Sunday, January 21, 2007

Art Space Talk: Ray DiCecco


I recently interviewed artist Ray DiCecco. Mr. DiCecco is known for combining paint with photography. He is on of the most diverse painters on the contemporary scene.

Throughout his productive career he has experimented with practically ever painting medium and has perfected his technique with alarming results. His series 'Madonna with Child' and 'New Madonnas' are considered (by some) to be his most controversial work. However, Mr. DiCecco is no stranger to controversy (observe his site).

Mr. DiCecco's 'New Madonnas' series shows the mother and child relationship in a contemporary light. These images contain and transcend the religious/spiritual aspects of this classical theme's historical origins in order to reveal the unspoken, darker, psycho-emotional concerns of the mother and child; i.e., not all heavenly happiness, but expressions from the gamut of human emotion that, when communicated, form the foundation for all human relations.

These paintings and photographs reveal the fears, tears, and hard core reality of human beings entering the world- the blood and sweat, the angst of the modern mother. They are not about God or some form of spiritual awakening... they are about the conflicts of our lives.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I don’t remember it as a first discovery. I don’t think this kind of thing is conscious, or has anything to do with making a personal decision, or recognizing something internal. You don’t wake up one day and think, Wow, art is important to me. You might say I’m hedging here or stating the obvious. What I do remember though is standing in front of the big picture window of the art supply store in my hometown when I was just ten or eleven years old and being totally fascinated by the boxed sets of paints and brushes that I saw there. There really was no material or logical reason why I should have been so intrigued by these displays. Even though at the time I may not have been able to put it in words, I can now say that I recognized these objects as having some significance to me. It’s still rather indescribable. What I mean is, I remember feeling that these things were mysterious, beautiful, and I believe they gave me a sense of purpose if only for the simple reason that I wanted and needed to put my hands on them. But there was this thick piece of glass between us."


Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "There are social implications in the more recent work – the madonnas. They are sociology at the most rudimentary level: the relationship between a mother and her child. What happens there sets one’s life in motion which defines oneself and ultimately affects the direction our world spins. I don’t deny the genes, but I’m big on the issue of nurturing. Let’s go back into the womb. A reciprocating relationship begins there certainly. We don’t always think about it that way. But this is no one-way street. I believe the child can have as much influence on the mother. They are symbionts to each other from conception. Even the most basic human act of breast feeding can epitomize this. The woman provides for her child and simultaneously the child provides for the mother. There can be no giving without the taking. We feed off each other. From there I don’t think it’s such a big leap to think about how this kicks off the diametrical mechanisms that are so well ingrained in all of us: creation/destruction, innocence/guilt, love/hate, etc. The madonnas are about these issues and processes."



Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "That’s one of my least favorite questions. I don’t wear a watch. It depends on so many things. Like how well my brain is working on any particular day; how courageous I feel about going out on the limb and risking it all. The more confident I am, the quicker the process. If I’m flowing...a few days. If I’m obsessing...a couple weeks. A lot more of my time is spent on the internal psychological debate, compared to actually touching the brush to the canvas."


Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "The Existential Romance, held at the Open Space Gallery. It was the solo show that put me on the map. The theme behind the show:
No two people are compatible. Compatibility is a fundamental human project. Romance is the struggle within that project. We choose the struggle in our project toward compatibility, and through that choice we recognize our freedom."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I usually turn the music off for concentration. I’m too easily influenced by my environment, so the less stimuli, the better.
I get up at 5:30 A.M. to paint. There’s a lot less clutter in my head in the earlier hours of the day so I find it a much more productive time.

I can focus on the task at hand, like, what the fuck am i going to do next with this painting!"


Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Crazy, smartish people who also know the meaning of investing in art rather than mutual funds and stocks which don’t always make a lot of money for you, if not lose it all for you. People invest in me because they believe in me, not someone like T. Rowe Price.

You have a few thousand you want to invest... don’t you Brian?"


Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "I try to think as little as possible. I’ve found that the more intellect I bring to a painting the less interesting the results."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "Your jogging my memory. I have a BFA. Did it help? Well, I think a couple things stuck with me like why you gotta be nuts to be a sculptor. Where do those people find the space to work anyway, not to mention storage? I have enough trouble finding the room to work on a four foot flat canvas. Now I have so many paintings I’m sleeping on top of them.

The art department that I attended taught me how to juggle a lot of different things simultaneously, like partying, picking up babes, and throwing pots on the wheel -- all at the same time! I got pretty good at it. Though I don’t like clay art anymore. It breaks to easily."


Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. I guess I’ll have to confess now. Thanks. Actually, I began my art training as a sculptor but for the above reasons chose to opt out of that craziness rather quickly. So glad that i did (and so are my investors). I’d probably have worse than just a bad back now for having to lift and transport pieces made of steel all over the place.

One day I woke up and realized, Hey, I’m in love with paint! How do you choose to love someone? Who the hell can answer that? Call me. The Existential Romance could barely approach that one."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "http://diceccopaintings.com/"

There are nine galleries that you can choose from. They represent what I’ve been doing since I moved to the city. Go to gallery #7 if you want to see the more recent stuff – the Madonnas."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "Yes I’m happy to say: KFMK gallery represents me (look ‘em up -- KFMKGalleries.com -- 515A, West 29th St. NYC). And they’ve done a damn good job thus far. Go Cenci and Julio!!!
Yeah, I have a show coming up this fall, 2007. The gallery does not know it yet. So if they read this, they’ll probably do one of two things: throw my ass out the door, or give me a show!"

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in? Can you provide links to their sites?
A. "There were a few others, but their doors are closed now. They either ran out of money or my work helped censor them out of existence."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "You’re kidding right? Do you have a couple hours? There are so many trends going on now it would take another page just to list half of them. It’s a free-for-all. Don’t get me started. Most of the time I walk around Chelsea seeing other artists’ shows and thinking, What the hell are you doing!? OK, so that seems a little arrogant. But let me also qualify that by admitting that there are quite a few hugely talented people out there too."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Yes. Don’t go there. Substitute a B for the F (and I’m not talking subways). Get your MBA instead of your MFA. There are too many of us out there already. Tens of thousands in NYC alone! The reason probably for so many trends. But 90% of them are just spinning their wheels. It’s easy too think you’re an artist. Being one is a whole different story. Do you really have something significant to contribute? If not, get off at the next station. Don’t waste your time and everyone else’s.

I can hear them all screaming at me now.... YOU’RE A REAL FRIEKING JERK!

All right, if you insist on being an artist, my advice is -- get your act together, stop screwing around, and show the world who you REALLY are. That means being honest with yourself. No easy task. Matter of fact, it’s a life long pursuit."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "No. They even let me get away with the pornographic stuff in the "Existential Romance" show. Then they let me do my sex acts on the cross in "The Stations" show (gallery #9 on my site).

I couldn’t believe it! People walked in to see those shows, turned around in disgust and walked out. But the art police never came. Should I be thankful?"

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "That’s pretty personal, but I’ll tell ya – When an old girlfriend of mine tried to sabotage one of my solo shows. She was unsuccessful, so she ran off instead and screwed a bunch of my friends. I hit the rocks pretty fuckin hard that time."


Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because I have this insane obsession to make images to communicate, because I ain’t that good with words, because I never got the word gene, because I guess my parents didn’t have it, because we’re all a bunch of crazy italians, who don’t never know how to talk, so we had to create the renaissance instead. (…he says, tongue in cheek.) Oops, was that two sentences?"

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I’m in Queens, and I think there’s an art scene here, but I just haven’t found it yet. But that’s probably because I don’t get out much. Hey, I’m painting!"

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "What’s politics?"


Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "Some people think I’m religious because lately I’ve been delving into classic religious themes. But look at the work. I don’t think you’ll find God there. You will find human conflict. Maybe I can say I have this weird kind of faith in humankind."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Ok you asked for it... if I could say it, I wouldn’t have to paint it.
Besides I don’t want to overstay my welcome.
Thanks for the opportunity, Brian."


I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Ray DiCecco. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

Mary Hrbacek said...

In the Madonna images, you have expressed in painting language, the rupture that inevitably will mar future rapport between Mom & kid. This keeps the work out of the realm of narration.
I find the intuitive application of red lines for cuts, symbolic smudges meant to be bruises, and sprinkled veils of paint that suggest a torrent of tears to be intriguing. You display courage and lack of sentimentality in proceeding with this disruptive overlay, on images that present contented symbiosis. Very precient of you! Mary hrbacek