Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Remember When You Were Young?
(oil on canvas, 2015)

My mother grew up on an onion farm in upstate New York. My uncle and my cousin, both named John Musaccio like my late grandfather, still grow onions there. I have extremely fond memories of visiting there when I was a boy and still enjoy spending time there whenever I can (which isn't very often since I now live about 700 miles from there!) When I was young, most of my grandfather's onion fields were on the Warners Road – a two-mile long, perfectly straight line made of dirt and gravel, with drainage ditches running along both sides. The ditches were traversed via narrow "bridges" which were each composed of, essentially, a culvert covered with dirt. Punctuating the seemingly endless (especially to a young boy) row of onion fields were various dilapidated structures – storage sheds for tractors, plows and other farm equipment, as well as shacks which served as temporary housing for migrant workers during the harvest season.

This image is the latest of several that I have done over the past seven or eight years based on an old photo that I took of one such structure on the Warners Road. I don't like to work from photographs (and I never actually looked at the photo whilst working on the painting, referring instead to some of the many drawings of this subject that hang on my studio walls) but I find myself repeatedly drawn to the geometry of this image. The combination of rectangles, triangles, squares, circles and ovals – juxtaposed with the amorphous shapes in the landscape – are fertile ground for a painter.

I don't envy the work of farmers, but I'm grateful for those that choose farming as a profession (or, perhaps, like artists, the profession chooses them...) and I often identify with them. So much of my work involves germinating the seeds of ideas to fruition with a combination of hard work, skill, patience, knowledge combined with a dependency on the weather and hands that are never, ever really clean.

The Space Between Us (oil on canvas, 2015)

(Private Collection)
I have found that a good many people believe that the beauty (or lack there of) in a work of art lies in the choice of subject matter. When people first learn that I am an artist, they often ask me what subjects I paint, rather than how I paint or what my work is about. I have had people come into my studio and look at my paintings and ask me why there are no animals in my pictures or if I have any lighthouses.

I believe, however, that the true beauty of any artwork comes from the form of the work - the seemingly inevitable (one of my favorite words!) arrangement of lines, shapes, values, colors and textures - scribbles and marks made with human hands, that somehow miraculously call to mind the familiar, whilst simultaneously showing us (if we take the time to look) something we’ve never seen before.