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Every day I work at building my particular life in the arts…through this work I seek to connect to others and nature…in the early years of my career my time was focused on designing and building fine furniture…for the past 15 years I have devoted most my time to creating oil paintings…my particular path has allowed me to meet and spend time with iconic figures of the creative realm…meaningful time with people like Sam Maloof and Wendell Castle helped me to understand what it means to be an artist and craftsman…

I spent over 16 years teaching young adults how to create with their hands, heads, and hearts; nothing informs your own creative practice more than when you share it with others and nurture their development…I have had the good fortune to build significant and long-standing friendships with other talented and highly accomplished artisans right here in New Jersey…people like Glen Guarino, Frank Pollaro and Judy O’Donnell…they are cherished friends and artistic mentors…

I work daily to deepen my technical and historical understanding of the artists that have preceded me…countless hours spent researching all kinds of craftspeople and painters…I seek out other writers and artistic travelers who are gifted in articulating how craft, art and culture all combine to mark our time here now, as well as where we have been.  Here is more of my story…

Wood and Paint


            Oil painting was a revelation for me. I had been building and teaching furniture making for over 15 years when I felt the pull of this special medium. When I combined a painting practice with my experience as a cabinetmaker, things really began to get exciting. I felt the possibility at once for expressing emotion in my art in a way I had craved for many years in my furniture and woodworking pieces of art.

            I have produced and studied the art of marquetry for over thirty years. It is this specialized branch of fine woodworking that prepared me to be an oil painter. Marquetry is the cutting and assembly of thin pieces of different wood varieties to form of a picture or pattern; the resulting “picture” is typically then applied to a piece of furniture. The Met, Getty and Louvre are filled with incredible testaments to this unique art form. Marquetry is often referred to as painting with wood. So, for me, the transition to painting was quite natural. The preparation of composition and execution often follow similar rhythms and execution.

The Power of Place


            My family and I have traveled to Cape Cod, specifically the outer Cape, for over 25 years. I spent time on the Cape as a child when my parents would leave our home outside of Hartford, Connecticut to spend a week in a tiny cottage set alongside the beaches of Dennisport. As an adult visiting the Cape with my own young family, something there tipped the artistic medium scales for me, and I took up oil painting on the back deck of the house we customarily rented each year in Eastham.

            I had no idea that the sea, landscape, and light that was moving me to paint had done the same for so many other artists before me. As I excavated the vast history of this place my painting practice grew. I then connected to my own home landscapes and the beautiful shores here in New Jersey where I live. Once this sensitivity to place and environment was stimulated and awakened, I have been moved to paint so many other gorgeous places. From Ireland to California to Greece.

Formal Education


            My degree from Drew University, Madison, NJ is in Economics. Of the social sciences, it seemed the most practical to me. I thought a benefit of a degree in economics was that I could fashion a career that might allow me to contribute to my broader sense of community, i.e., making a difference in the world. For me that meant building. My dream at that time was building low cost, yet high quality, housing. I would need to learn the world of non-profit economic development first. What I did not realize then, was that although it was building in the broad sense, it was not the hands-on making that I truly craved.


             One of my first jobs in the economic development realm was as project manager for a non-profit, called the Montclair Mainstreet Project. Part of my duties included being a liaison to all the business owners up and down Bloomfield Avenue in what is Montclair’s largest business district. One of those business owners was a woman named Marie Guarino. It is at this time that I started to become enthralled by Fine Woodworking through books and magazines. I shared this with Marie one afternoon and she mentioned that her husband, Glen was in fact a fine woodworker specializing in sculptural woodwork and taught woodworking full time.


            Marie introduced me to Glen. Glen is one of the most generous human beings I have ever met. He invited me to help him out at night on his own work and attend some of his classes at Kean College. Glen went on to help connect me to the network of high-end custom woodworking shops in Northern New Jersey in the eighties. All these years later he is still a cherished friend and mentor. He also still produces incredibly beautiful furniture that features sculptural shapes and sensuous surfaces often in exotic hardwoods.


             After some soul searching, I made the jump out of the world I knew and into a new world of building, craft, and art. I landed a job at a high-end custom cabinet shop in Montclair. It was the end of the high-flying eighties and people were still ordering lots of complicated and often expensive furniture that would be custom made for their homes or apartments in Manhattan. Cozzolino Brothers built all manner of this kind of furniture and added the element of super high-end finishes to their pieces. This was the first job I had in this new land.


            By far the best thing about my first job in a shop producing high end custom furniture was meeting Frank Pollaro. At Cozzolino I was initiated into the complex mechanics of custom woodworking, but it was beginning my friendship with Frank that has had the greatest lasting impact.


            It was 1989 and Frank had found shop space in a group of 100-year-old industrial buildings in East Orange. He asked me to share some of his newly acquired space for my own one-man shop. Even at the early age of twenty-two, Frank had a unique confidence and command of craft; and we both shared a particular kind of ambition to see how far we could take our love of making and building.


            While still working at Cozzolino and before Frank approached me to move my shop in next to his, I had rented space in Newark’s Ironbound District. I encountered some challenging things in that first shop, but on the plus side I could watch the sunset over the open skies by Newark Airport-and could see the planes coming and going from my vantage point.


            Despite some of the advantages to that Newark shop, it did not take me long to join Frank. So, I packed what machines and tools I had been able to scrape together up to that point and moved into space adjoining Frank and his whole crew of cabinetmakers. I not only got a bit brighter and nicer space but became part of a whole consortium of other young craftsman. That exposure proved incredibly influential in shaping the artist and craftsman I have become.


            Pollaro today is one of handful of shops that produce the finest handmade furniture in the world. That sounds like hyperbole, but once you walk through the doors of Pollaro’s Hillside, NJ location its unique status is apparent.


            It was my association with Pollaro that allowed me to work on an elaborate marquetry project that celebrated Jim Hensen. We inlaid Jim’s earliest characters into a three-sided desk for Hensen’s New York headquarters. A few years later I would part of a team working on Steinway art case pianos. I produced several marquetry panels for Steinway Art case pianos while at Pollaro. I also had the chance to continually work with internationally acclaimed architects and designers.

Building a Family, Teaching Children…


              I should mention here, it was at this time that I became a father; I am blessed with a twenty-five-year-old son and twenty-two-year-old daughter. Working in high-end cabinet shops requires many long days and usually working weekends. I began to seek ways to balance my existence and be at home more, to work side by side with my wife, to raise our children in the manner we thought best. So again, with Glen Guarino’s help and introductions, I made a leap out of the high-end contract furniture making world and into the world of teaching art and furniture making to high school students in Mahwah, NJ.


            Once again, I did not necessarily plan on such a move, but as it evolved, I realized how wonderful it could be. I was still immersed in the world of art and craft, but now could share my enthusiasm and knowledge of the making process with young people, eager to do hands on work.


            I spent over sixteen years in that position in Mahwah building a program I remain immensely proud of today. I taught students with diverse life experiences and dreams of what to do with their lives. Ultimately, I worked to teach them the joy of making. Many of those students, now adults, are working as fine artists, contractors, engineers, designers, businesspeople, teachers, health professionals and so on. What I hope is that they are just a bit more confident and joyful when they try to build in their own lives. I am particularly proud to write that many of them stay in touch with me and even visit my annual art shows.


            Teaching afforded me time to further develop my own fine art skills. I often taught myself a new medium so that I might teach a unit on that topic to my students. Woodcut printmaking is one such medium. I also started to oil paint at this time.


            Oil painting did feel like a calling of sorts. I had been mixing colors for a long time as part of furniture finishing and I had worked extremely hard to master the art of marquetry as a key part to my woodworking skill set. Thus, fine art painting was really a natural outgrowth of this other work. Painting began to feed the decades old yearning I had for a medium that was a little more direct and immediate as a creative means to express myself.


            I left full time teaching in 2019. During the later years of my teaching career my wife, sister and I had created solo shows to display the annual output of art production. Paintings, mixed media pieces often featuring some elements of my woodworking specialties were displayed. We have continued this tradition, celebrating our 10th show this past Fall. The show has grown to the extent that we now can count over seventy-five collectors of my work. Many families own multiple pieces of mine and I continue to be grateful and humbled by the privilege of my work hanging in their homes.

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