Carla Lombardi, 80, of Glen Mills, a Philadelphia-area artist and ceramicist, died Monday, July 22, at her home after a three-year battle with cancer.
Carla Lombardi was a professional moniker that she built from Lombardi, her maiden name, and her mother’s name, Carla. Her birth name was Anna, and she became Anna Heald after marrying.
Ms. Lombardi was trained as an oil painter and appeared to be headed for a career in that genre when she stumbled into a major change. She had signed up for a class in life drawing at a school in Chester County, but mistakenly entered a ceramic studio instead.
“From the moment she stepped inside that studio and saw the art that was being created, she never looked back,” delconewsnetwork.com reported in April 2012. Thereafter, she worked exclusively in clay, embellishing her ceramic creations with painted human figures that were fanciful, joyful, rollicking, and sometimes naughty.
Her work drew the attention of the media. In 1987, Marilyn Lois Polak wrote about Ms. Lombardi’s paintings for Inquirer Magazine.
Describing her as a suburban housewife and painter “with the gift of seeing beneath the surface of things,” Polak observed: “In her paintings, the sedate becomes shocking, the tranquil festers into passion.... Her paintings are huge, sly, ironic, lewd and humorous.”
By April 1999, when Inquirer art critic Victoria Donohoe reviewed Ms. Lombardi’s work in a three-artist exhibition at West Chester University, the painter had switched to ceramics.
“The most surprising of these three artists is Carla Lombardi, working in tough, powerful human figures in clay that evoke lost civilizations from different eras and regions of Central and South America,” Donohoe wrote.
“She allows these cunning stoneware sculptures of ruddy complexion to play on associations, while giving us an easy sense of reality. Yet there’s also a positive measure of fantasy in this work, along with humor and beauty.”
Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Ms. Lombardi “lived and breathed art” as a child, she told delconewsnetwork. She moved to Cambridge, England, at age 18, where she met Anthony Heald. They married in 1962 and immigrated to the United States in 1970, with their 9-year-old son and infant daughter.
They settled in a house in Glen Mills, where Ms. Lombardi installed a kiln next to her studio. Each clay piece was fired twice to dry the clay and develop the paint colors.
Her work was shown at the Delaware Art Museum; the Biggs Museum of American Art, also in Delaware; the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in Texas; the Allentown Art Museum; Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton; and as part of the 44th National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts in Philadelphia.
Her work was exhibited abroad at the Vonderau Museum in Germany; the Musem of Ceramics in Caltagirone, Italy; and the International Fair Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy.
Her work is on permanent display at the museum in Caltagirone and at Baker University in Kansas. It resides in private collections in Philadelphia, Wilmington, New York, and Italy.
When not in the studio, Ms. Lombardi enjoyed cooking and entertaining. She was an accomplished seamstress and was known for rescuing wildlife.
“She loved natural and man-made beauty, and greeted everyone with a smile and her generous warmth,” the family said.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by son Riccardo Heald and daughter Gabriella Heald, and three grandchildren.
Visitations from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 28, and 10 to 11 a.m. Monday, July 29, at DellaVecchia Reilly Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, 410 N. Church St., West Chester, will be followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m. Monday. Interment will be private.