Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 95
Painting – My Own Voice!
The voice of the intellect
is a soft one, but it does not
rest until it has gained
– Sigmund Freud
Why am I writing this? Because I have to.
It’s an intellectual exercise for me. Going back will help me to move forward. For quite some time, I’ve been trying to figure out why am I me, where I’ve been and where am I going. How can forty years go by in a flash?
A short while ago, my friend, fellow painter and gallerist extraordinaire challenged me, “It is time for you to write your own verses.” said Luis Villanueva. So, here goes. Painting – a calling or a curse? I have always, in my own opinion and assessment of myself, felt different.
During an Art History lecture, I told the class that being a painter made me feel somewhat handicapped when I was around non-artists. An art major raised her hand and told me I was wrong. She said, “We’re not handicapped, they are!” I will never forget what she said that day.
I was an only child of a single mother who had to work. This was in the early fifties and totally not the way people on television or polite society lived. We lived in New York with her uncle. She had left my father and Massachusetts. Her uncle’s common-law wife, without my mother’s knowledge, didn’t allow me to play. I had to sit in a chair and be quiet. I suppose that today that would be considered child abuse.
I soon learned how to live in my head. And, since she wouldn’t allow me to play with my own toys when I was alone with her, I entertained myself with whatever was handy. I once created a flotilla of ships with watermelon rind, toothpicks and sails made from a paper napkin.
And, of course, not having the opportunity to play with other children, I was socially awkward and paid the price when I was sent back to live with my father and started school in New Bedford.
Through it all, Art, was there for me. It wasn’t just my hands that were occupied. It wasn’t about being creative. What I learned was to be observant. I saw patterns. I saw rhythms. I saw relationships.
My mother’s uncle – Luis Antunes – he is the one person – I credit with my interest in Art. He had an insatiable appetite for art.
We lived between Madison and Fifth across from the entrance to Mount Sinai Hospital. When he finished his shift as an elevator operator there, we would go to museums and galleries throughout Manhattan – everyday.
I always did well in art class in school. In high school, my instructor, Francisco Rapoza, who was a professional artist and very adept watercolorist, provided a very stable platform for me. With his encouragement, I applied to art school.
I was different than the other kids. Even among the other artsy kids I was different. I still think and speak in metaphor and analogy and see symbolism in everything. Watching Forrest Gump was, for me, an orgy of symbolism!
My undergraduate instructors at Southeastern Massachusetts University which is today’s University of Massachusetts Dartmouth were Herb Cummings, Ed Togneri, Frank McCoy, Bill Elliot and George Mellor. They are the giants whose shoulders I stand on.
I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do as an artist, never mind making a living from it, until I was asked that question point-blank by Herb Cummings. He suggested that I go into teaching. I said, “Okay!” and he said, “Great, but first you’ll have to go to graduate school to get your MFA.
I said, “Okay!” And, I applied to several schools. In the meantime, a friend, Lorenzo (Larry) Andrade who was a year ahead of me was attending the University of Miami. The department chair, Andrew Morgan, saw slides of my work in Larry’s studio and told him to tell me to apply for the MFA program immediately. I did. I was offered a full-ride scholarship.
Naive? Yes, very much so!
That’s enough for now…
Posted on: 02/11/2017, by : Ron Fortier