Claressinka Pugliese is a Los Angeles based art advisor, curator, writer and mother. We visited her home in Venice to chat about her journey, her poetry, motherhood and new beginnings.
Can you tell us a little more about Marine Projects and the work you do?
Marine Projects organically grew out of my gallery Marine Contemporary. Back in 2009, I started Marine Art Salon, hosting salon style exhibitions out of my house in an effort to inspire young collectors to begin collections. All the shows were built around the premise that you were entering the home of a different collector each time – someone with a different set of goals and interests.
Along with the exhibitions and staying true to the spirit of the historical salon, I ran a program of musical and literary events. I was most interested in presenting work in the context of the domestic setting, to show what it is to really live with contemporary art. To wake up with it, to sleep with it, to have it exist in all the unexpected nooks and crannies of your home.
As my relationship with several artists deepened, I decided to open a more traditional gallery where I represented a roster of artists and focused on solo exhibitions. I ran this space concurrently with Marine Art Salon from 2011 – 2014 under the name Marine Contemporary. The gallery was on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. When my rental agreement was up for renewal, much had changed in Venice and the few neighboring galleries that were still left were also on the move. I decided to move the gallery back to my home and focus on the salons for a few more years. During this period, I also started to advise for some of my long-term collectors from the gallery and help them build collections. I also started writing more and became a mother, which really changed and evolved the focus of my work.
You have experience as a curator, art dealer, gallery owner and advisor… how did you get started in the art world?
I got my first gallery job when I was still in college in London. Debra Scacco, an artist I ended up representing at Marine, was working as a curator at a gallery in London. We met through a photo supply store that specialized in materials for old printing processes. I was studying photography and art history and she was a young photographer that also worked there. We quickly became friends. She ended up giving me my first job as a gallery assistant in 2001. Cut to 2009 and I was living in L.A. and hosting the salons. She was still living in London and she showed me some new text-based drawings she hadn’t shown anyone else yet. I was so honored that she trusted me. I found them very compelling and instantly wanted to show her work. I ended up representing her work at my gallery, so it all came full circle. We still have a very special relationship. I own and love many of her drawings.
You’re also a writer, what sort of projects have you been working on lately? What are you excited about right now?
In my years as a gallerist, I produced and contributed to many artist books and catalogues. More recently, I have been writing ekphrastic poetry in response to contemporary art exhibitions in Los Angeles. A series of these “Poetic Responses” were published in Autre magazine. I’ve also had recent hybrid work and poems included in other art magazines and literary journals. I am currently working on a long-term writing and photography project, Exquisite L.A., in conjunction with my photographer husband Joe Pugliese and the magazine Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles. I’m also working with the musician Dia (Danielle Birrittella) on a collaborative song cycle where she is using some of my poetry and setting it to music for chamber ensemble.
Next year I’m planning on embarking on an MFA in poetry. It’s been a longtime dream of mine – it’s daunting and exciting, but I finally feel ready to do it. It will give me focused time to deeply immerse myself in poetry and finally complete the book I’ve been working on.
What are some lessons motherhood has taught you?
We are born who we are. Yes, parenting style and values really matter, but the spirit of each person is separate from that. My son constantly amazes me with what I can only describe as his own light.
Favorite piece of art in your home?
The previous question dovetails perfectly into this one actually! While I have a love and appreciation for every single piece on the walls of our home, This is a Lighthouse by Ricky Allman is particularly special. This monumental painting hangs above the sofa in our living room. It was hanging there when I first met my husband, but then it was out on loan for several years and just before I got pregnant with our son, Joe asked if we could get it back. I feel like its presence must have permeated our consciousness somehow, as we decided to call our son Lucian, which means man of light. A healer came to our house to give me a massage shortly before he was born. She told me that the baby told her that he was a lighthouse, that he came from the light and would return to the light. At the time, we had not decided for sure if we would call him Lucian, but when she told me that, I knew we had chosen the right name for him. On her way out of the house that evening, she looked up at the painting, having not stopped to look at it before and said “is that a lighthouse?”. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it.
Photography by Jen Steele.