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 Antonia Mastrocristino Sirena  (1929 - 2006)



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Lived/Active: New York / Italy      Known for: spiritually inspired painting-figure, opera singer, poetry, collections

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Contessa Antonia Mastrocristino Fanara is primarily known as Antonia Mastrocristino Sirena

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Ad Code: 4
Antonia Mastrocristino Sirena
from Auction House Records.
Flowers for My Mother
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in White Plains, New York, Sirena spent most of her young adult life in Italy. She has studios in Rome, Manhattan and Long Island. Her collectors include Frederico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Rossano Brazzi, Gina Lollobrigida, Giorgio de Chirico, Luciano Pavarotti, Vittorio de Sica, members of the Italian government as well as the Pope. Picasso's praise of her work was instrumental in getting Sirena her first major exhibit at the Galleria D'Urso (Rome). At her second exhibit, also in Rome, Cardinal Dino Staffa, of the Vatican, honored the occasion by cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony.

The recipient of many prestigious awards and medals, among them the International Gold Medal of the City of Rome; awards from the Academy of Paestum, the Academy of the Five Hundred, the Cultural International Committee Gold Medal, and the prestigious First Prize Gold Cup of the Quadrennale of Europe (where she bested 1,000 finalists from all over the world) -- she has paintings in many museums, including the Vatican Museum, the Museum gallery of Modern Art and the State Museum in Rome, the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, and the OCC Art Gallery / The City University of New York.

The death of her father (when Sirena was age two) forced her family to return to Italy, where the war overtook them. Starvation caused the deaths of the other children; Sirena alone survived, rescued by an opera singer from a burning train near Naples, and -- in a sequence of events more dramatic than any fiction -- was trained by the woman to sing grand opera. A year later when her benefactress died in a bombing raid, Sirena (then 14) made her debut in Naples in a musical.

She returned to America in 1947 and began singing engagements through the Lew Walters Agency. A near-fatal illness which followed a broken marriage forced her to reorder priorities. Of that time, Sirena comments: "...the gifts of God came pouring through my mind as new talents appeared." During her secluded recovery she experienced traumatic aesthetic visions and an overwhelming compulsion to paint what she felt. She abandoned her singing career and, still in seclusion, began to paint for long stretches at a time.

Completely self-taught, she hit on what she has called "Trans-Expressionism," a unique style in which her musical sensibilities found an outlet through painting. Five years later, Sirena was invited to exhibit in Rome, where she was honored by Pope Paul VI, the President of Italy, and the Mayor of Rome. International acclaim followed, with exhibitions in Paris, Amsterdam, and New York, as well as in Rome, Milan, and other major cities of Italy.

A CBS-TV special followed, and Frankie Lane introduced her on the "Mike Douglas Show." In 1982, after a period of ill-health, she exhibited ninety large paintings at the Bjorn Lindgren Gallery (New York). In 1983 she had another major exhibit at the Lowenstein Gallery (Lincoln Center). In 1984 she returned to Rome for an audience with Pope John Paul II, who accepted two of her paintings for the Vatican Museum. In February 1985 she unveiled, at the invitation of Cardinal John J. O'Connor, a 10-foot painting now in the Archdiocese Museum. Dozens of her works as well as her many awards and trophies are in homes.

One can easily get the impression that the artist cannot separate her daily routines from her artistic consciousness. She is a painter in whom all other compelling needs have been absorbed into the one single and unwavering impulse to give artistic expression to her unique inspiration.

She says: "I believe that art is beauty, and to become beautiful is to be attuned to that intangible life force of the spirit within . . . Can you imagine a world without colors, and music and poetry? A world without architecture, without aesthetics? I cannot. "What I paint is then extricated from those visions and is embedded in pigments in a variety of colors and in many layers"

What marks her work is a flow and a rhythm intend to remind the viewer of messages about songs, haunting melodies and lyrics. Of course, one notices immediately and perhaps first of all the craft itself: the solid table-like wood panels she prefers to paint on (instead of canvas), the use of ordinary kitchen knives to apply paint (creating the three-dimensional look of most of her mature work), the rich use of gold leaf. There are linear configurations - often symmetrical arrangements that suggest a burst of light through a perfect prism of color, curving figures tending toward a nucleus of life, movement caught in its very flux.

The "representational" figures (they are not "realistic" in the usual sense, however) all bend into the gravitational pull of love -- especially the variety of "mother and child" tableaus in which the forms reduce everything to simplest most limpid configuration.

Submitted October 2004 from Kimberly Jorgensen whose source is a 1989 publication by the artist, "Trans-Expressionism" by the artist.

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