The artist’s new studio space and gallery will open to the public next month
There’s nothing I like more than talking about Buffalo. Seriously, it’s my favorite conversation starter when I’m visiting or getting acquainted with a new city. So when I got the chance to sit down with Mark DiVincenzo and sort his brain out about the Buffalo art scene — and an exciting personal and professional venture he’s embarking on — it was a no-brainer.
I met Mark the same way as everyone I know in this great city: through someone else. Everyone in Buffalo is connected in some way, and usually it’s not even six degrees of separation, but rather a friend of a friend that connects us all together. As I often say, this town is a small living room and you better be careful before dating someone new or moving to a new part of town because you might be related to them [laughing, kind of].
Mark is married to my Pilates instructor Sarah Griffin DiVincenzo and together they had a shared studio space in the Five Points neighborhood of Buffalo called Pilates Art Studio. Sarah’s studio is directly above Remedy House, and you can find me there at least once a week before I do a reformer class with her. One of Mark’s studio spaces was on the third floor of the building, and he had another on Niagara Street.
Not long ago he decided to look into a studio space in Snyder and consolidate/rent the spots in town. I met Mark at the new studio and sat down with him to talk about his life in the Buffalo and New York City/California art scene, the significant commercial work he has undertaken in the city, and his plans to one day open a gallery. and studio to open in October. I also talked to him about what inspires him and what art in Buffalo and beyond means to him and how it enriches his life and expands his world.
You are from Buffalo and you are very proud of it, but you have lived and traveled all over the world to practice your art. Tell me about how you got started.
I grew up in Buffalo and started drawing and sculpting at the age of four. I lived two doors down from Jackie Felix and that was the beginning of my art career. I walked to her house and was in awe of Jackie’s studio. She was a big influence on me and got me interested in art and the creative process from an early age.
From there I started taking art classes and went to a great high school called School 81, known for its art program, industrial art and music. In the past, the emphasis was much more on music and the arts growing up, and now it seems that more and more schools are scrapping important programs like this one. I was lucky enough to have a great education here in Buffalo, completely immersed in art. From there, I attended Buffalo State College and was fortunate enough to study abroad in Siena, Italy.
Travel inspires me and my art, and I still find inspiration wherever I travel. While studying abroad in Siena, I traveled through Europe. Looking back, it totally changed my life because I was completely absorbed in art. It propelled me on when I came back to the United States to immediately immerse myself in it.
After graduation, you lived in New York City and California. What was the art scene like in those cities when you lived there, and what inspired your art during that period of your life?
I was lucky enough to live in New York City after school and show my work in art studios in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. That really changed me: learning from gallery owners and curators in the city inspired me to create. The amount of work it took to be successful in New York City was nothing short of daunting, but it taught me a lot.
California has also inspired me, but in a different way because the two places are so different. I went to San Francisco and Santa Monica and lived there for about five years. When I returned to Buffalo as a visual artist, I met another local talent who introduced me to the inner world. I burned the midnight oil painting at night, when I was most inspired and the only time of day when there was free time to create those pieces.
You have a new studio space in Snyder, NY. Why did you look outside the city?
The reason for the new studio was simple: family came first and that is the reality. I went to find out and wanted to do something when my other leases were up. As is often the case with my artworks, this was a rhythmic decision that we made together as a family. I wanted to be close to my son’s school and our new home in Snyder. I love the energy here and everyone was very welcoming. My hope was to find inspiration in our new hamlet and drive that energy and love into the new studio space here.
What do you have in mind for this space? What will be different about it, and what do you see for your future here?
This is a new venture and I want it to be similar in some ways to my old spaces but with a new life in it and trying new things here. Lessons can take place in the new studio space: I would like to learn different things like art restoration and architectural art which are necessary skills to restore churches etc and so many of the old buildings around Buffalo. When I teach these classes here, I want to make sure they’re all geared towards the professional world, to teach specific skills to local artists. Skills and lessons I would have liked to learn.
Some of my work will also be shown in the new studio. I hope it’s finished and ready for the opening of our gallery/studio next month. I hope it inspires those who come, and me too – to continue creating new projects.
Much of your fine art is oil on canvas, but the pieces are quite large. Why is it important to create art on such a large scale, and what do you hope the person viewing that art gets out of when they see it?
It started when I was making pieces in the Tri-Main Studio space on Main Street. I did a lot of work there and it was such a big studio space, it was a natural development to want to make bigger pieces. The bigger the studio, the bigger you want to work.
Your art is varied, but you do a lot of large-scale oil painting on canvas that emphasizes nature and specific color accents. Can you spice that up a bit?
All this nature work comes from my past: I’ve been a city person all my life. I grew up in the city of Buffalo and lived here and in places like NYC as an adult. In a way it is an escape from my everyday life in the city.
I am a true outdoorsman and have been serious about hiking all my life. My family and I love the water and being outside together. When I take nature walks, it is a complete juxtaposition of my daily grind and life. Perfect natural rhythm is in nature and I respond to that. I hope that the peace and tranquility I find in nature alone or with my family is reflected in my art.
The colors I choose are muted tones, all of which create different movements from the color palette for that particular piece. Some scenes of nature are brighter and some use darker tones to enhance the feeling I want to convey. It’s all about my mood and where I stand with my life. I like the looseness of the paintings compared to tight paintings. There is a place for paintings – single paintings give you movement and a whole new layer of colors. Everyone can find something different in each of my works, and that’s a wonderful part for me.
Can you talk about ‘Painting 101’ for those who may not be well versed in the tools you use as an artist to create?
I use oil on canvas. The canvas I use is a very heavy canvas. It’s on stretchers. The palette I use is very important because it creates atmosphere. My previous work is much more escapism. I am definitely attracted to patterns and wind. I love how movement takes place and the beautiful formations that happen in nature that I bring to every piece of oil on canvas I create.
The big pieces energize the whole canvas, when it happens your mind goes elsewhere. I dig what happens when I’m inspired and what attracts me. My hope is to attract people too.
In addition to all the visual art you create, you have a real eye and passion for commercial/interior work, which is a completely different business for an artist. Can you tell me something about your history with that?
In order to pay for my passion as an artist, I ‘fell’ into the inner world that was much more sustainable in terms of income. I actually started my interior architecture in 1983. I worked in hundreds of homes and restaurants with hand painted wall finishes, design, faux finishes and murals. During this time I amassed a large amount of gouache study paintings work rights. These studies became great oil paintings that propelled me to New York’s Chelsea Art scene. As a result, around 2001 I took a break from the residential/commercial world for about 10 years while having a studio in New York, specifically Bushwick during my stint with Sears/Peyton Gallery.
In 2011, for important reasons, I re-entered the world of architectural art. My first task was the restoration of Hotel Lafayette, in collaboration with the historic commission, to recreate burr wood panels, marble panels and gold gilding in various areas. Since then I have worked on numerous historic restoration jobs, most notably Our Lady of Victory, Blessed Trinity, The Gold Dome, The Statler and The Main Building which I am currently working on and immensely proud of. Another project I will be participating in is with SACRA, led by my friend and UB Architect professor Dennis Maher (Assembly House and SACRA). At the Burchfield-Penney Art Center we will do a workshop where his students create a very cool wall installation influenced by Charles Burchfield.
You grew up in Buffalo and built a wonderful life here creating beautiful art and restoring architectural gems in the city and beyond. What do you love about the Buffalo art scene and life here?
Local artists like Peter Stephens, because he started young and when I painted and drew. Philip Burke also comes to mind. I’ve always just followed his career and his work inspires me. For city galleries, Burchfield and Albright Knox are great. Burchfield Penney Art Center really supports the local art scene and it’s great for the community, and I showed there. The only gallery I like Rivalry Projects is beautiful and they just started introducing painters. It’s nice to go there and see what there is to see and get to know the painter behind the works on the wall.
As for this studio or where I’ve been in the past, I look at these bare walls and I look at all the work in front of me. It inspires me to create. I literally start measuring it out and see what I want to paint next. It’s a big motivation for me. Buffalo also shows me a lot of beauty, whether I’m out in nature or on a beach with my family or exploring new galleries and openings on my own. I’m excited for what’s next.
The new studio space is located on Kensington Avenue in Snyder, NY. Visit his website for details on the October opening, or contact Mark to purchase a piece of art from him.