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, the summer sun glinting in her eyes. It's so bright she has to shut her eyes, but just because they're closed doesn't mean that she's not seeing anything.

The neighorhood around the building at 13th street and 40th ave is imprinted on her mind, where it becomes a living canvas peopled with city 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 she sell her poster size works on the street-eveyweekend in SoHo, but she also paints street scenes.

"I'll see a great face, and i'll have to go home and draw it," she says of her water color and india ink works. "I look for people who looked like they've lived a thousand lives."

Lonely doormen on the overnight shift. people jammed into the subway like sardines. the little guys of the world racing to work, their ties flying behind them like nooses. The upper east side wasp-waisted matron making a trip to a tony bakery to buy all kind of goodies she wouldn't deign to eat. Down -on their-luck stree t musicians who will play for $5 a pop while hoping for the big time.

These and many other of Furnari's faces have been published in the New Yorker, New York Times and the wall streeet journal. About twenty of her images are on poster- sized original, signed prints on canvas. "I get lots of ideas where the hookers are on the 59th st. bridge," says the thirty one year old illustrator. "It's kind of sad. some of them look like they are only 15 or 16 years old. And I get ideas from the factories here and the people around here. The iron workers at the factory next 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 just 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 studied lithography, etching and painting and began her art career almost by chance. 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. A friend told her that she ought to send her cartoons to the New Yorker, and before she knew it, she was illustrating full time.

I"ve always been better at doing cartoon than "serious art," she says. "A lot of my influence was from the french illustrators from the turn of the century.." 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 also on today male-female relationships.

"A lot of my stuff is feminist," she says. "It's not deliberate, it's just that I'm a women and that's what I feel. I usually draw very voluptuous women who are very strong and take over. They come across as a little wild."

There is the women in "Enjoy a Bottle of Men." She's in a skimpy scarlet costume, complete with fishnet stockings and spike heel, and she's got a guy in a bottle trapped like a bug. Then there's "Dear John," in which one of Ms. skimpy's sister, similarly clad, is jumping over a submissive man who is huddled in a ball so she can get to the next conquest. Last but not least, 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 chair.

"I had done "Enjoy a Can of Women," which showed a women in a sardine can with a man holding up the lid,"Furnari says, so "I just had to do "enjoy a 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 ideas for new works and gives her a chance to meet the people who buy her work. One of those people was Adam Sandler, star of the "wedding Singer" and "big Daddy," who bought one of her works from her street musician series that depicted a sax player.

Street artists have a bad name, but they choose to make their living by going to the public," she says. "I've sold things to people from all over the world- Germany. Freance, Italy and Japan- and I've met other artists from all over the world.

in addition to her magazine work and newspaper work, Furnari also has a huge portfolio of etchings and has done illustrations for childrens books. Now she is experimenting with painting on new medium; tiles "Eventually, I'd love to go into ceramic tiles and do funky pieces of furniture and do custom works for restaurants,"she says. Whatever direction her art takes her, she says, she will always be a street artist. "As long as I keep painting," she says, "I'm happy."

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