The sweet sounds of Smokey Robinson, Al Green, and other classic R&B oldies fill the studio when Louie Spagnola is at NIAD. Originally from Gilroy, California, Louie has been in the Bay Area for almost thirty years, and a Richmond resident and NIAD artist for four years. He describes his work as therapeutic, and as soul-giving as the music that plays through his speaker.
Nestled between two mountains, Gilroy is a hot valley and home to the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival. Louie is half Italian and half Mexican, and grew up on the East side of town, where there is a predominant Mexican community. Louie says that his work is influenced by the Chicano culture with which he identifies.
Louie has worked in several mediums at NIAD, including print-making and ceramics, but gravitates more towards drawing on paper and wood under the direction of NIAD Studio Facilitator Andres Cisneros-Galindo. Recurring themes in Louie’s work include crosses surrounded by hearts and clouds, which he creates with hand-cut stencils and shading. His crosses will also often have roses trailing upwards on them. When asked if he is a person of faith, Louie responded that he is. Beyond the religious iconography, however, the cross takes on another special meaning for Louie.
The cross is a pillar that represents both his mother and his own inner strength. Louie’s mother, Francis Hail, was the loving matriarch of the family who passed away in 2018 after a long battle with an illness. The crosses remind him of his mother and her unwavering resilience. After she passed, Louie stepped into the role as pillar for his brothers and sisters. In other works that he’s made, such as one of conjoined ceramic hearts, the hearts symbolize the eternal bond between Louie and his mother.
Louie says that he considers the people at NIAD as a second family, and that it offers a lot of team-like support. He says that he looks forward to attending NIAD each week, and to learning new art techniques. He is interested in making more ceramic crosses and even jewelry in the near future. Content with the cooler weather in the Bay Area, Louie doesn’t envision returning to live in Gilroy, but he continues to honor his community, and—most importantly—his mother, in his artwork, and with the heartfelt music that he plays.
// Louie’s available work //
recent exhibition history
Into the Brightness: Artists from Creativity Explored, Creative Growth & NIAD // Oakland Museum of California // May 2023
Feeling Language, organized by Kate Laster // NIAD Gallery Exhibition // October 2022
WIN WIN 10 Silent Auction Preview Exhibition // NIAD Gallery Exhibition // February 2022
SISTER SISTER, curated by Sarah and Amanda Eicher // NIAD Online Exhibition // November 2021