MICHELLE MICALIZZI is a Social Practice Artist who merges collaboration visual journalism and fashion design to creatively connect art, business, and community by combining systems, words, video, and images to convey a concept, thought, social concern, or biographical story. Her multimedia paintings are shorthand for a snapshot in time of her subject’s work and life while conveying a universal message for all and a byproduct of deep meaningful collaboration.
“Social practice is an art medium that focuses on engagement through human interaction and social discourse. Since it is people and their relationships that form the medium of such works – rather than a particular process of production – social engagement is not only a part of a work’s organization, execution or continuation, but also an aesthetic in itself: of interaction and development. Socially engaged art aims to create social and/or political change through collaboration with individuals, communities, and institutions in the creation of participatory art. The discipline value the process of a work over any finished product or object”
Micalizzi Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect art + business + community. Micalizzi’s purposeful painting for each project highlights a specific theme where an original multimedia work of art is created for each story. However, the painting is only a small part of the art that is created with each project. The audience engagement, human interaction as well as the business and non-profit collaboration that takes place during the projects are far more significant than the physical art work that is produced.
Micalizzi’s work has evolved considerably since 2015 when she began to create work for her Art of Doing Business Series that focuses on entrepreneurism. In 2018, she added The Art of Giving Back and Art of Living series to her mix. During the creation process, Micalizzi realized that she was as much interested in the social impact of the work as she was with the physical manifestation of the paintings. The process of creating and collaborating made Micalizzi fully embrace the awareness that she was collectively using her visual journalism skills, her business mind, and charitable instinct as a Social Practice Artist. Micalizzi made the branding decision to remove the word “Fearlessly” from all her brands and projects at the end of 2018 as she moves to register her trademarks nationally.
The paintings created illustrate a story that is shared on the Fearless Blog and via social media as visual journalism. Essentially, the story is one of hope and resilience. Micalizzi believes that entrepreneurs are a perfect example of these qualities, which is why in recent years the art projects have featured entrepreneurs. Ultimately, any story that focuses on these qualities, and that allows for inspiration provides an excellent opportunity to give back. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of paintings produced is contributed to either the charity that they were inspired by or a charity that is selected for the series.
As a painter, the artists that initially inspired Micalizzi the most are Robert Rauschenberg for his Combines that spoke to the moment; Frida Kahlo for her fearless raw emotional biographical content; Jean-Michel Basquiat for his dark thick lines and willingness to think/feel/scream out loud on canvas; and Louise Nevelson for her sheer audacity. Some other influences include Jasper Johns for his social context and use of stencils and color; Joseph Cornell for his use of the box format and collage; and Max Ernst in particular for his Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale. A piece that she would visit, like an old friend, as often as she could at MoMA. Micalizzi also appreciates Andy Warhol for his unabashed capitalistic approach to art and life. She has also been strongly influenced by the Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater, specifically their Cheap Art Manifesto; and Vermont folk artist Warren Kimble.
Micalizzi’s multimedia approach uses a combination of acrylic, oil stick and pastels, collage and assemblage, found objects, water color, gauche, graphite, colored pencil, traditional and paint markers, or photography to create her images. Each painting is a mini-emotional, illustrated documentary laced with facts that are arrived at from active listening and deep interest in her subjects. Each piece is a one of a kind visual essay because there are no duplicate life stories. Our moments and lessons as people are as original as a snowflake. Even though every piece is inspired by a specific story, the concepts characterized in them are universal.
During her lifetime, Micalizzi has had the unique opportunity to get to know many very successful and creative business people that she feels have cultivated her love of entrepreneurs. She is inspired by many leaders and companies such as global leaders Oprah, Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, and Pharrel Williams. Closer to home; leaders such as Heidi Jennenga, Bob Parsons, Mayor Jim Lane, Governor Doug Ducey and Jane Spicer inspire at a local level. She admires conscious businesses such as Disney, Ben & Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Whole Foods, Starbucks and local Arizona companies; InMedia Company, Daphne’s Headcovers, and of course WebPT. As a philanthropist, Micalizzi is particularly energized by local community leaders Linda Herold, Deborah Bateman, and Rick McCartney as well as charitable organizations such as the Arizona Consortium for the Arts, Gabriel’s Angels, The Phoenix Film Foundation, and OCJ Kids to name only a few.
Micalizzi was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Rutland Town, VT amid a family business. After graduating with a B.A. in Fine Art from The State University of New York at Albany in 1989, she spent ten years in and around Manhattan studying art in all the major museums while running two businesses of her own, one of which allowed her to work in the fashion industry as a graphic designer. She lived in a small community artist colony in Stone Ridge, NY while she took graduate fine art courses at The State University of New York at New Paltz. This experience led her to focus on commercial art by supplementing her fine art degree with certification in Computer Design from the renowned Pratt Manhattan Institute.
When Micalizzi returned to Vermont in 1999, she realized, much to her surprise, that she had actually been in business her whole life in one way or another, and that “business” was not a limiting word. She came to understand and embrace that business is another artistic medium to cultivate and was not in opposition to her creativity. As the granddaughter, daughter and goddaughter of business owners, Micalizzi has entrepreneurship in her DNA and has created six businesses of her own. Micalizzi made her left-brain accountable for her business and leadership skills by earning her Masters of Science in Administration (MSA) from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT in 2006. The MSA is equally weighted in Business and Public Administration, which spoke to Micalizzi’s passion for business + community.
Micalizzi has maintained art studios in New York City; Stoneridge, NY; Colchester, VT; Essex Junction, VT; Scottsdale, AZ; Cave Creek, AZ, the Phoenix Roosevelt Row Arts District and currently in North Phoenix, Arizona.
Visual journalism has always been my way of exploring and recording the ideas that captured my imagination. Journaling is how I make sense of the world. The whole process is meditative in nature. Making the image is a repetitive action similar to knitting that releases my mind completely. I use the activity as a way to learn, grow and release.
I always start with the story first. Relentless fearless entrepreneurial spirits fascinate me. However, all genuine deeply human experience interests me. The entrepreneurs I invite to participate in my projects are people I respect or are nominated by people I respect. Once I have the story, I ruminate intently about the concepts that are highlighted in the story. Is there anything ironic about the story? Is there a play on words that I can manipulate? Once I have a few ideas, I research the concept to allow my mind to dig deeper into the concept. Before the Internet, I would sit on the floor of bookstores for hours and hours and page through magazines and books. I am constantly scanning the world for alignment with the notion from the story that has captured my imagination. Once I have a few ideas, I just let my imagination wander. I know I have the concept when the idea of the painting makes me laugh. When I get to this stage, the drawing pretty much makes itself. I use multiple mediums in my work; the base of which is acrylic paint, paint marker, pastels, colored pencil and sometimes collage and assemblage.
Once I have the drawing, I transfer the image to a wood panel that has been gessoed and blacked. I always start with a black canvas and then pull the image out of it. The drawing is created in pencil and then outlined with paint marker. From there I choose colors in my palette that are in alignment with the concept. The outlines in my paintings represent an outline of life rather than a detective who outlines death. Intentionally, the objects in my work are simplified because for me the story and the concept of the work is most important. I know the painting is done when I look at it and I have no anxiety. I have heard it said that although each of my panels in a series has a different subject matter, my style is consistent and instantly recognizable.
In 2018 I decided to take my work one level deeper into the world of fashion by allowing the stories of women entrepreneurs I have interviewed in the past to inspire an article of clothing. In 2019 I will focus on 13 male entrepreneurs.
What makes me unique is that my work is a social practice that is as much about connecting with others and creating relationship as it is about creating a piece of art. In a way, I truly fall in love with my subjects and I am mesmerized by all the ideas I investigate. My greatest challenge is time. I have committed to an aggressive creation schedule and there are a lot of moving parts to my work. I am also managing several projects simultaneously from soup to nuts so I have to be very focused to get it all done.
My ultimate mission is that I want people to be inspired to put down their fears and pick up the dream they have been putting off until they believe that all the stars are aligned. In the future I see myself continuing to interview inspiring people, fundraise for great organizations, and allow myself to investigate different manifestations of my social practice for the good.