Maria Elena Luciani is an independent artist who uses her passion to raise awareness about the endangerment of wildlife species throughout the world by means of her artwork. She is inspired by learning about the many problems that animals face that are not only harmful to them, but to the survival of their species.
I had the absolute privilege of speaking to Mary about her experiences and I found her to be both humbling with her work, and full of passion and conviction to fulfil her mission, which is clearly seen and felt when admiring her inspiring artwork.
How did your career begin as an artist and where did your inspiration come from?
I was always attracted by the idea of doing something creative. As a child, I enjoyed art and painting, but I wouldn’t say that I was especially talented. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that I decided to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. There, I found that my colleagues were extremely talented in their styles and techniques, and I knew I needed to practice to make my skills better and better. I was unsure of how to specialise my skills to set myself apart from others, although I didn’t really see my colleagues as competitors. Everybody is different and has their own style, and everyone is unique in how they do things, how they study and how they are inspired. I discovered that my inspiration comes from nature and wildlife. And, I realised that I could be of help to make some of the problems known to people through my artwork.
This is also when I decided to devote my creativity to issues relating to the loss of natural habitats of many animal species and the phenomenon of having wild animals as pets. So, I started to convey these happenings as artistic messages on canvas. In the beginning, I used more an indirect way, but later, I decided to paint the actual issues, like elephants struggling and dying because of the trade of ivory. The first problem I put my attention towards was the domestication of wild animals.
In certain parts of the world, people love to own exotic pets at home, allowing them to take on our habits and lifestyle. However, not only is this illegal for many cases, but it is also unnatural and causes tremendous suffering to these animals that are unsuited for life in captivity.
”Experience is capable of changing us deeply, as we humans are capable of changing the world”
When I travelled to different parts of the world, I found that these types of issues weren’t conveyed artistically, which reinforced my reason to continue to spread my message through my art – I started to see it as a mission. And after becoming aware of thousands of such problems, I decided to share the need to raise awareness of animal cruelty and endangerment worldwide.
Can you describe some of your experiences abroad?
My travels abroad inspired me to create several collections of paintings and works of engraving techniques.
Between 2017 and 2018 I travelled across the globe from Mongolia to Australia, becoming more aware of the problems of fragile ecosystems, rainforests threatened by intensive agriculture, poaching and overpopulation. During this time, I visited jungles and some wildlife conservation centres, where animals were rescued from poachers, or from illegal trading of endangered species. These centres would rescue the animals, care for and heal them, and then ideally release them back into the wild, if this was possible. But unfortunately, it’s not always the case because some animals are really injured, so releasing them into the wild is not an option. So they have to spend the rest of their lives in cages – and this is really sad.
How have you helped to fundraise for wildlife causes?
My Urban Jungle collection was created to help raise awareness for animal cruelty and domestication, whilst collecting funds for the wildlife conservation centres. After witnessing the incredible work being done to help wild animals in Asia, I travelled to Australia and started to create prints of the animal portraits I painted onto t-shirts to be sold in the city markets. This was really satisfying because even though it was a small contribution, it really meant a lot to me. I also aim to improve and create possibilities for future collaborations with more wildlife conservation programs.
But for the moment, I work independently and continue to support various wildlife conservation groups, Greenpeace and Four Paws, a global animal welfare organisation based in Vienna.
And recently, I have become patronage of Pro Wildlife, a German Association that combines nature and animal species protection with the goal to preserve biodiversity and save animals. The particular program that I’m supporting is for the protection of baby elephants that are often orphaned because the parents are killed from poaching. The baby elephants are then rescued and rehabilitated, and when reaching adulthood, they can be returned to the wild.
What other inspiration have you had for your more recent collections?
I feel inspired by animals that are really endangered. I feel the urge to paint these pieces so that people can become aware of their issues. Many of these species are unknown to many people, and so the first step is to speak about them – or in my case, paint. This is the reason I was inspired to create one of my paintings dedicated to the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil.
I wasn’t even aware of this habitat before, and so I decided to learn more about it until it became a source of inspiration to paint some of the habitats. This new project aimed to create artwork to represent species of these forests, where many endemic ones live, and also some that are not very well-known – I figured that sometimes if an animal is unknown, it’s a good start point and more of a reason to represent it in my paintings.
After working on the Urban Jungle collection, I focused more on endangered habitats and species because I visited many of these places in person. I went to the Sumatra rain forest where I was inspired to create much of my work. I also dedicated a big project to the bushfires in Australia last year, because I was myself in Australia visiting a few years ago. I feel much more inspired by personal experiences and therefore I connect deeper with my art.
”Getting into painting is like going on a long journey. It is exciting, it has great surprises and pleasures to offer. But like every long journey, it also tests and forces you to confront yourself with your own limits. And how many are there, especially at the beginning! Anyone who decides to dedicate themselves to painting in a lasting way, as a passion, will notice.”
Not only do I love Mary’s work, but I believe that her passion is what really allows her messages to shine through. Even her words are poetic and you can just feel what she has to say is genuine and from the heart. And when you create from the heart, this is where the magic happens.
Maria Elena Luciani’s wildlife paintings displayed in European Art Exhibitions, including Milan, Venice, Rome, Turin, Berlin, Vienna:
2019: ARTMUC – Isarforum, Munich (GER)
2017: ART is NOW – Basilica Sant’Ambrogio, Milano (IT); Performance “Pray for Elephants” – Vienna (AT); Oltre i confini: dalla realtà al sogno – Museo MIIT, Torino (IT); Art’è Donna – Galleria Civica, Bolzano (IT)
2016: Sperimentazioni – Elle Galleria, Preganziol (IT)
2015: Animalia – The Gallery Steiner-Art & Wine, Vienna (AT)
2014: Wild City – Forum Factory, Berlino
2013: Il sogno è l’infinita ombra del vero – Omaggio a Federico Fellini – Galleria Civica, Bolzano (IT); Art’è Donna – Centro Claudio Trevi, Bolzano (IT)
2012: Frames of Life / Nomadic / 100 – RossoCinabro Gallery, Rome; Tra Umano e Animale – Grand Hotel di Alassio, Alassio (IT)
2011: Genius Loci – Magazzini del Sale, Venice (IT); In divenire – Padiglione Palmanova, Forte Marghera, Venice (IT)