Friday, Oct. 3, 1997 | 10:40 a.m.
It seems only natural that the artwork chosen to commemorate a fund-raiser for children would be a piece created by a child artist.
But many of those who turn out at Saturday's unveiling of the work entitled "From My Heart to Your Heart" will likely have a hard time reconciling the young, wholesome artist -- 12-year-old Alexandra Nechita -- with the bold, sophisticated abstract painting in brilliant hues of gold, rose and cornflower blue she created for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation fund-raiser.
"There are two figures, and they both have a heart, and from the heart there is a stack of notes just swaying between their bodies," says Nechita, who will be at the MGM Grand hotel-casino's Art of Entertainment Gallery for the unveiling (after the unveiling, the piece will be on display for public viewing).
"To me it symbolizes the love we should all share with children, even though they may not be perfect."
Dubbed "the petite Picasso" by the press since her first exhibition at a public library in Los Angeles four years ago, Alexandra Nechita is emerging as an enigmatic figure in the art world. While some view her as an ordinary child with moderate artistic talent whose popularity is the result of slick packaging and promoting, others view her as a true creative genius.
Nechita's commercial success, however, is indisputable: The youngest artist ever to sign with International Art Publishers, she has also worked with Mourlot Atelier press, joining the ranks of masters like Picasso, Miro, and Chagall. Nechita has appeared on television news and talk shows worldwide, including NBC's "Today," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "NBC "Nightly News" and "CBS Sunday Morning."
More than 150 galleries carry Nechita's work, including her large canvases, which sell for anywhere from $30,000 to $125,000, according to Sharon Johnson, Nechita's personal manager.
The child of Romanian immigrants, Nechita began working in pen and ink when she was only 2. Before long she was experimenting with watercolors. By the age of 7 she had graduated to oils and acrylics, and was churning out huge canvases filled with bright, Picasso-esque forms. "I actually take my inspiration from everywhere," she says. "I get it from my baby brother (3-year-old Maximillian), from my family in general."
Despite her celebrity, Nechita leads a relatively normal -- if rather disciplined -- life near Los Angeles. Prior to this fall, she continued to attend public school, and was only permitted by her parents to paint after her homework was finished. That rule remains in effect now that she's transferred to a private Christian school.
"I like it much better," she says of her new school, "because it gives us the academic skills we need to know, but of course we also have religion, and confirmation, and chapel and choir, and all that stuff -- I love it."
Although she used to take some art classes outside of school, on the advice of one instructor, Nechita has since taken a break from formal art education. "(My instructor) told my parents she would recommend me not to take these academic art classes ... she'd recommend for me not to learn realism at this age so I could grow into learning more about the (abstract) style I was already working in," Nechita explains. "Eventually of course, (learning realism) would be very, very essential for me in the future."
Already, Nechita says, her art has begun undergoing a natural evolution. "It's changed in color, it's changed a lot in forms and themes," she says. "If you look at a painting I did when I was 6 or 7 years old, the colors are basically primary colors, they're basically the colors that come out of the tube."
Reflecting on a recent painting she did, which was shipped to Chicago, she says "there're greens with a drop of black, with a drop of yellow, a drop of blue, and some red ... so it's changed in that sense."
Her piece for the Agassi foundation, which includes some flesh tones, also reveals this recent deviation from primary colors. Nechita was given a general premise to work with -- "they told me it ws to help the children, to show the love we have for children" -- but it was up to her to develop the concept. "They didn't tell me too much because they wanted to work freely."
Though this is Nechita's first time dealing with Agassi's foundation, she is hardly a stranger to charity work. Last year, Nechita agreed to create a series of six lithographs, which she hopes will raise $1.5 million for her charity of choice: the Special Olympics. "We are actually well on our way to earning that," she says.
Nechita chose to focus her efforts on the Special Olympics after meeting one of its athletes on a TV talk show. "She was 25, I believe, and her mental skills, the way she speaks, the way she does things, she's only at the age of 11 or 12, if I'm not mistaken," she says. "She just touched my heart so much, touched my heart so deeply, the grace she had and the way she spoke, it brought tears to my eyes. And I felt I really wanted to help them more and more."
The best part of celebrity, Nechita says, is "the opportunity to just give as much as I can, because there are so many people in the world that don't have what we have, or may not be able to do things we can do."
Nechita, who plans to continue her artistic career as an adult, views her talent as both a gift and a discipline: "I see it as a simple passion, as a love for it, and think it has to do with a gift from God, but it's also from my inside motivation, my drive to do it."