Galleries : The Surprising Mr. diPietro
Most artists, if given the chance, would quit their day jobs. Traeger diPietro is not one of those artists.
"Last year I had the opportunity to paint full time. I didn't like it," says Mr. diPietro.
It is a seemingly odd remark for a prolific painter and mixed-media artist, whose work is on display at Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs, as well as at many Island restaurants. "I woke up every morning and stared at the canvas."
From the tall vantage point of the truck he drives during the week to deliver Pepsi Cola to Island businesses, the 31-year-old artist tours the Vineyard drawing inspiration from its landscapes and seascapes and the people that inhabitant them.
It is not discipline on which Mr. diPietro relies to sustain his steady output of work. He does not adhere to a strict schedule, nor does he suffer pangs of guilt if he spends an evening watching the sunset rather than painting it. "In order to paint, I have to be excited about the subject," he says.
The artist enthusiastically describes the sources of his inspiration while working his day job: "I'll watch fisherman and clam diggers. I'll stop at a coffee shop and see an old man making bread in the back. The entire time I'm thinking: that's a painting, that's a painting, that's a painting. But it's not just about making paintings, it's about expressing how excited I am about the things I see."
For a writer who spends days staring at a computer screen, a painter's studio is an exciting setting. A visual artist's work generates detritus that is chaotic and vibrant. The studio of Mr. diPietro, on the second floor of an old farmhouse on Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury, is a variegated mess, cluttered with canvases and wooden boards, old newspapers and torn books.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Despite these inherent differences, Mr. diPietro's intent is similar to that of many writers.
"I know a diary is usually kind of a personal thing," says Mr. diPietro. "But in many ways my paintings are a diary of my life - what I've seen and what I appreciate. It's not about creating a perfect painting; it's about documenting my life's experiences."
Mr. diPietro's work can be divided into two groups: his oil paintings of Vineyard landscapes and his mixed-media work, which often depict urban scenes. His landscapes are tasteful amalgamations of realism and impressionism. Bold and expressive, they demonstrate the artist's capacity for invention while depicting his subjects as faithfully as we would like.
Says Mr. diPietro, "When I do an oil painting of a landscape, I'm appreciating the land and capturing it. I don't want my landscapes to be symbolic. I don't want them to have any meaning."
Mr. diPietro's mixed-media work is a very different story. "My mixed-media work is my baby," her says. "It comes from my ideas, my vision; I'm trying to take my ideas and bring them to life."
For the most part, his mixed-media work consists of acrylic paintings over collages composed of decade-old newspaper clippings and pages ripped from books, which provide rich texture and symbolism. The presence of the underlying collage is often so subtle when a piece is finished that one wonders whether it is meant to be seen at all. What at first glance resembles light rain, a backdrop of text creates a somber mood in a charcoal drawing depicting two pigeons treading over fallen flower pedals.
One of Mr. diPietro's strengths is his ability to evoke loneliness and hope. A single figure is often depicted alone, sitting outside a café or walking down a deserted sidewalk, yet his or her environment is infused with an immense appreciation of its beauty - a beauty that the subjects don't seem to notice.
The lack of uniformity of his work was once a matter of concern for Mr. diPietro. He has since come to terms with it. "For a while I wanted someone to be able walk into a room and see a painting and know that it was mine. I finally decided that I don't care. I just want to make art."
Oil paintings by Traeger diPietro will be included in the Plein Air Invitational Show at Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs. The opening reception is Saturday, Sept. 13, 4-7.