Local artist Vincent Giarrano’s paintings about women and NYC city architecture capture “the small, quiet moments in life—when people are truly themselves.”
A realist painter based in Washington Depot, Vincent Giarrano currently has two shows of his work—one called Recent Paintings at the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens in Washington Depot and another show of about 30 paintings at the Gallery Henoch in NYC called New York City Women. We caught up with the prolific artist and he gave us some insightful thoughts on his process, inspirations, and approach to painting.
Giarrano lived for some years in New York City, which is the inspiration for his current paintings. “My work is focused on the experiences of life in a city environment. Specifically, my paintings are about contemporary women in New York City. For me, painting is about conveying sincere truths in our lives right now.”
Vincent’s paintings seem to be created in a traditional style but the subject matter is depicted in a very modern way. “I often think of our history and the things that lead to where we are now. In my work, this appears as a recurring combination of classic and contemporary elements. The city itself is often the subject or focus in my work. There’s an energy, mood, and character to it that is both captivating as well as inspiring.
Architecture changes with time and the influence of people. It takes on a character and personality of its own and also evolves over its life. I appreciate how the buildings reflect the culture and society around it. New York City is constantly changing, and you can chart that through the rise and fall of these architectural icons. There are great beauty and interest in contemporary life, and this is what I paint. Something that resonates with me is how Robert Henri spoke of the artist functioning as a journalist.”
Considering that Vincent Giarrano lives in rural Connecticut, we asked him if the contrast of his personal experience living in the country pulls him towards the city. “I lived in NYC for a bunch of years after college. It was a great experience. I think anyone who’s been to the city knows that there’s an incredible energy there. You can’t help but feel it. For me, it’s endlessly inspiring because of the variety of people, and the variety of architecture and environments there.
What I like about living in the country is that when I do go into the city, I see it more clearly, and I can appreciate it more. When you live there day in and day out, you become a little desensitized to it. I like seeing it objectively, and feeling moved by it.”
Large cities can have a grey palette, yet Vincent uses strong, vivid colors in his city paintings. He explains, “I think of it as having points of intense color, and I think those stand out more for being surrounded by things that are much less colorful. What I focus on most is achieving the harmony that I see, and that has to do with the light that’s affecting everything I see in a scene. My favorite light in the city is cool, even light. The buildings block the sun, so you get this wonderful, moody light. I avoid sunlight like a vampire.”
Many of Giarrano’s paintings depict women who seem to be caught in a moment in time framed by the buildings and signage of the city. Asked how he decides which scenes, and which women to paint, he replies, “I like the contrast and relationship between the human figure and architecture. In the city that’s what stands out to me—people living in this huge man-made environment. What interests me is capturing what real life feels like. I choose scenes that reflect that. There are a mood and energy to the experiences we have, and I love what those are like in a city environment.
As for painting women, it’s one of the subjects that I find very inspiring. I feel women best express the human condition; what it’s like for us to be these living beings. I also enjoy painting people that are very different from me. This allows me to see them more objectively. The people I paint can be quite varied; young people just starting out in the city or established professionals. I do like young people quite a bit because they can have interesting, expressive lifestyles. I also like that they reflect how the city is this always changing and evolving place.”
Vincent paints interior scenes as well—intimate ones of women in their bedrooms, getting dressed or doing routine things. Do these paintings tell a different story than the street scenes? “The interior scenes are often about portraying that person through what their living space says about them. I find the room that reflects that most is a person’s bedroom. It seems to be the place where people put things that express their personality. A studio or art space can have that as well. My painting Jeniffer in Her Studio is a good example of the room speaking about her as much as her likeness.
The small, quiet moments in life is something we can all relate to. I paint them because I feel that this is when people are more truly themselves.”
The current exhibition features about 30 new paintings by Vincent. That takes a lot of time! We asked him if he works with a goal in mind on how much time to devote to each piece, or if it happens more organically. And how long a period of time were these pictures produced? “These are all recent paintings from this or last year. I generally know ahead how long I’ll paint something. Often I work intuitively at first, but then look for what I see developing. My concepts are things I already have in mind, so I like that I’m free to paint and explore but still keep in the direction I want.”
Vincent Giarrano is represented by leading fine art galleries across the United States, as well as some overseas. He has exhibited in major museums such as the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC and the National Portrait Gallery in London. Currently, he has two paintings in an exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art.
Vincent Giarrano – New York City Women
June 15 to July 8, 2017
555 West 25th Street
New York City
Vincent Giarrano – Recent Paintings
July 26 to August 9, 2017
Opening reception: July 29, 4-7 pm
The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
1 Green Hill Road