“Variables actually help me reach for new challenges
and push the limits.”
by Emily Jaeger, Features Editor
Sooo-Z Mastropietro graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a BFA in Fashion Design and Textile Design. From textile design, to oil painting, to estate renderings, to playing classical bass in regional symphonies, her philosophy is to experience all artistic indulgences at the same time. Her roles as art director, curator, gallery director, and artist have been essential to the full spectrum of her experiences in her culmination of Mastropiece, a title she works under for silk painting, estate renderings, and other art endeavors.
Sooo-Z Mastropietro doesn’t hold still. In addition to her sculptures and “paintings” made from tubes of fabric, examples of which appear in April’s issue, Mastropietro runs an online store of original apparel Mastropiece, has worked in interior design, is a Certified Surgical Technologist, plays bass in both the Civic Orchestra of New Haven and the American Chamber Orchestra, and has curated multiple local exhibitions to help other artists gain exposure. Her own work spans handmade apparel, jewelry, painting, sculpture, silk-painting, and even a line of stationery. Despite this wide range, a current of playfulness, attention to materiality, and interest in infinite variation flows throughout all of her art.
Mastropietro began her foray as a professional artist at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, receiving a BFA in Fashion Design and Textile Design. Mastropietro explains: “My parents encouraged me to follow my artistic instincts but with a practicality that allowed me to make a living. The fashion and textile industries were just that.” Ultimately, the culture of the fashion industry, which privileged “fleeting flash-in-the-pan mentality and rapid turnaround time,” wasn’t for her. However, Mastropietro did continue to make commercial art at her own pace (while simultaneously pursuing that degree in Surgical Technology).
Her signature tubes of fabric, which Mastropietro utilizes both as the building blocks of her sculptures and in lieu of paint, originated from her work in apparel: “I unknowingly started to develop a medium that would eventually set me apart. The very thing that had given me the ability to create a unique signature in my clothing creations, was launching me further into a fine art genre.”
As jewelry and clothing, in her series Frippery, Mastropietro’s tubes are both architectural and soft. The bright colors and wind-catching design, for example, in the “Bearded Bodice” clearly appeal to a playful wearer. Someone who wants tactile joy from each gust of wind. “Backlace,” an over-the-shoulder bib of ocean-hued tubes, showcases Mastropietro’s creativity and attention to the power of slight variations: “Being loyal to the tubes and the many sub-mediums I developed has locked me into a fixed method of creating. But these variables actually help me reach for new challenges and push the limits.”
In Knitiot Savant, a play on Idiot Savant (Mastropietro loves puns), she continues to explore “tubedom” as a medium of fine art: “The creation of a sub-medium within my medium of tubes, nuggets, and shreds allow for pattern, structure, texture, form, and depth. These are the physical characteristics I compose with while always striving to feed off irony, humor, or a textile-related theme.” When laid horizontally, on a flat surface, the resulting works are reminiscent of color-by-number paintings.
Abstract works such as “The Tops” draw on Mastropietro’s background in music:
My favorite pieces, those in which Mastropietro arranges or even sculpts the tubes vertically, are irresistibly tactile, imbued with energy, and reminiscent of organic forms such as reefs and barnacles. Her combinations of bright colors are often intentionally jarring, such as in the piece “Chimaerrow.” As Mastropietro writes, “[This piece is] a pure fusion of opposites: soft against hard, shiny against matte, blues against reds or contrasting colors. These elements are symbolic within me: entropy combines with control, spontaneity merges with precision, and artistry blends with a scientific approach. My own patchwork of endeavors has covered the spectrum from fashion designer to surgical technologist to classical bassist. I’ve become the creature I need to be in order to survive.”
While the tubes may be her “signature move,” Mastropietro hasn’t ceased to pursue other mediums and themes. Viewing the outside world as “a canvas of sorts,” she has created multiple public art pieces, including the cow, car, and dinosaur parades in Stamford, Connecticut, and even a large yarn-bombing piece, which went missing from Westerly, Rhode Island.
Yet another series, Gabstractonomie, explores images of Italian food. Mastropietro paints the intimate details of traditional Italian dishes larger than life. The effect is a little grotesque—reminiscent of classical still lives of rotting fruit or Chaim Soutine’s “Still Life with Fish.” However, Mastropietro’s interest in variations on a theme and tactile representations are present throughout.
Ultimately, Mastropietro believes her varied interests are an integral part of her artistic journey: “I’ve never had any final goals for myself as an end game. Ultimately, I’m enjoying the journey and finding great inspiration in knowing that just when I think I’ve hit my zenith, there’s another level to ascend to!”
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