Maria Tritico's Work Celebrated in TXST Galleries

Maria Tritico Feature Slider 1

APRIL 2022

About Maria Tritico

Born and raised in Houston, Maria Tritico (1988–2020) received her BFA in 2012 from Texas State University in Photography and in Studio Art with an emphasis in Metals. In spring 2022, Texas State Galleries displayed her work in an exhibition titled I am not contained between my hat and boots. An accomplished artist and individual, Maria Tritico, "immortal and fathomless," will be missed by her Texas State community. 

Exhibition Essay

The exhibition begins with work made during Tritico's time at Texas State, including sketchbooks and works in progress, as well as examples from her thesis work: Fondness and Fear. This distinguished body of thesis work posed the question: How would your body react if you were to wear your fear—to choose to put your fear on every day? Tritico characterized the work as "wearable sculpture," made from such evocative materials as mirror shards and human hair. Examples displayed here include Fondness and Fear: Birds, made from 125 individually sprung brass birds. Intended to climb up the back and over one's shoulder, the piece chatters just beyond the wearer's sightline as they move. Tritico's interest in the space of the mind followed her later to graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a Master's degree in Art Therapy. There, she authored a thesis based on her own experience. "Elucidative Inquiry: An Investigative Art Practice for the Art Therapist as Artist" analyzed her maintenance of an authentic art practice informed by the artist's simultaneous role as an art therapist, journeying together with her clients through challenging emotional territory, as well as alone alongside them. 

Tritico described a shift in her art practice upon moving to Florida, where she went from being inspired by "an emotional reaction to things happening in the world" to "looking at the world around." Tritico's earlier works evidence the influence of objects found in nature; flowers such as plumeria, for instance, are prevalent in her sketchbooks. This exhibition features a pair of plumeria inspired earrings as well as a chamomile flower tea infuser. Tritico recalled, however, that upon moving to Florida, she noted its architecture—the overwhelming presence of Art Deco there as being distinctive from Chicago's International Style skyscrapers and the organicism of Frank Lloyd Wright—and began making work influenced by the "implied patterns" in all of architecture, even in its construction materials. "My work," she once asserted, "explores the relationship between architecture and the body by examining how straight lines interact with curved surfaces similarly to how the clean straight lines of architecture fit within a curved, organic landscape." Tritico imitated these architectural influences without duplicating them by flattening their patterns, keeping her constructions "clean and simple in order to focus the viewers’ attention solely on the design while keeping their eyes moving seamlessly around each piece." Among the many pieces in the exhibition that reflect this signature style is Deborah Necklace. Named for her mother, the piece was commissioned by Christopher Tritico for his wife in celebration of their 35th wedding anniversary and is one of the few pieces made using gold. 

Drawing was a significant part of Maria Tritico's process. She once stated that, "anything that can be made in paper can be made in metal." In this exhibition, there are three of her sketchbooks, as well as drawings and a paper model, a model she made for one of her larger works to ensure that the interlocking shapes so rigorously engineered on paper would lay properly. 

Maria Tritico's "work" extended far beyond her jewelry-making. As an art therapist, she worked with veterans, the elderly, incarcerated people, and individuals rescued from sex trafficking. On view are three of four pins that she created for an exhibition in 2020 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment and the continued fight to combat voter suppression. Tritico was the Education Director at Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta, Florida where she had been an instructor since 2017. At the time of her passing in 2020, she was energetically establishing Lighthouse's art therapy program and emerging as an arts administrator, training to succeed the organization's CEO Nancy Politsch. 

The title of this exhibition I am not contained between my hat and boots, comes from an inscription inside the cover of one of Maria Tritico's college sketchbooks. The phrase, although altered slightly by Maria, is from Section 7 of Walt Whitman‘s Song of Myself. The passage—about the connectivity and ever-changing nature of all matter and experience beyond any one body—could not be more fitting a person who in her life's work transformed from "manifold objects," the lives of her students and patients, and from the Earth's own elements, great beauty.

Texas State Galleries is grateful to Maria's family and friends for the lending of art from their personal collections and for sharing their memories of Maria. We are especially indebted to Chad Steve, Debbie and Chris Tritico, and Lisa Johnson. The exhibition would not have been possible without recollections and input from her Metals family in the School of Art and Design, namely those of Nicole DesChamps-Benke and Beverly Penn. Quotations by Maria within this text were obtained from various sources, including but not limited to an interview with Maria Tritico by Suzanne Redmond's for her podcast The Left Brain Artist.