Mukilteo artist shares her vision of Tupac’s music
It started with a fire. A fire ripped through the kitchen of Linda Antognini’s home in outside Philadelphia, forever changing her life and her art.
Three years ago, as the Antognini family was preparing to relocate to Mukilteo from the East Coast, the gas stove caught fire. No one was hurt, but the blaze caused extensive smoke and fire damage to the home.
During the long process of restoring the home, Antognini worked closely with local crews. As they worked, Antognini often had music playing, a constant battle between her rock ‘n’ roll and the crew’s hip hop.
One of the crew said one of his favorite songs was Tupac’s “Me Against the World.”
“I hadn’t listened to his music in years, but when I listened to the song, the words resonated with me and I was very emotional,” she said.
As Antognini listened to more of Tupac’s work, she found herself wanting to express what she was feeling, picking up her paintbrush.
“It was so powerful,” she said. “I started listening to random songs and I could just feel something powerful shifting in me.”
Antognini started to think about why Tupac’s music and words, though he died 18 years ago, continued to be relatable.
“Every life situation you could think of, he sang about,” she said. “In my investigating who he was, my world opened up.”
A life-long artist, Antognini came up with the idea of painting what she felt after listening to one of Tupac’s songs. Her first painting was “Dear Mama,” coupling her painting with the words to the song in 2012.
“When I did the first one, it just kept coming,” she said of the inspiration. To date she has done 19 paintings connected to songs by Tupac.
After completing several paintings, Antognini felt the need to learn more. She said she still wasn’t sure, in the middle of 2012, exactly how everything tied together, but felt the pull to learn.
She attended the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference in Atlanta that September, hoping to simply learn and talk to people about her burgeoning project.
“People there were very supportive,” she said. “No one questioned me or my authority to be doing this. They were very supportive and encouraging.”
It was here the idea that started with the fire in her kitchen earned the name Project Tupac.
Slowly, as Antognini continued painting and talking about the project, word began to spread.
In 2013, she was invited to do a small show at the African Diaspora World Tourism Awards in Atlanta. The ADWTA is an annual awards benefit that recognizes leaders in field of black culture and heritage as an influence on tourism.
In Atlanta for the benefit, Antognini showed six paintings, each coupled with the music the piece was inspired by.
“Many of them had to have tissues,” she said. “It was a very moving and powerful experience.”
What began to astound her were the connections she made with others based on one man’s music, such as Vadim Novo.
One afternoon, Antognini, her husband and several friends sat in Arnie’s, when Novo came in, wearing headphones. Naturally curious, Antognini summoned the stranger over to their table and asked what he was listening to and if he ever listened to Tupac.
As chance would have it, Novo, who is originally from Russia, did know Tupac, and had his own deep connection with the music.
“When I was a kid, I listened to him,” said Novo. “I had a pretty emotional connection to his music. My cousin listened to him, we were very close, and he always listened to Tupac. He died. It was interesting because even though I hadn’t listened to it in years, it could still cause a reaction.”
When Antognini invited Novo to her house to see her paintings, he felt the pull to be involved.
“When I saw her paintings, I thought that it was brilliant, putting together the music and art,” he said. “I loved how she could amalgamate the two very powerful experiences together. It was eye opening that something like this doesn’t exist. I wanted to be a part of it.”
Antognini has now started the Friends of Project Tupac, which brings together people like Novo interested in the project and expanding its reach.
“We’re continuing to work toward what’s next and grow,” she said. “Person after person are telling me how much what I’m doing is affecting them, but they are affecting me.”
Antognini and Novo said they would like to make the group a non-profit to help build the project.
“In the future, our goal is to get a group going so we can work with UW, maybe as visiting professors, and go to other states for presentations,” said Novo.
Antognini has also been volunteering at Cocoon House, something she’s started recently, helping kids learn to paint.
“I’m volunteering twice a month, doing a two-hour painting session,” she said. “We’re just there to paint.”
Becoming a non-profit would help Antognini raise money for painting supplies used during those sessions, as she currently pays for everything her self.
Though Antognini has no plans to sell any of the Project Tupac paintings, she would like to work toward hosting local events and shows so people can see the work.
“There are so many places in the states that want to be able to see it,” she said. “As interest grows, I’d like to grow with it.”
To learn more about Project Tupac and Antognini, visit her website www.dirtybrushdesigns.com.