I'm standing in a small crowd of people at the Pawtucket Foundation Prize juried art exhibition as the artist, cajoled by the applause and encouragement of the crowd, steps into the center of the room and begins to tell us about his creative process. There is diffidence, there is an element of self-effacement, but here is also something like... (forgive me!) the voice of God.
Vincent Castaldi is telling us a story of creation. He speaks about sitting in the Gamm Theatre watching a play, becoming completely distracted by the gorgeous visual elements; the theater, the set design, the costumes and his subsequent inspiration to draw. He wanders through the theater's photo archives and a series of oil pastels is conceived. Most of them are still unborn. Vincent is working on a solo exhibition which will be opening in June of 2015. The picture hanging behind him is only the first and we will have to wait for the rest. But already the youngest of these siblings-to-be is being honored; hanging among the chosen few on this gallery wall. I can't wait to see the rest!
For now, it is fascinating; this glimpse into the creative process and what makes an artist an artist. For many of us fine art is an arcane mystery. We see the finished product, we hear the tales of mystery and controversy; auctions where paintings sell for millions of dollars from artists who spent their entire lives in poverty and art heists where the perpetrators live in our imaginations as more anti-heroes than mere thieves. We listen; rapt attention, hoping to gain an understanding.
Another afternoon; Vincent and I are sitting on the blue velvet couch in my living room drinking shandy. He is a handsome Italian man, tousled hair and face; some of his friends say he looks like Robert Downy Jr.. I can see the resemblance. As we talk, I am wondering once again whether this talent, this muse, is a curse or a blessing. We revere the creators of beauty, but we don't always support them. Their road is rarely smooth.
There has never been a time when Vincent wasn't an artist. As a young child, whenever he picked up a pencil he thought, not about writing, but drawing. So he drew. Like the Pied Piper, his muse led him onward through the years of education. He took drawing, art, pottery and sculpture classes. He attended classes at the Rhode Island School of Design beginning in his junior year of high school, went to college at RISD and finished his formal undergraduate education in the RISD European Honors Program in Rome.
From some sense of practicality, Vincent majored in illustration. But after graduation and a few freelance assignments for newspapers and magazines, he realized that working in commercial environments and positions was not working for him as an artist. Perhaps the muse is too strong, perhaps he is too honest; the urge to create his own vision too strong. Whenever he begins work, his authentic voice emerges no matter the assignment and this has created conflict for him in working as an editorial and commercial illustrator.
And so today, as we sit and talk about the life of an artist, Vincent is working as a waiter and spends whatever free time he can carve out, creating the work he is called to. For the past thirty years, Vincent has an almost unbroken record of consistent production. His work has been featured in exhibitions and galleries, both solo and group shows all over RI and MA.
What is the price of living this dual life; working day-to-day in a job that demands little of his heart and intellect? Our conversation is filled with elements of passion, alienation, conflict, frustration. In his artist statement for a 2008 show entitled "Faces and Forms", he writes about his inspiration: “[While creating this series…] I had vivid dreams where I was finding paintings that I had misplaced and forgotten were mine. I remember seeing layering of images. I think these faces reflect aspects of me - worry, apprehension, vulnerability, hopefulness. Faces within faces reminding me of memories."
In a 2013 artist’s statement for the Rossoni Gallery opening of his "Sole Evolution” series Vincent says of his works: “ The figures are, strapped down as if they are being restrained, trapped and helpless. Some pieces suggest despair, struggle and yearning.”
And yet he also includes moments of joy and transcendence. “Free My Soul” evolves into figures striving to release themselves from the ties that bind them. “Liberation” is one of my later pieces and represents finding strength and renewed hope. Note the woman here is reaching for the sky”.
As if in reflection of that renewed hope, Vincent's work has begun to gain more attention during the past year. One of his newer paintings, "Man in Yellow Jacket" won Honorable Mention at the Providence Art Club's annual national juried exhibition and sold in the same afternoon. "Pope Joan and Top Girls", the first of his Gamm Theatre series is currently being shown at the Pawucket Foundation Prize juried exhibition. Other work can be seen at Fine Art at Chapel View in Cranston, Gallery Z in Providence, the Wickford Art Festival, and the South County Art Association Members and Staff Invitational. In June of 2015 the Providence Art Club will host a solo exhibition of Vincent's Gamm Theatre series. We can't wait to see them!
Meanwhile join us in welcoming Vincent Castaldi as Find Your Cool's inaugural feature artist. Visit www.findyourcool.us where you will find our first curated offering of his wonderful oil pastels!