SHE HAS A BRUSH WITH FAME
The Woman of a Thousand Faces Paints People who Give the City Character
By Nancy Ruhling -- Newsday
Julia Licht Furnari ia standing outside her Long Island City studio,
summer sun glinting in her eyes. It's so bright she has to shut her
but just because they're closed doesn't mean that she's not seeing
The neighorhood around the building at 13th street and 40th ave is
imprinted on her mind, where it becomes a living canvas peopled with
subjects for her artwork. Furnari whose striking eyes look like translucent
turquoise, is a street artist in every sense of the word. Not only does
sell her poster size works on the street-eveyweekend in SoHo, but she
paints street scenes.
"I'll see a great face, and i'll have to go home and draw it," she
of her water color and india ink works. "I look for people who looked
they've lived a thousand lives."
Lonely doormen on the overnight shift. people jammed into the
like sardines. the little guys of the world racing to work, their ties
flying behind them like nooses. The upper east side wasp-waisted
making a trip to a tony bakery to buy all kind of goodies she wouldn't
to eat. Down -on their-luck stree t musicians who will play for $5 a
while hoping for the big time.
These and many other of Furnari's faces have been published in the
Yorker, New York Times and the wall streeet journal. About twenty of
images are on poster- sized original, signed prints on canvas.
"I get lots of ideas where the hookers are on the 59th st. bridge,"
the thirty one year old illustrator. "It's kind of sad. some of them
like they are only 15 or 16 years old. And I get ideas from the
here and the people around here. The iron workers at the factory
store, there from Yugoslavia. Theyr'e all big guys with beards.
As if at her command, one of the big bearded guys, who looks like he
stepped out of one of her canvases, stops by to wish her good morning.
Furnari who has been drawn to drawing since childhood, earned a
certificate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she
lithography, etching and painting and began her art career almost by
After she graduated, she went to work in a book shop that sold rare and
out-of-print military volumes. luckily for her, she was fired pronto.
friend told her that she ought to send her cartoons to the New Yorker,
before she knew it, she was illustrating full time.
I"ve always been better at doing cartoon than "serious art," she
"A lot of my influence was from the french illustrators from the turn
Though stylistically her works does reflect that influence, her
creations are witty comments not only on what the French artists
depicted-idealized female dancers at the follies, for instance- but
today male-female relationships.
"A lot of my stuff is feminist," she says. "It's not deliberate,
just that I'm a women and that's what I feel. I usually draw very
women who are very strong and take over. They come across as a little
There is the women in "Enjoy a Bottle of Men." She's in a skimpy
costume, complete with fishnet stockings and spike heel, and she's got
in a bottle trapped like a bug. Then there's "Dear John," in which one
Ms. skimpy's sister, similarly clad, is jumping over a submissive man
huddled in a ball so she can get to the next conquest. Last but not
there is "Being Served," in which an Amazon of a women, suited up like
a maid, is serving a martini to a little man strapped into a baby's high
"I had done "Enjoy a Can of Women," which showed a women in a
with a man holding up the lid,"Furnari says, so "I just had to do
Bottle of Man,". The idea is that you can just open the bottle when you
want, toss it away, recycle it or keep it closed."
Furnari likes to sell her work on the street because it gives her
for new works and gives her a chance to meet the people who buy her
One of those people was Adam Sandler, star of the "wedding Singer" and
Daddy," who bought one of her works from her street musician series
depicted a sax player.
Street artists have a bad name, but they choose to make their
going to the public," she says. "I've sold things to people from all
the world- Germany. Freance, Italy and Japan- and I've met other
from all over the world.
in addition to her magazine work and newspaper work, Furnari also
huge portfolio of etchings and has done illustrations for childrens
Now she is experimenting with painting on new medium; tiles
"Eventually, I'd love to go into ceramic tiles and do funky pieces
furniture and do custom works for restaurants,"she says.
Whatever direction her art takes her, she says, she will always be
street artist. "As long as I keep painting," she says, "I'm happy."