Monday, January 14, 2019

Maria Gillan's Art Exhibit Reviewed

Maria Gillan's current art exhibit in Paterson was reviewed by Ed Rumley
 for and is excerpted here.

The daughter of immigrants who worked in Paterson’s silk mills, Maria Mazziotti Gillan has made her mark as an award-winning poet who published numerous books.

But the woman who founded the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College has turned to another creative outlet. More than 30 of her paintings have been on display at the college’s Hamilton Club in downtown Paterson.

Mazziotti Gillan said the suggestion to try painting came from another poet, Diane di Prima, who was part of the New York City Beat Movement in the early 1960s. The two women were together on a reading tour in northern California about 15 years ago.

“During a break in our travels, Diane bought me some paints and challenged me to try my hand at art,” said Mazziotti Gillan. “I have been doing so ever since.”

Mazziotti Gillan’s exhibit includes portraits as well as scenes of nature.

“My poetry is rooted in life,” the poet-painter explained. “My art is imaginative. I make people up.”

Mazziotti Gillan said that she now takes her paints with when she travels.

“When in Tokyo, I visited Japanese Town in the city,” Mazziotti Gillan said. “My paintings from there employed all watercolors and lighter hues.”

The current exhibit includes one of her works from Japan – a painting that depicts two women in traditional, brightly colored, oriental garb.

Mazziotta Gillan said that unlike writing poetry, painting is more relaxing and is almost therapeutic.

“Wherever I’m at, I’ll paint,” she stated. “I try not to use my brain. I just let it flow.”

Gillan said she has never had formal training in art. With a smile she said, “It’s a good thing. I can’t draw a straight line.”

A 1957 graduate of Paterson’s Eastside High School, Mazziotti Gillan is now in her 70’s, but shows no sign of slowing down. In addition to her responsibilities as Director of Cultural Affairs at the community college, she still travels for poetry readings and workshops. In May, she said she go to Italy to read and teach at the University of Calabria.

Mazziotti Gillan expressed gratitude for her prolific life journey.

“I would recommend painting and art to anyone,” the poet-painter said. “I never would have thought as a young girl, growing up in a tenement house in Paterson that I would have experienced the things I have. When I talk to young people, I encourage them that one day they can see the world. When I grew up, I thought the only world was across the alley behind my house.”

The public can see Mazziotti Gillan’s works at the Hamilton Club at 32 Church Street on Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., until January 15.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

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