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Sunset and stars, for Martha. Acrylic paint and Encaustics. San Diego, 2003.

 

I finished this painting with encaustics (wax dripping) in 2003, for Martha, my oldest and dearest friend in San Diego.

This is how the painting looked for years:
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I was dissatisfied with it.
It just seemed an ‘experiment’ with golden acrylics, was too heavy on the left side and just, in general, looked like a 90’s Dave Matthews Band CD cover gone wrong.

While there were some reedeming moments ( the night sky/ starry side had a loveliness to it) the demarcation line was too abrupt and the piece as a whole did not make sense
.
So, I took it back sometimes in 2010 to ‘work on it’. Poor Marthita..who does that? Thank you, ever-patient friend.

This untitled ‘thing’ sat on an empty wine rack in my kitchen for years, becoming mine again, in a way, a de facto piece of furniture.
I was at a loss…I knew I had to give it back at some point, yet had no idea how to fix this obvious statement on dichotomy that just looked wrong.

Enter Beverly. One night, a couple months ago, my very eclectic, ageless, artist neighbor Bev was talking to Mingus, her black cat ( I am pretty sure it’s a familiar 😉 ) on the walkway we shared.
It was one of those rare days my place was guest-ready, so I invited her in for a glass. She was interested in the painting on the easel, still turned the ‘wrong’ way. I shared my conundrum with her. She just walked up to it and said ‘What if you turn it this way?.
Now, “thing” was a fiery California sunset. She found the sea in the paint, and it took 12 years.

Something like this gives me faith that everything comes into its own in time.
That timing is always right.
That years are necessary.
That the right person comes in and points to you what has being staring you in the face, what you could not see.
Thank you, Bev.

….
Below, a flipped, filtered version I think
it really is what this painting wants to be, in its dreams.

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We’re Always Under Stars

 

You took me star-gazing
the first night
I was looking for Orion.

(when i went home
I found him,
hung low over my window
at 5 am.
I could never sleep
after you.)

You shared the impossible poetry of Hikmet, which nobody in their right mind should reveal to someone they just met.

On the second day
you came with your convertible,
the passenger side devastated
by an accident.
I had to get in from your side,
for a month.
Climbing in, crossing over,
my body awkwardly tilted while trying to maintain grace in my version of
a courtship.
I did not mind, not one time – though I always forgot.

I should have, maybe, read the sign.
Instead, I thought it was endearing
it meant you had your wounds, too.
I did not feel so bad about my messy house, my scars.

We drove to the beach,
California style.
It was a semi-deserted nudist beach, and we had to hike a steep cliff
to get there.
There was always a sense of the
unexpected
with you.

We talked while girls with bouncing boobs
and men with various appendages
were too away for us to really see
–I was, at once, at ease with and acutely aware of the french strangeness of the situation–
another would have thought about
how progressive it all was.
Unaware until later that that was a choice, I kept my top on.
In hindsight, perhaps,
you were testing my boundaries.

When you touched me,
you touched me
the sun kissed me
another star, on our second date.
We dipped in Mediterranean warmth.

I looked at you
like Sicily looks at Calabria
over the Strait.

I thought this time things would be
different, because we shared the same language.
I forgot stars rise and set at night, too.
And we are always under them.

 

San Diego, November 2015

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Gianni Aiello. Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1970’s. Italy.

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Gianni Aiello (Papa’). Liguria, Italia. Possibly 1972.

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Gianni Aiello (Papa’) with cousin Giuseppe, next to the fishing shack La Baracca. 1972 (to be verified;))

As promised months ago (ehm), finally, the  series on my larger-than-life father, Gianni Aiello, begins.

My father is the son of a fisherman, and his life is the sea.  He is a true Calabrese, wandering about as a young man but returning to settle in his native land, by his Ionian shore.  After helping his father as a teenager, he became a policeman and an athlete.  At 22 he was shot in the line of duty during a hostage siege on the island of Sardinia.  A series of operations on the right side of his jaw left him scarred and looking like one of the bad guys.  Later, in his thirties, he and his Swiss brother-in-law, zio Marco, started a motorboat shop and storage plus Suzuki reseller.  Whenever i think of the officina each summer I smell fiberglass and see my dad, tan and shirtless in the sun, lifting concrete deadweights, putting outboards to water, and sometimes building boats from resin shells brought by the sea.

Always working with his hands, never far away from his sea, and returning to his passion off-season : fishing with traditional nets.

As a young policeman in Venice in the 60’s, my dad crashed art classes at the Accademia and hung out with artists and misfits.  I collected here the paintings from his youth that are still in the house where he grew up.  He lives there, beachfront, near the fishing shack his father built and that he turned into a work of art (more on this later).

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Gianni Aiello. 1970’s. Venezia. Italy.

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Gianni Aiello. 1970’s. Venezia. Italy.

Throughout it all, my dad is drawing boats, boats and fish, boats and fish and fishermen (my grandfather used to do the same on the edge of the newspaper). He is carving boats out of olive wood, making miniature fishing boats, and painting boats. He is constantly making or repairing stuff: cleaning and mending the nets, repairing the motor of his WWII Jeep ‘the Americans left’ , or adding to his living art installation, the fishing shack, or Baracca, of which I shared glimpses here (as it was) , here and here, and that stops tourists in their tracks. He is adding hand carved kitchen utensils for the house on the hill, or scavenging old farmhouses for vintage furniture, when he is not working on his fishing boat, Elena.

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Gianni Aiello. 1977.

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Gianni Aiello. 1978.

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Gianni Aiello. 2000’s. Calabria. Italia.

He is a busy craftsman – I am sure by now you can gather Gianni is a character.  He is a fisherman, a painter, a drawer, a sculptor, a designer and a coffee maker.  Above all, he is a dreamer, even though his gruff side would balk at this. The whole library of my adolescence was made up of books that made my dad, and, in the frontispiece there would always be a page of his diary, part of his itinerant memoir.
Sometimes he would mention a woman, or life on the road.  Sometimes he would copy a poem, or write to himself.

One time he wrote to me, when I was one year old – he was (only) 30.

They were revolutionary books and novels of magical realism. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Bernard Malamud, the Anarchist Black Book, Roots, Black Boy, Mao Tse Tung’s Red Manual, Hemingway, Garcia Lorca…so on and so forth.

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Gianni Aiello. 1970’s.

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Gianni Aiello. 1975.

My father doesn’t paint on canvas or draw on paper these days, but his whole world is art, full of sculpture and artifacts.

Whenever I visit home, I ‘make’ my dad draw me something for my collages or prompt him to start on some art project. Inevitably, we end up collaborating…here, here and here  .  For years, these times were the only way we could spend hours together without arguing.  Even though my dad would tease me when he saw me with my sketchbook (do you make any money with that?) he was always happy do art with me.
Today, he is used to see me going to work cutting up magazines while we watch Italian drama…  and he even offers suggestions.

In December 2011, my mom, dad and I were in Milano for the Holidays and one day my dad announces: “Let’s go buy some paints!”. It was a happy hunt through the half shuttered down city. This is the result:

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