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Expressions of destiny

Stacy Rosende says her art career was inspired by a childhood trip through the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she saw Henri Matisse's painting Carmelina. Overwhelmed by the work's beauty, she decided to become an artist herself.

Now 30, she is a professor at the University of Tampa, where she teaches painting and printmaking. As an emerging artist herself, Rosende creates abstract works of vivid colors and forms. Twenty of her pieces are on display through Dec. 7 at the Scarfone/Hartley Galleries on the University of Tampa campus. We caught up with Rosende after one of her classes to chat about her work.

Q: How would you describe your art?

A: It's a mixture of things. It has roots in abstract expressionism and minimalism. But I've also added my own stylistic innovations to the works. I try to find a place that is between hard-edge and organic art, something that shows my art has been constructed by human hands but has also been affected by the process of time.

Q: What kinds of symbolism do you use?

A: I like the expressive and organic nature of geometric shapes: squares, rectangles and circles. They seem like natural shapes for me to use because they are timeless and have been used since prehistoric times. Even today, these shapes are all around us; just look around at our city skylines.

My work Ripe, for example, is created from very round cast bowls. The circle shape is a reference to the womb, and contrasts with my other, often rectangular works. Each circle is individually painted. For some, however, I have added small objects or scraped the centers out, to represent fertility, while others are left untouched, infertile. For this exhibit, I put them in the shape of a triangle. I orientated it so that one side paralleled a gallery wall, while the other parallels one of my favorite paintings in the show, Door.

Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces?

A: On one level, the observation of nature is very important. One place I like to visit is Juniper Springs in Ocala National Forest. It has this beautiful turquoise-colored natural spring that I love. It looks to me like the earth has cracked open, producing this spellbinding clear, clean color right in the middle of this field of dirty soil.

On another level, I think the artistic process is inspiring. I love painting in the studio, unearthing my sense of self, and of being a part of nature through the painting process. I find history fascinating, too. I like to see how time has had an effect on things that people made, how an object changes but still remains true to the shape and function of the human who created it.

Q: What techniques do you use?

A: Intuition is a big part of this. I find that my works do better if they evolve a bit without my trying to force an idea onto the canvas. I paint layers of paints, then scrape out areas of colors that seem of interest while pushing back areas that create distraction. It gives my paintings an aged look and a sense of history. I also use a lot of electric colors that often contrast one another. These colors represent the modern era and create a sense of almost intrusive immediacy. After a scraping session, I leave the work alone for a while, then come back to it with a fresh eye. I finish the work by formulating images from what is left. The entire process takes at least a month, though some in this show took nine months to complete.

Q: What effect do you hope your art has on others?

A: I know that there are a variety of responses to what I do. People are often physically stimulated by the colors I use, and I like that because I hope my works do cause excitement. Yet, at the same time, I hope to create a meditative space, to have people reflect on the works.