Juanita Guccione’s life (June 20, 1904- December 18, 1999) spanned all but four years of the 20th Century. Cubist, realist, surrealist, automatist and abstract strains are all to be found in her work, but by 1970 she was painting electrifying works in watercolor and acrylic that elude the most considered categorization. For the better part of her career she had been impercipiently referred to as a surrealist, but her later work abandoned the human figure and juxtaposition of the observed world. This work, lyrical and astral, reflected a painterly independence hinted at earlier in her career.
In the spring of 2004 the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria acquired 174 works she had painted in Algeria in the early 1930s. These paintings will reside in a special museum wing. It is believed that she is the first American woman artist to be so singularly honored by a Muslim nation. Guccione, then painting as Nita Rice, lived for four years among the Ouled Nail Bedouin tribe in eastern Algeria. Her paintings from this period are devoid of the flamboyant romanticism of the Orientalist painters. She painted the Bedouin as friends and neighbors, reflecting the anti-colonialist attitude of her native land. These paintings were shown in The Brooklyn Museum in 1935, receiving a good deal of press attention.
When she returned from Algeria in 1935 the United States was in economic free fall. After the Brooklyn Museum exhibit, this work was then shut away as she immersed herself in an avant-garde then fomenting revolutionary artistic changes.
Guccione began painting as Anita Rice, then changed her name to Juanita Rice, then Juanita Marbrook, and finally to Juanita Guccione after marrying in the mid-1940s.
The French writer and poet Anais Nin, whose portrait Juanita painted several times, said of Juanita, “Our dreams are often diffuse and fragmented. Juanita makes them cohesive and clear, as clear as the daily world. Few people can paint the world of our dreams with as much magic, precision, and clarity. It makes the myths by which we live as vivid and dramatic as our diurnal life.”
(All images used by permission of Juanita’s son Djelloul Marbrook. Bio in part from her site at: http://juanitaguccione.com/)