Artists:The Social Animal

Bernardo Sicilian came to my studio  recently to talk about his work.  As he was  getting ready to show his paintings in New York during October, I wanted to know more about his process and his attitude about his painting and teaching. As he came into my place, he exclaimed “What a mess!”. I responded, “I know it’s cluttered, but we do lots of things here!”.  I looked around at the grand piano and other musical instruments,with piles of books and paintings everywhere.

“What do you want me to say?” he asked.

“I’m interested in what you’re doing for your upcoming exhibition.”

Siciliano, a painter of intense and disquieting images, grew up in a home with 80,000 books. Although he couldn’t really read until he was eighteen, in reaction to his father, a famous writer, he could read images, particularly of the works of great painters, which he did with the many (20,000) art books his father possessed. Words came later.   When he no longer lived within the vast library of his parents, he read voraciously.

He grew up in Italy, although he now lives and works primarily in New York. When I asked him how he got to be a painter of international renown; he answered “I’m very stubborn. That’s it!”    He studied piano intensively at a conservatory, and used the method of learning a passage on the piano as a prototype for learning to draw and paint.  “I’d practice the method of Cezanne, who was also a self-taught artist.” He adapted it, and drew  apples in front of him multiple times “until I was satisfied that I’d captured the essence, the weight, and surface of those apples.”  A propos of that, when I saw an image of a painting he did of espresso pots and various metal dining ware, I exclaimed that I just wanted to touch everything.

Bernardo showed his work The Orion Gallery in New York City, October, 2019.  Among the paintings he was preparing for the show,he was working on a nude self portrait.  “Oh, I won’t be entirely nude, because I wear those blue gloves whenever I paint”.  I reminded him of Lucien Freud, who did a nude self portrait. Freud is one artist he admires, along with Edward Hopper, Caravaggio, and Masaccio, and, of course, Cezanne.

Bernardo painted the numbness of his mother just after the death of his father.  She wore black then and still does.  He is drawn to making paintings of anxious, unsettled people, and successfully conveys their unsettledness in his portraits.

Siciliano, a painter of intense and disquieting images, grew up in a home with 80,000 books. Although he couldn’t really read until he was eighteen, in reaction to his father, a famous writer, he could read images, particularly of the works of great painters, which he did with the many (20,000) art books his father possessed. Words came later.   When he no longer lived within the vast library of his parents, he read voraciously.

He grew up in Italy, although he now lives and works primarily in New York. When I asked him how he got to be a painter of international renown; he answered “I’m very stubborn. That’s it!”    He studied piano intensively at a conservatory, and used the method of learning a passage on the piano as a prototype for learning to draw and paint.  “I’d practice the method of Cezanne, who was also a self-taught artist.” He adapted it, and drew  apples in front of him multiple times “until I was satisfied that I’d captured the essence, the weight, and surface of those apples.”  A propos of that, when I saw an image of a painting he did of espresso pots and various metal dining ware, I exclaimed that I just wanted to touch everything.

Barbara’s interview with Vincent Desiderio