Local Artist's Passing Sparks Memories of Inspiration

“Bathe naked by moonlight… Smile when YOU feel like it… Be rare, eccentric and original” - Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

When a loved one dies, it is sometimes as if time stops. We are forced to take time out to grieve and if we are lucky, within that process we take the opportunity to also celebrate their life. There is much solace to be had in remembering the shared experiences that made that person so special and dear to us. These are the things that will live on forever. 

It is in that spirit that Sandy Costa of Foo Tribe Healers and I, acting as owner of Little Black Dress Designs, will pay tribute to our friend and mentor Thea De Luna, who passed away Jan. 16.

Both Costa and I feel privileged to have known, worked with and been inspired by De Luna, who battled a neurological disorder for better than 18 years, while still managing to touch the lives of many people in her community through her art and activism.

To honor De Luna, we will be hosting a “Sweets to the Sweet Art Show” at Aunt Nina’s Sweets & Treats,21121 Division Street in Crest Hill, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., February 11. The show will feature handmade jewelry and accessories including a visual tribute to De Luna which will feature the late artists’ pottery, paintings and dichroic glasswork.

Costa describes De Luna as a “6’4” Sicilian sweetheart”.

“She was an artist extraordinaire who created some of the same type of quality art that other artists make… and she did it with one hand," she said. "After her Army service, she went to school to learn how to do art therapy.

"One Christmas morning, about 18 years ago, she had a stroke—one that most people do not survive. She had many lessons to relearn about life, art and ingenuity after that."

Costa said De Luna compared her life challenges at that time to going from a musical in 4/4 time to one in 1/4 time. But De Luna went back at life full force - resuming school, art and community work.

"She worked clay, painted and made jewelry using one shaky hand and her mad tool skills," Costa said. "I was lucky enough to meet her and eventually to work with her. We became dear friends and business partners."

Among her many creative endeavors De Luna was both a visual artist and a member of The DisAbility Project through That Uppity Theatre Company, which focuses on developing programs that bring together amateur performers with professional artists to create innovative material based on lived experience. People both with and without disabilities who create and tour original material about the culture of disability are involved in the project, which is one of the oldest and few projects of its kind in the country.

"What she had trouble articulating, she said with her facial expressions…and she was eloquent," Costa said. "Thea taught as many lessons as she learned, I will always think of her as my buddy and my guru."

I can agree with all of that and more. For me, Thea was a great teacher and a dear friend. She had a joyfully, commanding presence and a unique style of imparting wisdom, even in the final stages of her illness.

She was the kind of person who said, ‘here let me show you something’ and before you knew it you were being schooled by the master. She helped me understand so many things about the process of creating art and imparted knowledge that I will carry with me and hopefully pass along to my own students.

Thea's memorial service will also include a display of her artwork, in that attendees who own her pottery, jewelry or paintings are encouraged to bring pieces along to share with others celebrating her memory.


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