Dick Marconi, a success story against great odds

Entrepreneur, philantropist, artist Dick Marconi. Photo Courtesy of Gaya Lynn
Entrepreneur, philantropist, artist Dick Marconi. Photo Courtesy of Gaya Lynn

Dick Marconi is a man with many facets. Despite a tragic chemical accident left him blind in his left eye, he grit his teeth and pursued many endeavors in life.

He co-founded and actively contributed to the success of the worldwide giant in wellness products and nutritional supplements, Herbalife.

He reached the top in car racing competitions and, over time, cumulated  a priceless collection of stunning race cars. Today, they are on view at the Marconi Automotive Museum and  & Foundation for Kids (Tustin, CA), whose proceeds go to charities across the country. For more info, please visit: http://marconimuseum.org/.

Dick Marconi’s artistic life, similarly to Monet’s, has been “positively” affected by his impaired vision. In fact, in both cases, the artists, upon losing a conventional way of seeing reality, are able to make a decisive step towards abstract representation. To take a peek at Marconi’s beautiful and original artworks, go to: www.dickmarconiart.com

Great news is that, in early 2017, Dick’s paintings will be on display in Los Angeles, for all of us to admire.

And now, let’s hear directly from the Renaissance man, par excellence, Dick Marconi. 

Please, introduce yourself. How was your upbringing in an Italian-American household?

I was raised in Gary, Indiana, along with my two brothers and my sister, by an Italian father and a Russian mother. My father taught me: “Learn, earn and return.”  

My family struggled during the Great Depression. My dad used to earn $7.50 per week, working at a steel mill.  

I remember whenever my aunts and uncles came over to our house, my mother would tell them: “Speak English in this house!” She wanted all of us to feel integrated in the US.  

My mom used to repeat us: “Being second in anything is being first in a long line of losers. Always know who you are!

When you were just twelve, a tragic chemical accident left you blind in both eyes. However, through sheer determination, you were able to slowly regain vision in one eye. Could you share with us that difficult process of recovery and how the traumatic event shaped your own painting technique, called “color fusion art.” 

Losing one eye totally and the other one for  just a few weeks allowed me to eventually get my sight back in my right eye. 

I never viewed my partial blindness as a handicap, but rather as a challenge. I did not shy away from anything. I was class president and team captain of the football team. 

What stimulated my need to develop a new painting process later in life was my need for color! Being blind for a week or so in both eyes and then getting my sight back and then seeing color again in a few weeks more, made my whole life about color.  

As far as artistic influences, my main source of inspiration was the style of Van Gogh and the other artists, seen during visits to art museums in Chicago, Illinois, where my mom used to bring my siblings and I.  

I eventually started creating abstract forms using mixed media and solvents. This brand new style became my signature technique. I founded and named this form of art as “Color Fusion Art.”  

The Bellini Galaxy painting by Dick Marconi. Photo Courtesy of Gaya LynnThe Bellini Galaxy painting by Dick Marconi. Photo Courtesy of Gaya Lynn

Parallel to your art, you had a successful career as an entrepreneur in the field of pharmaceuticals products, the likes of custom-made vitamins, weight loss products and food supplements. Please expand on that. 

When I entered the pharmaceutical business, I was struck by how many people were affected by diabetes, due to excessive sugar in their diet and eating too much altogether.  

After extensively studying medicinal herbs in China, I attempted to grasp that set of millennial traditions.   

I worked with major experts in the field and contributed to develop a weight loss program, carried out by a company in Texas. 

As the latter eventually went out of business, I partnered with one of its young employers, a charismatic young man, Mark R. Hughes. 

I helped him create Herbalife International, a multi-level marketing company that, over the years, has become one of the globally leading distributors of weight loss and wellness products. 

Alongside your pharmaceutical business, you were a long time race car driver and collector, and opened, with your wife, the Marconi Automotive Museum & Foundation for Kids (in 1994).  Could you tell us more about that?

Alongside my successful venture in the pharmaceutical business, I have been racing cars throughout my adult life. I was the oldest race car driver at the Long Beach Grand Prix.  I’ve also collected race cars such as Lamborghinis, Porsches, performance race cars, muscle cars, and Ferraris.  

If anyone asks me, “What is your favorite car?,” I could never answer them. It’s the same as asking a parent, “Who’s your favorite child?” My cars are all my “babies.” 

In 1994, I donated my full collection, amounting to 50 cars, including 17 one-of-a-kind Ferraris, to the Museum & Foundation for Kids, which is run by my wife, Priscilla “Bo” Marconi.  

One of our main beneficiaries is the Covenant House California, a non-profit organization committed to provide services to the homeless and runaway youth.

 

Support L'Italo-Americano Foundation through its fundraising efforts that allow us to promote and preserve the Italian culture and heritage in the US. Enter to win fantastic prizes Including a vacation in Florence. (20% will be donated to the “I Love Norcia” association to support the reconstruction of the town, dramatically hit by the recent earthquake). 

Receive More Stories Like This In Your Inbox

Recommended

Fondazione Italia recently presented its newest initiative, Il Piccolo Corriere, a publication produced as a collaboration between Burbank’s young students along with their native-speaking professors. Photo by Syda_Productions

“Io voglio imparare l'Italiano perché…”

“Io voglio imparare l'Italiano perché…” “I want to learn Italian because…” - Opening of a letter from a student at Burbank, 10 years old. Every...
Allegorical float at Viareggio Carnival held February 23, 2014— Photo by marchesini62

Getting ready for Carnival celebration in Italy

A highlight of travel to Italy in the first quarter of the year is Carnival Season or as they say Carnevale. Celebrations are held roughly 40 days...
Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall of Florence - Italy— Photo by Leonid_Andronov

Inside the House of Medici (Part II): Palazzo Vecchio

The second landmark in our tour of the “houses of the House of Medici” in Florence is the one and only Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). Built around the...

Giorgio Perlasca, the Italian Schindler

His story was so incredible that even his wife didn’t believe it. And if it hadn’t been for a group of Hungarian women, no-one would ever have known...
James Butler Bonham and James Bowie statues at Cenotaph memorial to the Alamo defenders, by Pompeo Coppini, in San Antonio Texas

Pompeo Coppini – Sculptor: Italian Born, Texan Reborn

Pompeo Luigi Coppini. The name itself conjures up images of greatness, eminence, and well, someone who must be pretty important, yes? Fortunate...

Weekly in Italian

Recent Issues