” I had to go in because the Lifeguards weren’t doing it.”
At the world Aquatic Championship in Budapest on June 23, 2022, Anita Alvarez fainted and sunk to the bottom of the pool and remained there for two minutes until USA Team Coach Andrea Fuentes jumped in to rescue her. Because of the presence of cameras and film recording the contest, the event was recorded and made headlines around the world. When I spent time with the film and photos, I marvelled at the courage and skill by Fuentes in the dramatic rescue, In the reports. She told Spanish Newspaper Marca:
“I had to go in because the Lifeguards weren’t doing it . “
I began to see the event as a metaphor for the plight of woman in the world in 2022 after the Supreme Court Decision, Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the Women’s’ heroic Protests in Iran, and the rape of women in Ukraine by Russian Soldiers;Todays headlines report that the Taliban are prohibiting women in Schools and University. The “Lifeguards” in all these cases weren’t doing it!
The quote stayed with me and I started a small painting of Fuentes swimming to the bottom of the pool to pull out Alvarez. Three Larger paintings followed. The images are taken from the event and other pictures of rescues combined and sometimes in composite compositions taken advantage of colour and texture.
They came from all over the country united by the belief that something valuable had been taken away and they were determined to get it back. They believed that if they didn’t come that day , the country would fall to Communist, Child-raping Democrats who had stolen an election and of course, Jews and Blacks. They were going to kill the Speaker of the House and erected a gallows for the disobedient Vice President. They were from all walks of life , cops, firemen, mothers and bar owners, and peppered throughout were militia members and Proud Boys all aching for the fight. Of course, none of this was legitimate or even true but they had been inoculated from truth and in an Alternate Reality created by a fat Old Man who was afraid to be known as a loser and his enablers inside the Capital who stretched the law and reality to suit their beliefs. A year later, some have gone to jail and some even pleaded guilty, but the Old Man and his Capital minions have yet to face justice.
While looking through Youtube videos of Covid stories I came upon the screenshot of a couple in Chicago Healthcare workers that found out in the midst of the Pandemic that she was pregnant, I thought about all the couples whose life have been altered by the crisis and began work on the painting.
“Clementi’s painterly interpretations of sites of catastrophes are depicted with a critical (and perhaps deliberately neutral) gaze that lifts his carefully rendered eerie realities to a level of social protest. In what appears to be a rapid perhaps even urgent application of pigment, he describes visual truths in a manner that alludes to the transient visual vocabularies of journalistic/ documentary verisimilitude.
His are dire warnings of the approaching dystopia that may, in fact, have already arrived. ”
CAPTURE 2014: Nova Scotia Realism
“A contemporary preoccupation with painters in general, let alone realists, is the concept of fragmented reality. The unreal in the real. Something is broken and can’t be fixed, therefore man continues to go through the existential motions of life. Clementi has stayed one step ahead of that slow and methodological position of the old realist strategy (that of Robert Henri’s journalist/artist plodding through the mud), and picks up the broken pieces of the visual world which are then in turn used to address the social and the immediate. The artist makes us stop and take note of the urgency behind the history of social realism as it takes place both in and beyond our borders today. “ Steven Rhude
ANTHONY CLEMENTI has been an artist, exhibition curator and art educator for more than 30 years. He participated in more than 60 exhibitions in North America and Europe. He has taught at Pratt Institute , Nassau College , New York Institute of Technology and the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York and Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia , Canada. He has been a Executive Director of the Children’s Museum in Utica New York, and has curated exhibitions in Manhattan and Long Island, New York.
He presently lives and works in Nova Scotia, Canada with his wife Patricia Caryi.
Phone: 902 850-2208 Cell:902 497-4436
Alone at Acadia Online Opening February 10, 2021 7pm (All are Invited)
This pandemic has shown how integral art is to our daily lives, sense of community and well- being. This curated exhibition presents the work of 18 Nova Scotian artists whose work responds to, reflects on the impacts of covid-19.
The online exhibition and related programming will be launched on February 10th.
Established in 1978, the Acadia University Art Gallery is a space for research, dialogue and community engagement with art.
artists: Rose Adams, Wayne Boucher, Geoff Butler, Louis-Charles Dionne, Frances Dorsey, Toni Clementi, Brandt Eisner, Celine Gabrielle, Annik Gaudet, Francois Gaudet, Bob Hainstock, Basma Kavanagh, Laura Kenney, Alexandra McCurdy, Bill Shaw, Susan Tooke, Miya Turnbull, Christopher Webb.
Recently the draught in Kazazhstan had led to the death of Horses who have expired because of the extreme heat and lack of water. The images reminded me of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Raskalnakov’s dream of a peddler beating his dead horse. The image comes up again in Catch-22 when Heller has Yosarian wandering alone on the streets of Rome in the middle of the night. Below are two Works on Paper.
The Destruction of a Conception, 1986. Screenptint
In the 1980’s , I was working on my graduate thesis and had recently began to do a series of drawings that featured “house” forms. The drawings led to a sculptural Installation that was sited at Ward’s island as part of the Sculpture Park.
This was a time between my work that used photographs exclusively and now drawings, construction and installation and then eventually painting.
In those olden days, Computers were not generally available as graphic devices and “cutting and pasting” had to be done by hand. I sent my model, Geraldine who at the time was acting in plays to a Photo Booth (It may have been the one in the Chinatown Arcade) and hand -cut the edited photos from the rolls and used an IBM Selectric typewriter to type the characters on paper and then glued the whole thing down using a nine square grid, which I had employed in the Sculpture at Ward’s Island and several drawings and constructions I had made at the time, then inked on paper. Of course, this would be very easy today but in 1986 it was time consuming and tedious.It was photographed and made into a silkscreen.
It was a period when I was interested in Gestural Behavior and one day in the Barnes and Nobel Annex on Fifth Avenue , I found a copy of Beaux Gestes by Harvard French Scholar, Philip Wylie and Photographer Rick Stafford for $1.49. Wylie devotes a chapter to Le Jemenfoutisme which he defines as Indifference raised to a “national lifestyle”in France and describes under the heading WHO CARES, a more dramatic gesture which includesa stream of air and a final “Bof” sound! I understood at the time that the less dramatic Siciilian gesture forged behind the backs of invading armies and foreign occupiers was more discrete , a shared secret language —but no less a “lifestyle”. I started to experiment with formats and combining words with pictures. I was influenced, of course by Conceptual art and Pop which employed words and pictures.
I was interested in the intersection between visual ,discursive non-verbal language and words. In my research at the time I became fascinated with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and its central idea that a proposition is a “picture”. The Philosopher had come upon this idea during World War I when he saw in a newspaper a diagram of a automobile accident. It occurred to him that the map was a proposition, and therein lied the essential nature of any proposition, to picture reality. As part of my research, I came upon Norman Malcolm’s memoir of Wittgenstein. It was only 100 pages but Malcolm, an American was a friend of Wittgenstein and had attended his early lectures at Cambridge in 1939 and remained friends throughout his life. I wanted to understand why Wittgenstein had abandoned his thesis in Tractatus and had never completed a book again. Instead his lectures were published as the Blue and Brown Book and show him confronting the simple notion in his later thinking.
On page 69 ,Malcolm describes the moment when Wittgenstein that led to as he called it “the destruction of the conception”. One day Wittgenstein was riding on a train (or it may have been another conveyance) with Pierro Sraffa a lecturer on economics at Cambridge. They often argued over the ideas in his book and Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same “logical form” and same “logical multiplicity”.
Writes Malcolm: Sraffa made a gesture familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of the chin with an outward sweep of the fingers of one had. And he asked: “What is the logical form of that?”
Malcolm writes, “This broke the hold on him of the conception that a proposition must literally be a picture of the reality it describes.”
This paragraph profoundly moved me. I thought I understood how pictures became “games” in Wittgenstein’s later writing. But also how non-verbal communication in the form of an Italian gesture changed one of the founders of “Language Philosophy”.
Then when in looking up the gesture that Malcolm describes as being Neapolitan and I had understood from my experience was also Sicilian, I found two other instances where he gesture figures in. History:
In Luigi Barzini’s The Italians , Barzini talks about being in a library alone in Naples and finding a book by an Italian monk who compiled a book of Gestures; He knew he would never find another copy , so he stole it; a remarkable confession by any author!
In reading about Garabaldi’s campaign to unite Italy into a republic I came upon a description of the hero on his horse going into a southern Italian village to recruit fighters where he came upon a young man sleeping in a field; “Paison, Join us in fight for the Homeland”. shouted Garabaldi. The young man brushed his chin.
I began this painting on a large canvas and then I abandoned it for more than three years and stored in my basement so I did not have to look at it everyday. Recently while retrieving a tool from the basement , I saw it and thought I would give it another try. Based on the documentary photo by Zach D. Roberts of the assault of DeAndre Harris by six men in a Parking Garage in Charlottesville Virginia. The assault followed an “exchange of words” by the assailants and s few counter protesters as the police pushed them toward East Market Street. I tried to capture the afternoon light streaming into the darkened Parking Garage and the shock of sudden violence. The video repeated again and again at the time and cell phone images and videos taken by the participants and witnesses were used in the making of the painting. As in events of this kind, the identity and even number of assailants has changed over time. The seemed to be six. In my painting although three men are beating Harris with an umbrella, shield a pole and boards , three men, one hidden behind the ticket entry at right and two coming toward them from East Market street are shown. As I was doing the painting, it made me reflect on the event itself but also of Art History; I thought about how Manet assembled carte du photography for his Death Of Maximillian and how Goya painted his Napoloeanic Soldiers in the shadows in his Third of May, 1808. The title was influenced by Goya’s painting.
𝔸𝕃𝕆ℕ𝔼 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘄Opening Reception (Online Edition), next Wednesday, February 10, 7pmThis curated exhibition at the Acadia U Art Gallery presents the work of 18 Nova Scotian artists whose work responds to, and reflects on, the impacts of Covid-19. Participating Artists: Rose Adams, Wayne Boucher, Geoff Butler, Louis-Charles Dionne, Frances Dorsey, Tony Clementi, Brandt Eisner, Celine Gabrielle, Annik Gaudet, François Gaudet, Bob Hainstock, Basma Kavanagh, Laura Kenney, Alexandra McCurdy, Bill Shaw, Susan Tooke, Miya Turnbull, Christopher Webb. Curator: Dr Laurie Dalton,http://gallery.acadiau.ca/Acadia_Art_Gallery/Upcoming.html