A film-in-progress by Richard Kane and Robert Shetterly
The Maine Masters upcoming film on Carlo Pittore, one of a passionate group of artists who founded the Union of Maine Visual Artists in 1975, opens a window on the perception of experience and the definition of beauty. We interviewed a number of Carlo’s friends, curators, fellow artists who say it best:
Carl Little, Art Author: “When I walked into this Carlo Pittore show at the University of Maine Museum of Art, I saw flesh, I saw Rosie creased, flesh, flesh, human flesh. There’s a forward and a direct manner in his paint handling. It’s just juicy. It’s laid on with just great gusto. . . .
And I think that that’s part of Pittore’s genius. Being able to represent the human body in all of its glorious, relaxed, natural state. You know, immediately one thinks of Alice Neel, because she’s so well known for doing a similar kind of work, and Lucian Freud. But Carlo, I think, has a similar rawness and a similar straightforwardness to his figures . . . they hold you and sometimes disturb you because they’re so true to nature.”
Abby Shahn, painter: “I was staying in these people’s loft and on Broome street, visiting friends—this economist guy and his poet wife. And there was going to be a big art party upstairs in this loft building. And it was going to be all these important . . . making connections. And I said that I had apocalypse fever—is what I call it, that suddenly-New York-was-just-too-much-for-me. . . . So there’s this party upstairs. And she invited me to come and I said, I don’t want to go. She said ‘I just had some of Stevie Wonder’s cocaine and your friend Charles Stanley’s here.’ So, I thought, okay, I’ll go say hello to Carlo. So I went upstairs cause you did know Carlo was Charles, right? and there’s this art party and everybody’s everything I hate about the art world. You know all these people kind of making their points and trying to get their careers online and talking to important people and all that crap, you know. And in the middle of it all there’s Carlo and he has these little calling cards and the calling cards have a picture of himself tooting his own horn and he’s passing them out to everybody. And I just thought, you know, what a beautiful commentary on that whole scene. And I suddenly realized that he was, he was a deep clown. He was a beautiful clown, but a deep one. And I think that’s when I began to sort of look into him more deeply.”
Bob Holman, poet: “when I say that he was a Jester in the court of the King . . . there was a way in which he brought the truth in a kind of comedic fashion, which was the Jester’s job (with) little bells on the side of his hat ringing all the time trying to distract the attention of those in power who were ready to chop off his head if he should fail. So . . . I think there was a sense of the world being ready to chop off his head.”
Edgar Allen Beem, art critic, freelance journalist: “you know, you ask, how do you remember him? With Carlo it’s how do you forget him? He was just one of these bigger-than-life characters and bigger-than-life because he invented himself. And that always seemed to me to be his greatest creation was how he managed to transform Charles Stanley into Carlo Pittore.
. . . one of the battles that he fought all of his professional life, was a battle that most artists don’t even know they should be fighting. It drove him nuts that museums and galleries would charge entrance fees for juried shows, and he thought it was just insulting that an artist should be asked to pay for the right to be juried, let alone pay for the right to show their work, when in fact, the galleries and the museums exist solely to show the work of artists. And the idea that they would charge artists for the vetting process! I started out not really understanding what the issue was and the more time I spent with Carlo and the closer we got, we started out as kind of adversaries and ended up as dear, dear friends.”
Clarity Haynes, painter: “so when I would go to visit him, it was like boot camp. Like I’m just following his normal schedule. We’ve got a model in the morning for three hours, a fabulous lunch, model in the afternoon for another three hours. And then at night, when you think it’s all over, you’ve got drawing and it goes on and on and on. . . . So you, by the action of working and working and working for several days, you start to get loosened up. Something starts to happen beyond your brain. And that was the magic.”
The Raw Essence of Carlo Pittore (8-minute version), will be offered for free screening on 17 and 18 December 2020 to all UMVA dues-paying members as part of the monthly Maine Masters Screening Series, the third Thursday and Friday of every month. The short 2-minute trailer can be seen free by anyone at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/carlo. Members will receive a free passcode by email to access the current version. We expect the new 30-minute film to be released summer 2021. The film is sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists in cooperation with the International Artists Manifest. The upcoming film is being supported by the Rabkin Foundation and a number of individuals.
Image at top: Carlo Pittore, Many-Self Portrait, oil on linen, 48 x 72 in., 1980.
copyright as International Artists Manifest