Ara Lucia

Chicago, USA

Abstract painting inspired by intimacy

In her paintings, Ara Lucia explores the body and intimacy. Using both an active and reflective process, the artist paints her body and presses it directly upon the canvas. Text from love letters between women is also woven into many of the paintings. However, for commissioned works, any language of love can be incorporated into a painting.

Ara Lucia, abstract artist


Abstract painting inspired by fashion throughout time all in blue hues. 


Why blue?


When I created my first abstract painting inspired by dresses, it was in a flurry —  so excited that finally my entry into the world of abstract art had arrived. When I was done with that first painting which was only black, white and grey paint, I added three tiny blue lines. I thought to myself, “What if the next one was only blue?” It wasn’t until I created that next piece that my lifetime obsession with blue became clear to me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized my obsession before. There had been a precious pair of navy blue shoes in 2nd grade, a cherished ice blue prom dress and an exquisite midnight blue wedding dress. A project I directed, “We Vow,” featured a major character in a deep blue Victorian gown. Now, the inspiration of dresses and my abstract painting had come together with my passion for blue. I’m often asked, “Is this your blue period?” And I say, “No, this is my blue life.”

Ara Lucia in her studio

At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t driven to create imagery.  I worked in many art forms before I stumbled upon abstract painting as my authentic expression. One day in my studio while drawing a still life of some Where the Wild Things figures that kept falling over, my eyes wandered to these Victorian paper dolls on the desk and suddenly I realized how pivotal dresses had always been for my work, even as a photography student. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before!  I snatched up the paper dolls and used them as inspiration to make my first abstracted images. In a frenzy, I grabbed some ink and rapidly captured the essence of the paper dolls in my first abstract images on paper. I then quickly rifled through some fashion magazines and used those as the inspiration for my first abstract painting. I had found my way in.
Which classical or contemporary artists have inspired you?
I’m enchanted by the work of Helen Frankenthaler. She was an early leader in the abstract expressionist movement, and was noted for her powerful use of what came to be known as “color fields” (using differing colors of the same intensity together). Her piece, Adirondacks, 1992, is thrilling not only for the vibrancy of the color, but also for the gritty texture that I’m obsessed with.
Other artists who have inspired and influenced me are Holly Roberts, Robert Rauschenberg and Anslem Keifer.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My work fits easily into abstract expressionist, but that includes a broad range of painters. In my case, I use high energy brushwork at the beginning with the movement of my own body. Where I depart with the abstract expressionist is that I go back and forth between this energetic dance like movement and my more thoughtful editing. I use two different playlists – one with high energy songs and another with moodier down tempo music to help me concentrate on the details until I arrive at the completed work.
When did you first sell an artwork? How did you feel?
It all came together in undergrad.  I sketched a figure and for the first time I saw I had created something with a life of its own. Thrillingly, someone else saw it that way also and bought it at first sight.
What's your workstyle? Do you work on one piece at a time or work simultaneously on multiple pieces?
I begin my painting process by gathering fashion images from a range of designers and time periods. Pattern paper applied to the canvas creates a textured base that is then built upon, using an impasto technique, with many layers of thick paint.


The energy I bring to the canvas in those moments of creation can be recognized in the deep ridges and creamy mounds of paint. In some pieces I amplify the texture by painting my body and pressing it onto the canvas.


Recently, I have introduced a narrative element by using snippets of love letters between women. With these elements I explore the body and intimacy.


People often ask if I am in my “blue phase.” My passion for the color blue began with a pair of navy blue shoes in second grade. I had to have them! And there were other special garments in blue. My prom dress and even my wedding dress was a deep blue.


While my first painting was black, white and grey, when it was complete I added three of the tiniest blue lines. I thought to myself, “What if the next painting is all blue? Why not embrace it?” I haven’t turned back since.

How do you get the inspiration for a new piece?

My paintings have stages that are similar to that of a developing romantic relationship. I start with a garment or several pieces of fashion. This is the fascination “at first sight” phase, which inspires an initial gesture upon the canvas. The rest of the process is like an unfolding dance in which I add many layers to the painting.

Tell us a bit about your personal life ...
My life has always felt more layered, more intense, more saturated than what I thought a normal life should be. I cherish the ability to creatively express that.

A few pieces from Ara Lucia’s gallery

Her Breath Steamed In The Cold Air


One Day Thousands of Moons From Now


Why they love Ara Lucia’s paintings …


Dante Frederick, London, UK

“It was kind of love at first sight, to be honest. As soon as I walked into the space the energy and excitement of the work just grabbed hold of me, and the more I learned about her process, the ideas behind her work, the more excited I became. Having an Ara Lucia hanging in our home is a constant reminder that life is full of color, movement, and joy. Which is one thing art is meant to do, isn’t it? Remind us of these truths.”


Rochelle Andrews, Boston, MA

“I love the pulsating rhythm, movement and color of Ara Lucia’s paintings. The passion she pours into creating her work translates onto the canvas. I am delighted to have her paintings hanging on my wall. Each encounter invigorates and lifts me up anew”.

 More about Ara Lucia


Memoir: Reconstruction: First a Body, Then a Life, 2014
Shows & Exhibitions
Group Exhibition | May 2017 Noyes Cultural Center Evanston, IL Curator: Joanna Pinsky

Solo Exhibition | Feb 2017 ARS Gallery, Benton Harbor, MI

Group show: Believing Is Seeing | Dec 2016

Juror: Rebecca Cross, sponsored by Women’s Caucus for Art, Washington, D.C.,

Artists & Makers Gallery, Rockville, MD

Group show: Abstract Show IV | July 2016

Curator: Avahani Mullen, Brickton Art Center, Park Ridge, Illinois

Solo show: Beyond the Last Outposts | June 2016

Curator: Rich Logan, Live Work Yoga: Chicago

Solo show: Nebulous Certainties | March 2014

Independent Project curated by Tami Miller, Curator of Exhibitions, Collections and Education, Krasl Art Museum

Outcenter, Benton Harbor, Michigan

Michiana Art Competition | 2013

Honorable Mention

Box Factory for the Arts, Benton Harbor, Michigan

Art Director/Producer | 2007–2010

Reconfig, Inc.

Created and executed large-scale photographic work with multiple video documentaries.

We Vow

  Goal: Raise awareness of California’s Proposition 8 legislation, which eliminated the right of gay people to marry.

– Curve magazine purchased an image for the cover of its April wedding feature.

– We Vow was cited on, SheWired, Get RI and countless other websites.

The Woods Opened and Through: Still photography storyboards called Photo-Fables and video documentary. 2007

Director | 1998–1999

Blue Fox Gallery, Chicago, IL

 Opened new art gallery; created launching pad for 16 emerging mixed-media artists with individual and group shows.

– Curated work, created national and Chicago-area marketing campaigns, and opened events. Juried multiple-weekend film festival featuring shorts by emerging area film-makers.

– Several artists now have their work in prestigious collections and museums.