Circles Of Life
Painter uses spheres and stories to make meaningful art
By Jessica Laskey
A moody blue dreamscape punctuated by floating golden crescents and shadowy orbs hangs on the wall. Next to it, a small placard with text.
“Golden Moons,” it reads. “There seems to be a price for living with full intention, awake and alive to the possibilities of the world. You two watch me take the risks. Holding light in a dark corner no one wants to look at. And it scares me to see you pivot away from me and on to your own path with the same luminosity. And that action, my golden moons, excites me and scares me. With audacity and flair, telling the world what you need to shine. Where did you learn this? Did I teach you or did you teach me?”
Artist Whitney Lofrano of Story Circle Gallery is a storyteller in paint and words. An art director by training, Lofrano learned early that communication takes many forms.
“You can’t really have a painting without a story,” says Lofrano, who began her career working on “Got milk?” and other big ad campaigns. “With my advertising background, I wasn’t cited as a copywriter but I was working with brilliant writers. To be able to distill an idea in time has served as a catalyst for selling my art. I’m able to make people feel.”
Growing up in Berkeley, Lofrano would often go museum hopping with her grandmother, a world traveler and self-taught artist. She taught Lofrano the science of color and how to make any palette out of red, yellow and blue.
“She taught me that if the color is pleasing to the eye, an OK painting could be magnificent,” Lofrano says.
When she decided to formalize her art education at University of Oregon, Lofrano’s dad insisted she pick a more “practical” major. She chose another of her interests: journalism. “I’d always had an easy storytelling capability,” she says. “I found it natural.”
Oregon happened to have an award-winning advertising department and Lofrano quickly found her people among the “whacky and weird ad folks.” When her college team won a New York Times ad campaign contest, Lofrano was thrust into the advertising elite. She ended up at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco after graduation.
After a “really wild, crazy ride” in the world of Bay Area advertising, she moved to Sacramento to be with her long-distance boyfriend (now husband) and landed a job at Crocker Flanagan and later Glass McClure, where “they really let my storytelling fly.”
When Lofrano became a mom, she realized her “Mad Men lifestyle” of long hours and short deadlines wasn’t going to work. She left her job and tried to settle into family life, but soon found herself “spinning out” and struggling with alcohol to satiate her anxiety.
Art saved her. She called up a friend, gallery owner and fellow artist Tim Collom, and said, “I’m going to tell stories of people in circles. I’m going to have a show in a year and come out to my friends as a recovered alcoholic. Can I have your gallery?”
The answer was yes. Lofrano spent the next year attending AA meetings and painting up a storm. Her inclination toward storytelling led Lofrano to write a short blurb next to each painting to explain the meaning behind the imagery. The Collom show in 2007 almost sold out. Lofrano has since had several other shows with similar results, proving she’s on the right path.
“I feel like a conduit, like I’m being used by some other something. It’s a weird sensation,” Lofrano says about her work. “On a molecular level, we’re made of circles. We’re on a big circle hurtling through space. Circles are a natural thing that can mean so much to so many.”
For commissions and information, visit whitneylofrano.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.