Unique Technique

“Going Out” painting by Romula

South End artist

gets her hands dirty


SOUTH END NEWS – The Piano Craft Gallery, 793 Tremont Street, hosted an opening reception on Friday, April 6 for “Create What You See”, an exhibit by Romula, a South End-based artist with a compelling backstory and an unusual style. Romula, a self-taught artist who applies paint to canvas with her fingers, welcomed about 75 family, friends and members of the art community.

Using her fingers and hands to paint hearkens back to her first love, sculpture, allowing her to “mold the paint to the canvas,” as she states on her web site. Romula’s paintings range from vividly colored and pulsing with movement, such as “The Purple Pool Table” and “The Neighbors” to the softly colored, swirling, impressionistic lines of “Love of the Sun”; some works are rich with gilt and others muted with light earth tones.

Greeting guests and fielding inquiries about the artist’s works was Romula’s mother, framer Mary Savino, who worked with her husband and Romula in the family’s longtime business, Friendly Framers on Hanover Street in the North End. Rounding out the family presence was Romula’s daughter, actress Mila Savino, 27, who commented, “I’m really proud of her. She’s wanted to create art her entire life.”

Romula’s artistic and tactile inspiratiaon began at age four, when she attended the Pompeii exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), the clay-clad corpses frozen in their last moments igniting a desire to create and to help others.

Soon Romula began sculpting in clay soon after, and one of her childhood creations, a graceful evocation of her grandmother in red clay, sits atop a mirror in the exhibit. Romula, who was homeless for a time before settling into her current Massachusetts Avenue residence, merges her creative and helping drives through charitable events such as her 2012 showing at Weston’s Jar Home and the sale of her “Shades of Amber” at the MFA’s “Spoonful of Ginger” benefit, which raised funds for the Psoriasis Foundation and the Joslin Diabetes Center respectively.

Romula’s friends, fellow South Ender Dan Mouhot and fellow artist Sasja Lucas, helped install and stage the exhibit, taking a personal and homey touch that reflects the atmosphere of the works. For example, the clay sculpture sits atop a mirror; the painting “A Boy and A Girl” hangs above a piano draped with colorful fabric and two smaller canvases, “The Bar” and “The Beach”, lean against a table with wine glasses perched above.

Mouhot and Romula met by chance last year at the Parish Café and “immediately clicked,” Mouhot said. Upon seeing her painting, “The Neighbors”, Mouhot exclaimed, “That’s my neighborhood!” and felt a connection to her work. His own artistic impulses rekindled, and he left the corporate world to work again in film, having started out as an animator. The son of a filmmaker, Mouhot is working on a documentary about his ancestor, French explorer Henri Mouhot, who discovered the ruins at Angkor, Cambodia.

Artists in attendance included illustrator/humorist Thom Donovan, the Piano Factory’s resident historian; fellow Piano Factory denizen James de Crescentis and Deborah Lee, an artist, art educator and blogger from Cambridge.

Gallery hours are Fridays from 6:00-8:00 PM, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 noon-5:00 PM. For further information, please visit www.pianocraftgallery.com.

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by Michele D.  Maniscalco