I Taste Colors: Rochester’s Underdog, Gia Conti, Explores Belonging

Words by Gia Conti and Elena Petsos
Photos by Gia Conti

Since identifying as an artist, a painter, in my adulthood, I have developed a deep appreciation for my hometown. Rochester provides a community of artists who have become lifelong friends. We have a solid group of very talented artists living here in the Rochester area. Rochester pride is contagious and the support for each other is genuine.

I’ve always been slightly miswired. I struggled to tie my shoes, and I failed my road test six times. Math plays with my emotions. Needless to say, I was the first one out of Dodgeball every…single…time. Everyone has their thing and I can taste colors. A vibrant color tickles my tongue like a fresh summer fruit salad. Now, before you think I like licking freshly painted walls and drinking dirty paint water, it’s more. It’s more like a feeling that translates to my mouth where I can imagine what a color would taste like. This is how my wires are excitingly unique and tangled.

Painting is my form of meditation that offers peace of mind that I can’t find anywhere else. It’s the one thing that shuts my mind up and clears it out. Painting lets me have some control over my own universe, even when I let the paint do its own thing.

I love the wild, temperamental side of watercolor. I want the paint to make its own decisions. I enjoy the happy accidents–the burps and blooms. Everything affects a wet watercolor wash: the cleanliness of the water, the humidity in the air, salt and wet paint splatters. Watercolor is invigorating all the time.

I like to mix color from a limited pallet. I have a warm and a cool of each of the primary colors on my dirty pallet at all times. I go to them like piano keys; they are in the same spot every time so I don’t have to look while I’m painting. Working from a limited pallet unifies the painting. 

I like to splatter with white gouache and sometimes I layer and add highlights with titanium white acrylics. I’m a materials snob and I only like to work on cold pressed, 100% cotton rag paper. 

I find I work best in 15 minute spurts. It helps to keep my washes fresh so I don’t create muddy colors from overworking. It gives me enough time to grab a snack and lose the TV remote. I should also mention I usually paint upside down. It helps me to see simple shapes and the big picture.

I have always wanted to be Rochester’s Lisa Frank. I am painting the things I would have loved to have as a child. That is when I feel as though I belong. If I could create one painting a year, that would be my legacy. That will give me something to provide to others. I put my energy into my paintings and it’s from my heart and soul; a part of me “belongs” in others’ homes. These souls have accepted a piece of me, my creation, in their home.

On her children’s book, “I Want You to Love Me, Too”

I really love painting animals, insects and sea creatures. I want you to love them too. I hope my art can help people look at the world a bit differently. To help form empathy for misunderstood creatures and highlight the beauty of something that may have been overlooked. To build appreciation for all the little things that we ignore. To fall in love with strong, unapologetic color. To appreciate the magic that surrounds us on this beautiful planet.We walk around numb to the magnificence of all the mundane things that we take for granted. I’ve held onto my childhood wonder. I want to help you tap back into yours.

Già Conti is a local artist and author of I Want You To Love Me Too. You can find her on Facebook under Già Conti Fine Arts, Instagram at @gstarrocker80 or on Etsy. Her work is also available at Aaron’s Alley on Monroe Ave.



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