Story by Sarah Gonzales
Even when Kim Marcucci isn't standing in front of her easel, the Anchorage artist is still working. Inspiration comes from everyday life: a power plant that captures her eye, the way light filtering through leaves casts shadows on a fence. "I look a lot," she says. She fuses reds, greens, blues, oranges and yellows into fierce, abstract paintings that teem with exuberance – a word that describes both the artwork and the artist.
Her bravery as an artist began, perhaps, at a stop light on the way to register for classes at Mat-Su College in 1989. "I thought 'I can study computers and make a living or I can do what I love and paint,'" she recalls. She went on to earn her BFA from the University of Alaska – Anchorage while working odd jobs and raising two children, graduating in 1995. But her love of art began long before then. One of three triplets, Marcucci was raised in Oregon by her painter mother and educated in the arts by her grandmother and her aunt, a dancer with the New York City Ballet. "Art has always been a part of my life," she says.
These days, Marcucci works full-time as a public relations manager for Southcentral Foundation and teaches three-dimensional design at the University of Alaska – Anchorage. Pushing herself is part of her method. "I like to do something that scares me every year," she says.
To meet Marcucci personally is to immediately understand why she chooses to work with quick-drying acrylics. "I like oils, however given my personality they don't dry fast enough – you have to wait and wait to go on and I'm high energy," she says. In her sunny in-home studio, she gets to work on the two-stage process of creating a new painting – step one, chaos; step two, order. At first, Marcucci paints intuitively. She has to work quickly – the acrylics will dry in about two hours. "When I first throw down the paint it's very chaotic," she says. A "swoosh of paint" on the canvas quickly becomes a tableau of movement and color. After the paint dries, she'll return to evaluate and fine-tune the overall composition. "I spend the rest of the time bringing order to chaos," she says. "It isn't until after that first lay down of paint when I can see where more colors are needed – it's now analytical."
Studying a large, mostly red and coral piece called "Boundary Changes" hung in her living room, she reflects on the fact that her paintings often marry disparate elements. "A lot of my paintings are the combination of organics and geometry," she says. Marcucci points out that among ordered cloth squares and whorls of paint there's a Band-Aid hidden within the collage, a literal nod to the painful work of shifting emotional boundaries. "It's very much about learning to stand your own ground, not to be pushed around but to be flexible," she says of the piece. "Learning all that hurts a little."
An artist can't expect emotions not to make their way onto the canvas, Marcucci says. "You cannot get away from yourself," she says. "If you just had a fight with someone you can't make a rosy little painting – whatever is going through you will come out." A series of paintings depicting leaves and vines came as Marcucci coped with the death of her grandmother. "I needed to paint something cyclical," she explains.
Starting in late May, Marcucci and Judy Patrick, a photographer who primarily works on the North Slope, will have a joint show on display at Suite 100 Restaurant in Anchorage. Marcucci will paint abstract images of industrial trucks and oil rings from Patrick's photographs. Meanwhile, Patrick will identify objects within Marcucci's paintings – like a '57 Chevy fender disguised as a small teal blue triangle in the painting "Boundary Changes" – and then find and photograph them in real life. This blending of the real and the imagined is seen in a painting on Marcucci's studio wall that, at first glance, looks like a vertebra. But look closer. "It's actually a tire," Marcucci says with a laugh. That's the really intriguing thing about abstract art, she says – every time you look, you see something new.