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Hamptons Life

Dec 21, 2008 4:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Steven Colucci's world of motion

Dec 21, 2008 4:01 PM

There is nothing static about Steven Colucci: his life is all about motion.

As a person, he is restless. The breaking waves outside his home in West Hampton Dunes supply a backdrop evoking the constant movement he craves. His art studio is across the street from his home, providing plenty of opportunity to walk frequently between the two.

He tries to spend most of his time on Dune Road instead of the fast-paced life in Manhattan. The seclusion helps prevent him from getting swept away by the swell of activities and calls from friends engaged in all of the artistic disciplines.

Mr. Colucci’s career is also marked by motion. He painted as a teenager, delved into the world of ballet and then into mime, studying with the greats Marcel Marceau and Etienne Decroux in Paris. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Mr. Colucci taught dance and mime to professional dancers, musicians and college students. He collaborated with dancers from Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and the Royal Ballet of Flanders. He worked with Julio Iglesias, Melba Moore and with his mentor, Etienne Decroux, among others.

He founded an entertainment event company that helped launch the game of Trival Pursuit and worked with major corporations to draw attention to their products and services. He hobnobbed with renowned talent from the arts. In a recent interview, stories flowed about parties with Leonard Bernstein, Julian Schnabel, and famous actors, models and dancers. Mr. Colucci was not bragging but explaining why he retreated from the life he formerly loved.

About nine years ago, Mr. Colucci started to paint again. He painted figurative works that depicted aspects of sexuality. He did a series on hermaphrodites. His interest turned to florals. The paintings combine his love of dance and his interest in the figure. His art was exhibited in galleries in New York, Paris and Southampton.

Now, Mr. Colucci’s restless spirit has led his creativity in a new direction, to the world of high fashion. Earlier this month, he launched his new fashion line, Colucci Haute Couture, with a solo exhibition at the National Arts Club in Manhattan. The show features 20 abstract paintings and five dresses that pull aspects of his paintings into the cloth of his designs. In addition to cocktail dresses and gowns, the full line includes handbags, shoes and jeans, Mr. Colucci said. Designer eyewear may be on the horizon.

The move into fashion was a natural, Mr. Colucci explained during an interview at his home in West Hampton Dunes. He had done some costume designing and became interested in fashion. Having people wear his works of art appeals to his love of movement. By putting his artwork onto clothing, his art can move and be imbued with life beyond a canvas.

Unlike many artists who fit design work to the clothing pattern, Mr. Colucci makes the artwork first. After eyeing many paintings, he selects areas where color and motion appeal. These areas are then translated by a team to convert the painting on canvas to computer files that are then applied to the clothing.

“I’m a painter whose art is going onto dresses,” he said. “It’s not the other way around. The painting is the most important part. That’s where the true art is.”

The dress and clothing designs come from the same wellspring of creativity. Mr. Colucci paints hundreds of design sketches with acrylic paint that are reminiscent of gestural drawings. Relying on his training in ballet, he makes sketch after sketch on cardboard, likening the experience to doing warm-ups and poses in order to prepare to practice a dance routine before perfecting it for performance. When making sketches, the idea is to warm up the mind and let ideas flow.

From this pool of sketches, Mr. Colucci selected five designs to launch his new couture line. Three are full-length gowns and two are shorter cocktail dresses: one has a short hemline, the other falls right above the knee. The dress names correlate with the titles of paintings from which the cloth colors originated. The design names include The Sea, The Oyster, The Ocean, The Mark and The Goddess. A flouncy black multi-tiered dress with a flowing train is called The Colucci.

Each dress is made to order. The dresses are made from pleated organza, embroidered organdy or silk charmeuse. Hand-sewn embellishments are part of each of the designs.

The response to the dresses and new style of abstract artwork has been positive, Mr. Colucci said, noting that the unveiling and art opening held December 5 at the National Arts Club drew a full crowd. His new design firm and studio in Manhattan could start to draw him back into the fast lane, but Mr. Colucci is determined to keep focused on a life of painting quietly in West Hampton Dunes.

His ultimate goal is to try to achieve the same kind of renown for his artwork that he was able to achieve with his career as a mime. While this may or may not prove possible, Mr. Colucci feels like he’s on the right track. His interest in abstraction seems to link to and mirror his efforts as a young painter while he was in high school and attending the School of Visual Arts.

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