure as editor, FineArtViews has been mentioned or referenced by The Huffington Post, WorldNetDaily (WND), artnet, COMPANY, American Artist Magazine, ArtBizBlog, The Abundant Artist, EmptyEasel and many other publications and blogs.
Georgianne Fastaia describes herself as a self-taught artist. She has focused on painting since 2001. Her dedication to the art of painting has spurred recognition for her studio practice. Concerning her artwork, Georgianne has said, "I am interested in exploring the tension between the heavily worked surfaces and the opaque spaces surrounding my abstract figures: crowding the canvas, larger than life, conveying a barely contained kinetic energy."
'Ballerina's Secret 24x36"
Concerning her artistic process, artist Georgianne Fastaia has also said, "I believe that what you discard or cover up in a painting is as important as what remains visible. I strive to make paintings which tell a story with minimal information; a visual haiku." She adds, "A painting carries within it every choice the artist made when creating it, the conscious thought about what it should look like as well as the energy resulting from the Artist's physical relationship with the canvas and every crossed out, erased and painted over false start. The impetus behind every mark I make on the canvas is to "transform the mistake"."
Muslim Girls Studying by Georgianne Fastaia
Art critic Brian Sherwin commented on Georgianne Fastaia's paintings, stating, "I enjoy the physicality of Georgianne's process and methods. The raw quality of her paintings capture a psychological vibe that begs me to think about the meaning behind the images – and the visual relationship between the artist and viewer." Sherwin added, "These works provide viewers with a raw narrative... one that is both alluring and haunting."
"Late for the party 40x30"
You can learn more about Georgianne and her artwork by visiting