Making art through sickness and health

31-year old Dominic Quagliozzi is like other young artists who move to Los Angeles in search of community, inspiration, and better weather than can be had on the east coast. He arrived here from Massachusetts 7 years ago with his wife, who herself is a painter; each earned MFAs.

But most young artists don’t have the struggles Quagliozzi faces each day. He was born with cystic fibrosis. Until 5 years ago, he tried to keep his “art life” separate from what he calls his “sick life.” Now the disease has progressed to the point that Quagliozzi can no longer compartmentalize. Coping with his illness began to inform his art, and his art helps him cope with the wait for a double lung transplant that he needs to survive.

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The cooler, off in the horizon of his painting, contains the lungs Quagliozzi needs to survive

Along with his will and determination, Quagliozzi has a great sense of humor.  Last year during a long and prolific hospital stay, he told his nurse he was planning a show of 18 paintings–in his room.

“They sent the administration in and said we think this idea is great, and they upgraded my room,” he told me when we met at his studio at the Brewery Art Complex downtown, which he chose because of its proximity to USC Medical Center. “They catered the whole thing with drinks and finger food, I hung all the work, and probably about 50 people came, which surprised me. I wasn’t sure of the response. I had gallery hours the next day.”

Unable to muster the strength to paint large-scale paintings any longer, Quagliozzi has turned to video and performance art. “Taking the normal treatments I do privately in my home on a daily basis, and bringing those to public places,” he said.

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Photo by Lever Rukhin

“People come up and it opens a dialogue about sickness and health and I always try to promote organ donation,” he said. April is the month designated to raise awareness of donation and to encourage people to sign up as donors.  For more information about “Donate Life” month, click here.

Quagliozzi’s “Sick Self” series is on display at UCLA Medical Center through May 1st.  Learning Resource Center, Geffen School of Medicine, 700 Westwood Plaza at UCLA