Piero is a young artist who I kind of met at "The Artists Fair" in Miami, Florida back in December 2008. I say "kind of met" because I remember nodding at him when I entered the fair and when I came back around to his booth, he had gone out for lunch, so I spent time admiring his art while chatting with his lovely mom. Anyway, I took his information and contacted him for an interview. I'm very glad that I did. After you read our chat, check out his website at www.pierospadaro.com You'll no doubt discover that the polite and generous spirit reflected in this interview definitely lives in his art.
MICHAEL: Hi Piero. First of all, you've got a cool name. If "Piero Spadaro" isn't the name of an artist bound for greatness, I don't know what is. We sort of met at "The Artists Fair." What did you hope to achieve by displaying your work there? As you know, art fairs can be like a crapshoot. Was it worth it?
PIERO: Hi Michael. You are too kind, if only it was all in the name. I am sorry we did not formally meet ... I was drawn to the honesty and entrepreneurship of The Artist Fair amongst the fair circuit. I admired seeing individual artists exhibiting amongst galleries in previous fairs, but I felt it broke the flow of the fair and expectation of the viewer. The Artist Fair was a new booth fair amongst better-known fairs on Collins Avenue; the price was reasonable and I personally enjoy the products of the sponsors who were backing the fair. I also felt given the global climate, visitors might be interested in meeting and supporting artists directly. My main goal for participating was to make contacts and gather feedback about my paintings. The fair was impeccably organized by Daria Souvorov, but it was the fair's grand debut. The work was diverse, but I felt the general energy of the exhibiting artists were dissatisfied and negative. This culminated in a weird atmosphere to exhibit in and for viewers to walk into. After day one I knew there were not going to be many sales, but I remained hopeful. Fortunately, I felt the fair was very successful and I created contacts I look forward to working with in the future, like you! Throughout my years as an art consultant and artist, I’ve learned it's not always the exhibition dates, but the months before and after.
MICHAEL: You know Piero, I think a lot of artists and people in general become disillusioned and cynical because they feel that they're not going to become "rich" and "famous." Many people won't admit to it, but it really seems to be what SO many people want. What do you think about this? Is this what you picture for yourself as an artist?
PIERO: It’s a good gig if you can get it! Honestly, I think it’s a nice goal to aspire to, but I don’t think about it any more or less than anyone else. I aspire to continue to support my artistic journey while maintaining, if not elevating my lifestyle. I would like to be a full-time, self-employed artist and to have my labors provide for me like any other profession would. I am not there yet, but I am working steadily towards this goal. I am very fortunate and grateful for the support I've received thus far.
MICHAEL: How are you currently supporting yourself and when do you paint? Do you have a routine?
PIERO: My art is able to sustain itself, while my lifestyle is supported by my day job. I work full time as an Art Consultant for Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco, California representing emerging to mid-career, Bay Area artists. I definitely have a routine. On Sunday, I either paint before or after work and Monday and Tuesday are my two major studio days. I try to paint a little daily after my day job depending on the need and stage of my paintings. If I am not painting, I spend the time still on my art researching opportunities, maintaining contacts, making everything current and gathering materials. My material requires various drying times and I am able to work on more than one painting at the same time ... an approach that is not for everyone, but it works for me.
MICHAEL: I didn't know you worked at Hang Art! I visited there a few years ago. I love that gallery ... both locations. It's certainly one of my favorite galleries in the nation because it seems so accessible to everyday people. In fact, I've mentioned Hang Art in one of my books as a great place for people to go and buy art because the dealers seem approachable and there are flexible purchase options. It's serious, contemporary art without the attitude. Feel free to use that in a promotion!
PIERO: Always a small world once you start to tug at it. That is wonderful feedback I will surely share. I have been with them for over five years. I started as an intern my senior year of high school and then I would work for them anytime I was home from college. Once I graduated, I left Maryland and went right into a full-time position. I have remained with Hang for the very reasons you mention. Hang is very near and dear to me, in fact, they have also been my primary gallery representation in San Francisco for the past couple of years.
MICHAEL: You attended art school clear across the country at the Maryland Institute College of Art where you graduated with honors. Why did you decide to go there?
PIERO: MICA came to present at my high school and I fell in love my junior year. In some ways I would say I was even blind for my love of the school and it always remained my first choice. I felt I had a strong foundation in the “western” school of art and I really wanted to explore the differences the east coast would offer artistically and socially. I had a fascinating experience early on when few people knew me or where I was from. In a critique, someone would inevitably inquire about my artwork and ask if I was from the west coast. I greatly appreciate the training I received from MICA and I created profound relationships with students and faculty alike. Ultimately, Baltimore had really worn on me and I was very eager to return west. Turns out I am not the biggest fan of the cold, snow or the extreme humidity.
MICHAEL: Cold and snow? It's a cool art city, but try living in Buffalo, New York for two years! Now, on to your art. Based upon what I've seen, I would say that what you're doing right now appears spare, modern and minimal, but it's really sophisticated, highly cerebral and emotion driven ... or so, it seems that way to me. Large blocks of color with expressive highlights. A few of your pieces look like actual marble walls. What are you thinking when you paint?
PIERO: You honed right in. I paint most closely out of flow and color field traditions. I am thinking about how I can create something that can be many things, but not one thing in particular. I love to hear viewer response to my paintings, for one person the artwork is so concretely stone while for another the same painting is a deep bruise. I feel like both answers are equally correct and this dialogue with abstraction is what excites me. I try to stay current with art & design magazines looking at where my paintings could go in a home and what they could contribute to a space. In fact, some of my favorite projects are commissioned artworks. Many of my color palates come directly from nature like sunsets, flowers and stones. I feel these reference points immediately ground the works to natural phenomena. There is a large process of discovery and dialogue with each painting and I don’t always know where the action of painting will lead. Painting for me is a wonderful dance of giving and taking with problem solving around every corner.
MICHAEL: At the risk of sounding like an art snob, I really dislike the link that exists between art and home decor. It gives me a headache and I think it really causes people to miss the whole point of art. Of course, we both know that this is the most effective way to get beginners to actually buy art, but as an artist, don't you really want people to appreciate the art for its own sake?
PIERO: Art and Design are two star-crossed lovers. Some of the best fine art I have seen this past year was in photographs of spaces in Elle Décor Magazine. Personally, I would like to see “décor funds” go to original art and supporting an artist rather than another mass-produced vintage reproduction poster in a cheap black frame. I think as you mention, it’s a point of entry. The idea of “art for art sake” is a slippery slope. Does the objective of one viewer vs. another qualify or disqualify the intrinsic value and does monetary value disqualify the notion of art for art sake? These were previous benchmarks of deciphering, but followed over time it becomes retroverted. Many of the originators of the art for art sake model initially did not sell, were eventually bought or found, deemed important and now large monetary values match these arts for art sake ideals. I think the appreciation exists, but may not always be articulated in ways we're taught to hear. I have found what may start as a decoration turn into a love, in some cases an addiction to collecting. For me, art for art sake begins and ends with the artist. I hope once a painting is completed it will be able to find a home. A painting has a life of its own and living with art will inevitably and undoubtedly affect the way one lives, even if the journey starts above the sofa.
MICHAEL: Hmm. Interesting. I still don't love the connection. Finally Piero, it seems that despite the state of the economy, the multitude of artists out there always seems to be struggling on various fronts. You appear to have your head above water. As you work toward becoming a full-time artist, any thoughts about all of this?
PIERO: Firstly, thank you for your time Michael. It’s a tragic situation I hope is only temporary. I think the key thing is to keep making, keep pushing forward and continue trying to carve a path. I keep finding that even artists who are successful are still struggling one way or another. I think in this battle of being an artist and staying afloat, perseverance is golden.
MICHAEL: I totally agree. Thanks Piero. I hope you'll stay in touch even when we're not conducting an interview.
PIERO: Thank you again, this was highly enjoyable.To learn more about Piero's work, check out his website at www.pierospadaro.com