Interview: Gina Tuzzi

I met Gina Tuzzi at her Stripe Men showing in July. Her work immediately struck me as displaying an immense amount of skill, vision and openness. Seriously, the detail in these drawings will blow your mind.

Gina was kind enough to answer some questions, and give me a closer look at the thought and care that goes into her work. She was just as open and gracious as I expected.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become an artist?

I’m Gina. I’m Santa Cruz born and raised and currently live and work in Oakland. I’m a full time artist, and part time framer. I’m a Libra and a daydream believer.

My earliest memories of making art are from when I was 5 or 6 and I would replicate the album cover art from my parents vinyl collection on computer paper (the kind that was like a long accordion with the perforated edges). The first time I remember feeling like an artist was when I made my first collage in my neighbor  Phoebe’s painting studio, I was probably 8.

You had a show of work up at Stripe Men in Santa Cruz. When I spoke to you at the opening, you mentioned that you hadn’t fully processed what the work meant yet. What role does your subconscious play in your art-making?

Oh man, lots and lots. There are times when I write ideas down on scraps of paper, forget about them for weeks and then when I revisit them it feels like a ghost wrote them. Often times the preliminary process of making work involves a lot of letting go and just getting chicken scratch onto paper.

dsc_0022 dsc_0023 I was particularly drawn to the Buddy Holly drawing in the show, with the tattoo that reads “Bring It On Home To Me”. It stands out to me because most of the other drawings are of middle-aged men, some in old-fashioned straw hats, surrounded by song lyrics as if they are singing them in their heads. The Buddy Holly drawing has them tattooed on himself, posing shirtless, and seems to be exploring more current themes of youth. Can you explain this piece a bit more?

The Buddy Holly portrait comes from an earlier body of work where I was drawing very sensitive and specific images to my visual lexicon on the bodies of young, fit and attractive men. I was wanting to make drawings about idealizing the already idealized. Sort of inventing these characters that were just too good to be true. It all came from a conversation I was having with a friend about tattoos of Joni Mitchell’s name and I remarked that if ever I met a man with Joni’s name tattooed across his chest in old english, I would propose to him on the spot.

I’m curious about your MFA in painting. Why haven’t I seen any of your paintings, and how has your education helped you develop?

2012 has been a year of commissions for me, all of those projects being paintings. When I would change gears to my own, more personal work in the studio I tended to want to draw as a break from all the painting.

My education has helped me immensely from both my bachelor’s work at Humboldt State and my graduate work at Mills College. I was able to work with incredible professors at both schools. Above all else I feel like my strongest developments within my years at school came from the dynamic inspiration and motivation I received from my fellow students, most of which are still a very important part of my everyday art community.

Do you have any other shows planned in the near future?

I do! I’m going to be participating in a few shows in Oakland next month (August). One of which I am very very excited about. Its called the World Saving Device and is being curated by my friend Obi Kaufmann. It focuses on where California will be 250 years from now. There is a very intimate and diverse group of artists contributing to this show, everyone bringing really different ideas and mediums. It opens August 3rd at the Hive Gallery. I’m pretty stoked for it. I’ll be contributing a small scale sculpture.

In your opinion, has Santa Cruz been a friendly area for you as an artist?

I haven’t lived in Santa Cruz for more than a few months at a time since 2000 so its a little hard for me to answer that. I can say that I have had many a fun exhibition in SC in the last 5 or 6 years and I’ve met some wonderful artists from the area as a result of that.

Which local (Oakland, Bay Area, CA) artists inspire you?

My dear friend Meagan Donegan’s work inspires me everyday. I also really love and admire the work of William Scott who is an artist at Creative Growth which is where I work.  Both of them work with a very seductive mimetic and graphic sensibility, with this soul fire of content that just pokes me in the heart every time.

What local artists would you like to see get more exposure?

My dear friend Andy Witrak is easily one of the most talented artists I have ever met. He’s a supernova and more folks need to be seeing his work out in the world.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Word to the wise ones- love yourself and everyone super hard. It’s easy and feels great. I mean why not, right?


You can see more of Gina’s work at her website, and other portals:
Gina’s Blog

One Response to “Interview: Gina Tuzzi”

  1. I enjoyed reading this! I find myself especially drawn to the idea of not fully processing the work upon its completion, and letting go during the process. Thank you!