Martha’s Vineyard artist Traeger diPietro has taken his work bicoastal, with a show in Los Gatos, Calif., opening on Feb. 9. The show, “The Man and His Heart” will be on display at JCO’s Place, as part of its “XOXO” exhibit, until Feb. 28.
“The Man and His Heart” is a series of 12 paintings, all of which feature a character Mr. diPietro calls “the messenger man.” A variety of Valentine’s Day–appropriate hearts thread many of the paintings together.
In an artist’s statement, Mr. diPietro wrote, “Love is big right now, and it needs to be shared. In this series of paintings the ‘messenger man’ pushes love.”
Faceless, adorned in a black suit and fedora cuffed in white, the messenger man symbolizes the everyman in us all. “We all wear some article of clothing that represents who we are and or what we do. The black suit represents a person of any age, gender, and/or race,” Mr. diPietro wrote. “The messenger man could be homeless or a billionaire, we just don’t know. We just can’t judge; the suit keeps the judgements open-ended, because everyone wears a suit.”
The messenger man moves through the frames of bright green and steel blue in an almost dreamlike atmosphere. At times, he is facing us head-on, at others he appears lost in a crowd. Sometimes, the man stands patiently, watering a planting of hearts as if waiting for them to grow. In other canvases, he is running away, or searching for something. In many works, he is repeated over and over again, like an anxious, compulsive memory.
Other motifs anchor the messenger man to this strange world: the logo and print from Life magazine, scribbly multicolored bubbles, numbers, beautiful women in dresses, and of course, the valentine hearts — sometimes big, sometimes broken and bleeding, sometimes just tiny seeds with the capacity to grow.
Mr diPietro wrote that although the heart “is extremely cliché” as a symbol, “I want to remind people that the heart represents love. It reminds us of the little things, and how we should act and dream. It reminds us to say please, thank you, you’re welcome, to treat people the way we want to be treated, and to smile. These are rules for a child, but I feel as grownups we need to be reminded as well, and to never stop looking for that perfect heart.”
Mr. diPietro was quick to point out that his own heart is truly here on Martha’s Vineyard, so even though the work is only on display in California, “I’d really like for the Island’s people to feel the love.”