Arts + Culture

Editorial: Talking with December Cover Model Mariapia Malerba

Why the Fort Myers artist was the perfect fit for our cover.

BY November 30, 2016

If you had to select someone to “paint” the sky (see the cover of this issue below), who could bring more creativity to the challenge than Mariapia Malerba? The Fort Myers resident is a painter, sculptor, fashion designer and more, now also into installations and videos. And the takeaway from her work is invariably a certain awe at the creativity she brings to each project. So I was surprised at her answer when I asked how she would “paint” the sky. “I would add nothing,” she said. “It is infinite in its beauty just as it is.”

OK. But while Mariapia was busy gracing our cover for photographer Mila Bridger, I did want to find out where this venturesome soul is taking her artistic expression these days. “I like to experience so much,” she says, and, sure enough, she told me of three new projects pushing into exciting new territory for her.

Fashion Statement

“Being an artist and observing the world we live in,” she says, “I decided to do a collection of gowns using materials we use every day that one would never think of using in the world of couture fashion.”

That would include paper, trash bags, plastic spoons, foam, string. “I tried,” Mariapia says, “to find a new kind of beauty, harmony and ultimately artistic freedom through using what we consider ‘ordinary materials.’ I merged art and fashion, new and old, thinking about the past through deconstructing crinoline and fusing it with the future, looking through clear vinyl windows to see to the core that is timeless—the human form.

“My inspiration is nature in all its beauty.” So she’s using 1,500 hand-cut paper butterflies on one gown, dragonflies on another, flowers on another, as well as images of Pegasus and a phoenix. These couture gowns are what she calls “wearable sculptures” to be shown on a runway. Eventually, each one will be the centerpiece of its own art installation.

Big Message, Big Words

There are visuals and sound notes—but no words—in a mixed media artwork she’s finishing up. Mariapia has put together a sequence of 194 hand-painted self-portraits in one video that, she says, “creates a painting in movement. It is an artistic conversation filled with introspection, reflection and courage. The viewer is taken on a metaphoric journey of expression detailing the range of emotions that shape one’s life. The piece pushes the boundary of transformation and reminds us that with every struggle there is the ability to overcome and be reborn.”

The Dress Submerged

Mariapia feels deeply about our intimate relationship to water. “Our ancient ancestors,” she says, “came out of the water and evolved from swimming to crawling to walking.” In a video, wearing one of her gowns made of recycled materials, she immersed herself in water aiming for “a deeper understanding of who we are and how our minds and emotions are shaped by our interaction with the most prevalent substance on our planet. Nothing is more important than connecting with nature right now.”

Still ahead, as we spoke, are a project on chaos and order and another on middle age, which she’s calling “A Different Beauty.” Can’t wait for the surprises in those. And I’m ever hopeful this lover of the natural will change her mind and get creative with the sky.

Read more about Mariapia Malerba from our January 2016 issue.



Truly a Sweet 16

I’m considering this December issue a keepsake, since it’s the last one showing the fine and talented hand of our creative director, Tessa Tilden-Smith. After 16 distinguished years with Gulfshore Life, she is retiring from full-time work. You only have to thumb through the issues over the years to pick up on the elegance and beauty she brought to our magazine in this time, and you’ll easily spot her keen sense of the people and places we’re covering.

Around the office, Tessa has been known for the classy way she carries herself, her intelligence and her deep commitment to delivering the most appropriate looks to the varied subject matter in the magazine. She has been a devoted teammate to us all and has brightened our days with her quiet but spot-on sense of humor.

When I asked her about fond memories, she started with the joys of creative collaborations with our photographers and illustrators and the teamwork it took to bring off our fashion location shoots—including the snakes and red ants along with the yachts and Bentleys. “And it was just plain fun,” she said, to do those three covers in a row this past summer—Norman Love in June (where it was raining chocolates), three legendary rock stars in July (who were great talkers while being photographed) and the stunning nature shot in August (which we turned into a quiz contest for our nature-lovers).

There is no greater lover of nature than Tessa. I’ve often teased her that the birds and flowers of Southwest Florida should thank her for all the space they got in the magazine over the years. And speaking of flowers, there just aren’t enough bouquets to toss at Tessa in thank-yous and appreciation for all she’s done for Gulfshore Life in her 16 years. Farewell, dear comrade. We’ll miss you, but we know you’ll be doing equally wonderful things in the next phase of your life. 


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