Layla Fanucci did not start painting until age 40. After a failed attempt to find suitable artwork for her home, the St. Helena resident took brush to canvas to create her own 6’ x 5’ addition to her bare walls. Friends and family took notice of the resulting colorful abstract piece and commissioned Fanucci to create the same for them.
Sensing that she had found her true calling, she quit her job as a music teacher within the Napa Valley School District to devote herself full-time to painting. She allowed herself two years to see if her newfound passion might become a profession. To say that she found success is an understatement. Today, Fanucci is internationally acclaimed, and her works have been shown worldwide. On display both at her St. Helena studio and at New York City’s Walter Wickiser Gallery, her vibrant paintings sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars; she recently received a million-dollar offer for one of her masterpieces.
Her style is distinct and was developed upon the advice of New York art consultants who told her early on in her career that she needed to find a singular approach, not utilized by anyone else in the world. Inspired by her travels, her unique cityscapes entail layer upon layer of architectural detail upon which she draws black linear outlines of buildings, bridges, and people to create a sense of energy. Each of the layers entails a different city rendering, which, in the final result bleed through, creating a work that is complex yet harmonious. “I find her and her work nourishing, uplifting, and inspiring,” said friend and art collector Lisa Saunders, a wine sales executive for Boich Family Cellars. “Every time I look into her works, I fall into the city. I find more layers of activity, and then the layers upon layers feel like the past, like when a new building replaces an old one, but you remember the old one and what that looked like before the new one was built. So there is time passing within the layers of her work. It is hard to explain until you see it. It is magical.”
Fanucci welcomes visitors to her St. Helena gallery to witness first-hand the magic and to also taste a bit of wine. On the same property, with historic structures built in 1900, her husband Robert operates Charter Oak Winery, where he handcrafts small-batch varietals in the same cellar and the same manner as his father and grandfather before him.
“Guests know us for either the art, or the wine, or both,” said Fanucci, who has been the subject of two coffee table books that introduce her painting style in depth. She was also recognized in Marlo Thomas’ book It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over for her entrepreneurial vision and success.
“There has not been one day in the past 25 years that I’ve not painted,” said Fanucci. “I absolutely love it; it’s a calling. I’m addicted.”