*Renaissance woman: A woman who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field. RANDOM HOUSE

Claiming Jama Ecuador as home, Lisa Brunetti presents a new series of unique paintings that marries her love for pre-Columbian art with a contemporary style. The exhibition opens at Museo Cancebi on Friday, May 18, 2012 and runs until June 1. When discussing options of formally introducing Lisa and her work to Ecuador’s patrons of the arts, she pondered how to summarize her artistic career. She shrugged off mentioning awards from her past by saying, “That was long ago; I can give you a list of awards won, books illustrated, workshops taught, but that was another life and has nothing to do with where I am today.”

But who is she now? In order to appreciate who she is, one needs to glimpse into the life story of this renaissance woman.

Lisa’s childhood years were spent roaming the alluvial floodplain along the Mississippi River. Swimming, fishing, gardening and exploring the wooded areas near her family’s farm, she was at her best when immersed in nature. When her 1,000 pound 4-Hcalf pulled the 12-year old ‘tomboy’ around the arena, she remembers being shocked that she won the showmanship award. The judge’s comment, “Honey, don’t you EVER lose that smile,” sank deep into her psyche.

The youngest of four girls, she was known as ‘the one who rode horses.’ Barrel racing trophies joined ribbons for track and field. When bad weather kept her house bound, Lisa switched her attention to drawing or reading. She credits formal drawing lessons and studies with a former Disney artist as the most important foundation to her art.

As an adult, Lisa traded the reins of the horse for a traditional life of raising a family and working. She painted and attended workshops when time permitted, but her family came first. Reflecting on the years of art competitions, Lisa shrugs again. “I’ve lost count, but there were many ‘Best in Show’ awards, and books that I illustrated, and articles written for outdoor publications, teaching workshops and art residencies.”

But Lisa did not stop with art; her vision of transforming a crumbling 100-year old ‘ugly duckling’ property into a grand ‘swan’ brought tourism awards, historic preservation awards and gardening awards from a community that listed tourism as their biggest employer of people. The Bed and Breakfast was listed on Fodor’s “Best B&B’s of the South” and gained the attention of Short Stories TV, which propelled her to speaking engagements on The American Queen, a luxury-cruise steamboat on the Mississippi River. “Yard of the Month” was created because of the exceptional job of transforming the 100-year old gardens. The 7,000 square-foot home was often on special tour circuits.

She smiles and stresses, “But that was another life. It was a life that owned me.”

After a divorce, she moved to Costa Rica and tended a small slice of the Garden of Eden, where she was again immersed in the solace of nature. Using Costa Rica as a base, she ventured into Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama and eventually Ecuador. “Everything I was buying in Costa Rica seemed to come from Ecuador. I thought, ‘I need to visit this country that’s producing so much incredible art!’” From the first trip, Ecuador captured her heart. Through all of her travels, Lisa has visited museums and archaeological sites whenever possible. Sketches accumulated in sketchbooks, backs of envelopes, travel itineraries and even paper napkins and sometimes found their way onto hand-painted concrete floors, doors or original paintings.

The “Eureka Moment” happened while painting a watercolor inspired by Panama’s Kuna Indians’ textiles. The ancient designs from the sketchbooks could come to life again! Breaking free from the traditional style from the first watercolor in June 2011, the series evolved with each painting. Some, she claims, all but took the brush from her hand and painted themselves. In addition to watercolors on paper, a parallel acrylic series evolved as well.

Lisa looks forward to unveiling the entire series on May 18th, 2012 at the Cancebi Museum in Manta, Ecuador.   When you meet Lisa, you will surely agree, she never lost her smile!