Roberta Tucci

Boom (Purple), 2020

acrylic on paper, 10 x 10 inches

Tucci: Absorbing the Essence of a Living History

My family is truly Italian American, cento per cento. My mother’s family are Northern Italian mountain people, from Trentino in the Dolomites. My father’s family are Southern Italians from Calabria. After coming to America, my paternal grandfather, Angelo, worked for the New York City sanitation department. His cellar where he made wine also proudly hosted many work shovels. His wife, my grandmother Rosina, arrived in America alone when she was 16 years old.

My parents were both born in America and met in New York City. There, my father was from the north, the Bronx, and my mother from the south, Brooklyn. Their 6-and-L train, MTA-linked romance led to marriage and four children, of whom I am the youngest. During the Depression my mother, Gina, wore clothing made from cotton flour sacks, but by the time she met Al Tucci, my father, she was a secretary who worked in Manhattan. Thanks to the GI Bill my father, who served in the Army in World War II, graduated with a master’s degree from Columbia University and became an accountant for the DuPont Company. 

This job brought many benefits but also a transitory lifestyle in which my family was uprooted every four years or so. Wherever we lived, we returned to New York as often as possible for family occasions (my parents had 13 cousins). On long night rides to and from the Bronx, I traveled wearing pajamas in the station wagon, dozing way back on blankets with the luggage. From my spot I could gaze in awe at the beauty of nocturnal, dawn, and daylight America that soared around my drowsy dreams and childhood fantasies.

As a young adult I reached Italy and immediately connected with my Indigenous background. I felt very much part of the Italian family that had stayed behind. The family boomed with aunts,  uncles, and cousins. I made new friends while falling in love with the land, the culture, the people, the literature and art. Restored inside me were all the fragments of my ancient past. Learning the language was beautiful for me. The depth of my art settled deeper because I trekked down into Etruscan Tombs, scoured the architecture and sculpture of Borromini and Bernini in Baroque Rome, and absorbed the essence of my living ancestry. This dichotomy has turned into a lifelong partnership.

One of my most profound experiences in Italy was a visit to my maternal grandmother Iride’s birthplace in Trentino. She was born in a traditional remote stone rifugio in the breathtaking mountains. I returned to the Bronx, haunted by the wonder of it all. I asked my aunt Mary how my grandparents could leave such a beautiful place to come to America. She replied, “They could not eat the beauty.” They never went back.

I am descended from four people who left abject poverty amidst wonderful beauty and relocated to the mayhem of inner-city America. Here they faced more poverty, prejudice, exploitation, opportunity—and eventual safety and comfort. I am from these honorable people to whom I remain true. And I hope they are proud of me: my achievements, my integrity, my art, my identity.

Counterpart, 2020

acrylic on Paper, 12 x 12 inches

Five Part Constellation, 2018

acrylic on panel, 48 x 96 inches

Solo: Recent Works, Delaware State University, Dover, 2021

Something Special Here/Nothing Special Here, 2021

acrylic on canvas, 20 x 60 inches

Chance of Storms: Likely, 2021

acrylic on panel, 58 x 31 inches

Roberta Tucci in the studio