Diana Madaras marks her gallery’s 20 years
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Diana Madaras glances around her Tucson gallery, at the award-winning pieces of bold, colorful art and jewelry, still unsure how her eponymous gallery has crossed the 20-year mark.
“People ask how long I have been painting,” she says. “I would say two years, but now I can’t believe it’s been more than 20.”
In honor of the Madaras Gallery’s 20th anniversary, the artist collaborated with her filmmaker sister, Sandra Levine, and songwriter Amber Norgaard to create a video. She also developed a 20-year logo and released merchandise commemorating the anniversary.
The All-Artist Show, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10, is the official celebration. Madaras will unveil five new “Spirit Animal” paintings in her 20-piece series, a project inspired by her passion for helping animal causes. The show also features small works from six guest artists.
“It’s great just to be able to celebrate success like that and to show that we survived the recession,” she says. “We’re just happy to say we’re here and we’re still here.”
Madaras says the gallery forged through the tough times because she has a price point for everyone.
“When times were hard, we sold a lot of our gift items,” she says. “A lot of our prints are smaller canvases. You can come in here and spend $30 or you can spend $20,000. I think that flexibility really got us through the tough times.”
Painting is a second career for Madaras, who earned a master’s degree from UA in 1977. Before opening her art gallery, she operated a high-profile sports marketing company in Tucson, promoting major sporting events including LPGA and PGA golf tournaments. A month-long painting trip to Greece in 1993 changed her life, prompting her to sell her marketing company and devote her career to painting.
“A professor saw my work from the University of Arizona and he persuaded me to go to Greece with his college kids for a month and it changed my life,” she says.
“Every year since then he’s been inviting me back and I haven’t been able to go because I’m busy. Last year, he said, ‘This is our 25th anniversary. So, you need to go again.’ It was a reunion trip. We traveled to three different islands and I had a magnificent time.”
Madaras found it very inspirational.
“It was great to paint with other artists because it’s such a solitary occupation,” she says. “It was a real learning experience. We had an instructor from Australia, a well-known Australian water colorist, and he does things a little differently. I picked up a few new techniques.
“I did a lot of splatter. You’re throwing paint with your brush and it can make really neat effects.”
Madaras paints in watercolor and acrylic and has a diverse portfolio – from brilliant desert landscapes to expressionistic portraits. A signature member of the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild, Madaras has been featured in a dozen one-woman shows, and her art has hung in the Tucson Museum of Art. She was named the featured artist of the Empire Ranch 100 Show in 2009.
She has also completed paintings for Westin, Loews and Miraval resorts. Her painting, “The Blues at Old Main,” was commissioned for the cover of the University of Arizona Alumni Magazine and her art has appeared on the covers of six other magazines, including Art Book of the West and Tucson Lifestyle.
Madaras’ works has inspired many who have perused her art. She quietly shares the story of a cancer patient who visited her gallery.
“We had one woman who was going in for cancer surgery and she saw our spirit animal called ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’” Madaras says.
“She asked if she could print it out and take it with her and have it in her hospital room. Some of these stories just make you cry. Sometimes we’ll have a person come in and they’ll be drawn to one particular painting and they’ll stand there and cry. It’s so gratifying because the person has a connection to the painting. That makes it all worthwhile.”