Death of Patty Izzo is a shock to many friends, fans
Patricia Izzo-Kulczycki of Wyandotte touched countless lives through her art, her kindness and her charismatic ability to inspire people and make them feel loved and special.
She died peacefully surrounded by family members on Friday, Feb. 12, of throat cancer.
Her death came as a shock to her many friends, who called her Patty, and to the art world, which knew her as Patricia Izzo.
She was diagnosed about 18 months ago, but kept her illness very quiet, not wanting a fuss or a lot of questions about it.
“She just wanted it to be very private,” said her husband Stan Kulczycki. “A lot of her family members didn’t even know about it.”
Ms. Izzo had chemotherapy treatments initially, and then more intense chemotherapy over the last few months. But until the last 10 days or so before her death, she didn’t let her illness impact her life very much, Kulczycki said.
“She was so incredibly strong,” he said. “She really was. She was very kind, always for the underdog. She always looked for the good in people.”
Ms. Izzo, daughter of Patsy James Izzo and Stella Mlostek, grew up with her three brothers — Jamie, Thomas and Michael — on Oakdale Street in Southgate and sometimes talked about how blessed she was to have had a wonderful childhood. She had many passions in her full and active life, and family was right at the top of that list.
Her niece Rachel Louria said, “She never, ever missed an opportunity to get our family together and remind us that family is the most important thing in the world. She made everyone feel beautiful and special.”
Ms. Izzo was proud to carry on the traditions of her parents and grandparents on both the Italian and Polish sides of her background, and passed that love of family traditions to her daughter Stasia Jade Izzo Convery of Southgate and granddaughter Lily Patricia Convery.
A graduate of Schafer High School in Southgate, Ms. Izzo attended Northern Michigan University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art painting and photography. At NMU in 1968, she began the political activism that she continued throughout her life, protesting the Vietnam War and for race equality and women’s rights. In January 2017, Ms. Izzo took part in the Women’s March in Lansing.
“The message was the same as it has been over and over again,” she wrote after the march. “In all its forms, in all its loose ends, in all its colors, in all its bruised and glorious ways, the message was equality regardless of gender, race, religion or creed.”
Her friend and fellow artist Georgette Heron-Willoughby of Canadian Lakes, formerly of Huron Township, said Ms. Izzo had the “soul of a warrior with armor of pure love and creative imagination,” and friend and fellow artist Erica Chappuis of Grosse Ile described Ms. Izzo as “a monumental and important American artist; a fierce advocate for women; and the dearest, most loving friend anyone could wish for.”
After college, Ms. Izzo worked for more than 20 years for the Renaissance Club and ClubCorp, working her way up in two years from waitress to regional service director. She loved to travel with friends and family then and throughout her life, always passionate about new adventures and new vistas.
She opened the Patricia Izzo Fine Art Photography Studio and Gallery in the early 2000’s on the third floor of River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte.
“I will miss Patty, my dear friend, my confidant, my soother, my inciter,” said Patt Slack of Monroe, owner of the gallery. “And I will miss Patricia Izzo the artist. Her work always thrilled me. I could not wait to see her new work. Many times I would sit in her studio at River’s Edge and then text her that she was a genius. Her studio will remain open as she left it and be open to the public. We also plan on proceeding with her two-year planned show in September with Martine McDonald, who showed with her every other year.”
An Allen Park resident and celebrated artist, McDonald counted Ms. Izzo as one of her best friends.
“She was kind and generous and I was a better person and artist having had her as a friend,” McDonald said. “Patty’s bright light touched so many. She had a big heart and an abundance of kindness.”
Ms. Izzo’s art, including hand-illustrated photographs using archival photo oils and inks, has been exhibited many times nationally and internationally, including at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Bibliotheque du Paris, the Women’s Historic Hall of Fame in Lansing, the Henry Ford Hospital Art Collection in Detroit and the Mira Goddard Center for Photography at Reyerson University in Toronto. Her art has been featured in many publications, as well, including American Photo Magazine, Woman’s Day and the Florida and Southern Review. Her images can even be seen in the 2011 movie A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.
Her work has been awarded with many honors. Twice she was presented the prestigious Gold Medal in the annual state of Michigan Photographic Competition. In 2006, she was recognized by American Photo magazine as one of the “hottest new talents” and as “an artist destined for big things.”
Ms. Izzo has been a member of the Detroit Scarab Club, the National Women’s Caucus of Arts, the Feminist Art Project, Detroit Focus, and served on the boards of the Scarab Club and the Downriver Council for the Arts.
She also mentored — she didn’t like to be called teacher when it came to art — cancer patients and survivors in the Josephine Ford Healing Arts program in Brownstown Township, and led art classes at the Wyandotte-based ARC Downriver, a nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities, for more than 10 years.
One student in the Josephine Ford class wrote this online after learning of Ms. Izzo’s death: “The world has lost a talented, giving, artistic, compassionate and brilliant human. I met Patty seven years ago when I was in remission. She donated her time and energy for years instructing cancer survivors to paint. Patty believed everyone was an artist and through her tutelage and encouragement, everyone was.”
Ms. Izzo’s friend Eliza Johnson of Lincoln Park said: “She saw the true beauty in people. She made people want to be creative.”
Jay Ray, owner of Jay Ray’s BBQ Catering in Wyandotte said: “I’m forever thankful for the fact that she was a mentor and someone to look up to for my daughters and my wife. She was a fighter for women, a fighter for anyone being wronged. She spread her love everywhere. She made people feel exactly how someone should make you feel — like you matter, like you belong and like you’re loved.”
On her biography page in the River’s Edge website, Ms. Izzo wrote: “It is this artist’s hope that my work captures what is needed most and serves the viewer well. My work is my gift and it is what I was meant to do.”