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Bringing culture to canvas
The SoBo Gallery in Winter Garden features the works of Fine Artist Kim Minichiello this August, inspired by living in Asia and Europe.
The Winter Garden Art Association’s SoBo Art Gallery welcomed Kim Minichiello as its featured artist last Thursday at an opening reception celebrationg art and design of all different forms — with Minichiello’s vibrant Asian and European-inspired paintings front and center.
The show is part of the members-only exhibition, “Pick Your Passion,” and will run through the month of August at the SoBo Gallery, 127 S. Boyd St., Winter Garden. Visitors can view the traveled artist’s vivid paintings, such as the “Paris Passy Gate” watercolor depiction of a fond memory in France, or her “Peel Street Guardian” oil painting portraying a temple statue she passed in Hong Kong, China.
“I really enjoyed and was inspired by my experience of living in Hong Kong and traveling to Mainland China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Nepal,” Minichiello said. “The things that I saw and experienced in all of these locations really speak to me when I’m working on a painting. Through my paintings I am immediately taken back there and I can recall many wonderful memories.”
Minichiello, of Windermere, both lived and worked in Paris and Hong Kong, allowing her to explore different art styles and cultures. Minichiello currently works mainly with oil and water color paints but has gained a wide-spectrum of experience with other forms throughout her artistic journey.
“From the earliest age I can remember, I have been designing and creating,” Minichiello said. “From painting, drawing and needlework, to creating home gardens and refining my culinary skills, I have always found a broad variety of ways to express my creativity.”
Minichiello attended Purdue University in Indiana, where she studied environmental design (interior design with an emphasis on architecture). It was there that she gained an interest in textiles and was exposed to a variety of art classes. She also worked for a design firm during school, helping her gain a foundation in sketching and rendering interiors.
After graduation, Minichiello worked as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, where she was given the opportunity to design shops, restaurants and attractions for the theme park locations around the world. She was part of the team that created Disneyland Paris and was also heavily involved in designing the exclusive suite in Cinderella’s Castle – quite an honor for a Disney Imagineer. Minichiello created the design for a couple of the mosaic floors in the suite, as well as the stained glass windows, which can be seen from below at several different vantage points, she said. The artist eventually segued into freelance for the company after she began studying painting and drawing at The Art Center College of Design in California. Disney most recently enlisted her help again to paint an underwater scene as the cover art for the new Coral Reef Restaurant menus. Minichiello recalls her time with Disney as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” that also introduced her to her husband, David, who is a fellow artist.
“I loved Disney before working there, but I came to appreciate Disney history and the legacy of Walt Disney even more,” Minichiello said. “I learned to incorporate storytelling into design, paying close attention to and incorporating elements down to the tiniest details.”
Throughout her career, Minichiello has pursued an array of other endeavors. She co-founded a digital art design studio for the licensing market (creating art in Photoshop and Illustrator for products seen in stores such as Target, Stein Mart and Bed, Bath and Beyond), designed unique home furnishings and even came up with her own line of children’s “wearable art.” Inspired by the birth of her daughter, Alaina, Minichiello hand-carved blocks for printing out of wood and linoleum to create garments for both boys and girls. She dyed each piece by hand, as well.
In 2007, Minichiello and her family decided to move to Hong Kong, an exciting opportunity for the artist who always wanted to live in Asia. Inspired by her surroundings, she began experimenting with painting for her own enjoyment.
“Hong Kong is a very exciting city,” Minichiello said. “You have a mix of it being very metropolitan but right around the corner it is very traditional. It’s this dichotomy of old and new in one place that I really love.”
The time spent in Hong Kong also pushed Minichiello to pursue art in watercolor, beginning with simple sketching. She would take her sketchbook to various places around the city and sit to paint right at the scene, eventually becoming a weekly occurrence with her friends and husband.
“Doing those travel sketches is how I got into full-on painting,” Minichiello said.
Only recently has the artist begun painting professionally. A couple years ago, Minichiello was working on her “Pak Tai Guardian” watercolor painting and decided to enter it into the running for a Florida Watercolor Society convention exhibit. She finished on the day of the deadline and was accepted, later hearing from other artists how rare it is to be accepted on the first try.
“I summoned the courage to put myself ‘out there’ two years ago so that others could see and enjoy my work,” Minichiello said. “To be juried into regional, national and international shows and exhibiting with some of the best artists today, and for my work to be recognized by my peers, is a great honor. It has given me the confidence and validation that I am doing what I am supposed to do.”
Since then, Minichiello continues to take on challenges in her painting career, now a member of seven watercolor societies and a juried member of Women Painters of the Southeast — but still considers herself a “life-long learner.”
“Each painting, new idea or technique is a learning experience,” Minichiello said. “I like that the process of creating art is always evolving and changing. As long as I keep painting, I am learning, growing and evolving.”
The show featuring Minichiello’s work will run until Aug. 30 at the SoBo Gallery. Her paintings are also available to view and purchase on her website, kimminichiello.com.