Internationally Acclaimed Artist Pia Pizzo passes away in Italy
Pia Pizzo, known internationally for her unique artistic style, passed away on December 13, 2021, in Italy at the Pizzo Greco House Museum in Suisio; her beloved sister-in-law Rosemary was caring for her. Her death came as a result of a stroke that she suffered, September 2019 in Long Beach. She was a woman much loved by her American and Italian family, by friends, by colleagues and by the whole artistic world. She has been acclaimed throughout the world for her drawings, prints, artists' books and installations. Locally, she currently has three pieces on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art and one recently on display at the Broad in downtown Los Angeles. A list of Pia's awards, achievements, art on display in museums and art exhibits throughout the world, are endless. Her lifelong effect on the international art community is truly a testament to her creative genius. Pia was born in Italy 84 years ago and has been a Long Beach-based artist for more than 40 years. Pia's own personal journey began when she was nine years old in Palermo. Forbidden to enter her grandfather's prized library – a sacrosanct chamber lined with invaluable volumes – the curious child defiantly crept inside determined to see what was located behind closed doors. Grabbing a book at random, she ferreted it out to the garden where she was surprised to discover her stolen treasure was a treatise on metaphysics which she studied for the next five years. In her middle teens, Pia fathomed the concepts engaged in that text, overwhelmed by the Hindu version of creation and the book's philosophy of the universe, Pia went on to study Taoism and Zen. Her studies are reflected in her life's works. In 1960, Pia graduated Milan's college of Art Orsoline di San Carlo and the Academy of Arts Brera. She established herself as a serious artist by exhibiting in Italy, England, Switzerland and Germany. Said George Kasper, then curator of the museum in Switzerland "We must consider her paintings as an expression of the invisible. The feeling of purity, severity, and mysticism makes her creation temples of spirituality that we must build in the near future." In 1966, the London Times raved about her work: "looking at one of her drawings makes you want to see her work translated into three dimensions." In fact, by the 1970's that is exactly what she did; Pia transformed her geometric mandala paintings into a serious of three-dimensional, bas-reliefs that used light as the main color. This is the time that Pia began to explore the possibility of making books without words – exquisite, beautifully bound books with no recognizable images. While living in London in the 1970's, designing children's books for commercial distribution, her creative genius was sparked - Pia decided to create her own wordless books. Intrigued by the abstract, sculptural properties of the book form itself, she created objects which she called "non-books" or "non-readable books." Without text or images, these abstract forms gradually evolved into stunning, room-sized installations. After seeing her book creation Feeling Words, in 1986 at UCLA, Peter Seltz (University of California at Berkely art historian) wrote about Pia's books "As the viewer looks, touches, or moves through the pages, the mind's eye empties, completely losing intellectual thought, while gaining lasting intimacy with the tactile senses." In 1989, she received the greatest honor a Long Beach artist can claim - Artist of the Year, Distinguished Visual Artist Award from the Public Corporation for the Arts. Another great honor bestowed by Long Beach was her exhibition "Pia Pizzo: Silent Journey" at the Long Beach Art Museum of Art in 1998. A distinguished art critic, Shirle Gottlieb, a member of Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art, wrote an essay about Pia and her exhibition Silent Journey, stating "[T]his essay is going to be one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted. Here I am, using words to write a treatise on the art of Pia Pizzo; when in reality, all that Silent Journey requires is stillness, introspection and meditation. It is audacious to think that words are necessary when Pizzo's creative vision speaks so eloquently without them. Music would be appropriate: the sound of strings or the chiming of bells, a babbling brook, the rustle of wind or the patter of rain. But words share no part in the spiritual chords that are struck by Pizzo's tactile imagery and sentient vocabulary… Pizzo's art goes beyond mere visual aesthetics into the realm of pure emotion." To quote Pia herself on the opening of an exhibit in 1994, called Words and Non Words for an Angel (Rachel Lozzi Gallery, Los Angeles): "The page becomes the setting for any hypothetical journey one may seek. It represents a white, pristine, mental void - a mysterious space where we dance to kinetic rhythms that we hear as the pages unfold." For more than 50 years, Pia has been exhibited in more than 40 solo exhibitions; her art has been displayed in many more than 50 museums, exhibits and galleries internationally from Italy to New York to Austria to Spain, Taiwan, Washington DC and more. More than 100 reviews, written by internationally renowned art critics, have been published – all of whom universally raved about Pia's unique style and creations. Photographs and articles of her works have been published in more than 50 journals, magazines and books. She has lectured in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, as well as in Italy and Long Beach, California. Pia Pizzo has left an invaluable footprint in this world because of her creative genius. However, there was so much more to Pia than her unique talent; she was an exceptionally kind, loving and beloved friend to so many. All who had the honor of knowing her, loved her sweet, humble and peaceful disposition. Her generous nature was evidenced by her long-time devotion to a young girl who lives in India, whom Pia has supported for many years. She practiced Buddhism and believed in a world full of peace and love. Her kindness was acknowledged for her dedication to providing art experiences to blind children, in Austria as well as at The El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach State University's Museum of Art. Pia will be sorely missed by her many, many friends and family in Long Beach and in Italy and throughout the art world.
Published by Gazette Newspapers from Jan. 6 to Jan. 21, 2022.