Carlo Pittore — The Impossible Dream

Carlo Pittore in Carlo’s yurt/studio in Bowdoinham, 1976, photo by Robert Lacy.

There are no exceptions: without independence there can be no art.

The history of art tells us that all powerful artists broke with the past, and with their contemporaries, and created independently. Giotto broke with Cimabue and the Byzantine tradition and developed space. Michelangelo broke with classical norms, and created the anxiety forehead of a troubled David, in an otherwise ideal form. Caravaggio forsook the ideal of light, and worked his honest realism in the shadowy world of darks.

Cezanne said it: ‘If you admire me, do not imitate me’.

It is 1984 and I cannot pretend that I understand the contemporary art, in a world that is so diverse, so multifaceted, so large; one must make pronouncements with trepidation, and humility, and the knowledge that sloganeering is not adequate to art, nor are definitions that were useful previously. And then, who can really care about the opinions of a relatively undistinguished and youthful painter? Can my opinions really be pertinent, or provocative to the art minds of our day?

Carlo Pittore. Sketchbook Frontispiece. Ink, Stamp and Watercolor. 12” x 8.5”. 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

When I think of independence in art, I have several responses. Firstly, for me, independence is the pursuit of every artist. It is not a static concept, but a movement, like the verb of a painting. Independence is the process of becoming free of illusions, clichés, habits, routines, mundanities, formulas, gimmicks; of becoming free of history, the present and the future; of developing the courage and the conviction to advance in art areas that have been forsaken, overlooked, or neglected.

You may have heard a little song I composed a few years ago called” ‘There are only two seasons in Maine, Winter and the Fourth of July’, this sums up my view on independence (July 4th) in that everything that is NOT a celebration of freedom, of independence, is boring, snowbound, frigid, cold, unmovable, dead – like freezing grey skies of winter in Maine.

Carlo Pittore. Circo Bidone – Sketchbook Pages. Ink and watercolor. 24” x 8.5” 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

Secondly, for me, Painting is my art of independence. Although Painting is a long-standing and universal cultural tradition, it is still original and fresh – or can be. It is not the dead or outmoded art form that one hears about in our Post Modern Age, although a lot of painting today is dead or outmoded. For those who say that the tradition is antiquated, or used up, that the system of painting is irrelevant to our age, I can only respond with the example of my life, where I pursue painting not unaware of its limitations – it has always had limitations – but in hopes of my achieving a breakthrough, that will allow me to experience, exuberantly, my own independence, and afford me the opportunity of revitalizing, and enhancing this existence.

For me Painting is making love. It is not like making love, but it is making love.

Painting is emotional, instinctive, inspiring, and life enhancing. It is my raison d’etre, my backbone, and it provides me with the courage, and the will, to pursue forcefully. However slim the ‘hope’ of making eternal love to the universe.

Carlo Pittore. We Are Contenders. Ink, Collage and Photocopy on Paper. 13” x 8.5” IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

Painting has strengthened my eyes, my mind, my coordination, my resolution for living and although I am already at an age when it would have been to my advantage to have achieved some forceful original vision, that I have not, has not overwhelmed me with discouragement.

Carlo Pittore. Emanuel. Ink and watercolor. 12” x 8.5”. 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

Thirdly, painting is painting, and I am now independent in terms of pursuing painting for itself. There is no carrot outstretched in front of me. I am not seeking approval, fame, or fortune. I am pursuing powerful painting for its own sake.

My reward in painting is painting. I am, I can say, blessed, in that I have found what best motivates me. I am happily wedded to painting, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, and this UNION and this satisfaction provides me with the sustaining faith – of my eventual triumph, or, to carry the metaphor to its conclusion, that this UNION will produce, will give birth, will create.

Carlo Pittore. Circo Bidone – Sketchbook Pages. Ink and watercolor. 24” x 8.5” 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

Fourthly, I am able to sustain this tenuous hope, this belief in true creativity, because I am independent from reality and accountability. The belief in the realization of the impossible dream is difficult to relate, as any unrequited lover can tell you; but does any unrequited lover cease to love the loved one, even when spurned? Love is made of the finest stuff and is not based on preconceptions of reward, the convictions of success, or making this dead art of painting come alive, it is based on independence from experience, and on the transcending power of dream. It is the source of all art.

Carlo Pittore. How to be a Great Artist. Ink on Paper. 17” x 11”. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

The external facts of encouragement are really non-existent. The world we live in is almost wholly commercial and run by philistine bourgeois interests, for profit. One sustains the writing of poetry, or pursues a disavowing lover because one hopes and believes against all odds, because the pursuit of this impossibility defies all sadness, and all the loneliness that is forever threatening to engulf all. The independent act of pursuing love must be the most beautiful, most sublime activity known to human kind. The joy of this pursuit, the very joy of life. Of course it is much easier to follow an action when guaranteed of success. How functional! How business-like! But this is not the situation in art.

Art is that game where there is no winning/losing, no profit no loss. Art is its own reward, it is a pursuit, and it is the sustenance of dream and the faith of achievement. Art is the independent religion; each artist the Independent Priest of Independence.The true believer is rewarded with the possibility of wholeness, health, happiness, and eternal life.

Carlo Pittore. Circo Bidone. Ink and watercolor. 12” x 8.5” 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

In an age when fashion and commercial interests have so overwhelmed the art world, the example of Michelangelo is still instructive.The great Michelangelo was not motivated by money or fame, but by the greatest motivating factor, in art, the quest to become free, and independent from loneliness and solitude. It is an ironic situation for one who labors long hours alone. When Michelangelo took his chisel and threw it at his marble sculpture of MOSES, he did so because Moses would not respond to him. Indeed, he had failed. Moses did not speak. And yet, didn’t God create the world because he was alone? If the art of poetry, sculpture, and painting cannot free one from solitude, the suggestion that it can and will, remain as the promise. And what one surely achieves from art and in the pursuit of art, is independence.

Carlo Pittore. Why the Union of Maine Visual Artists will always live. Ink. 24” x 8.5”. 1982. IMAGE COURTESY: International Artists Manifest

And so, in this spirit of independence, I salute my comrades-in-arms, and I look forward to the day in the future, when we will be united and in celebration on Mount Parnassus.

Coraggio. Forza!

1984

Carlo Pittore. Untitled Photograph. 3.5” x 5”. 1982. PHOTO CREDIT: Trissy Callan.

The entirety of Carlo’s estate is now being cared for by International Artists Manifest (IAM), a non-profit organization founded with the mission to ‘Remember the Artist.’ IAM takes on the collections of under-represented artists to ensure their work is cared for, preserved and made relevant for future generations. http://www.iammanifest.org. IAM encourages anyone who is interested in keeping current on happenings with the organization, or specifically with Carlo’s work to sign up for our mailing list.