Thursday, July 31, 2008


The Second Time acrylic 24x36

For 4 days I struggled with this canvas, working on a painting that simply would not work. It was one of those times when the original concept and composition was flawed, and all the re-working was for naught. Two days ago, at the end of the day and after the umpteenth effort salvage the piece, I picked up a palette knife, open several jars of paint and covered the entire canvas. Yesterday I completed this painting, a totally different image from the underlying painting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The dinner dishes were done, Patience and whippets were upstairs, and I was sitting at the kitchen counter with a glass of wine listening to Pavarotti and Boccelli videos on You Tube. Although I could not understand a word of what they were singing, the music and the sound of the language seemed to grab hold of me and pull me back to a long time ago, a time when my world knew wrinkled, white haired old ladies in black dresses and shoes, old men in baggy trousers and tired sweaters with drooping mustaches and smelly old stogies held in place by yellow teeth. To one another they spoke words I did not know, to others in a heavily broken English.

For whatever reason, the music, the language, or both, I wanted to go back, I wanted to burrow deep into my past, to reach back and touch all that went before me, our home, my family, and especially my parents. The experience of that evening was simply an exclamation point on a process that has been steadily building in importance over the past few years, my growing desire to reconnect with the world of my childhood, a world rich in ethnicity that I took for granted. This world of immigrants and first generation Italian-Americans that molded my parents is no more, and the older I get the more I realize how much that world has defined me. It was both Italian and American, but of course the Italian element would be almost gone by the time I left home for college, and for so many years I never gave it much thought. But now, as I close in on my 70th birthday, it continues to grow in importance to me, and I wonder, how will I react when I arrive, for the first time, in Italy this fall. That is where it all began.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Every February we would receive a batch of newly hatched chicks which were placed in the freshly cleaned-and I mean scrubbed cleaned- coop. It is worth taking the time to describe that cleaning process.

The first order of business was to remove all the chickens and chicken shit in the coop. It was simple mindless labor. The truck was backed up to one of the doors and the CS was shoveled onto the truck bed. The first half of the job was relatively easy because the CS in the body of the coop was loose and dry. But once cleared, we had to clean out under the wire racks where the slept, and here everything was wet, heavy and packed, in addition to being further away from the doors to the truck. It was also home for numerous rats, so our little rat terrier had a grand old time. The dust was awful, and we didn’t know enough then to wear protective masks. I was not surprise some 40 years later when my chest xray showed signs of old histoplasmosis.

After the last bit of manure was removed, the coop was washed down with soap and water, removing all remnants of manure and dirt in preparation for the final stage of cleaning. In the 40s and 50s creosote was not considered hazardous, and was readily available for my father to use to “disinfect” the coop. In typical fashion, he had a special contraption made to complete this task. A large galvanized trash can was fitted with wheels and handles so it could easily be moved about like a wheelbarrow. Within the can was a hand pump and sprayer, and when filled with the nasty creosote, it was possible to spray the entire interior of the coop. As I remember, I did most of the pumping and my father handled the sprayer. It did not take long for us to recognize an obvious problem with creosote, it burned the skin, and thereafter we covered all exposed skin with a heavy application of noxzema which proved to be only partially effective. I’m not sure just what “germs” my father hoped to eliminate with the creosote, but I can’t imagine anything surviving after our “treatment”.

With the coop all cleaned (sterilized?), the next step was setting up the stoves to keep the newly hatched chicks warm. For a few years we used small coal burning potbellied stoves with a large round galvanized hood, but later replaced them with special heat producing lamps. Around the stove and extending out about 24 inches from the edge of the hood a bedding of Staysdry was spread over the concrete floor. (a thick straw and fine wood chip combination that I don’t believe is available any longer.) The bedding was contained by a twelve inch high metal ring with a diameter of about six feet encircling the entire area. We usually had six to nine of these “nurseries” set up, always in the same coop.

With the heat on, the young chicks were literally dumped out of their boxes into their nurseries where they immediately gathered all together beneath the hoods producing a carpet of yellow fuzz. They quickly discovered where the feed and water containers were placed and would venture away from their self imposed cluster long enough to fill their tiny gullets.

Of all my memories from the farm, nothing compares to the the pure joy of going into that coop on a bitter cold February day and experiencing the combination of the warmth and the sweet smell of the chicks, enhanced by the sound of their peeping and the touch of their fuzzy feathers as they clamored around the hands that provided their feed and water. It was easy to wish you could climb in there with them and lie down under the cozy hood.

Monday, July 28, 2008


One of my father’s oft repeated admonition to me was, ”learn to work” by which he really meant learn how to work, and on our farm that meant knowing what to do and when to do it. It was also important to understand why the work had to be done, and the consequences of not doing it and/or not doing it right.

I’m not sure how old I was when I was officially expected to perform certain chores, as well as being available to my father to help with the constant demands of the farm. I would guess about 9-10 years old. During the school year I was expected to perform after school chores, usually lasting about one and a half hours, as well as Saturdays and occasionally Sunday mornings. The amount of work varied with the time of year-less in the winter and more in the summer. During summer vacations my father asked that I be available to him for a half a day, so I could usually have part of each day to myself. Looking back I can appreciate how he balanced my need to accept responsibility with my need for childhood freedom.

The usual daily chores consisted of collecting eggs after school and on weekends, feeding the chickens (I’ll have more to say about the chickens later), and milking the cow. I loved milking the cow, especially in the winter when I could lay my head against her flank and feel the heat of her body as she warmed the barn. I still believe a barn and its animal during the cold winter days is just about the coziest place one could be. There were always cats and kittens around, and I enjoyed squirting them with the milk to watch them lick each other clean. Another routine chore was helping my mother grade and pack the eggs, something that had to be done daily.

On weekends and during summer vacations there were numerous jobs and projects that demanded attention in addition to the routine chores. But that’s another story.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The eggs were routinely collected in the mornings and again about 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon. Wire baskets-later with a protective rubber coating on the wires were used, each holding about 4-6 dozen eggs. Before they were weighed and packed they had to be washed. This was easy enough...a basket would be suspended in a bath of heated water containing a special detergent and gently agitated from below. One of my chores was to collect the eggs in each of the five coops and take them into our cellar and wash them. Not very difficult, however on one occasion I inadvertedly set the temperature gauge too high (I don’t know why or how that happened) and while the first basket was being washed I noticed a change in the sound of the eggs as they gently bumped against one another in the bath. It was heavier and “clunkier”, and I knew imediately what I had accomplished. I also knew, correctly, that my father was not going to be pleased.

As was often the case, my mother came to my rescue. She called all the neighbors who routinely bought “cracked eggs” from us and quickly sold off all the hardboiled eggs.

Friday, July 25, 2008


One down and one to go. Yesterday I completed one of the works in progess, and I am rather pleased with the results. I must confess, it was unabashedly based on a similar but smaller painting done a few months ago.

All about red acrylic 24x36 $1800

Here is the first painting...

Splendor on Rt 45 acrylic 16x20 sold

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I cannot begin to describe how good it feels to be back to work. I spent all day yesterday moving between two works in progress and look forward to another afternoon of the same today.

I've made it this far with the landscape...

and on the market scene...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I don't want to scare them away, but I do believe the muses have returned and I have two new works in progress, each following a very different approach.

This first is a scene based loosely on the Philadelphia Italian market, an absolutely wonderful place to be. In this case my intention is to paint it piece by piece, completing each section as I go along with little or no under painting, similar to the way I use watercolors. What does not show up very well in these photos is the fairly complete drawing on the canvas.

work in progress #1

work in progress #1 detail

The second piece will be an autumn landscape of my own creation. Here I am starting with an under painting on which I will add multiple layers of color to achieve the finished results.

work in progress #2

Sunday, July 20, 2008


For reasons I still do not understand, I grew up with an intense dislike for milk and eggs. This was unfortunate, and must have driven my mother crazy, because in addition to almost 10,000 egg laying chickens, we had a milk cow on our farm.
Of course today I like eggs, even the whites, and I will drink milk, although not too often.

But my mother, bless her devious heart, wasn’t the smartest woman in the world for nothing; she knew how to accomplish the impossible. Knowing how much I liked buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon, she simply served it to me in a shallow bowel, 2 slices neatly cut into inviting pieces, lying in a bowl of warm milk. She was even cunning enough not to serve it too frequently so it remained something special. I cant’t begin to imagine how much milk, warm milk at that, that I consumed with each serving.

So much for the milk; the eggs required a bit more subterfuge. It wasn’t until I was an adult and married with a family of my own that I learned that the white clumps and strings that were always floating in the broth of her wedding soup and in the beans and greens were egg whites and not the cheese that mother told me it was! She was not above telling what she called “white lies

Saturday, July 19, 2008


It's finished, and it has has been an instructive effort. Overall I'm pleased with the results, but realize I have to work on rendering the loose, semi-abstract stuff. It is more difficult with the built environment (cars, signs, other objects) than with the natural landscape. My initial attempts at the foreground were awkward and stilted. Things improved when I learned to loosen up a bit, but some of the stiffness is still evident.

No doubt I will try again.

NYC Street acrylic 30x24 $1500

Friday, July 18, 2008


The year was 1948 and I was in the third grade when my father picked me up after school, something he NEVER did before. I climbed into the truck (we did not have a car then) and all he said was we had to stop somewhere before going home. That somewhere happened to be a farm about 2-3 miles from home where we “picked up” the pony he had bought for me. It was a total, absolute surprise!! Although I had never been on a pony or horse before, I was instructed on how to put on the English saddle that was included in the purchase and rode the pony home while my father slowly followed with the truck. To fully appreciate the significance of this pony one must remember the time, 1948, when a young boy's heroes were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and a host of other cowboys who did battle with the bad guys and the Indians.

Pal, the old one eyed Shetland circus pony was to be my companion for several years to follow. His “barn” was a small shelter my father constructed onto the end of one of the chicken coops. He spent most of his time grazing in one of the many small fields around the farm. I taught myself how to ride and spent countless hours chasing bad guys with my six guns blazing, either out in our range or in the fields across the road. When our neighbors got their pony we would ride together through nearby farms and orchards, or race one another in one of the fields. Although their pony was at least 2 hands bigger than Pal, I believe we did win at least some of those contests.

Of course there were certain things that were required of any cowboy worth his salt, like grabbing an overhead limb and dismounting while galloping under a tree, or running and leaping into the saddle from behind your steed, and of course waving your hat while the horse rears up into the air. Being the good cowboy that I was, I practiced all of these with rather limited success, often determined by the amount of cooperation from Pal. He was rather stubborn, and frequently decided on his own when it was time to run, walk, or go home. On more than one occasion our riding session would abruptly end and all I could do was hang on while he headed for his barn at full gallop. I lost count of the number of times I hit my head on the low branches of the Mulberry tree on the corner of our lane; branches or not, Pal was not deterred from his mission to reach his barn. I wondered if Trigger ever did that to Roy Rogers.

OK, so I left my hat and guns at home.

Albert and me...

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I'm making progress. I finally overcame my inhibitions and began loosening up in the foreground. Here is how the day ended. There remains a few details that need my attention.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I've been forcing myself to work for the past week. For whatever reason, I decided to paint another urban scene, this one a little different from the last one I posted a few months ago.
It has been a slow process due to my lack of enthusiasm plus an unfamiliarity with the technical approaches needed for the work. With few exceptions, all of my urban paintings have been rendered in watercolor.

Although the scene is different, I'm attempting to follow the same approach as I used in this pastel painting a few years ago, with an abstract/impressionistic foreground against a stark, geometric background.

Orchard St. NYC pastel

The background - the easy part is done. Now I have to tackle the foreground which I find much more difficult to do.

Work in progress acrylic 30x20

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I was 11 or 12 years old when we shot our neighbor in the ass. Some explanation is needed here.

My father was not a hunter, but we did have a shotgun and a bolt action 22 on the farm. The 22 was used primarily to shoot rats in the chicken coops when we were cleaning out the chicken shit. It was a summer day and my cousin was visiting for a few days. We decided it would be fun to do some target shooting with the 22 and stuck some tin can lids on the door of the outhouse for our targets. The outhouse, unused for years, sat adjacent to one of the barn sheds which was sided with corrugated tin. I honestly don’t remember if we asked permission to do this, but it is extremely unlikely that my mother or father would have given us permission if we did ask. Neither Walter or I were aware of the power and range of the 22. Because of the way the buildings were located we were shooting at an angle that allowed the 22 longs to go through the outhouse, 2 tin walls of the shed, and through a field and our vineyards, to reach the small cluster of homes situated about 150 - 200 yards away.

I don’t know how many rounds we shot before we heard someone yelling at us from one of the houses. After that everything is lost, or repressed in my memory. Apparently one of our shots hit a pregnant neighbor as she was hanging clothes to dry. To everyone’s immense good fortune the bullet literally grazed her buttocks. The local doctor came to the house and declared she was fine, though understandably frightened and angry, anger that paled beside that of my parents. Afterwards, all I can remember is Walter and I standing by the window in my bedroom, scared beyond anything I had known, not knowing what we had done and what was ahead for us. To this day, I still get an emptiness in the pit of my stomach when I think about this, and how so many lives could have been devastated by just a few inches difference in that bullets trajectory. I can only begin to imagine what my mother and father were feeling and thinking. Fortunately this occurred around 1950, before litigation became a social sport.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I don’t know if those exact words were ever spoken, but the message was loud and clear to Augie and me.

We had to be 17 years old because I was driving the family ‘51 chevy. Neither of us was much bigger than we were some 6 or 7 years earlier when we had our “fight”. But we were both good looking, at least we thought so, and we were great dancers, we thought that too, so we decided to drive to a local hop in Hammonton, a town with a rough reputation, about 10 miles from Landisville. As usual the details are hazy, but I do remember that we connected with 2 girls and were enjoying ourselves when we got word that we were not welcome there, and it would be wise for us to think about leaving...soon! Considering ourselves lovers and not fighters, we accepted the “offer”, and mustering all the cool we could, headed for the door with our new girl friends, Augie and friend about 5-6 feet in front of me. Gathered about the exit were a number of very Italian looking guys (neither Augie or I resembled our genetic ancestry), all of them 6 ft. and 250 lbs., or so they seemed. The one thing about that evening that I recall with perfect clarity occurred as I walked out...I heard someone say, “why don’t we get that little bastard”!

Now, I don’t know why, but all of my life what ever name I’ve been called has always been preceded by the word “little”. My best friend, Richie Genoni, on those rare occassions when I beat him in a game of OUT in basketball would always call me a little shit, or a little bastard, never you shit or you bastard. Anyway, for what ever reason, they did not “get me” that night, but they did follow us in their car for several miles before they got tired. We then took the girls home, and maybe even parked for a while. One thing is certain, we did not go back to Hammonton.

I often wonder what became of Augie, the last I heard he married Eleanor Berti.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I consider myself a gentle person. I don’t like violence, fighting, and any sort of abusiveness. I avoid acting in any way, or saying anything, that would make another person feel bad, even if it were deserved. This is my nature. (when I was 8 or 9 years old I punched my neighbor and his cousin in their respective noses, but that was before I realized my nature...and I was provoked.) So, it is with some puzzlement that I recall the only childhood fight I ever had. I was to do battle with Augie Merrighi. We were the same age and approximately the same size, so it would be an even match. It was not a spontaneous affair...we met at an appointed time in our front yard, accompanied by Eddy Siciliano and his cousin Albert. My best guess is that I was 10 or 11 years old, but possibly younger. Augie and I looked at each other, and then asked if we wanted to fist fight or wrestle. The decision was quick and mutual, we would wrestle...That way there would be much less chance of pain and bloody noses.
I remember getting tangled up in each other and rolling on the ground. But that’s It!
I don’t remember how it ended, and even more frustrating, I don’t know why we were fighting!
Augie and remained friends for a long time, and 5 or 6 years later shared the distinct honor of being run out of Hammonton after leaving a dance with 2 girls we just met. That’s another story.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Several years ago I constructed several “power plants”. One sold and one has been hanging around the studio. Last year I did a third one, and a few weeks ago I shipped it to the gallery in Philadelphia that shows my work. Inspired by their interest in the piece I pulled out the old remaining one and began reworking it, trying to overcome the excessive darkness.

Power Plant #1 Sold

Power Plant #3 24x48 at Sande Webster Gallery in Philadelphia

Power Plant #3 reworked...18x36
(Unfortunately I don't have a before pic to show you.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I hate roosters...I’ll admit they have an almost regal bearing about them, as they strut about the yard or the coop...but I still hate them. Roosters are mean, vicious, and worst than that, they are cowards. Every year we would place several roosters in with the hens in the breeding coop, and the eggs from there would be sent to the hatchery. I learned very quickly about those devious, miserable cowards the first time I went in to collect the eggs. They would stand back and stare at me, unmoving, as long as I was facing them and staring back. But as soon as I turned my back they would attack...comming at me feet first with those large spurs, intent on doing some real damage. I would turn quickly and kick at them as violently as I could without droping the basket of eggs I was carrying. I never told my father about that...I don’t think he would have approved. I had another way of geting revenge...Whenever I found an egg without a shell (the egg is held intact by the thin membraned that is found just beneath the shell in a normal egg.) I would take careful aim at the closest of those awful creatures and let it go. If I was really pissed I would throw a good egg. I never told my father that either.

I'm not sure of the connection, but the ram we had to "service" the sheep behaved in the same way, turn your back and he would charge with his head down, honing in on your butt, turn around and he would stop.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I grew up on a small farm in southern New Jersey. Originally my grandfather raised the usual local crops, tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce. He also planted a vineyard and was licensed to make and sell wine - the label read, Father and Sons Claret. They sold the wine in Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia. When my father took over the farm in the early 1940’s he switched to poultry farming, giving me the opportunity to grow up on farm with 10,000 egg laying chickens. The vineyard remained for most of my childhood and my father, like all self respecting Italian men made his own wine, about 200 gallons a year. We also had sheep, pigs, a cow (which I milked every day), and my father’s amazing garden.

Because of a series of crippling heart attacks my father had to give up farming prematurely and my children never had the benefit of experiencing life on our farm. Conscious of regretting how little I knew of my parent’s early years, I initiated a “memory search” of the first 18 years of my life and began a series of short narratives to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I thought I would share some of these with my readers while I have no new art to show.


I grew up with chicken shit! I walked in it. I smelled it and breathed it. I swept it. I shoveled it. I spread it. The shit of ten thousand chickens was with us always...a part of our lives. I left the farm when I went away to college at age 18. It was not until almost 15 years later that I realized just how deeply it was ingrained in my mind. I was making a house call outside of the city of Wilmington and the patients daughter greeted me as I got out of the car. I stood up and immediately asked who had chickens and where were they. She looked at me with astonishment and said they were at a small farm about a half a mile away.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Ok, my patience is running out (no pun intended...I’ll explain later). The studio is reorganized with new open working space, I have a painting sitting on the easel awaiting my attention, and I find myself sitting here looking out the windows or reading some mindless mystery, anything but painting. I can’t get excited over any of the many ideas flowing through my head. I tried forcing things with a couple of small watercolor sketches, but that didn’t lead to anything but 2 small wc sketches. The muses are staying away longer than usual, and I can’t help thinking, they are trying to send me a message. So I’ve given up efforts to do anything but sit and listen to what they have to say in the quiet stillness of my studio. We can hear more in the silence of our soul than in the noise of others or the noise we make ourselves.

Regarding my patience, and my Patience...she is Sweden! For the next week it will be just me and the nine whippets. Now if it were only me, there would not be nine dogs in my home. But when you love someone, you love who and what they are, and the woman I love is about animals, specifically dogs, and more specifically, Whippets. Therefore I am about whippets, nine of them to be exact, and they do test my patience.

I do 3 walks every morning, one short one with the old dogs and 2 long ones with the rest. Thanks to our friend Karen who accompanies me on the 2 longer walks, what could be a chore has become a chance to spend time with a friend.

After the walks comes the poop scooping in our fenced in yard, but that is another story.

I believe I've posted this photo before, but It such a great the amazing photographer and friend, Laurie Erickson...I just had to show it again.

L to R, back row...Swede William, Giacomimo, Delia, Lucianno, and Sam I Am.
front row...Fat Charlie and Mamma Pajama. Not shown, Lindy Loo.