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Born Eleanor Cappelletti in 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio, “Cappi” Insinna defied the societal expectations for women during that time by becoming an artist, a vocation that she sought without much support from her family. An East Coast based painter, teacher and illustrator Cappi studied at the Cleveland School of Art and the Art Students League in the 1940s and served as the head of the Art Department in the St. Cecilia Catholic School system in New Jersey for eight years. Her art teachers and mentors were Robert Brackman (instructor Emeritus and disciple of Robert Henri), Rafael Soyer and Howard Trafton. Cappi exhibited widely in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut art scene winning awards for her watercolors across the Tri-State area, New England, and Pennsylvania during the 1960s to 1980s. In 1986, Cappi relocated to New Mexico where she resided and painted every day until her death in 1992. Cappi was married to the Lost Art Salon collection artist Michael Insinna.
In 1934, Cappi was awarded a scholarship to attend the renowned Cleveland School of Art in Ohio. She built on her success by winning a subsequent scholarship to study at the Art Students League, an independent art school in New York City, and consequently she moved to New York to continue her formal art training. Here she studied with the portraitist Robert Brackman and became his assistant for all four years she attended at the school. Brackman’s influence on Cappi’s work is present in her interest in the figure and nude female form. However, her brushstrokes are more gestural and looser than Brackman’s lending a more suggestive rather than naturalistic element to her work. Her subject matter also extends beyond the figure to include subtle landscapes and still lives. While at the Art Students League, Cappi also studied with Rafael Soyer and Howard Trafton whose lessons in pattern, design, and color had a lasting impact on her work. After graduating from the Art Students League, Cappi, along with her husband Michael, spent a summer studying at Institute Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
In 1959 Cappi became the head of the Art Department in the St. Cecilia Catholic School system in New Jersey teaching for eight years. Later, after relocating to Westport, Connecticut in 1968, she became the Artist in Residence for three years at the Arts Council in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Whilst living in Westport, Connecticut Cappi began her own teaching practice in her artist studio where she taught both young people and adults during the late 60s and early 70s. She also worked as a freelance illustrator for various books and magazines, including designing commemorative silver medallion series for Wittnauer Mint: Signs of the Zodiac, Mother's Day, among others. A lifelong member of the Art Students League, Cappi worked as a talent scout, for two years beginning in 1969 for the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut, where her husband Michael taught.
Cappi relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, from Connecticut in 1986. While living in New Mexico she was very active in the art circuit there and continued to paint every day until her death in 1992. A great source of inspiration for Cappi was what she referred to as the “dramatic skies” of New Mexico, the ever-changing colors influencing her plein air landscapes. Along with these landscapes, she painted many figurative pieces drawing from both the Mexican and Native cultures found in New Mexico. Her pieces from this period are marked by their use of color, perhaps a return to the colors and figures that featured prominently in her work during her sabbatical in 1948 at the San Miguel de Allende Art Institute.
Throughout her career Cappi exhibited widely in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut art scene. Her work was awarded first prize in the New Jersey State Watercolor Show and she continued to win awards in Tri-State watercolors shows of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as further afield in New England and Pennsylvania during the 1960s and 70s. During her time in New Mexico, Cappi also showed at number of galleries in Albuquerque, Corrales, and Santa Fe, including Argosy Gallery and Day Star International Gallery.