-- Early Life & Work -- b. Buffalo, NY
I was born Gerald Gross to second generation Austrian-Jewish parents, Sidney and Jeanette Gross. The family moved to the suburbs (Kenmore and the town of Tonawanda, New York). An art teacher recognized my talent and recommended that I be enrolled at the weekend classes of the Art Institute of Buffalo, which I attended from age seven until age eleven.
Following high school I studied in pre-med and later math and philosophy at the University of Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).
-- Activist Years --
I was involved in college anti-war activities and in civil rights struggles within Buffalo. In particular, I was one of the "Buffalo Nine" defendants who opposed the Vietnam War and Draft. I helped defend Martin Gonzales Sostre a black bookstore owner in Buffalo who was framed by the police during the '68 uprising. I was granted a B.A. in philosophy in 1968, taught high school math in the area. I had not yet considered painting anything more than a hobby.
-- Life in Oregon --
After graduation from the University of Buffalo in 1968, I moved to Arizona and taught 6th grade science in a Mexican school. Later I moved to Oregon and started painting in earnest. It was slow at first, but eventually I began plein-air painting in the hills around Eugene and on the Oregon coast. When first arriving in Eugene, I survived by teaching Tai Chi Chuan in public parks & on the campus and subbed for the school district. I met my wife Angela Czyzewski at Ken Kesey's Poetic Hoohaw in Eugene during the summer of 1977. My marriage to my first wife, Pamela Fore Tyree, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, ended in divorce. Pamela died in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2008.
-- Arts Activism --
I studied for a MA degree from the University of Oregon. I secured a job with the Radio Shack Comouter Center and later with Lane County Regional Information System (RIS). During that time I helped New Zone Gallery survve online, co-founded the Salon des Refuses, and helped start Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts (DIVA).
-- Portraits of Angela --
Recognized as a painter "with vision and facility in a variety of painting styles," I was identified as "one of a handful of truly mature artists inhabiting the artistic landscape of Eugene", Oregon, where I have worked for over 25 years.(Keefer 2001, Eugene Register-Guard, pp. 1–2B).
I have painted several significant portraits of my wife. One,, entitled "Arrivo a Bologna", was considered one of my best: 'subtle, tender, suggestive, spare in composition and palette.' (Pederson 2005, Eugene Weekly, p. 29). The same critic described me as a 'master of portraiture.'Another portrait of Angela, "Angela A go-go" was well received and was in the Eugene Mayor's Show, 2011.
In Oregon, I have created a home base where I continue to perfect my technique.
I founded the "Club Macchia" of artists working all'aperto (in plein air) inspired by I Macchiaioli teachings. I give workshops in the area on portraiture, landscape, and figurative painting.
--Travels to Italy and Awards--
Since 1991 my wife and I have been traveling in Italy. I have had significant exhibits there in Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Rome.
In 2010, I spent three weeks as a visiting scholar/artist at the American Academy in Rome.
Recently, we spent time in Puglia and Sicily visiting anti-mafia writers and artists in western Sicily.
In 2013, we will again be staying at the American Academy conducting additional research for a book I am writing on gesture and calligraphic brushwork in painting.
Note:I first showed in Italy in 1999 with an exhibition at the American Consulate in Milan, Italy. This was followed by a second show at the Consulate in 2000 and two more shows in Italy that year (Cafe Cabiria, Florence, Italy in Piazza S. Spirito and at the Municipio of the Comune di Loiano ((Bologna)).
In 2001, I had a solo show in Rome at the prestigious Galleria d'Arte La Borgognona.
I was also awarded a gold medal in a painting competition in Corsico, near Milan, along with an invitation to exhibit there in May, 2006.
-- Evolution of Painting Style --
Currently I paint representational work that I describe as a "loose brush style inspired by Italian painting theory." Inspired by the 19th century (Ottocento) I Macchiaioli movement in Tuscany, I have focused on their key concept of macchia (spot, stain, dab) as the "cell" of an artwork. I have added the idea of "notan" or strong 2-value composition which provides a more contemporary approach to this style. My principal work is portraiture but all'aperto (plein air) painting is a close second, as well as figurative work, old master studies, and drawing are of great interest. In accord with the "Veduta" tradition in Naples, I like landscape views from on high with a vast panoramic perpective but I also paint from the street point of view (veduta becoming macchia) with attention to Italian figures, buildings, farm animals, and rural scenes.
Since portraiture is a big passion, I have recently created portraits of elderly ladies in Italy ("Fiorella" for example) which capture faces with great dignity, inner strength and expression. These are painted alla prima ("direct attack" method) but unlike atelier realism portraits, my work doesn't look stamped out or overly academic. In addition, many of the portraits remain true to "social verismo" and, like "War Widow" carry an implied social , in this instance anti-war, message.