Born in Pennsylvania, the third of four children, I moved to Buffalo NY with my family at age eight. I was a mediocre to poor student through early schooling due to eyesight and other problems. My parents started a music store where I helped as needed. It was an education musically but I was mostly interested in sports. Although I was introverted and not interested in further schooling, I tested and somehow was admitted to attend the University of Buffalo. The most interesting part of my college experience was my joining a fraternity. It saved me from dropping out, teaching me how to study and aquire some social skills. As an introverted child I was doing some art but I was unable to find an interesting field in college. After three years I then entered the Army for two years. It was a huge waste of time except that I got to know Washington DC, hear some very good Jazz and make friends.
After the army experience, using the GI Bill, I enrolled in the Albright Art School. That proved to be what really motivated me. The welcoming smell of oil paint and visual stimulation could not be denied. Meeting other artists, and developing many life long friendships opened doors to intellectual development and interests in the world around me. As a student among other talented people, including Lawrence Calcagno, I thrived. During that time I exhibited at an Arron Copland event at Kleinhans Music Hall, won a scholarship to the Yale Norfolk Art School, and won my first art prize in the Western New York Show at the Albright Art Gallery. After two and a half years of art school and still without degree, I then traveled hitchhiking through Europe visiting museums. When I returned in the fall of 1960 I learned that most of my paintings from Yale/Norfolk, that had been shown at the Blacksmith Shop gallery and restaurant, had gone up in flames with the building. It was a sign to move on.
Early friendships beside Calcagno included Adele Cohen, who became the most immportant person in my life, Harry Albrecht, a talented artist who lived in my first house, Wes Olmsted, longtime friend and artist and Paul Gay who ignited my interest in classical music and architecture. Also I met Bill Baker, who I worked with as a graphic artist for many years, and was a contributor to a book on Adele. Bill was a tenant in my first house, and I shared a friendship that included working with him for ten years with the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee and Sti-Co Industries. Adele made possible many trips to Europe, and other places, we were interested in visiting archeological sites and taken by the friendliness of Europeans.
The sixty’s were a time of free love and free art when one could believe that anything was achievable. Wes and local artist Jack Drummer won prizes and were given a show at the AKAG. We all thought we were fast tracking to great painting and fame. Not so. I later won several art awards in exhibitions. My first show was in NYC with Adele Cohen (Robert Squeri, Roland Wise, Frank Altamura).
I bought my first house, a former rooming house, in ’63, and that was my first lesson in remodeling. About then I started the Zuni Gallery, a former coffee house in Buffalo, with Adele Cohen, which became the first gallery, including the Albright Art Gallery, to show Pop and Op Art. We showed local artists and brought in other shows from New York including many now famous names. I designed the posters and mailing and it was my first use of a torn paper series in design, a predecessor to later work. We were however ignored by the Albright in spite of having some important and well-known artists. It was a cold shower for us and for all local artists and is a trend that still persists. In 1963 I showed with Adele, Martha Vissert’hooft, and Wes Olmsted in a makeshift gallery, in a house on Delaware Avenue.
In the 70’s Adele and I worked together to design the set for a play at the Albright Knox Art Gallery called "Fondo and Lis" by Arrabal. Then I taught for one year at Buffalo State College although I had no degree at that time. I did however learn a lot and after that experience considered teaching as a profession. Other teachers advised me not to, as the teaching market was looking bleak. During the next decade I traveled through Europe with Adele visiting museums.
Later in the 70’s I worked with Josef Krysiak helping to start the Workshop Theater in the old Pierce Arrow building on Elmwood Avenue. Josef was a very talented director and a Creative Associate at the blooming University at Buffalo, SUNY. He had done two other productions at the Albright Knox one that Adele and I did the set for. However after Josef's first successful opening of a play called “The Storyteller From Flea Street” he left Buffalo, pursued by his girlfriends angry brothers. That left me managing the theater for a couple of years with the help of Dottie Drummer and Raymond Flesure (sp?).
Through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s I progressed from doing remodeling to becoming a cabinetmaker in order to make a living. I painted into the 70’s then stopping to do other things including building a solar house in Holland NY. Designed by my architect cousin Horace Franco it proved to be a daunting project. Carved into a hillside on 4 and a half acres of woods and pond and with no experience in house building it became a long source of education for me that developed the skills needed to take on large projects in art. Eight years later I sold that house and decided to pursue a different path. I gave up woodworking soon after that and worked with a display company for two years before returning to school to study a year in Graphic Arts. During the years that I didn't paint I did continued to work helping Adele with her shows and work related to her art.
In the late 80's I studied graphic arts and received several awards in graphics. After freelancing for a time I worked as a graphic artist in industry. I learned about design, print and photography but it wasn’t inspiring. Later in 1990 I bought a run down warehouse that I developed into living lofts and studio space.
In the 90’s I returned to actively doing art and produced a series of drawings of survivors, among other work, called the "Kosovo Series", and later a long series of acrylics on paper that started with a landscape image. I was interested and influenced by Francis Bacon, Shusaku Arakawa, Yayoi Kusama, Edward Kienholz and others.
2002 brought the death of Adele from cancer, ending a long, fruitful and close relationship. I had been working on a book about her called “Adele Cohen, A Life in Art” which was finally published by the Burchfield Penney years after her death. She was a great artist held back as many women artists were from earned achievements. Doing the book was quite a negative and frustrating experience as it moved slowly forward in spite of reluctant ‘contributors’ who failed to perform.
In 2003 I started a long relationship with Gerry Evans, who encouraged me to visit Mexico. It transformed my work with influences of folk art, color and architecture reflected in paintings shown later at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Regular wintering in San Miguel de Allende was an interesting and social experience. Lawrence Calcagno often said that Mexico was a place of great art. I seemed that every state had its well-developed folk art themes and often used themes of death.
My interests turned to sculpture and I began working with hanging bags and torn painted paper. My exhibit with Hugh Levick titled “War Ongoing Project” was shown at the Burchfield Penney in 2009. The exhibit was a multi-media piece using video, original music by Hugh Levick, sound tracts, projection and ten thousand black paper bags containing the names of war casualties. That piece was invited to a music festival in Europe that failed to happen for lack of funding. The Burchfield Penney Art Center had previously acquired a large sculpture made of bags that commemorates the men lost in Iraq, called "Illusion/Delusion". That sculpture was shown in 2013 at the Burchfield Penney.
I have been writing on civic problems for some time often published in the Buffalo News and have written up proposals presented to the city for urban renewal. I’ve been a frequent critic of the Albright Knox AG on various moves including the move to sell some of their collection. I have written some poetry (unpublished thankfully) and other articles.
I am now working on a series of large collage works that refer to the paintings and sculpture of other artists, including Jackson Pollack, Frank Gehry, Lawrence Calcagno, Charles Burchfield, Yayoi Kusama, Chuck Close, and Vincent Van Gogh and others. These works often bridge the gap between sculpture and painting. My sculpture Illusion/Delusion is the first sculpture using a digital format to form a three dimensional mass. Also in process is a new large environmental project called “Environment/Maze”. I continue to work in Mexico and the United States having shown in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in March 2016.