She’s known for bright colors, and broad, sweeping strokes and designs meant to inspire hope.Since leaving her native Argentina two decades ago, Cecilia Lueza has created spectacular works of public art in cities across Florida and other parts of the country.
Her vibrant style shines through murals, outdoor sculptures, painted rooftops and even intersections in St. Petersburg, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville and Pensacola.
“I love public art and the way it can transform a space or a wall,” Cecilia says. “It’s very powerful.”
There’s a sense of accomplishment with a finished piece, but Cecilia says one of the things she enjoys most is creating the design. She thrives on meeting and working with people in each city, hearing their thoughts and impressions, then taking what she’s learned to create a piece of art tailored specifically to each community.
“You get to connect with people and listen to what they say about what makes them proud of what they have in their cities,” she says.
One recent project, a mural called Exuberance, covers two stories of the Social Sciences building at the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.
It almost didn’t happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Planning for the health-and-wellness-themed project began last year, with painting set to begin this spring. By early March, preparations were underway to coordinate equipment, supplies and volunteers so the painting could begin.
“We had just finalized plans for the mural to begin fabrication right before spring break,” says Amanda Poss, gallery director for the school. “The college had prepared the site, the lift got delivered and Cecilia was starting to do the projections to lay out the composition. And then the safer-at-home order went into effect.”
Discussions followed with Cecilia regarding public health and safety measures, with questions about what should happen next. It became clear the project might come to a halt, but Cecilia decided to move forward and do the mural on her own.
“I was so impressed by Cecilia’s dedication,” Amanda says. “She could have said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable,’ and we would have understood that. But she found it very centering to go in to work, and she was up on a lift about 30 feet above anyone, which was the ultimate in social distancing. It’s kind of magic to me now that it happened. The mural is breathtaking and sends a message of positivity and hope, and I think we all need that right now.”
It took 20 days to complete, with Cecilia working up on that lift solo in the Florida sun.
She is pleased at how everything turned out.
“This was a mural at a community college, so it was considered essential work—and it was a fun project, given the situation,” Cecilia says. “We were supposed to have students helping, but at least I had a lot of time to work on it.”
Her dedication to creating works of art and spending whatever time and effort it takes to complete them began early on.
“As a kid, I would spend hours and hours drawing, inventing things, working with any materials I could find,” she says. “My mother really encouraged me to be an artist.
She was an inspiration for me to keep trying and be the best I can be.”
Cecilia studied visual arts at the University of La Plata in Buenos Aires and worked in Argentina, but then made a trip to Miami to visit friends.
“I wanted to explore a bit and see the arts and the art scene,” Cecilia says. “I wasn’t planning to stay and settle in America, but that all changed when I met my husband.”
Cecilia was exposed to different types of artwork. It got her thinking beyond her initial dreams of painting and sculpting for galleries and showrooms.
“When I came to the United States, I started seeing all of these amazing public art pieces,” she says. “I thought, ‘OK, maybe I can do that.’ My husband really encouraged me to pursue it.”
Cecilia says there was a learning curve, but she quickly mastered it.
“At first it was a bit challenging, to be honest,” Cecilia says. “My husband is a building contractor, so he advised me on many things, and we do sculptures together. I design them and he builds them, and we have people working for us.”
Although her focus is primarily in Florida, she has done work in Washington, D.C., and cities in North Carolina and Arizona. She has other artwork in public and private collections around the world.
“My main inspiration is nature and color,” Cecilia says. “Birds are my favorite animals. I love what they represent, which is beauty and freedom.”
She laughs, then adds, “In my next life I want to be a bird, to fly anywhere, you know, without a worry.”
Cecilia shares that sense of beauty and the freedom she sees with others through art, which she says gives her a voice.
“I’m a shy person, so art really helps me get out of my shell and lets me connect on a human level with everyone,” Cecilia says. “Sometimes I don’t have the words, but through my work, I’m saying something. I want to bring hope and happiness, and make people feel there’s something better and it can happen at any time.”
For more about Cecilia Lueza’s work, visit www.lueza.com.