You could say Deborah Lanino was born to be an artist. As a direct descendant of acclaimed Italian Renaissance painter Bernardino Lanino, her works embrace her ancestry with a fusion of impressionism and expressionism that touch the spirit. She studied art history in Florence, Italy, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, and a Master’s from Argosy University. Her talents have graced galleries, and she’s been a teacher and an award-winning illustrator of more than 50 published works, including the classic Children’s Christmas Book “The Littlest Angel.” When our paths crossed professionally, I could see each of her works is a boundless expression of who she is, always changing, and always observant, adding color along the way.
What does your art say about you?
I’ve always been a very curious person, open to learning new things. There are a few things I’ve learned that I don’t want to try again. But I think ultimately, my art reflects a sense of wonder. Through it all, painting gives me clear thinking and an appreciation for the journey itself. I’ve found it so important to value the time I spend on myself, expressing my passion. Ever since I could hold a pencil I’ve been doing the artwork I love to do. It’s been a conscious choice, a responsibility, that has helped me be a better person as I go out into the world as an expression of that.
Your recent works evoke a spiritual connection to a higher, more enlightened space. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from themes of faith, hope and love. With this series I’m trying to show spiritualism and faith through my paintings in a new way. Four hundred fifty years ago during Bernardino’s time, people looked at art differently. But even in today’s world, the essence remains the same. His paintings gave people a sense of calm and reflection. For my piece entitled “Wings of a Dove,” I created an abstract and contemporary piece by replicating the symbolism of a dove he used to depict the third element of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. Using color and form and shape and all the elements and principles of design, I hope to evoke the tranquility, love and peace that the dove represents.
What if anything, surprised you about your artistic lineage?
I get to celebrate my Italian roots by utilizing some of the skills that Bernardino used in the 1500s. The terms are so Italian, I just love them. “Sfumato” – a technique of allowing tones and colors to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms. “Chiaroscuro” (from Italian chiaro “light” and scuro “dark”) – a technique of representing light and shadow to define three-dimensional objects.
How has your painting called “Hope” taken on new meaning?
I painted this piece five years ago and find myself reflecting upon it during the pandemic, as it promises that season of rebirth and hope we are all looking forward to. I used yellow in this piece because it’s cheerful and energizing. I find it a concept to hold on to in these difficult times. People with resilient outlooks are less vulnerable to physical and emotional illness. Resilience is also hope. Hope can energize and mobilize us.
You’ve been a student, teacher and creator in your artistic journey. What passions drive you today?
I’ve come full circle, with gratitude. I’m finally at a stage in life where I’m able to complete my Faith, Hope and Love series and am in the process of exhibiting those works in a museum. It’s been a lifelong dream. When I look back on being a student, I vividly remember the day as a college senior, feeling intimated when I applied for a grant to travel to Europe to paint. Sitting there in a room before a prestigious panel 30 years ago, I presented them the beginnings of the Faith, Hope and Love project. It was disappointing when my pitch was quickly dismissed by an architect on the panel. At the time, it was harder for women to gain recognition. There was not one female artist in our standard art history book. Today’s culture is more open and accepting. After my drawings sat unfinished in my sketchbooks for years, I’m finally ready to visually share my story. I’m still learning. The art is a manifestation of who I am. I needed to arrive here myself.
When you look back upon something you created years ago, where does it take you?
For me, it’s like looking at an old photograph of a beloved family member or a special place and reveling in the nostalgia of that moment in time. Like hearing a familiar song takes you back to what you were doing when you heard it for the very first time. With art, what’s interesting is that a piece can be realistic or abstract. It still transports you.
You can visit with Deborah Lanino and connect via her virtual art studio at: deborahlanino.com