Friday, February 29, 2008


Anthony Palumbo's Artist Statement (Art Students League Retrospective Brochure)

"I believe the essence of all visual expression begins its life through struggle of the sketch. Thoughts on my art melt into reflections on my life. They are inseparable. Without a connection to these supports, life is impossible. Painting is an obsession. Drawing is my anchor. I discovered early the power of visual imagery in reaching out to others. I am a private, stubborn man.

Three powerful influences as a child shaped my destiny as an artist. The Church, mysterious and threatening, fed my imagination to draw and act out expressive stories through early scribbles. Church art (not the great art one ties to the Renaissance but provincial, more primitive art) fired me up. Goya and the early German painter Grünewald intrigued me. These painters were spiritually inspiring with their magnetic, mystic convictions, raw storytelling emotions and techniques.

In addition, shocking pulp fiction of the late 1920s in southern Italy had great impact. Large garish posters on horse-drawn wagons loudly hawked books of scandals, love triangles, psychological aberrations: a gory mess not too different from flagellation and torturous effigies exhibited in our religious processions. I did not realize their lasting effect until I later faced the experiments of Surrealists like Magritte, de Chirico, Ernst. The drama of déjà vu hovers still. My grandfather's surreal workshop dwarfed me as I entered his world of building mammoth wine barrels resembling gigantic rib cages, with Lilliputian workers constructing or dismantling scattered ribs of wood waiting their turn for assembly. I found kinship with Piranesi's monumental vision. These unlocked floodgates to my imagination.

My family arrived in America in 1929 upon the heels of the Great Depression. I was nine. Though the situations were different, I related to emotions expressed in 1930s newspaper photographs, art and headlines shouting "bread lines," "uncertainty," "homelessness," "pending wars." These feelings spelled human struggle. If there ever was a time when life and art meshed, this was it. Reginald Marsh, Rico LeBrun, Thomas Hart Benton were heroes of power and social conscience. I, too, thought I could change the world with my art.

A devastating studio fire in the 1960s changed everything. I lost most of my drawings, paintings and sculpture. It was gut-wrenching. A new era opened up in 1968 when I began teaching at the League.

I am in constant flux. Each moment, thoughts change feelings, feelings change actions. Searching for one's identity never ends. How do you know yourself when daily bombardments of visual, verbal and tactical stimuli fill you, and it is the brush or charcoal which points the way to the creative process? Here, in experimenting -- the thrilling part of art -- is where discovery of one's self is possible.

I have struggled to develop my art, and it is most important to me that I share as mentor the awareness that "uniqueness lies in that area where the proverbial carrot dangles. Be aware of 'catching the carrot.' There the rut lies ready to trap the unaware."

An artist with a fermenting soul stands on fertile ground constantly vibrating with perpetual life at times bearing unpredictable fruit amongst weeds."

My teacher and mentor passed away last night. I am quietly devastated. Brilliant artist, beloved teacher, and a unique man.


Blogger Jamie said...


My deepest sympathy sweet child. You were priviledged to have such a powerful and creative human being in your life. Memories are wonderful things. All the people we loved and valued are still there providing wise counsel whenever we need it most.

02 March, 2008  
Blogger Jamie said...

I hope you will return soon and let us know what is happening in your life.

15 May, 2008  

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