A MONMOUTH COUNTY ARTIST’S EXPRESSIVE SHORE-INFLUENCED INTERPRETATIONS ON CANVAS ARE TURNING UP IN OFFICES AND HOTELS AS WELL AS ART GALLERIES
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC
Dawn DiCicco realizes abstract art can be challenging for some to embrace. Her own father had to learn to love his daughter’s prolific works. To her pleasant surprise, others purposely select her abstracts for the serenity they can convey.
“Law firms seem to like my work,” said DiCicco, a Monmouth Beach resident who shares a studio with three other artists in downtown Red Bank. “There is a call for quieter paintings.” A medical office in Montclair became a customer, too.
Having spent her life along the Jersey Shore, DiCicco’s works are strongly influenced by nature and the sea. She also draws, literally and figuratively, from her background as a graphic designer. Her distinctive mixed media artworks, many in calming shades of blue and green or muted tones, incorporate found items like bottle caps and “rusty gold.”
“I work in acrylics because I like to draw, and I usually add abstract elements using etching tools, pastels, and pencils,” DiCicco explained. “I like to collage and layer my pieces. My paintings are ‘noisy’ because there’s a lot going on, but since the pandemic, I’m striving for a more serene look.”
DiCicco’s hands “were always going” as a child. When she wasn’t painting and drawing, she was making figures out of Play-Doh and clay.
After attending the University of Miami, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona, the school she chose by throwing a dart at a map. A career in commercial art and graphic design followed. She worked as an art director for American West Magazine, then took a post in Philadelphia at an ad agency. When she became art director at an industrial firm, she met her future sister-in-law, who introduced DiCicco to her brother, now DiCicco’s husband. The couple has two adult daughters.
Throughout the years, the stay-at-home mom kept drawing, including classroom murals at her children’s school. When her girls got older, DiCicco began taking art classes again. A friend suggested she try an abstract painting class at the Guild of Creative Art in Shrewsbury.
“It just clicked with me; it’s very freeing,” the artist related. “I didn’t have to worry about perspective and would let loose on the canvas and not think about anything.”
She sold her first painting in 2013, then entered the Emerging Artists Program at the Monmouth Museum, and sold some more. In addition to a long list of art shows and exhibitions she’s participated in throughout New Jersey and New York, DiCicco gets exposure through Instagram. She posts her paintings upon completion, generating sales.
Her education continued when she was asked to work at the museum’s front desk. There, she learned how to submit works for exhibitions, and went on to join a number of artists’ programs. Along the way, she garnered numerous awards and honors including Best Painting and Best Abstract, and has mounted solo exhibitions at galleries, museums, and popular gathering places like the Tides Hotel in Asbury Park, and the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank. DiCicco has exhibited there twice as part of the hotel’s Artists in Residence program. Her works are hanging in guestrooms throughout the scenic marina hotel overlooking the Navesink River all this year, and can be viewed by inquiring at the front desk. Her works are currently on display in other locations like Red Bank Frameworks and the borough’s Windsor Gallery
The Art Hive Studio she founded with three other artists opened pre-pandemic in 2019, then shut down because of it. The artists are “tip-toeing our way back in,” DiCicco said, adding they are hoping to resume full operations soon.
DiCicco still produces realistic landscapes and beach scenes. Her 2017 “Water Music” series of smaller works (12” x 12” or 20” x 20”) came at the suggestion of a friend who noted shore-themed works are hot sellers during New Jersey summers. She told DiCicco she should sell them to finance supplies to paint abstracts. DiCicco said she was influenced by listening to Bruce Springsteen’s e Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle “on repeat” all throughout the summer she painted the series.
“Some people don’t understand abstracts until you explain them and what they represent,” DiCicco said. “You need to be open to it.”
Lately, DiCicco is influenced by foxes that visit her property near the water, so much so that they are appearing in her artwork. By happy coincidence, the neighbor joining her in these pursuits is Tom Zapcic, the same photographer assigned to this story
“The foxes are friendly; one showed up as a baby,” said DiCicco, who installed a motion sensor light and camera to better view and visually capture her furry friends. “People want to come see them when they emerge at night. They are fascinating to watch, but usually run as soon as they are spotted. One had babies under Tom’s deck. I feel privileged I get to witness them, and help them when they need it. With all the problems in the world, it gives me pleasure to watch their simple little lives play out.”
Dawn DiCicco Fine Art 46 English Plaza,
Suite 6, Red Bank / dawndicicco.com