cloud ship

cloud ship
a raft of sun tipped clouds sailed by

Friday, December 30, 2011

Art DiMambro, Further Afield

Standing in his spacious home studio in Durham, flooded with afternoon sunlight, Art DiMambro describes an oil painting in progress, a vista with a prominent grove of olive trees. This rather large canvas, and several smaller ones, chronicle the artist’s blissful five weeks of plein air painting last summer in and around Ascoli Picena, in north central Italy.

The journey, taken with an entourage of students and instructors from UNH as part of an art and language exchange program, took on the sheen of a long overdue homecoming for DiMambro, who was raised in Dover but was born in St. Elia, near Cassino, less than two hours south of Rome.

“I painted a couple of paintings each day,” remarks the bespectacled painter and sculptor, who retired from practice as an orthopedic surgeon in 1991. “They had to be small ones though, because I had to bring them back.”  The verdant surroundings were irresistible: “You can walk out of town to find more views and we rented a car to get further afield. Olive trees and little villages were everywhere.”

A larger painting captures a broad view of Cassino, a beacon of glimmering white atop a hill, ringed by a necklace of smaller villages, including his birthplace. Plein air painting suits the artist well: “It’s a more intense experience than studio painting. The light changes. A lot depends on that first impression. There’s a sense of urgency that certainly lights a fire.”

Discussing a memory or sharing a description about each of his many paintings adorning the walls of every room in his home, DiMambro says he always painted throughout his career as a surgeon, but took classes in sculpture, drawing and painting at UNH post retirement. As a resident doctor in Philadelphia (he earned a pre-med undergrad degree at UNH and his medical degree at UV, Burlington, after a stint in the Army) he was introduced to art shows by a friend who would soon take him to painting classes on Friday nights. “We went to a retrospective of Winslow Homer in New York, and that was it for me, that was the beginning.” DiMambro’s painting style is reminiscent to that of American modernist, Marsden Hartley, 1877 - 1943.

Equally adept at capturing the still life, landscape, his singular still life and landscape hybrid, figurative painting and sculpture, interpreted forcefully in both vibrant and cool color palettes, the artist notes his affinity for sculpture as a by-product of his profession. “Being a surgeon is quite helpful in rendering 3D sculptures as you’re always thinking and moving in three dimensions.”

Several bronzes occupy corners of DiMambro’s living space, mostly nude studies and groups of figures, including bocci ball players and a series of Lake Winnipesaukee swimmers – in reality his four daughters and wife – resting on a sunning platform. Like most enduring artists, his personal collection of art impresses, with works by Arthur Balderacchi, John Laurent, Jane Kaufmann, Gary Haven Smith, Chris Cook and Grant Drumheller, his mentor.

He also has a gift for capturing the fluidity of moving water, no small feat. “As an old trout and salmon fisherman, I do like water,” he states with a generous smile.

Describing a large painting called the Fruit Stand, DiMambro tells of his father’s longtime employment as a rose grower at Elliott Greenhouses, situated in Dover and Madbury. “When that job ended, he had a farm and fruit stand, which I recall here.”

Later, in an upstairs room featuring more paintings of Italian landscapes, the artist speaks to his ancestors and their wrenching decision to leave a slice of paradise: “There are no artists in my family. They were peasants from southern Italy. It’s hard to imagine them leaving such a beautiful place but there was no work. I asked people during my recent trip to Italy if they would leave today and of course they wouldn’t. After World War II the Fiat Factory came into the area and with that came work.” DiMambro plans on another painting trip to Italy later this year with his family.

The artist often paints with Portsmouth based painter Chris Cook; “a lot on Great Bay.” Cook was teaching art at UNH when DiMambro started his practice in 1960, but then left three years later to oversee and teach at the Addison Gallery in Andover, Massachusetts. The pair exhibited together more than once, including a two man show at the UNH Museum of Art in 2001. He has also exhibited at the NH Art Association Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery in Portsmouth; The Currier in Manchester; The George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Maine where he had a one man show and is going to be in a show the first week in June, and the G. Watson Gallery in Deer Isle, Maine.