For a long time now, I have been interested in squares with five sides. Most people call these pentagons, but I donít because of the obvious political implications. Letís just say that a square with five sides is far more interesting than a square with four sides. My work is often about things involving five; five letters to Filippo Lippi, as well as a variation on the painting that Filippo might have painted after receiving those five letters, five new red Prada pope shoes. Some of those works are here. I am also interested in things that donít involve five, and some of those are also here.
Ever since I was a child, I have been very interested in Italy. Although I am not Italian, I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Buffalo, was heavily influenced by my Italian friends and their parents and worked for a number of years in a restaurant in Buffalo that was owned by an Italian gentleman and frequented by the mafia. I also like to travel to Italy, and very much like the way the Italian people live their lives. Someday I may live there. Although I donít understand much Italian, I like the way it sounds, and of course I like the Pope. It is hard not to like somebody who rides around in something called the popemobile and waves to people.
When I was in college, I didnít like art history courses because they were so boring. A visiting professor from the University of Siena came to our school and taught a course on Renaissance art. It wasnít the least boring because he would tell stories about the artists and they seemed like real people. I decided right then that if I ever became a teacher, I would tell stories about artists. Needless to say, that had a lot of influence on what I did during my 35 years as a teacher.
One of the professorís stories was about Fra Filippo Lippi, the great Italian Renaissance madonna painter. It seems that a nun at a convent in Florence, by the name of Lucrezia Buti, who modeled for a madonna painting by Filippo, became pregnant and gave birth to a baby who would become to be known as Filippino Lippi, who, incidentally, turned out to be a pretty good madonna painter himself. As you might guess, since Filippo was a monk, and Lucrezia was a nun, their love affair was quite scandalous and the Pope and the Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) got involved in the scandal. Itís a long and involved story but it marked a turning point in art when Lorenzo, frustrated with the Popeís relentless attacks on his favorite painter, declared that artists no longer had to obey the rules of men (or god for that matter). This, of course, gave artists the freedom that they continue to enjoy today. Some of my work is about that incident. All of it is about freedom.