Artist Joy Tagliavia-Mizzoni has quite the past; heartbreaking yet inspiring.
It is a past that she has kept hidden for many years but now, with vibrant colors, she speaks. “Every emotion I ever stuffed down over the past 35 years manifested itself on paper,” she said. “A flurry of these portraits just literally and nearly magically spilled forth. These pieces tell a story of a broken and abused little girl. They depict anguish, longing, pain, fear, and all things too terrible for words but they also depict hope; the amazing miracle that, in the midst of tragedy, pain and ugliness, hope never died.”
Her paintings are mostly faces done in oil and chalk pastel or acrylic paint and are full of life with underlying hints of pain, sorrow and fear. While a viewer may not initially recognize the subtle anguish, something about the portraits makes you want to hug the subject who is a mother, a sister, a friend.
Sitting at the kitchen table in her Medical Lake home, Tagliavia-Mizzoni shares sketches done by her grandmother depicting people at a bus station in New York in the 1940s. It was her grandmother who introduced her to art and poetry.
As she opens up about the suicide of her mother, her father’s abusive ways and the years she spent in the foster care system, Tagliavia-Mizzoni maintains a slight smile, even a glow. Looking at her you know that she is not down for the count.
“I believe I didn’t succumb to my circumstances because of art, poetry and a genuine love of reading. Because my grandmother exposed me to fine arts, no matter if I was sleeping on a park bench, I knew, I just knew there were better things in the world,” she said.
Long story short, Tagliavia-Mizzoni, who is of Sicilian descent, joined the Air Force on a whim, and was a public affairs specialist for four years and ended up at Fairchild Air Force Base. After a failed marriage that resulted in two daughters, she is living with her boyfriend who is a musician and a huge fan of her work. About a year ago, he called her a “virtuoso artist” after studying her elaborate doodles and she went with it, creating dozens of paintings.
Of her first acrylic painting, “Inside the Artery,” she said, “Despite all the chaos and threat of suffocation, she can breathe and has access to air. There is pain and fear in her eyes but the tiniest hint of a smile exists. She is not dead inside. Something is still alive and growing.”
Tagliavia-Mizzoni may be slightly scarred from her past, but she is radiant and full of hope like her paintings. “You can flourish and bloom even if you were once a seedling growing in a dank, dark sewer and spent your nights praying the stench of smelly sewer rats was replaced by lilacs and jasmine,” she said, “Follow the scent of lilies. It will lead you to hope. I promise you, hope is still alive and it grows in abundance.”