Multi-talented beauty creating her own canvas

Jennifer Vitalia is a pure example of someone who needed to be trained to realize her own talents. As a young girl, she would travel to Ohio in the summer where her grandmother and step-brother lived. While she was there she typically would want to play sports with her step-brother. Her grandmother would pull her away and introduce her to the world of art and photography. At the tender age of 5 years old her grandmother opened her eyes on how to draw and how to look at things differently. Since then Jennifer has laid out her own canvas and has created an artistic path that is meant to touch everyone in a positive hue. We caught up with her during some of her “down time” so she can fill us in on her mission in the art world.

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We understand that you were inspired by your grandmother growing up? Can you fill us in?

Yes! My grandmother was an art teacher in Ohio, and her son is a top photographer that has his own studio and has been published in many books. We used to visit his studio while he was working, and I knew I loved everything, from the smell, to the lifestyle, to the undeniable amount of creative energy in the area – the camera, the lighting – it was my definition of a fairytale. You just know when you are at home and have found what you love! I went to Ohio for the summers, and my grandmother would always make me draw. I was a big tomboy, and always wanted to play football with my step brothers, but she would always make me come inside because she said young girls should not play boys sports. At the time I hated it because I wanted to play. Though, I did love learning different drawing techniques, so I didn’t mind once I was at the table drawing. She would teach me to close my eyes and just draw what I feel. Now, as a five year old, one can only imagine the scribble that I used to draw, but the lesson has stuck with me to this day, and looking back I am so appreciative because she taught me well. She showed me you can create shadows, emotions, and speak without ever talking. I was very lucky to have had that exposure at a young age!

You moved on and studied Graphic Design and Photography. Where did you study?

I have always been in art. In high school, I had an art major, which meant I was able to take two classes a day (sometimes more) of art, rather than just one session. I had an amazing high school art teacher that I credit highly, because I learned the most from him out of all my instructors. I loved photography so much that he actually turned a closet into a darkroom for me since our school did not have one! I learned off film. The darkroom was the best place in the world for me. It was a place to escape, to learn a new technique, a new life. It affected me so much that, while in 11th grade, I was actually accepted into a college course at Kean University for photography. Here I was, this young kid, among much older individuals with loads of talent. It was home to me again, and I knew that I never loved anything more in life than being surrounded with my love for art and photography, and like-minded people. I continued to go back to school since I graduated and learn everything that I could. I think I will be taking classes even in a senior home in my wheelchair someday!

Your style of painting is of an abstract form, which you use also in your photography. Can you educate us on your style?

This actually stems from high school and a figure drawing class in college. The raw basic foundation of art is to draw what you see. You are taught form, function, design, shadows, and so on. I had to draw for many years exactly what I saw, and I started to not like art. Artists refer to this as a transition in style. Right around the time where I was bored with that, and thinking I didn’t love art, I got an assignment to draw abstract. It was a face drawing from a sculpture, so I drew the face exactly as it looked. The professor came to me and said, “No, I want you to draw what you see and feel or you will get an F.” An “F” grade in art is like a heart attack for an artist. It doesn’t sit very well. I didn’t understand when he said, “Do you see the person here, or see them there?” Then it clicked, and art was running crazy in my mind again, I fell in love with abstract again, and by the time I was done, the image had horns, was flying, abstract was so different from art that has to look real. When you are used to drawing real, and go to abstract, it is a little scary. With real drawings, the work is done for you, you don’t have to create as much, and you use techniques. Anyone can draw; it is a skill that can actually be taught, despite what people who think they can’t draw say. To create something out of nothing, you have to be born with that! It has to live inside of you, because it means being in touch with your emotions and shutting off your mind. It’s euphoric to let go, and sometimes very scary in the beginning, then it becomes addictive and you can’t get enough of art in life.

Was there any painter that you were inspired by, and have you used their techniques in your work?

Oh my, you know what’s funny, I ask this same question to the celebrities I interview for my magazine, Everything Is Art, and they always say, “Oh, hard question…” Now this is what I am thinking (note to self), stop asking this question LOL. I don’t know if I can say one artist, because there are so many, and so many factors that come into play. I am obsessed with Yayoi Kusama. To me, her story is amazing, and she is one of today’s living master artists! If you aren’t familiar with her, I strongly suggest looking her up. She is a huge inspiration to any artist. I also get inspired by people who stand up against things such as the dolphin slaughter, animal abuse, and domestic violence.

However, my biggest inspiration is my son Antonio, who is 13 years old. He has taught to me love life, to smile every day, laugh, shut off the phone, and chase your dreams. He once said to me, when I left my job as a CFO, “you have to jump, life is short, look at Grammy (my mother who passed away when I was 24), she died without doing everything.” I just looked at him, and realized I was taking life advice from a child. But children see things for exactly what they are. As a CFO, my salary was great, but I was miserable. I knew I needed to be doing my art, and not sitting behind a desk. I was scared, but knew I had to go after what I wanted. And so I jumped, and never looked back. He was right. He is my biggest supporter, and I am a true Sicilian mother, because I put him right on that pedestal where he belongs.

Your work has earned you being a feature Artist of the 2009 & 2010 Fashion Weeks in NYC, and the 2009/2010 Latin Mixx Awards Showcased Artwork. Has there been any award/showcase that you have been most proud of?

I really do not get caught up in awards and shows. I’m very weird like that. I would say that one of the biggest things I am proud of is my photography for domestic violence awareness. It was taken and used for the business cards given to victims of DV. It was an image of a woman with a black eye being hit by an abuser, and next to it was the woman with her son. The campaign was called: “She Gave Up, He Had Just Begun.” It showed the effects of domestic violence, and how many victims stay with abusers for their children’s sake, when in reality it does more damage to the children. My second proudest thing I have done is my campaign called “Wear Fur and Blood is Your Accessory.” It was a video feature, as well as some of my photography, bringing awareness to the fur industry. Many people do not know the abuse and pain that animals go through just to make a coat. The animals get skinned alive for their fur, and then are left to die in extreme pain and fear. It breaks my heart, and that is why I will never wear fur, or allow fur to be photographed, or even brought into my studio. To be noticed for my work is great, but for my work to be noticed in a way that makes a positive change in someone’s life is far much better than being poplar or famous. Standing up for something, helping people, and doing good in the world, is what’s important. Everything else is materialistic and vain in my eyes. I want to be remembered for making a difference, and fighting for what’s right, as well as my art.

Besides being involved in the art world, you also run a magazine that focus on art. Can you fill us in on it?

Everything Is Art is what I refer to as my sickness. It is a magazine that brings exposure to talent. We feature celebrity interviews with individuals like Russell Simmons, Brandon Boyd, Gotye, Ami James, Kitchen Cousins, Emma Hack, and Antonio Ballatore. We also showcase amazing artists and photographers, from the emerging to the well-established! It was created in 2011 as a venue for artists to get the exposure they deserve. Art is a very tough industry, and many artists always ask me, “how did you start, how did you live just as an artist, etc.” I got frustrated one day because there are a great many places that take advantage of artists and, since I have a fighter in me, I wanted a place where the artists know I will work hard to get their artwork the exposure it needs! I have OCD with the magazine and my artists. I work 90-plus hours a week on consulting with artists, getting them art shows, assisting with selling/pricing their work, and helping them advance in their careers. I never thought that it would get as big as it did in less than a year, but it just goes to show that when you do something fair, and for the benefit of other people, it works!

We understand you also teach art. Where do you teach and what is your focus?

I am sponsored by USA Camera Exchange, and will start a new tour throughout the country doing lectures on new cameras, techniques, lighting, and most importantly, portfolio and business marketing. It is very exciting right now. We will also be doing tutorial videos. Many artists and photographers do not know how to professionally present a portfolio or a website. I do not feel that what I know, and all I have learned over the years, should be kept to myself, I am happy to pass along this knowledge for the benefit of others. I also teach professional portfolio classes at my studio and various schools throughout New Jersey. I have been asked to teach at an art school, but unfortunately my schedule has not allowed me to do it at present. Hopefully, I can do that by the end of next year! If I do everything that I am asked, or offered, I would be dead. I am very hard on myself and never commit to something unless I know I can dedicate all of my time and energy into doing my best.

You have also opened your own studio in Rahway, New Jersey. Can you tell us more about it?

I have had a studio for about four years now, but this space is by far the biggest. It hosts my photography and art. I shoot mainly models there: artistic photography and high fashion. I also have a gallery space section where I show artwork for the artists represented by Everything Is Art. It will also be the only full service professional photography studio in NJ, where photographers can rent the space and just about every camera, lens, and light that they may have not been able to use before, as the lenses themselves can be extremely expensive. I also assist photographers on shoots there: teach them how to use lights, what camera settings they should use to achieve the image they desire, and so on. It’s important for photographers and artist to help each other. I can’t stand photographers who speak badly about others and do not associate with people like that. I do not feel they are real, because there is no competition in art or photography. Just as every person is unique, so is the artwork they create. You create what you feel, not what you saw someone else doing. I don’t think these people really love art or photography because if they did they would get excited whenever they see art, and not try to bring the artist down. So, I typically help photographers and artist that I know really love our industry.

You have an art show coming up in November. Fill us in on the details.

The show will feature figure paintings and a few fine art figure photographs, which I am currently working on, and should have completed the series within the next two weeks. I have curated the whole show and selected the paintings for display. I am excited, because the two artists I have there with me, are two that Everything Is Art represents: Albert Joseph and Herlander Passos. Both of their work is simply amazing! The artwork sells (at the low end) starting at around $15,000. We have already sold a few of their pieces each, and the show has not even happened yet!

What is in the near future for Jennifer Vitalia?

Everything Is Art Magazine will be in Barnes and Noble in select markets throughout the U.S. soon, which we have invested a lot of time into. We will also be involved in going to hospitals and teaching art to adults in children, as art is proven to bring happiness into one’s life. We are also working on our Everything Is Art paint and art supply line as a future endeavor, and I have been busily studying and selecting pigments and designs. And, of course, we will continue with our gallery and classes. My personal bucket list is huge, and continues to grow with each day. I am only 33 years old – I have a great deal left to accomplish yet in this life!

 

Nick Christophers
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