As the curator of O Street Gallery, I have the pleasure of finding artistic treasure to exhibit. Sometimes, the treasure finds me. Meet Rosa Fabrello Moore, one of O Street Gallery’s artists featured in the September 21 – January 9 exhibit.
I first met Rosa on a rainy day in May, 2016, when she and her grown son, Dario Moore, met co-curator Chuck Prudhomme and me at O Street Gallery.
A tall woman in her mid 80s, Rosa was prepared. She’d brought a thick portfolio full of newspaper clippings written in Spanish and English, and articles and photos that spanned decades of Rosa’s art, awards and exhibitions.
Rosa asked if she could sit down, remarking that she’d just had knee surgery a few weeks prior. I looked in surprise to her son, and asked how his mother had navigated up the gallery’s long flight of stairs. Dario chuckled and said, “My mother was very determined to come here today.”
She’s shown in galleries all over the world: Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Italy, California and Arizona. From 1955 until 1983 Rosa was featured in 17 solo exhibits, 12 group exhibits, and had her art in three permanent museum collections: the Museum of Fine Art, Tucumán, Argentina; the Museum of Painting “Jose A. Terry” Tilcava, Jujuy, Argentina; and the Museum of Fine Art, San S. de Jujuy, Argentina.
Rosa’s art includes painting, wood carving, sculpture, pottery, batiks, and wood block prints.
During our gallery-selection process, we easily and enthusiastically agreed to have Rosa’s art as part of the next exhibit.
Rosa’s artist mission statement is, “Through my work, I intend to communicate feelings prompted by the people, places, and circumstances that surround me. Different mediums and techniques help me to express the breadth of my sentiment.”
However, we learned that Rosa’s story reaches into Italy, where her Italian-born parents left their homeland, which was under the tirade of Mussolini, in search of a new life in Argentina. That’s where Rosa and her sister were born.
Rosa grew up in Argentina, where she ultimately achieved various degrees in art, from the School of Fine Art, Tucumán, Argentina; the University National of Tucumán, Argentina; and the Catholic University of Peru, Lima Peru, where she studied the Inca culture of Peru. Rosa taught art in various schools, from primary grades, high school and adults.
Rosa enjoyed teaching, and one summer, spent her months in the Andes mountains, where she lived among the native people. Rosa said she loved their native music and their simplistic life. Rosa said, “I was happy with my life and independence, and didn’t think much about marriage.”
That changed, when a 28-year-old Rosa was waiting for a train at the station in her hometown of Tucumán. Rosa – who’s six feet tall, noticed a blond, even taller man – 6′ 5″ – also waiting for a train.
She was intrigued that he was sketching, and watched as he observed the people in the station. Rosa approached the man, and asked what he was doing. He replied that he enjoyed drawing the people in the station. Rosa exclaimed, “You are an artist!” The man said he wished he was, but he’d only made the sketches as mementos for when he returned to his home in America. Rosa told him that she was an artist, and taught art locally. Rosa expressed her surprise at how well he spoke Spanish. He explained that he’d just completed a 20-month South American journey, and that his degrees pertained to the language.
That meeting led to correspondence, and four months later, marriage. The couple moved to America, and a few years later, back to Argentina, with their young son, Dario, for 13 years. Over Rosa’s life, art was a constant, mostly influenced by her impressions and love of pre-Columbian design found in Inca culture. Rosa filled her years painting, carving, making batiks, giving lectures and workshops, teaching, and being featured in galleries and museums.
Fast forward to 2015, when Rosa found herself living alone, a widow after having lost her husband to a tragic, sudden death. Rosa’s son moved her to the north state to be close to him; an effort to cheer up his mother and lend support.
Rosa described the depression and sadness she felt as a dark pit. The deeper she sank into that pit, the less interest she had in art. Rosa was also depressed about her physical condition, having a resistant foot infection that prevented her from necessary knee surgery. Rosa’s doctor said that for her to heal, she’d need to keep weight off her knee for seven months.
Rosa said, “I was going crazy, not able to do anything.” Rosa’s miracle came in form of a pharmacy delivery employee, who commented on Rosa’s art when he brought her medications. He asked if Rosa was an artist. She told him that she used to do art, but no longer had any interest. Rosa confided that it had been eight years since she had painted, or done any art. The delivery man told Rosa that he too, was an artist. He encouraged her — since she had to sit all day long — to paint. Rosa explained that she was never one to sit and paint, that she was accustomed to standing.
But each week, when he delivered Rosa’s medications, the man continued to encourage her. “You are an artist,” he said. “It’s a shame that you don’t paint.”
He recommended that she play some of her Peruvian music CDs, and just paint, and let her mind go. For Rosa, the music conjured up memories of her studies of the ancient Inca culture of Peru, and of her summer in the Andes mountains. Each week, as her medications were delivered, Rosa shared with the pharmacy employee her current paintings that depicted images reminiscent of the Inca culture.
“Something happened, when I put the music on,” she said. “It brought a flood of pictures to paint.”
Rosa sat at her modest kitchen table, daily, for seven months, where she painted 22 works of art. She said that while her body was healing, so was her heart and mind.
Within that seven months of working on her art, Rosa’s foot had responded to the treatment, and healed. Rosa had the required knee surgery, and was able to walk up the stairs to O Street Gallery, son by her side, holding his mother’s arm, and a box of Rosa Fabrello Moore art.
Rosa credits the pharmacy delivery person who took notice of the elderly woman who had given up on life and art, and brought her healing in the form of compassion and inspiration.
“Art saved my life,” she said. “Thanks to God, who sent me people to encourage me to paint again, and now, I’m in an exhibit!”
You may meet Rosa, and her fellow artists, at O Street Gallery’s Artist Reception, Fri., Sept., 23, 6 to 8 p.m. We will be playing the music that brought forth Rosa’s memories of the Andes mountains.
O Street Gallery exhibit, now through January 9, 2017, 1261 Oregon Street, Redding, California. Upstairs from Oregon Street Antique Mall. Curator: Shelly Shively
Karlo Henry Velazquez
Rosa Fabrello Moore