Dick Iacovello’s art doesn’t seem to fit into a specific category. He’s a painter, sure, but also a photographer, a mixed-media artist, and a natural storyteller. As with many artists, his work changes over time, and is based on the unique experiences of his life. In Iacovello’s art, though, there seems to be an immediacy to it — an energy — as if he couldn’t wait to create it. “I call my style ‘eclectricity,’” he said.
Iacovello doesn’t have years of art school experience, but he has lived a life of creativity. I’m a visual artist myself, and what I love about creativity is that it can’t be pigeonholed. A watercolor of the ocean or a metal sculpture of a bird may reflect genuine artistry, no doubt about it, but creativity can also appear in the way someone speaks — the cadence of their voice, or the way they string words together — or through a loaf of homemade rosemary bread. And though many of us can’t always pinpoint what sparked our creativity in the first place, Iacovello seems to have a clear sense of when his creative process began to blossom.
“At 85 years old, there are so many things that I’ve experienced. When I was 12, I went to live on my uncle’s farm, and I was very impacted by everything around me. Then when I was 17, I really started my creative process. I went to barber school. There is so much creativity in cutting hair,” Iacovello said.
A few years later, Iacovello left the haircutting profession and moved to Boston, where he began creating psychedelic posters. “I made a lot of money selling to stores in New York City, and then I moved to Europe for a while — Crete and the Canary Islands, as well as the mainland,” he said. “That’s where a lot of my early influences came from.”
Although art doesn’t always turn out precisely the way we imagined it at first — it can take on a life of its own — if we trust the process, the newborn piece can pleasantly surprise us. Of course, a bit of patience doesn’t hurt either. “Once I waited four hours to capture a photo of the light on these flowers floating on the shoreline,” Iacovello said. “I knew if I waited, I’d get it. And I did.”
Iacovello’s work has been admired by many over the years. One of his photos of musician Van Morrison was chosen to be part of the book cover for “Astral Weeks,” by Ryan Walsh. According to astralweeks.net, the book is a mind-expanding dive into 1968, featuring Van Morrison, folkie-turned-cult-leader Mel Lyman, Timothy Leary, James Brown, and many more. “That photo was what I call a money shot,” Iacovello said.
Iacovello is also a disabled veteran. He was a medic in the Vietnam war, and while there, he took an abundance of photos. ”I never showed any of my photos to anyone, for over 45 years. But around 2008, a group from Combat Paper came to the Island,” he said. Combat Paper was started by Drew Matott and Drew Cameron, and involves war veterans, activists, and artists. Combat Paper is made using uniforms worn during military service. After the paper is made, service members can share their stories and art on the paper they’ve made. “I went to their show and congratulated them. I told them I was a Vietnam vet, and they asked if I still had any part of my uniform. I did, and they asked if I wanted to make paper. ‘I’m an artist!’ I told them, ‘so yes, I want to make paper!’ Once I had the paper, though, I didn’t know what to do with it at first. But then I went into my photo archives and printed them onto the paper I made. When I saw that first photo come out of the printer, I almost fell over. There was a whole bunch of letting go. The Combat Paper makers asked me if I had any more, so I sent them a disc. A while later, I got a notice that some of my photos were in the Library of Congress’ permanent collection. Every time I think about it, I tear up.”
Luckily for the Island community, Iacovello is showcasing some of his art in a group show at the Miner Family Fine Art Gallery (MFG) in Vineyard Haven. MFG is owned by artist Craig Miner, his wife Michelle Brescia, and their son Avery Miner, who is a Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate and a working sculptor.
“This is the first of what I hope are many group shows here,” Craig Miner said. “I want this show to be more of a salon. I want people to come down and talk to the artists. I’ve known Dick for years. I love to ask him about the inspiration for his art, and he has a large catalog of work. I didn’t even question what he was putting in the show. I knew whatever he chose would be amazing.”
When I asked Iacovella what he liked about MFG, his response was, “Everything.”
Other artists featured in the group show are Justen Ahren, Rob Morris, Paul Lazes, Jack Ryan, and Craig and Avery Miner.
Miner Family Gallery is open year-round. The group show runs through mid-December. Contact Craig Miner for more information at 774-563-0128, or email@example.com, and visit the website at craigdminerart.com/miner-family-gallery. To learn more about Dick Iacovello, check out his Facebook page at facebook.com/diacovello. MFG Gallery is located at 13 Beach St. Extension in Vineyard Haven.