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Saturday, 25 June 2011 00:24

While strolling through a local art festival this past March, my attention was drawn to an exhibit of watercolor paintings that immediately attracted my interest not only by the quality of work but also the subject matter. Many


generizzoof the coastal scenes, lighthouses, shrimp boats, waterfowl and lush tropical settings conveyed that unique South Louisiana feeling. As I meandered through the maze of temporary walls displaying the artist’s works, it became apparent this person certainly had a very accurate sense of life down along the bays, bayous, and coast of Louisiana.

As I reached the rear of the booth, imagine my surprise to locate the artist— Terrebonne Parish and Houma native Gene Rizzo, sitting comfortably enjoying a quick festival lunch. His easy-going, disarming smile reminded me of his affable demeanor in always welcoming every visitor as an old friend within minutes.

Gene was born and raised down on Louisiana’s coast where he spent much of his childhood near the water and as result developed a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature in South Louisiana. Perhaps the first indication of artistic talent was realized when he chose a career in architecture, graduated from LSU and began a successful practice in his hometown. Any inclination toward painting was not remotely considered as Gene busied himself with career and family.

In 1986 Gene and Norma, his wife of 47 years, moved to newer challenges on the west coast of Florida, settling on the waterfront in the coastal community of Tierra Verde near Tampa. Ironically, Tierra Verde is Spanish meaning green earth and Gene’s hometown, Terrebonne is French for good earth.

Gene continued his architectural work throughout Florida for several years until 1995, when his whole life changed dramatically. He was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer which required over seven hours of surgery in April of that year. He credits Norma and his support from family and friends for getting him through the tough days, weeks, and months of recuperation and treatment.

Since his condition necessitated a hold on his architectural career, Gene states that it was in 1997 that Norma suggested he try his hand at art—an interest he had admitted to since childhood. Since he had never attempted painting, he contacted an artist friend to “tell me a little about hues, pigments, and brush strokes”. Watercolor became his chosen medium and Gene began a “hobby” quickly gaining the attention of close friends, relatives, and people in the art community. It wasn’t too long after that the realization people were willing to pay for his paintings, became apparent.


As I accompanied Gene through his exhibit, he stopped at one point, backed gently into the paintings behind him, spread his arms, and with a big smile, proclaimed, “John, this is my passion”! And that statement was so easy to believe as I listened to him enthusiastically reflect on the enjoyment he experiences in choosing subjects and bringing them to life on canvas.

Gene’s art has been sold all over the world. He was featured as a prominent watercolorist in North Light Books and most recently on the cover of Southwind Magazine. He and Norma enjoy a busy schedule marketing his works at art shows and exhibitions throughout Florida and the South. He admits his preference and enjoyment of meeting new and old friends much more than the marketing part, which he leaves primarily to Norma. She even admitted to “driving the van”!

If you’ve not had an opportunity to see any of Gene’s works, I encourage you to On the site you can view many of his paintings, review his exhibit schedule and obtain prices for prints and originals both framed and unframed. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the very reasonable prices and wonderful service. My sister recently purchased four of Gene’s prints and when she expressed interest in a particular frame, Norma went out, found the frame and had the order delivered.

Gene still finds time to climb aboard his boat docked behind their home and get in some speckled trout fishing. When not entertaining friends with his Italian or Cajun culinary skills, painting, attending art shows and fishing, the Rizzo’s enjoy sharing time with their grandson and daughter who live nearby. Isn’t retirement wonderful!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 16:19