Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota
Published by: Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT Press
120 Pages, 8.50 x 10.00 x 0.50 in
- Published: July 2018
Josephine Tota (1910 –1996) was a seamstress and amateur artist who lived a conventional life among the Italian immigrant community in Rochester, New York. In her seventies, she spent countless hours painting in the privacy of her home, where she imbued over ninety small jewel-like paintings with the richness of her strange imagination. Tota captured and condensed anxieties accumulated over a lifetime. Her formidable paintings reference myriad art-historical and popular culture sources — medieval illuminated manuscripts, early Renaissance panel paintings, the work of Surrealist icons Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí, fairy tales, and children’s book illustrations — into private images of startling immediacy and timelessness. Tota’s work cannot be defined as entirely mainstream, self-taught, visionary, or surreal. It is this powerful body of work — dozens of untamed paintings in egg tempera and gilding on board, completed at the end of her life — that The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota explores and advocates for inclusion into the canon of self-taught, visionary art.