Artist battles back from adversity twice
Most of us are aware of the men and woman of the valley who bring their dedication and grit to work every day – people like our law enforcement officers, our firefighters and paramedics and, of course, the men and women of the Army’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site at the Eagle County airport. Each in his or her way displays courage just by showing up for work every day.But courage and commitment aren’t always limited to those who wear a uniform. Sometimes our paths cross with those who take us by the hand and lead us out of our own little world and teach us that words such as courage, perseverance and resolve are more than just words. They can be living concepts that make the world a better place.Recently I had just that experience. While having a photograph framed at a local frame shop, I noticed several pieces of bold and attention-grabbing artwork in the corner of the store. I inquired if any of that artwork was for sale. The art pieces were the work of a local artist and that they were being framed for an upcoming art show. I asked the owner of the store where I could see more of the artwork. He didn’t know, but he handed me the artist business card.I didn’t have a clue if the artist was a young eccentric living in a cabin near Red Cliff or a 65-year-old woman from Beaver Creek who painted for her grandkids. So I called and left a voice message. The artist returned my call and left a message. After playing phone tag for a few days, we finally connected and I visited the artist’s studio in Crossroads.The artist’s name is Allison Massari, and she lives in Edwards near her retired parents Dr. and Mrs. Franklin Massari. Her father is a retired head and neck surgeon, and her mother is a retired nurse.After visiting Allison’s studio and listening to her story, it didn’t take a safe to fall on my head to recognize the beauty and strength of her artwork. Like all of us, Allison Massari has a story to tell and hers could have been one of tragedy. But it’s not. Instead it’s a story of hope, promise and unadulterated guts. You see, Allison was involved in a horrific automobile accident about seven years ago, when a drunken driver slammed into the vehicle she was driving. The gas tank of her car exploded, and Allison was literally set on fire before she was pulled from the burning wreckage by Roger Pepper, a Vietnam veteran who fortuitously just happened to be at the scene of the accident. The tissue of her right shoulder was burned all the way to the bone, and she nearly lost her right arm because of it. Her back and most of her right side has since been heavily grafted. But Allison is not a quitter. She was determined to resume her painting. After suffering physical trauma and disfigure ment that included years of compression garments and physical therapy, she announced to the world that she had been transformed and was ready to resume her painting and her life.The story does not end there. Two years ago she was involved in another automobile accident, this one causing severe brain damage. Twelve months later, it still took all of Allison’s concentration just to wiggle her toes, much less return to painting and sculpting. During the period when her brain would not allow her to hold a paint brush, she turned to a new medium of expression, digital art. Allison Massari is literally a present day phoenix who has risen from the ashes. It’s unfortunate how many in our society view people who have suffered physically disfiguring trauma. Far too frequently we subconsciously look at these people as objects of extreme commiseration or even worse, pity. This attitude places the individual into a category Allison calls “the victimization box.” Allison wanted no part of “victimization.” If you speak with her, she will tell you that she’s a burn and brain-injury survivor – she’s not a victim.While still in rehab, Allison set about to demystify some of the personally tragic events that occur to people by creating works of art that are absolutely stunning, albeit impertinent.Using her painting, sculpture and now digital printmaking, she shows us how she used a personal tragedy as a source of healing and becoming whole. Through her art, she encourages people to rethink their concept of feminine beauty. Ask her and she will tell you that her affliction ignited by a heart-rending event led her to a new beginning. Allison told me that since that horrific night, she’s been “turning the tables on those with the common image of idolized good looks” and “that there is a rich fulfilling life beyond the suffering.” My favorite painting is a self-portrait, “Griselda.” My favorite pigmented digital print is “Captain Burning Bra.” In each case, Allison is both model and irreverent artist. In both she offers the viewer a comfortable invitation into the world of a woman stricken by personal misfortune in the extreme but who has done more than overcome the adversity, she has soared to even greater heights. To those unfamiliar with Allison Massari’s work, I would recommend that you visit her home page at http://homepage.mac.com/massari/. Or better yet call her at 376-0040 and make an appointment to visit her studio in Crossroads. Your visit into this talented, beautiful and courageous young woman’s world will be well worth your while.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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