Past to present resonates in the studio


My studio is tired in late July. My late summer show is up in the Davis House Gallery, and my studio space seems depleted, dirty, hot, and uninspiring. Then, these paintings arrived by a young artist, large and fresh, with a commanding presence, and provided me with an art lesson.

My nephew Dominic Franciose, a young artist from Utah, has been here since June, laboring and preparing for a show of his paintings at the Bank of Martha’s Vineyard in Chilmark. My assumption was that I would be involved with the inception and execution of these works.

Not so. No hints of Dominic’s work until I found the finished paintings laid out on my work table, raw, tacky, large, and unstretched.

The work was a surprise. I was thrilled that it didn’t look anything like my paintings, but it was clearly familiar. Once the work was stretched and hung, the fun began. Seeing the paintings displayed in my studio opened a dialogue with an American master from a previous generation: Jackson Pollock.

Dominic’s work confronts me with things I thought I had digested and filed away a long time ago. These abstractions, especially in the light of a summer evening, prove to be a treat. His paintings are bright, airy, and full of movement, not full of angst.

Pollock’s name and signature style are so recognizable as to pose an impediment to an immediate understanding. But these new paintings are not copies of Pollock. They feel instead, like a free and open conversation from one artist to another.

It is said that to hear about something is to probably forget it, see something and it might be remembered, but to do something is to understand it. Knowledge gets passed on in this way. I can’t suppose to know what this all means in the grand scheme of things, but I found it most entertaining and thought-provoking.

Jackson Pollock spent a considerable amount of time here in Chilmark with his adopted parents Rita and artist Thomas Hart Benton. He was a young man straining to express himself, but unable to do so in a traditional manner. Instead, Pollock arrived at a voice so personal and powerful as to almost end further conversation.

But one can go to the amphitheater at Tashmoo to feel the spirit of Shakespeare, although he won’t really be there. One can attend Chamber Music Society concerts at the Old Whaling Church and feel Bach, although he won’t really be there, and this week, a sense of Pollock with a new voice, can be had at the Bank of Martha’s Vineyard in Chilmark.

Summer will end, the geese will fly, and my work time will begin again. I don’t expect any radical shifts in my paintings because of Dominic’s visit, but when I make my big landscapes next winter I’ll be remembering the glow of these works in my studio, and how only the clean, unused colors on my pallet can match them in their clarity.

Can the end of one man’s road be the starting point for another man’s journey? I don’t know, but art will let us know.

Thanks, Dom, for the art lesson.

Paintings by Dominic Franciose, Artist’s reception, Friday, August 13, 4 to 6 pm, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard, Chilmark. Show runs through August 20.