Madina Croce was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but raised, from the age of two, in Taos and later in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her mother was a concert pianist and classical soprano, and her a grandmother, a painter. “I remember there was always chamber music in our house growing up?Brahms, Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn sonatas, trios and chamber groups in which my mother sang or played. It was pretty lively! My American mother met my Italian father while on a concert tour in Italy, where they married and lived in Florence before coming to America, where I was born.” In the midst of all the music in their home, Madina’s maternal grandmother quietly painted floral oil paintings in her room, displaying the finished ones on the mantels of kiva fireplaces throughout their Taos home. A self-taught painter, her grandmother began to paint in Florence, Italy at the age of 65 and painted until she lost her eyesight at age 97, living to be 100. “Our family still has her lovely renditions of the Tuscan countryside, complete with cipresi (cypress trees) and, of course, her flowers. As a small child I sat on a little stool right next to her easel and watched her work for hours.” “When I was young, I cannot remember ever NOT drawing on everything, or making my thickly-layered crayon renditions of pumas and birds of prey. I won all the blue first place ribbons at my elementary school community art fairs. At the age of ten, I had my first sale: a tiger portrait, to a local architect for $10. Portrait artist Bettina Steinke, who was a friend of my family’s in Santa Fe, had her gallery director mat my work to put in the Art Show at Acequia Madre Elementary School in Santa Fe, when I was in fifth grade. She and her husband Don Blair owned the Blair Gallery on Canyon road, and were very supportive of my talent for drawing and painting. From this first show I got more commissions for birds (prairie chickens!) and lions. Everyone thought I would go to art school and become an artist. However, fate would have it differently. My father, Aniello Croce, was always enthusiastic about my art, and told me to always sign my paintings, “DINI” (my Italian nickname) in the lower right hand corner, because that is what artists do. Unfortunately, he became ill when I was 11 and passed away just before I turned 14. This changed the course of my family life considerably, and I stopped doing my artwork altogether. It went underground like a stream, still there but hidden, waiting?. After high school I studied music and dance at the College of Santa Fe, supporting myself for several years in performance arts. Later, I also worked in the catering business. I also landscaped people’s gardens, much akin to sculpting and painting their yards with real flowers and rocks and water features. But still, I felt there was something missing. In 2002 I enrolled in a semester of drawing classes to get my hand back in. Then I went and bought watercolors and started painting. AAH. This was the missing piece! COLOR!!! I was home. I made several very large watercolors and showed them to my favorite local impressionist painter at the time, William Vincent. He had his own gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, and he invited me to come to his studio to show him my watercolors. I asked if he could teach me, but he was too busy painting. Instead, he gave me a detailed analysis of my work, said it was all very salable, and asked if I had ever worked in oils. I said, no. He said, ‘Go buy some oil paints. Do ten paintings and then come back and show me.’ Oh my, I was so excited, he was just the catalyst I needed. So I got busy teaching myself how to paint in oil. Six months later, I had my first show at a local coffee house. I sold seven paintings! So I set up my next show and invited William Vincent to come. He said he’d be delighted to. Unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly on the morning of my opening. He never saw my oils, but he gave me the great gift of inspiration and support: He believed in me. All an artist really needs?” That was in 2004. Since then Madina has been painting up a storm and has never looked back. She still signs her paintings, “DINI”. Madina Croce is a member of The American Impressionist Society, The California Art Club, Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, and is an active, showing member and current Vice President of the Santa Fe Society of Artists. Her paintings are in Museum, Corporate and Private collections around the country.
- Jack Radsliff
- Cindy Shaver