Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Slow Simmer -Tony Cavallo Style.

So earlier this Spring, back when we were receiving too much rain, I took some pictures to document 'the flood'.  While I was on the Skybridge I spotted the chariot (an old ambulance) of an artist friend of mine parked on one of the higher points of a parking lot that was going under water.

For many people with only casual knowledge of the downtown and its full-time denizens, the old ambulance is some kind of quickly dismissed curiosity to drive by and continue on with their 'business'.  When I see the ambulance, I know, not far away, Tony Cavallo is slowly roasting away in his studio contemplating whispers of innuendo, subtleties of shadow, and the most minute nuances of color.

That may sound like hyperbole, but realistically it is an understatement at best.

I met Tony over a year ago and he has basically devoted his creative energies towards this one painting for that entire time span.  Its surface is like nothing I have ever seen.  Crudely, I have tried to document what he has accomplished with pigment and texture.  My efforts fall short of doing justice to what he has created, but ya still gotta check this out.

I don't know the title of this piece (or if it even has one).  To me, that barely matters.  What does matter is that it has consistently been an 'experience' to see this work with each visit to Tony's studio space.  Tony Cavallo has built layer after layer of paint to create a luminous surface.  Oil paint is translucent, so building up layers allows several small color interactions and nuances to show through.  You couldn't mix these colors directly and get the job done with one coat or paint.  It requires a succession of layers to achieve.

We'll start big and work our way towards the surface.

Each brush stroke makes a contribution to how the painting catches the light and the slight energy/undulation to the surface.  A smooth, flat surface just won't 'behave' the same way.

Another portion of the painting shows The Skybridge in the background.

Tony's studio is littered with dozens of palettes, -each one covered with globs of paint with just the slightest variations of color.  A few weeks ago, when Tony was gracious enough to let me interrupt his work by bringing over a couple former students of mine (who were in town for the end of 'Questionable Architecture' and the opening reception for 'What's In The Box?' (a quick thanks to Amanda, Catlin, and Heather for making the trek)) to see this piece, I saw one palette that had a dozen slight variations of a brown/yellow ochre/orange mixture.  Each blob was different, and each blob may have only been used to produce just a couple of marks of the surface, but each blob was necessary to create the whole.

The painting has two people sitting at a dining table.  Here is the other figure (*note The Centennial Bridge out the window).

These gives a better sense of the male figure and the environment (with a splendid still life on the table as a bonus).

Pardon the glare.....

To make sure he gets the shapes, sizes, proportions and the lighting just right, Tony frequently turns the canvas 90 degrees (and then another 90 degrees, and so on) to make sure he is truly seeing what is taking place on the surface versus what he thinks is taking place on the surface.  Constantly shifting, adjusting, building, and fine tuning.  He even has set up mirrors to flank the piece so he can double-check his perception/perspective on the painting.

The title of this post comes in part from how damn hot it is in Tony's studio.  When you go into the space, you can feel your pores open up.  I brought my thermometer along on my most recent visit to document how hot it is in there.  Just a mere 93 degrees (when I returned to my studio, it was a far more reasonable 88 degrees).  Tony's nights melt into days and his consistent companions are the painting, and the heat.  Music shows up frequently too, but I suspect that there are numerous hours of silent contemplation as well.

The painting will ultimately go into the restaurant below his studio so many people can see it.  I suspect only a fraction of them will be able to comprehend the single-minded devotion it took to bring that piece to life.  Even fewer could ever understand the willpower it took to endure the heat, the solitude, the misadventures with parking enforcement, and the occasional under-nourishment that Tony faced in order to complete the painting.

In case you were keeping track, the bar just got raised......

Focus. Like. A. Laser.

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