Magical Life

Enter the whimsical world of artist Debralee Iacobucci


When I walked into Debralee Elizabeth Marianna Iacobucci’s new studio, a dramatic space at the top of a turret in the Pawtucket Armory, mellow late-afternoon light streamed in on three models floating in trapeze-style hammocks that hung from the ceiling. The space glowed; a gentle breeze blew in from the door, open to the empty rooftop; the models looked down sweetly from their perches. Iacobucci chatted, laughed, padded around barefoot, and took photos, and the cynic in me thought, Come on, is this for real?

As the evening closed in, and we got around to talking, it became clear that, yes, Iacobucci is leading a creatively charmed life.

Iacobucci (whose art moniker, DEMI Artistic, is formed by her initials) is one of those people for whom every day is a steady flow of ideas, stories and flashes of magic and revelation. This writer and illustrator of children’s stories, conceptual artist and painter collects bits of creative sustenance everywhere. During the couple of hours we spent perusing her recent work, she sometimes diverted the conversation to tell a story – either a fictional one she has crafted, or a moving, true one from her travels – and an appealing pattern of intelligence and openness emerged.

Such charm is a crucial element of her children’s stories. While attending Parsons School of Design, Iacobucci learned the ropes of illustrating for children from award-winning illustrator Paulette Bogan. She’s been sharpening her style and teaching others ever since. Iacobucci’s illustrations often use multicultural, mystical, and natural symbols – African masks, evil eyes, all-knowing animals
– that lend her work an earthy and mysterious quality. She bases her characters, always, on people she knows, giving them life and energy.

But Iacobucci could not subsist on art for kids alone. She says she’d been timid about creating work based on more adult themes, but couldn’t ignore the persistent pull of a new creative endeavor. The turret studio, which she moved into – and completely renovated – last December, is her dream space for getting back to figure drawing, and for doing conceptual work. That’s where the hammocks came in: they’re a nod to Gustav Klimt, who placed his subjects in swings, then painted them as if dreamily afloat. Iacobucci suspended her models in the air hoping to create a similar effect. She will soon paint pieces based on the reference photos she has in hand.

Iacobucci herself seems to drift on an ethereal wave, but rather than air or water, it’s composed of inspirations that can be transformed into physical objects of art. Having entered Iacobucci’s studio a cynic, and having been converted – for at least an hour or two – to a dreamer, I say drift on.