Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tony Calendrillo's Art

Here's a photo I took of Tony. He's in his basement, pulling a painting out to show Linda and me. It's a recent painting, part of a series on religious themes. His basement is filled with paintings and sketches and drawings and sculptures and frames he's constructing. It's quite a place. You can spend hours there looking at stuff, and hearing Tony talk about the projects he's working on or planning to work on.

I've known Tony for about 35 years now. He's an artist and my father-in-law. When I first met him, he wasn't doing much painting. He was 50 and busy with his day job as a textile stylist in New York. He designed patterns on cloth, I believe. He'd draw soft yellow roses the size of a child's hand that would be used to decorate a white table cloth, or he'd work up a herring bone pattern in different shades of brown for men's suits. That kind of stuff.

He had some of his paintings on the walls of the house he and his wife Mabel shared in Brooklyn. They were good paintings. I remember one of him, a self-portrait. He could have titled it "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Brooklyn Guy Just Back from World War II." In the painting, he's holding a palette and some brushes, and he's looking at you like he's happy to be painting a picture rather than listening to Sergeant Novak's yap about doing latrine duty or holding the line against the Nazi tanks.

Tony seems happy and confident and eager in the painting, but you know he's serious too. The eyes in the picture give him away.

He wasn't painting much when I met him. I don't know if he was painting at all. He loved to talk about painting and art, and he loved to go to museums to look at paintings and drawings, but I don't think he was painting. It was like that was all behind him, left back in the past with the mustache the young guy just back from the war was wearing in that painting.

But then he retired.

And he started painting again, and doing water colors, and drawings, and doing art stuff he never thought about doing when he was doing art stuff. He started sculpting and taking art classes and displaying his paintings in galleries and hanging out with people who loved painting and drawing as much as he does. His paintings and drawings and watercolors were on exhibit in a one-man show at the Main Library in Bridgeport, CT, this spring. They may still be up!

Here are some of his paintings that I like a lot, and a photo of him working.

That's a painting of his daughter Linda, my wife. She's about 11 or 12 years old in the painting. She remembers she was at Fire Island with her family, and her dad was on the back porch painting. She was reading a book, and he said, "Keep reading, Linda!" She can't remember much about being painted this particular time because he was always painting her.

I don't know when Tony did the above painting of the building and the bridge. I asked Linda which bridge it was that's behind and above the house, and she said, "Maybe the Brooklyn bridge or the Manhattan bridge but you should call my father and ask him." So I called him and asked which bridge it was and where the house was, and he laughed and said, "I made it all up!"
The important lesson here is that you can't really trust artists. They tend to make stuff up. I am sure that Tony at one time or another gave me very specific information about this painting. Where it was set! The year it was painted! The name of the bridge! Even the season of the year! I'm not sure whether he was making it up then, or whether he's making it up now.

Part of the reason I like this painting of the house and the bridge is because when our daughter Lillian was a kid, I mean a really small kid, she used to think that this was a painting of her mother. If you look really close above the porch on the left, there's an open window with a woman looking out. That's Linda! At least that's what Lillian thought.

This is one of Tony's Fire Island paintings. I like the softness of the boats and the vividness of the colors, the way the sand almost looks like waves. When I see this painting, I think of Edward Hopper and Salvador Dali, guys who probably never met but if they had they would have had a good time talking to Tony.

Here's a photo of Tony working.

He's reading a book of Van Gogh's letters.


Geo-B said...

Great to hear about Tony Calendrillo. I remember hearing many Tony Calendrillo stories and seeing his art on your living room wall. I was always intrigued by the concept of a fabric artist. Last year, I bought some signed painted designs for wallpaper on eBay, and googled the name and tracked the artist down to San Francisco. I left him a message and he called me back, was in his 80s, and had his designs in several museums.
Keep up the good work.

Urkat said...

Tony reminds me of a guy I knew, nephew of James M. Cain--The Postman Always Rings Twice--Bob McComas. Said he thought about writing and even called himself a writer for forty years but hadn't actually written anything. He finally did and it was pretty good. Always lived in the shadow of his famous Uncle. I made the comparison cause you said Tony talked and thought a lot about painting before he ever really started painting.

Urkat said...

John, I love these pictures at the top of your blog page. You look like a man who's glad to be alive.