Garibaldi-Meucci Museum Hosts Gregory Perillo Exhibition, 9/28
"What I paint is real life, life not confused and corrupted by human progress-children, wild animals, unspoiled peoples. Maybe they won't be around much longer, and maybe I?can hold on to some of that life in my paintings." - Gregory Perillo
On Saturday, September 28 at 2 p.m., the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum will host an artist's opening reception for a very special exhibition, "From the Private Collection of Gregory Perillo." Internationally renowned, and one of Staten Island's most beloved artists, Mr. Perillo has chosen some of his personal favorite works to display in this show. Among the seldom-seen subjects he has selected are several of his iconic Native Americans-including Staten Island's Lenape tribe-baseball great Joe DiMaggio and movie star Marlene Dietrich, as well as Stephen Siller, the hero fireman who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to join the rescue operation at the Twin Towers in 2001.
In a generous show of support for the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, Mr. Perillo is donating a lithograph to be raffled off, and during the opening reception will autograph limited edition posters that will be available for sale. All proceeds will benefit the museum. Mr. Perillo explains, "My father taught me the importance of giving back. I try to give to those who deserve it, and the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum certainly deserves support for all the fine work they do preserving Italian culture."
The second child of Italian immigrants, Mr.?Perillo was born in Greenwich Village, but moved with his family to Staten Island while he was still an infant. His father's story-telling ability, and love of America and its history, inspired young Gregory. At the age of 5 he drew a picture of Tecumseh on a brown paper bag to illustrate a story his father told him. After that, his mother collected and ironed paper bags to supply her son's creativity. His parents' love and support sparked the passion Gregory continues to pursue all these years later.
"Every day I do three things-I paint, I sculpt and I boogie. That's what keeps me going, that's what I love. And my father taught me that you should love what you do. He also taught me that you should never be satisfied-you should keep trying-and that you are your own best teacher. He was a wise man."
As a teenager Perillo enrolled in art school. In 1944 he joined the Navy, serving two years on the U.S.S. Storm King. On leave, he went home with a Navy buddy to a ranch in Montana, where he first spent time with Native Americans. That experience remains an inspiration to him almost 70 years later, and he continues to periodically visit the West to reconnect with his artistic muse. One of our foremost Western artists, he was one of the first to combine animals and humans on canvas in a style that combines realism and impressionism.
When he was discharged from the Navy, Gregory returned to New York and married his childhood sweetheart Mary Venitti. He went to work in a garment factory, earned his high school diploma and took evening art classes on the GI Bill. In 1950, he and Mary visited Sedona, AZ where they met William Robinson Leigh. Leigh had a studio in New York, and Perillo spent the next five years studying with him until Leigh's death in 1955.
Perillo began selling his paintings of Native Americans through galleries in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and New York City. In the 1970s, he took up sculpture, and in 1976 he became a plate artist. Perillo's work has been commissioned by American Express, for whom he painted more than fifty oils and sculpted two huge bronzes on permanent display in their world headquarters in Phoenix, AZ. His work is also displayed in the corporate headquarters of AT&T, the Governor's mansion in Albany, and the University of New Mexico; in the collections of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, NY, and the Pettigrew Museum in Sioux Falls, SD. He has painted portraits for such notables as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and was commissioned by Mikhail Gorbachev to paint a large mural that hangs in the Kremlin.
In recent years, Mr. Perillo has created large statues on Staten Island honoring Vietnam War veteran Lt. Nick Lia and the World Trade Center firefighters. The permanent collection of the Holmdel Arts Center Vietnam Museum contains 50 of his war paintings. At age 85, the prolific Perillo isn't slowing down.
The artist's reception is free. Autographed posters will be sold for $15. Tickets for the raffle are $10 or 3 for $25. After the opening, this show may be viewed during regular museum hours, with paid museum admission, until the closing event onSaturday, January 4, 2014, when the winning raffle ticket will be selected.
The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum was the home of Antonio Meucci, the true inventor of the telephone, and a refuge to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary hero who championed the unification of Italy. For over 50 years the museum has fulfilled its mission to preserve the legacies of these great men, and to promote understanding of the Italian-American heritage through cultural, artistic and educational programs and classes. The historic Italian landmark on Staten Island, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is owned by the Sons of Italy Foundation and administered by the NYSOSIA?GMM?Board of Commissioners.
Regular museum hours are 1 p.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 per person, members and children under 10 are free. Call ahead for groups of 10 or more. The first floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible, but the restroom is on the second floor. At press time, program funding has been provided through the Order Sons of Italy in America; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Richmond County Savings Foundation; Northfield Bank Foundation; Coccia Foundation; JP Morgan Chase Regrant in partnership with the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI); The Staten Island Foundation; The Lois and Richard Nicotra Foundation and by grants allocated by New York City Council members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo.