W R I T T E N · W OR K







by Robert Ranieri, 2018


We are always receiving information within our environment. Questions may be asked of us, or we may ponder infinite varieties of conditions from the world. Some we may answer in due course, though often, answers are irrelevant or need more time.
Some troubles may foster answers soon enough, but we may want to alleviate any immediate need for resolution. Choices made can have enduring consequences. One can say that life itself is being shaped accordingly. Results may be unimaginable beforehand.
I could not have anticipated much, if anything, of the way my life has been.

A parallel motif occurs as a person begins when, as a child we are a nice compact
blob of water clay full of potential for a promising life. We are squeezed and shaped into
beneficial configurations, having positive outcomes in mind. Parental guidelines reign.

Becoming an artist seemed to be my only choice. There were plenty of reasons
for this. As mentioned elsewhere, my parent's cultural back round fostered the arts. It was
noted early enough that I was a dreamer. More likely to stare out the window than be
attentive to what was going on.

Seemingly unformed as soft clay, I was slow to learn basic truths. A cloud seemed
to be over my head. A feeling of being rejected. A latent fear that may have delayed a
more favorable outcome when in situations requiring participation in public settings. Thanks to my parents, I heard good standard English, and eventually good classical
Italian. Elsewhere on this site, you will see my comments about my grandparents, and a
brief mention of their lives.

Years later, I was chosen to give a high school graduation speech in front of several hundred students. Not because of noteworthy grades, but my bearing and language skill, and a discerning English teacher encouraged me. I was terrified, but got through it. Even when living in New York City, and had been singing in large choral groups, when I had to sing solos, or sing important roles in opera, including the title roll in the Marriage of Figaro, (staged by a very small opera company), I remained scared, not quite prepared. Most of the cast of singers had drama coaches; my learning was derived from seeing others on stage; and culled also from pictures.
But for a generous devotion to the amazing beauty of the music itself, trying
to memorize words without a libretto firmly attached to sound, fused to the drama, some
anxiety might linger.

Shyness gone, when I began college teaching. Students might show caution,
and a vulnerable state, which got my attention, and I would be willing to assist in
anyway I could.

From being a lump of wet clay, I slowly hardened into concrete.
So now though, I use concrete for landscape architecture projects. My main work
is the art of painting, and has been so for life. On occasion, I muse over the times when my father is seen bent over his high counter, designing his muslin cloth shapes that he would make, sections at a time, then trace onto the back of each area of fur, to cut from the entire pelt he bought beforehand. Only rarely, his muttering could be heard in frustration.
He was shaping a three dimensioned form by coordinating flat shapes.
His customers, women, might have to appear for an extra 'fitting.' Fur from an
animal was difficult to work. He used a tailor's padded female torso on wheels, midway in the assembling part, as he did for every garment in cloth. I had to think of my father often when I would be designing stencils or complex molds for sculpture castings.
Indoors or out, large scale work is always a challenge. Of necessity, I usually work alone. Like the Tin Man from the movie, The Wizard Of Oz, I sometimes yearn for an oil can, to inject several squirts into damaged knees.
Years ago, when I needed an e-mail address, I chose (Tin) Dante. I cherished the great bard's poetry, and was no stranger to metal, though I'm amused by the oblique con-text. [I have often used rust tinged junkyard metal in concrete].
Painting is usually much less arduous. Of course large or multi-panel paintings
can pose certain problems. With the application of brushed on paint, an image can be
quickly formed. Acrylic paint dries quickly, though at times oil has been useful.

Quick changes can be seen, that establish valid alternatives in image making.
Broad shifts in space organization induce an excitement. Perceived distances may look
to be twenty inches apart or instead over twenty feet, one hundred feet. Thus presenting ambivalent choices.
This is one of the ineffable mysteries that are often there. Quick shifts of color in the layering. Exacting arching taught lines brushed with a persistent curiosity about the
results as they evolve. Drafting skill. New and strange; we learn to incorporate new forms. The next morning, verify with 'postage stamp' diagrams for the right choice.

Back to looking to the out of doors; it never gets old when we see a deer or two
stirring themselves, then to meander through the tall grass, in the field beyond our front
door and the quick moving stream.

When painting, it is understood that I will make many directional changes, with
the necessity of creating newly torqued events. Is it compact overlays, a system on top
of a system, each one requiring precise drafting? No manner of 'moves' are out of bounds.
One can say that bizarre shapes may be interlaced like music recalled within ones spirit. Sounds humming persistently within the corridors of the mind. Music playing in memory, supports our impulse to go beyond materiality. As in breathing. A benediction.

I developed the figure eight as a starter shape, first noticed in my paintings titled
Trajan's Villa I and II, Tibur series. This action precipitated some of the paintings on
paper, which gave me a compact shape as a welcoming containment, to emphasize the intense incursions evolving within the general confines of this shape.

There can be some satisfaction in the painting a 'portrait head.' On inspection of my two groups thus named on this site, we see a fluid concatenation of markings, both fresh and incisive. This vocabulary, this personal lexicon arises from a vastly plowed field of original material discovered during decades in living a life, at times fraught with risk, but graced.
Despite some occasional hesitation, determination; it took ardor to drive me to the discovery and acceptance of phenomena generated by an insatiable eye.
Odds and ends, decades old scraps from farm machines. A nineteenth century
potato planter, cherished booty having interesting shapes, was active within formations
of the new and strange.
From the old world and new, with incidental twists and turns, new notions of
form entered my world.

As new forms are revealed, a coordinated tactic develops. Not only was the issue of the 'head' dealt with, but every other region of thought that sparked my eye would participate in these situations. Sharp edges, feathered edges; obtrusive overlapping
could redefine a current state of a work. Done with impunity.

On moments of wonder; times when decades have past away, I see that 'still
life' I had painted as a teen, when my state of mind was clear of ego or vanity. I was pleased that that subject was well painted. My mother had a long stemmed clear glass cake-fruit stand, with a burgundy bunch of grapes, clustered on top, and flanked by a cut glass, half filled red wine decanter. I had painted it all with devotion. The grapes, freshly washed, had droplets of water here and there. I painted them as miniature see through jewels.

Before art school, l tried another work, to make a copy from a small black and white print of an angel's head, a detail from one of two Da Vinci master works, Virgin’of the Rocks,' using black and white oils, seen in my copy of his angel on this web site. Painted in a time of innocence. An icon of what was already celebrated in childhood.
Alcohol was rarely served at home. Only my father would drink a small glass of wine at Christmas diner. Old world penury and restraint.
My devotion to art persists. When I am painting one of my current works, I can be conscious of a deep responsibility. 'Mother's Peaches,' that is on my web site stirs memories of adolescent sadness. That small panel painting shows a bottle of aperitif wine from a small town of central Italy, Corfinium, near both my parent's home towns.

Inspiration comes in many guises. On review, I see unique work done over ages past, of unique qualities, miraculously preserved, and though old, can still invite yet another look; connections to history, just dog eared images shown in books.
Formed within a complex setting, I seek to demonstrate an elemental staging of 'events.' A fair number of large paintings in my studio are still to be photographed and mounted on this site, and then, they too will be noticed to express my viewpoint. Divine Providence abides.

Let's regard two sections of a large painting that occupies opposite walls, Villa series; "Villa Dei Misteri Dionysiaci.' Eight panels on four walls in a single room. Such a work of quasi turbulent effect, the result, a propelling of severe multiple odd positions; many active parts. A presage discovered earlier, for that which was to follow much later. Because on a visit to Pompeii, I saw a mural, in a very prosperous, former slave's house called (Villa Dei Misteri Dionysiaci).
This painting done sometime before 79AD, (a fresco mural related to a religious practice; Dionysian).
In my painting, chunks of strong semi figure parts are interceded with areas of filigree scrims. Certainly an introduction to my architectural painted works that followed. Two, three and four panel works. With the use of tape, I was able to establish quasi stenciled effects. Later, I cut a group of stencils, to be used in some works on paper, discussed elsewhere.
Certain acts are almost cataclysmic. At times, I felt that an assault mode was
the only way to break away from spent concepts. Impatience. One may risk everything and gain nothing. Will power; to venture away from the predictable. 'Imperious alarms.'
(Notice two, three and four panel 'Villa' paintings, I, II, III, IV, V, plus Enigma).
A culmination of this specific focus of my work, as homage to Pompeii.

My father, on his only visit to my one and only (unfinished house) said," you certainly must have a lot of courage."
My wife and I raised two wonderful children in this house. They got used to
the occasional discomfort I might cause, when indoor construction took place.
The rebuilding process is not over, though some examples of my work may be seen elsewhere, including the spiral staircase, which as a metal worker, welder, I was able to rescue, and that included assembly from scratch with important structural additions. Especially the complex landing area at the very top of the staircase, that required precision cuts, plus arc welding techniques.
Driven by determination, that kind we must often call upon, I was therefore pleased with the results, since it also gave me access to a top floor addition I had completed a year earlier that expanded our living space.
I could say that I had turned an abandoned slaughter house, into a home.
The filigree steel material here on the stairs, I was to use also as an aesthetic choice, when building my front porch, though of a much heavier expanded steel type.
It is worth noting again, that 'see through' systems had been employed in my painting
as an occasional artistic and strategic solution, over decades.

As mentioned, large scale work poses certain challenges. These formats, recognized in my work, demonstrate the absolute specificity of my subject matter, abstract symbolism, seen also even in very small works, that set the stage for protracted study.
Certainly, incisive demarcations will gain the attention of the viewer for sustained
evaluation. Abrupt transitions can cause consternation. We may be surprised by some of the effects that we see, but unusual formal color harmonies, and visual syncopation must occur emphatically.
In attending a concert with chorus, soloists, and orchestra, we can often respond
with surprise at what we hear. Unexpected, even astounding. Ultimately, we will be in awe of the skill at play. By the same token, I would like to bring our attention to the next
to last painting of the series, Villa, titled Villa Vetii III.
With this rather large three panel painting, I have employed some stencil techniques with the use of tape. Multiple 'see through' filigree effects are acquired through a layering process, to create depth and mystery. Notice large fluid movement against structured resistance. There is some pervasive softness here.
Let us regard another large work, a two panel painting done several years
later, included within the group, Mountain Refuge, and entitled Mountain Lions Attack.
As is typical in my studio work, I rarely make preparatory drawings. I'm familiar with
the actual appearance of the lion. Indeed, I have included several interpretations of it in other paintings seen on this site. Painted freely, they show my choice of a kind of older,
more 'archaic' interpretation of the lion, but more abstract and simplified, as responding to that particular context.
When I study this work, I see that improvised insertions may preside. Severely interjected; a segmenting of the lyrical flow of certain passages. With these sudden and deliberate interruptions, unexpected imaging occurs. Forceful choices from a plethora of opportunities seized from a personal history of risk taking. The new and strange.
My interest in graphic design shows, when we notice sudden intercessions of
severe cuts that slant into, or onto precise locations, to interject conditions of rich visual
consequences. Some are abrupt or fluid; painterly devices that will inevitably compound the viewing experience.

Insightful moves. No demurring required. Firm decisions made. We will be arrested by the force of actions taken. No mere plodding boredom occurs here.
Pervasive mystery abounds. An arcane adventure, discovered within a mysterious place. Unrequited yearning dismissed. Conscience endows a perhaps distraught spirit with a reprise.

We venture again; again. We can call it prayer. Very simple things may affect us.
Here and now, still here, I can be witness to multiple resolutions I've made over time,
step by step; times of doubt that filtered through cracks in the wall of conviction. Yet
I would continue to work. Vital signs still in evidence; confident in the outcome.

One small painting occurs from the series, Domus Aurea. One of the smallest of this group. As with a fair number of works on this site, it has a title associated with classical architecture. This Latin title series means Golden House. Despite its small scale, there are varied spatial shifts. Not just the doorway shape, (its own title, Entrance), which shows its more distant location, but several other forms will advance or retreat. A desired ambivalence occurs. Scrims and screens, often at play in my work. Notice some
examples cited here. Series: Villa, Mars Colony, Aventine Hill, Dante. (examples show
varied paint handling
The actual Domus Aurea is located in Rome. A vast series of large scale barrel
vaulted rooms and corridors; complex spaces, uncovered by accident. Subsequently, Renaissance artists had themselves lowered down through a discovered opening, to study the great number of frescos.
Archeologists estimate that vast acres were part of the original concept. Emperor
Nero, commissioned this enormous complex stretching over many acres. Portions were filled in or demolished after his death to make way for the Colosseum and the baths of Emperor Trajan. The Roman architects-engineers, Celer and Severus, were famous for their breakthrough concepts, unknown, in following centuries, so not available and unexploited till almost two thousand years later.
One of the principle attributes of Roman architecture shows a complete change in
attitude, from the previous centuries emphasis on the appearance of a formal building's exterior, to a major concentration on the design and usage of interior space. Essentially creating spaces for public use, monumental bathhouses, libraries, theaters, arenas, etc.
Previous monumental building and domestic architecture, used the 'post and lintel' support system, manifested by buildings of a squared format and intended to be viewed from the outside. Public building was essentially a backdrop for events to take place outside, out of doors.
Historical evidence indicates that important cultural centers developed around
Roman forts. As a matter of course, the legions, at sites near and far away, would soon build a bathhouse structure near a significant water supply, a strategic location for defense, that would eventually become a town with local inhabitants forming active settlements.
Aided by their discovery of concrete, the Romans developed interior space formed into a complex of varied shapes and purpose, within formal civic architecture and villas, or vast transformations of terrain, for civic (public), or private use. Some hillsides were transformed. The Sanctuary Of Fortuna at Praeneste, now Palestrina. An entire hill slope, was shaped with rising tiers of steps, alternating in sequence by plazas, to conclude with a barrel vaulted semi- circular ring building design, at the top. (Palestrina), a site destined to become an important political center.

At Nice, an entire hillside was adapted to grain grinding with 16 over shot and
undershot waterwheels and milling stones, to grind grain for the daily bread, that would feed 40,000 residents of that city of Arles, France.
The value of volcanic ash became a much desired material added to mortar with patterned or infill positioning of shaped ceramic and rock courses, part of concrete formulas. As their concrete heated during curing, the ash material might turn into glass, forming a density, such that structures could even be cured under water. Many constructions exist to this day.
This material deposited during many centuries of accumulations from volcano eruptions, especially the regions around Naples, Italy. (Mt Vesuvius).
Vast systems of wooden molds, 'shuttering', 'false work,' (where designed as only temporary support for the multi ton concrete monumental shapes, while curing). Arches, circular vaulting systems; river and valley crossings, (bridges and aqueducts, and domes like the Pantheon). Some of the surviving villas or their 'footprint,' reveal complex shapes joined in fluid transitions from area to area, some with diverse axial alignments.
Celer and Severus innovated a dome within a dome. The 'Octagon Room, just a small portion of Domus Aurea.

"recondite harmonies, of diverse beauty;"
"art and its mysteries, the diverse beauties together confound" (us).
{Puccini’s opera Tosca); a tenor sings these words, as he paints a portrait of the Madonna.(with an extra romantic twist)

do not entangle the self, find an exact place
yearned heretofore. enter the crypto portico.
we know it is dark. speak orisons to mark miles;
such a long way. some brightness. we witness step
by step conviction. such mistakes forgiven? vital signs
in evidence. reach out to feel the light within trembling
hands. confidence in the outcome. immediate resolutions.
spared. graced by surprising gains in a long way to go again.
to begin with such naive thoughts. now with new evidence to
transcend. to see ahead just enough, not to have to stumble still.




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