Transform Keepsakes into Fine Art with Michael Malizia and My Life Studio
By Lucy Smith
It’s in our nature to value memories, whether relics are shoved into an oversized box, stuck to the side of the refrigerator or kept at a close distance at all times. A movie ticket from a first date, or your child’s first drawing of a tree are understandably, just too precious to let go. Fine artist, Michael Malizia will take the keepsakes collected through a person’s life and repurpose them into a work of art.
Malizia has created My Life Studio, his New Jersey based company in which he takes memorabilia, collaborates with families and loved ones, and repurposes them in each personalized piece. Using this media as a base and his encaustic technique, Malizia blends everything in a way where the memory is always represented, but an original, unique work or art is produced.
Growing up, Malizia painted as a release, passion and hobby, recognizing that his skill was on a striking level. But once it came time to apply to college, Malizia turned to a more traditional education. “No one told me that studying art was a possibility, so I never thought it could be a career path. I felt like I needed to have some direction in my life. I received my degree in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University, which lead me into architectural design and eventually finance.” After a few years, Malizia started his own business and had to travel back and forth between his home in New Jersey and London. His travelling began to take a toll on his personal life, feeling the weight of guilt from leaving his family behind. Every time he left for work, his daughter would fall apart, making it obvious that something needed to change. “At that time art was just a hobby and had to take a back seat. Then, on my 32nd birthday, my wife, Erin bought me some studio time.” He started going every Saturday and for hours at a time, he would get “lost in the canvas”. Shortly after, Malizia quit his job and began renting a studio nearby his home in New Jersey.
Malizia is self taught, but was ready to start exploring with a variety of mediums. He began painting and then quickly started working with encaustics (a medium in which pigment is mixed with melted wax and applied to an absorbent surface). “I love the encaustic technique because it’s a full sensory experience…it forces you to learn different things,” he explained. “For example, acrylics can crumble and cause the piece to fall apart. There is a great deal of experimentation to get the effect that I want.”
With this technique, he was able to fine tune his mixed media “memory” collages, which soon became his signature style. Actively involving his daughters with his artwork, Malizia began using their memorabilia as well as drawings and crafts into his own pieces, creating a beautiful work of art that exceeds any type of tangible value.
Once fatherhood hit, Malizia began to save every single thing that his daughters made to preserve the memory of the moment in time when each work was created. “You think you’ll never forget the way that they say something when they are three years old, then all of a sudden you do and it’s gone forever. I wanted to find a way to include these memories in my work but also to repurpose the things that we would eventually throw away.” Soon, friends and family caught wind of these collages and commissioned him to collaborate, and make pieces of their own personal keepsakes.
“People kept asking, ‘Why aren’t you showing? Can we show you in our gallery?’, and I kept saying ‘No, that’s not what I do’. Erin would say ‘Why not? This is what you do. This is who you are.’ She’s really pushed me. That was the tipping point.” Once his commissions got attention from galleries, Malizia decided (with his family’s blessing) to start his own business. With My Life Studio anyone can have their own “memory collage”.
Malizia draws inspiration from many sources, and when working with clients on projects, he refers to the library in his studio. He also gets inspiration from street art. “I find street artists to be the cleanest artists. Banksy and Shepard Fairey are magicians; they take a random setting and are able to create something new out of it. Street artists take on so many different obstacles, and I find it very inspiring.”
We all keep so much, and it’s hard to know what to do with all of it. That is Malizia’s message: purge, but use this as an opportunity to create something new to represent the overall memory.
“What I strive for when people look at my paintings is to not just see the keepsakes immediately, but to look close, and it will bring them in in a subtle way. I’ve always been someone who loves a challenge and who loves to build something. The reward of that is awesome.”
To learn more or have your own collaboration with Michael Malizia, visitwww.mylifestudioart.com