Inside Out Blog

Slip Into the World of the Surreal with Artist Josephine Tota

Josephine Tota (1910–1996) was a seamstress and amateur artist who lived a conventional life among the Italian immigrant community in Rochester, New York. In her seventies, she spent countless hours painting in the privacy of her home, where she imbued over 90 small jewel-like paintings with the richness of her strange imagination. Themes of metamorphosis, family bonds, physical pain, human frailty, the natural world, loss, and tragedy dominate Tota’s obsessive and otherworldly depictions. Despite her relative isolation in producing this body of work, Tota was profoundly influenced by years of amateur art classes at MAG’s community art school, the Creative Workshop, and her personal interest in medieval and modern art.

It is this powerful body of work—dozens of intense paintings in egg tempera and gilding on board, completed at the end of her life—that The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota explores and advocates for inclusion into the canon of self-taught, visionary art. “Unusual paintings like these,” writes Curator in Charge/Curator of American Art Jessica Marten, “near death-defying expressions of a little-known artist’s interior world, with incisive inquiries into womanhood, age, and power, rarely find their way inside an art museum’s walls.” Surreal Visions explores the “audacious and radical voice” of a singular artist almost lost to history and challenges our commonly held assumptions about female artists working outside the mainstream.

The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota features over 90 paintings created by Josephine Tota; 14 from the collection of the Memorial Art Gallery, many never-before-seen paintings on loan from family and friends, and a small selection of ceramics and textiles. After it premieres at the Memorial Art Gallery, additional venues will be arranged by International Arts & Artists.

With this exhibition and its accompanying catalog published by RIT Press, Memorial Art Gallery forges new territory in the introduction and exploration of a little-known and unconventional artist of significant talent.

At Greenwood Park Luxury Apartments in Rochester, New York, it is clear that we have it all, but we still feel obliged to inform you of all the events our community has scheduled. Please feel free to join in all of the fun at this event!

Event Time/Date:
Saturday, August 11, 2018— 11:00 AM

Event Venue Location:
Memorial Art Gallery
500 University Avenue
Rochester, New York 14607

Rochester Exhibit
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