“Vigna della Toscana” is the work of local artist Dianne Aguirre, who has been painting for as long as she can remember. Her parents had her try an assortment of activities, such as piano, but she chose painting.
“The art just stuck with me,” Aguirre said.
It didn’t take long to see she had a natural knack for it. In elementary school, Aguirre entered a painting into a school contest only to be disqualified because the judges thought her parents had helped her. Although disappointed, Aguirre didn’t let this stop her.
She started with murals as a teenager by painting all the doors of her house. A gleam appeared in her eyes as she recalled how, unlike many parents, hers encouraged this behavior.
“They loved it,” she said. “My parents were always letting me express myself. So anything I could paint, I did.”
And years later with a husband and two children of her own, Aguirre still hasn’t grown out of it. Murals grace many of the walls in her own home. Now, her passion is tricking susceptible eyes into walking or reaching into one of her murals.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way. Aguirre has had the life most adults strive for — one in which their job and passion are the same. Painting has been both Aguirre’s pleasure and business for most of her life.
But mixing pleasure and business isn’t always easy. As Aguirre scrolls through samples of her works uploaded on her iPhone, there is a sense of longing in her eyes: a longing for her paintings that have been sold, leaving her with only digital memories of them.
“Oh, yes. Oh, yes,” Aguirre said between sighs when asked if she ever wants to keep some of the artwork that she agreed to do for customers.
But Aguirre can’t help but laugh at herself just a moment later.
“Almost everything I do is my favorite,” she said.
Whether it be murals or paintings, oils or acrylics, Aguirre loves them all.
“If it’s something to paint, I like doing it,” she said. “As long as I’m not doing the same thing over and over again. What’s enjoyable is expressing yourself on paper. Seeing what you can put down.”
And Italian scenes and fantasies are mainly what Aguirre keeps putting down.
“When I paint I feel like I’m in a fantasy world,” Aguirre said. “A lot of my art is very whimsical, very beautiful. I always paint what I think will make people go ‘Ah.’ That’s the kind of effect I’ve always wanted to have.”
And that’s the reaction Aguirre often receives. She’s won two Artown awards, with her “The Bigger Picture” being 2005’s winner.
“I told my agent my idea for ‘The Bigger Picture’ and he said, ‘If anyone can do it you can,’ ” Aguirre said. “So I hung up the canvas in my room and just went to town on it.”
The result was a canvas with four paintings in one. The black background is speckled with stars and angels flying about, signifying the universe. Three framed scenes stand out of the universe background, each with their own significance. First is the earth. Overlaying that is a painting of the Truckee River, representing Reno. And finally, a smaller painting of a woman, signifying the individual, overlays the rest.
While grateful for the awards and Artown, Aguirre can’t help but chuckle at the idea of Reno being considered “Artown.” After living in Portland, Ore., for 10 years before returning to Reno, Aguirre found that people in this area don’t understand the culture of art very much.
“Everything (in Portland) is just art,” Aguirre said. “I freaked out when I came to Reno and people didn’t know what originals were.”
Aguirre was also surprised to find that murals were more popular than paintings in Reno. But this didn’t trouble her too much.
“Murals aren’t hard for me,” she said. “I can do them with my eyes closed.”
And that’s what she has mainly been keeping busy with. Aside from private homes, Aguirre paints murals for businesses. Her murals can be found gracing the walls of the Monte Vigna Ristorante and the Romanza Ristorante in the Atlantis Hotel and Casino and the Peppermill Hotel Casino, respectively.
But Aguirre learned the hard way that all good things come to an end. While painting a massive mural at Rock Church nearly two years ago, Aguirre slipped on the scaffolding and split her lip open. The accident compressed a nerve in her lip and the cut required six stitches.
“There was blood everywhere,” Aguirre recalled. “It looked like a crime scene the next day. I mellowed out on painting murals after that.”
In 20 years, that was Aguirre’s first time falling on a scaffolding. But it was enough to spook her and her husband to decide it was time to take a break from murals. Now, Aguirre teaches art at Sparks Music and Learning Center and works in the decor and paint department at Home Depot.
While the adjustment hasn’t been easy, Aguirre is still enjoying herself — especially when she finds time to paint more art that unsuspecting viewers can walk or reach into.
For more information on Dianne Aguirre or to see some of her artwork, visit http://www.aguirreart.com