October 17 - November 11, 2009
Schomburg Gallery is pleased to present new paintings by Domenic Cretara.
View the paintings
In June, 2008 my wife and I began what would be a thirteen month stay in Italy. I had applied for and received the Resident Directorship of the CSU International Program in Florence. My duties began in August and for twelve months I found myself for the first time in my life (at age 62) in a job where I had to sit behind a desk from 9am to 5 pm. It was quite a shock for an artist who had spent his entire life in the studio environment either painting or teaching people to paint. Now I would be responsible for things like issues of student behavior, faculty salaries, operating budgets, curriculum layouts, and negotiations with other institutions. In addition I had to do many of these things in a foreign language, of which, fortunately, I had a good command. Part of the reason I accepted the job was to see if I could adapt and succeed in such a new and challenging environment. The main reason for uprooting our lives for a year, however, was the chance to spend quality time in the city of Florence within striking distance of so many of the works of art which had been a lifelong source of inspiration to me. We had spent a year in Florence on a Fulbright Grant in 1975, but I am not the same person that I was 30 years ago, and I saw those works with a different eye, and invested them with different meanings.
We rented a cozy apartment in a neighborhood where there were no tourists. It was next door to the Cenacolo di San Salvi, the place where, for centuries, the local monks took their meals. The dining room was decorated with a gigantic fresco of the Last Supper by the painter Andrea del Sarto. Off the beaten track, there were seldom tourist groups visiting the site, and I would go in there frequently to draw and meditate in silence. As we got to know our neighborhood I found myself attracted to the beauties of my surroundings. Walls splotched with the remnants of weathered political posters, mysterious narrow streets with houses and vegetation of endlessly surprising shapes and colors, all had a powerful effect on me, and insisted upon being painted.
Although I normally paint large-scale multi-figured compositions from various sources (imagination, memory, photography and observation), I knew when I accepted the job as Resident Director that for reasons of time and logistics I would have to give up painting the large works for a year. However, the idea of returning to intimate scale, directly observed paintings from nature, was very appealing. The Post-Impressionist painter, Georges Seurat, said that in the summer he would return to painting out of doors from landscape in order to “wash the studio light from his eyes” and I had several times before found that strategy very salutary for my work. Nothing sharpens the mind, hones one’s sensitivity to color and composition, and, most important of all, allows one to celebrate the joy of life, like working in the landscape of Italy.
In the thirty years of its existence, I was the first artist to serve as Resident Director of the CSU International Program. Imagine my staff’s surprise when they entered my office for the first of our weekly meetings and realized that I had turned it into an artist studio complete with easels, still life set ups, controlled lighting, and painting materials! They adapted beautifully, and I experienced a wonderful year of personal and professional growth, and made life-long friendships. In the course of the year they all modeled for me, but that is another story, and perhaps the subject of another exhibition.