When Cassie Buccellato enrolled in her first painting class entitled “What would Mondrian do?” at the Evanston Art Center, it was simply because the time and day were convenient and not the name draw of a famous artist. “I was just looking to try something new to do for myself, which fit with my schedule.” One course turned into another, all with the same instructor, and soon she was a regular attendee. That was just a few years ago, and today she works full-time as an artist with a studio at home and an impressive roster of exhibitions throughout the North Shore.
If Buccellato’s painting career trajectory sounds like it arrived fairly effortlessly, perhaps it’s not as far a stretch given her previous profession. She was trained as a physical therapist and became one of the first to focus primarily on women’s health issues. “I had to be creative with managing my patients’ pain, some didn’t have a clear diagnosis,” notes Buccellato, who ultimately went on to build her own Chicago private practice. “I’ve always felt a natural instinct to help people,” she says, and while the treatments may differ, the techniques are similarly applicable. “I used my hands and logic to solve problems as a physical therapist, now I am doing the same with my subconscious, just accessing a different part of my brain but trusting where it will go to explore the unknown.” When Buccellato met her husband, an OB-GYN doctor, they moved to Michigan for his job and she decided to sell her business. “I’ve maintained my license, even recently getting certified in Reiki, but back then I took a break to be with our two sons.”
When the family returned and settled in Winnetka, Buccellato signed up for painting lessons and encountered teacher, Katherine Hilden. She encouraged all to seize on the mantra of being able to “dig deeper,” and in particular Buccellato, each time she might ponder whether a work should be continued or complete. The large scale canvases and brushes that she started with remain her favored medium and tools even though she admits, “I initially had a fear of the big blank white board staring back at me.” Now, she has found space in that unknown, and a rhythm, evident in the enchanting colors and forms. In Pause, pink and blue squares are contained in a multi-block maze of pleasing, calming, and cool tones interspersed with blurring, almost fading, stroke marks. It’s this expressionistic style that she employs in the fluidity and plainly put, fun, of circles shown in Unexpected Passage or the seriousness seen in the layering drips of Moody Blue. “Sometimes I worried about making a mess,” says Buccellato, but it is just that unorganized tendency that has emerged as a powerful and fulfilling exploration in her work.
Once her paintings debuted at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Antiques, Garden & Design Show in the booth of Arch Vintage, Buccellato knew her talent may be transitioning to more than a pastime. She has since collaborated with local shops neapolitan and a t h e n e, pairing paintings with seasonal fashions for storefront windows and interior installations. Her works are now in the collection of the Delta Gamma sorority house on the Indiana University campus, and have been displayed at a Chicago WeWork location. Buccellato takes pride in the community of patrons she has found in her own neighborhood and beyond. “Art has opened up my world,” notes Buccellato, as she reminisces about the relationships she forged with her instructor Hilden, as well as classmates who became friends. “The way I learned about myself and my work from critiques and comments taught me, as we eventually learn in every aspect of life, you can’t always overthink it but have to let it happen.”
Possibly an homage to her past, Buccellato finds the experience of painting as “therapeutic” for her and is hopeful others might find the same in her work. “I often have a hard time coming up with titles for my paintings because I don’t want to impede on impressions or themes for others to take away. I want it to be something special for each individual.” That’s certainly what has happened for Buccellato as she looks to inspiration from sources such as renowned artists from Franz Kline and Helen Frankenthaler, to Jackson Pollock, and of course, Piet Mondrian.
For more information, visit cassiebuccellato.com.