More than four years ago, Maria Ranieri Gugliuzza was painting several elaborate murals in the homes across Palm Beach island when she got one of the most unique requests of her career.
Javan Dalman, the owner and founder of Dalman Jump Co, needed a specialist to paint a mural on a jump. With more than four decades of experience as an artist, Gugliuzza knew nothing about horses—but she knew everything about painting.
“She came to paint a job that I didn't think anybody could do, and she made us look brilliant,” said Dalman, whose versatile jump building business is the Official Jump Company of US Equestrian. “So that day forth, I just called her as much as I could, and we started working together.”
Dalman initially began sending a variety of jump pieces to Gugliuzza for her to paint in her studio, but that space was quickly outgrown, as standards built to FEI specification put the room at capacity. That led to twice-weekly visits to Dalman Jump Co. headquarters; those visits soon became a three-day work schedule, then five, before Gugliuzza joined Dalman Jump Co. full time more than two years ago.
“She was painting beautiful murals on the island of Palm Beach, and we stole her from that life,” Dalman said. “She’s made a home here, and she’s made us look spectacular every single day.”
Video by Catie Staszak Media
While she works largely under the radar, Gugliuzza might just be equestrian sport’s most visible artist. Her works are truly brought to life at some of the nation’s premier horse shows, where some of show jumping’s top athletes navigate them on course.
The Pop Art Dogs. The Jump for Kevin wall. The Viking theme jump. Those fiery Cowboy Boots on the Split Rock Jumping Tour. All—and more—were painted by Gugliuzza.
“I enjoy just the freedom of the paint, allowing the paint and I to just have fun,” Gugliuzza said.
Dalman and Gugliuzza are behind the design of every jump to come through the shop, whether bound for a World Cup qualifier, someone’s personal farm or, for their popular kid jumps, a customer’s front lawn. Dalman begins by showing Gugliuzza a sketch-to-scale rendering of his vision. The pair talks through their ideas for the design, and then Gugliuzza is charged with color selection.
“I trust Maria with color. I don't even give her color names,” Dalman said. “She does the palettes, and she mixes paint a lot by hand. Sometimes there's nothing you can get on a computer or in a book that's in Maria's head and in her heart—that's what makes everything we do so beautiful.”
Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
Gugliuzza will paint a section of the project, often incorporating some freeform charcoal sketching, and consult with both Javan and Sandra Dalman before confirming her design choices and finalizing the project. Depending on its scope, her paint job can take a few hours, an entire afternoon or several days as different coats of paint dry.
“Our paint jobs are what sets up apart from all the other companies,” he added. “It’s Maria and I’s collaboration in making people’s [jump] dreams come true.”
The jump shop has become a place of relaxation and creative freedom for Gugliuzza. Unlike in Palm Beach, she can let her hair down and wear less formal footwear. It’s okay if a spot of paint drips on the floor in the jump shop, and she doesn’t need to worry about having protective booties to avoid scuffing the outdoor floor. Most importantly, she’s surrounded by a team of creators, all who view her as a mother-like figure.
“She brings up the whole vibe of the entire jump shop,” Dalman said. “When she's in the shop, people are laughing, people are joking back and forth. She's making sure everybody has lunch, everybody is cool and everybody is happy.”
Gugliuzza has plans to open up her own studio in the future, the realization of a childhood dream. That gallery space will feature non-commissioned works that showcase her own creative processes. Her custom “commissioned” work will remain at Dalman Jump Co.
“I’m having fun,” Gugliuzza said. “I’m going to start my own studio up. It’s going to be what I want to paint, and I can still do this. Then [the jumps] are my outdoor gallery.”