Toni Ann Serratelli


Toni Ann Serratelli



My paintings begin with ideas of water and land yet they always refer to my fascination with the spatial tension of icons and how icons both emanate and absorb light.  I watercolor, draw on paper or draw directly on etching plates outdoors and use these studies to help make oil paintings on linen in my studio. With my oil paintings, I use square formats rather than the conventional rectangular, horizontal format for landscapes to avoid total illusions of recession. This results in a somewhat flattened sense of space that reminds me of the shallow background fields of icons which have intrigued me for years. Fog, mist, ice, condensation, waves, ripples, eddies and the constant interchange of water over land are things I often think about while painting.  I am a runner and  time running along the Brooklyn waterfront genuinely helps my studio work in which I try to recall experiences of the water and reflection of light in different types of weather conditions and seasons.

I am interested in how the passage or obstruction of light can help convey space in a painting. I mix my oil colors with vehicles such as walnut oil, turpentine and linseed oil. These all have different drying rates and densities and affect how thick or thin my paint is while helping me experiment with ideas of light and—indirectly- space because varying degrees of opacity occur when I combine all these media within one painting.  I always begin my paintings with a base of thinly diluted oil color in oranges, ochres or blues. Once dry, I work with rags soaked in a turpentine medium to sketch out a composition, very similar to the grisaille technique. I first learned about grisaille almost 20 years ago during my first very impressionable time abroad and the process became a natural part of the way I make any oil painting. Grisaille is the process of under-painting in monochrome or near monochromatic colors in thin oil paint as a sketch upon which thicker oil paint is later applied. My own compositions change over many studio visits of working with multiple layers of paint. Yet, my initial layers of vibrant oil color help to impart light by seeping through the heavy greys I use. Linen was the first material that icons were originally painted upon and I find it difficult to paint on anything else. It is a fabric that at the same time seems ancient yet very alive and allows undertones of light to pass through whatever I paint on top of it.

I work in a variety of square dimensions from measurements my height to sometimes as small as 6” x 6”. My size variations are a direct result of my interest in narrative predella scenes painted in narrow, horizontal rows at the bottom of larger than human-sized altarpieces. Predella were meant to be viewed closely in an intimate way usually while kneeling, (as opposed to the large central icon above which was meant to be viewed from afar.) The more expressive predella help describe the life of the large icon figure above them, who was usually depicted differently, quite statically and according to iconographic conventions. I often think about the relationships of the sizes of icons in altarpieces and naturally vary the sizes of my own paintings.  I began as a figurative painter and even in my landscape work there are definite narratives: St. Francis talking to the birds, Galileo going blind, the Etruscan cave paintings of Tarquinia, how the body thrives and fails, the protective mechanisms of  both the body and the landscape, the Babylonian creation myth of Marduk and Tiammat are stories that constantly cycle in and out of my work. Avoiding clear foregrounds and backgrounds while experimenting with degrees of opacity, I hope the landscapes that I squeeze into square formats begin to approach ideas of the suspended and strangely flattened space of icons.


Lives and works in Brooklyn, United States

  • 2000Tyler School of Art, Temple University, MFA
  • 1996Fulbright Fellowship Grant to Italy
  • 1995Bank Street College of Education/ Parsons School of Art & Design, MA
  • 1992La Scuola Lorenzo De Medici, Art Institute of Florence, Italy, Certificate
  • 1991Montclair State University, BFA
  • 2015Whitney Museum of American Art, Teacher Exchange Program
  • 2000Universiity Fellowship, Graduate School, Tyler School of Art, Temple University
  • 1999Teaching Assistantship, Tyler School of Art, Temple University
  • 1998Graduate School Scholarship, Leopold Schepp Foundation
  • 1996Fulbright Fellwoship Grant to Italy , Painting
  • 1995Keyholder Residency Program, Lower East Side Printshop
  • 1995Parsons School of Art & Design, Printmaker's Fellowship
  • 1990Marie Rubino Wojdyla Grant in FIne Arts, Montclair State University
  • 1986Montclair State University, Full Undergraduate Studies scholarship
  • 1986Englehard Corporation, Undergraduate Studies Scholarship
  • 1986Distinguished Scholar Grant, from the State of NJ
  • 1986valedictorian, Roselle Park High School, NJ
183 Lorraine Street
3rd floor, studio #73
Brooklyn, NY 11231