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Sunday, Dec 16, 2018
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Artist shares her happy art found on flip side of depression

YBOR CITY – Nicole La Rosa could be described as an old soul. Many of the Ybor City artist’s paintings that are part of her art exhibit – “A Lotus Blooms in Tampa Bay” – portray the color, hope and happiness people find when they push through the difficult times.

La Rosa, who is an SGI Nichiren Buddhist, spent 15 years working in Los Angeles as a production assistant for films including “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

Born and raised in Tampa, she moved back to the area in November of 2013 just months after her father, Benjamin La Rosa of Saint Petersburg, passed away.

La Rosa’s abstract artwork and nature photography is on display through March 12 at the Bamboozle Tea Lounge, 109 N. 12th Street in Channelside.

“I have overcome/survived three episodes of major depression, and my paintings are the ‘other side’ of that I’d say,” La Rosa said.

She named her website “happyartthatlovesyou,” with photographs and art intended to inspire. Her goal is for her “Gratitude Tree Network,” to become a 24/7 television/media network that encourages the “choice of gratitude at all times.”

In terms of her film and television background, La Rosa worked in LA after graduating from Florida State University Film Conservatory.

“The esoteric, mind-bending reality changing movies are what I’m drawn to – and have had the most fun working on,” she said.

Working on “The Simpsons” for a short period was also a dream come true for her.

While attending film school, she was paid to help with the movie, “The Truman Show.”

“They shot ‘The Truman Show’ in Seaside, Florida, just about an hour outside of Tallahassee where I was in film school,” she said. “I had to miss a few classes, which was worth it, to get paid to be on a real movie for the first time. What’s even trippier, is I was only there for two shooting days, but it was when they shot the scene where Truman was trying to leave. Car sequences, action, it was awesome.”

In retrospect, she realizes “The Truman Show” would become somewhat of a metaphor for her own life. Her dad, who wanted her to move back to Florida, passed away on Earth Day, April 22, 2013.

“Very mystic looking back – I was always striving to leave but not until I had collected the ‘medicine’ of the west was I really capable of appreciating where I was from,” La Rosa said. “Tampa has it all: beaches, sunsets, water, industry, nice people, no state tax, history, fun, museums, programs for small businesses.”

La Rosa, who lives in a more than 100-year old double shotgun house a few blocks from the La Segunda Bakery in Ybor, believes the best medicine is nature itself.

She has added a philanthropic twist to her exhibit at the Bamboozle Tea Lounge. She wants to help raise money for Jackson Carter, a child diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. Jackson is the son of her best friend, Caroline Brasfield-Carter of Largo. For information on how to help, visit gofundme.com/Team-Jackson.

In addition to donating 10 percent of the sales from the exhibit to support Jackson, she is giving 10 percent to The Centre 4 Girls, a program of The Centre for Women, Inc.

She currently teaches abstract art and nature integration through her company, “Gratitude Tree Network,” at the Centre for Girls, which is a program of the Centre for Women.

“When I was 4 years old, I brought home my first painting,” La Rosa said. “Dad – who was an astonishing realist oil painter when he dabbled in same – said, ‘Wow, Nicole, you have quite an eye for color and this is a very balanced piece.’ That single bit of encouragement allowed me to paint freely, never ever judging myself (as I did in all other aspects of my life). Abstract art is the ultimate freedom.”

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