Outermost Art Wanderings
Tui Sigman, homaging the Outermost of Cape Cod for old haunts of Hans Hoffman, first encountered Cesco Vascio with passing brevity in his then-usual plein air disposition, amicable, or at least receptive to anyone thoughtfully responsive to his form of productivity. At the time, Vascio deliberately chose non-time-sensitive outdoor still life studies, accommodating acquaintanceship from life's random parade.
". . . like a sadhu," said one passerby that summer of 2013, of Vascio's busily imperturable focus, as the artist sat cross-legged in a de facto sukhasana-like position for the majority of daylight hours for consecutive months in the sun, progressing compositions in his lap.
The prose of an outtake from Vascio's lifelong opus magnum, 'The Wanderings of Turtle Island', prompted Tui to initiate a floridly verbose on-and-off, long-distance discourse with the artist . . . until Vascio convinced her to return to that "edge of the world" to immortalize a passing moment of that same series in its then-musterable entirety.
At Tui's second encounter with Vascio that chilly April of 2015, the artist stood at a metal easel remarkably rusted from hundreds of hours of landscape study below the high tide mark, not noticing Tui until she approached within arm's reach, for he concentrated upwards at a bell tower motif (begun, then shelved, September 2014), not yet aware this angle would soon purplishly sunburn the undersides of his eyebrows. Neither quite remembered what the other looked like, but with his palette knives’ colourfully loaded viscosities and her warmly expectant, assuring smile, no mistaking could occur.
Ensuingly, these intregriously stubborn and visually oriented crafters fulfillingly increased their agenda's collaborative overlap. Fittingly pre-disposed to gift-economy, Vascio reapt the service of Tui's brilliantly backgrounded photograhic expertise and eagle eyes for detail while Tui reapt a room's worth of "Wanderings of Turtle Island" outtakes, which only disperse as their literature reincarnates within the currently consolidated series.
During 5 days of recce and ex-galleria shooting, the collaborators' focus subtly yet dramatically shifted, in a way organically, yet somewhat expectedly: A debate between the merits of exposing an underexposed magnitude of sequence versus giving narrative to the process behind those results, gave way to irrepeatably immersing in portfolio as manifest that serene Outermost spring. With vigorous intrepidity yet capricious twists, they integrated those "Wanderings" into that tiny yet variated landscape of marine deposit even more exceptionally young, erosion-vulnerable and remote than the Pleistocene glacial moraine leading there.
Tui, profoundly inspired by "The Wanderings", its virtuosically rendered and exceptional imagery paired with poetic prose depthfully dripping allegory, perceived parallels in her viewfinder of visual resonance between forms in this art and these landscapes, juxtaposing the colour, texture, shape and line of the two. By engaging the formal and spatial elements actively in her framing, the relationship of art & landscape enlivens via photograph, as compositions within composition.
From plainly painted, charging or howling beasts hanging off the dilapedated remnants of a declined local fishing industry; to a bodaciously unkempt goddess hoisted into a partriarch's ill-fated courtship upon inscrutable concrete ruins in a salt marsh; to extinct species juxtaposed with living relatives; to ostrich chicks upheld by crocodilian jaws symbolizing a precocious glimmer of self-awareness defying underdogged precarity; to bats pinned to a guard rail crying out against their own submerged "battiness"; to outstretched hands gesturing all shades between resignation and resurgence, militancy and open-ended potentiation; to roses still brightly alive in their darkening wilt; to landscapes wistfully scripted upon to the point of pained beckoning: these series within a series bespeak a sense of undying savage passion in a world gone very old.
Vascio's Origination in the Outermost
He who would become the artist of these "Wanderings", first came to the Outermost of Cape Cod in utero (his grandmother's older brother "uncloseted" there decades before the Stonewall Riots, eventually attracting more of the Santis family and its in-laws) deepening his roots ever since - despite also serial soujourning elsewhere for indicative stretches, for urgently stormy historic frontlines, or the slightest, most whimsically elusive balmy breezes of happenstance, usually depositing conspicuous trails of art in his self-effacing wake.
For the most traceable of those adventures, visit portraitstoryproject.org
As a child, taken by the hand to visit the galleries of Commercial Street, becoming an artist remained a distant and sublimated dream he'd one day wake into.
Attracted by Cape School Impressionism's sensibility for "light key" and "atmospheric envelope" to rediscover Provincetown as an adult in late May of 2002, he arrived with little more than a french easel in a framepack.
During the following summer, a childhood friend of his, Heather Bruce, described her grinding of pigment into oil and wax for her abstract "Echo X" series. The stippled effect, more matte than usual oils and more transparent than usual mattes, enamoured and alluded of further possibilities . . . thus his pallette soon expanded audaciously, grinding a veritable catalogue of pure pigments (by hand via glass muller upon a carborundum grit-roughened "toothy" glass slab) into expeller-pressed vegetable seed based oils, in attempt to "capture" this narrow spiralling peninsula's vibrant oceanic luminosity, which had drawn Charles Hawthorne to found what some claim the world's oldest continuous art colony about four generations earlier.
Informally residing for a few months in the building that had served as The Cape School of Art at the end of Pearl Street, this most bohemian of oil painters in an aging and gentrifying scene niched in the nuance of untrained association. As the youngest self-directed, full-time and residential plein air-ist in Provincetown, he would slide deeper into anachronistic distinction, still holding that description over a decade later.
Painting daily in the vicinity of those stemmed from Cape School Impressionism, some who formatively studied at length under the late Henry Hensche's tutelage (the "new master" after Hawthorne, most instrumental in advancing his legacy) a simultaneous apparency of intergenerational-continuity and genre-defying unorthodoxy would creatively-tension in pursuits often flouting commodifiability.
Mary Giammarino, Hilda Neily, Sal Del Deo, Ray Nolan, Joanette and Cedric Egeli, Dawn Zimiles, Thanassi Kuliopulos, Mifa Van Arsdale and other artists encouraged, whether admonishingly, nurturingly or open-endedly.
"Puttering around in the ashes of masters," a neighbor sentimentally extolled.
"Self-motivated," complemented Authur Egeli crisply.
"Obsessed," flamboyantly insisted Dan Rube.
"Heretic," John Clayton mused with spoft-spoken flippance.
"So beginner!," dismissed Lois Griffel aggravatedly, in reference to apparently unsatisfactory block studies, circa August 2002, "not even close."
Solicited for opinion on set of landscapes, Adam Graham paused politely, then diplomatically offered, "Well, you've got the gusto," kindly enough adding that it behooved a budding landscapist to recognize that oceans had straight horizons.
Once, when Vascio offered to rework a painting from that first year or swap it for a more recent one, the old painting's owner, Vasso Trellis, gave heartfelt insistence on leaving alone the innocent rawness from that era.
Yet more than a few unequivocally, unpromptedly and emphatically remarked of steep learning curve, even during that initial phase of crude but ardent pursuit; and if so, that "curve" never plateaued, from then until Vascio and Tui "wandered".
As recorded elsewhere, "(from autumn 2003 to summer 2012, Vascio had) primarily developed his style in isolation (from the Art World) remaining a self-taught creative . . ." . . . of ceaseless innovation.
Named "Cesco" for short, by most of his friends, (and sometimes "Cesque" for very short, by a few) the artist, fully named "Francesco Lovascio 'Vascio' di Santis", may just as easily rework a familiar series annually or fluster in new technical challenges. His stylized realism genesised in the painterly exalt of richly impastoed au priemer coups, emerged in unrelenting eclecticism permutating the drawing-painting dicotomy and moors to the Outermost, from whence he embarks e'er again.
About Vascio's craft
In curvilinearist styles, one uses line to designate shape, perhaps absent inquiries into light; and sometimes one speaks of using line to delineate the "essence" of form.
In tonalist styles, one uses linear gradations of dark-to-light, producing illusions of rotundity, mass, volume and recession in space. The visible electromagnetic wavelengths reveal the "local colour" of the surfaces serving as tonalist's subject matter; and sometimes one speaks of "bathing" the figures in light.
In colourist styles (which one must distinguish from images merely colourfully "pizazzed") one uses cyclical hue ring to emulate the semi-omnipresent "rainbow" pervading and pre-existing Sir Issac Newton's prismatic divide to achieve a very nuanced kind of realism which indirectly shares tonalist goals. The surfaces "bounce back" a subset of visible electromagnetic wavelengths serving as the colourist's subject; and sometimes one speaks of the whole painting "humming", as a "symphony" with the painter as its "conductor," with every dab of paint a "note" that "sings" to the other "notes."
With influences abounding from throughout the three aforementioned umbrella-categories, Vascio's methods befuddle attempts at summary as he subtracts, introduces or re-introduces stages to circumvent formulaic complicities: Likely staging through the curvilinear (especially for the thinly applied and especially stylized) then through tonalism (especially for the close-up, the indoors and the overcast) then finally through colourism for the thickest or glaziest layers (especially for the distance, the outdoors and the sun-drenched).
Using some materials contemporarily well-known and others that many graduate art college without ever hearing of, Vascio's technique archivally evolves, in tandem and tension with its past via stockpiled art supplies dredged deep out of inventory and pieces habitually revisited after long dormancies.
In the early 2000's, aware that the availability of pigments varies with advances in industries and shifts in geopolitics, this artist manufactured enough of certain colours to preclude ever needing to reacquire their raw materials. Many artists, stylistically changing over time, find themselves with supplies they no longer use. Because Vascio works, to put it mildly, quite omnivorously, he'll sometimes haggle his art in exchange for other artists' half-used or no-longer-used paraphenilia. More often they simply gift him such inventory along with supportive words, happy to see potential undiscarded. Often acquaintances, having artist family members passed away, will perceive storage issue where Vascio perceives motherlode; with the acquaintance shrugging to the effect of, 'Oh please, have it in exchange for taking it.'
" . . . got it a long time ago," an elderly once-upon-a-time dabbler once said handing Vascio a tube of peachy-pink creamy manilla, possibly mostly buff titanium. Vascio glanced at the label, inhaled sharply then laughed boisterously, "Yeah, you must've! They don't call it that anymore!"
"FLESH," it read with untoppably unilateralist presumption.
When he plein airs amongst the unorganized parades of crowds he hears identical and near-identical syntax and voice-inflection at short intervals,
"You don't use brushes?"
"Do you use brushes at all?"
"'Different' from what?" he wondered, painting as knows how.
While painting most days, he did once go eleven years without dipping a brush in oil. While using brushes for writing and sometimes an initial stage of india ink painting, his pieces arrive in their most realized form with final sessions predominantly of his own handground oils.
When he walked from Miami to Big Pine Key in January 2014, then dwelt beside a beside mangrove swamp on that island of petrified coral, subsisting mostly off coconuts for four months, he did use brushes for watercolour ink mediumed with acrylic polymer. With little access to plumbing, he very much ruined those brushes which hadn't gotten used since his mother had quickly given up painting in college before his birth.
On rare occasion, if wanting to leach oil from paint to speed drying in a matte effect without adding non-oil, he may use an unvarnished wooden pallette. Once in a while a primed surface serving as a makeshift pallette later serves as a kind of "under-underpainting." Sometimes when camping with a ruggedness rarely associated with The Fine Arts, he'll dip pallette knives directly into his jars, wiping the knives clean with salvaged or downcycled fabrics after each application. Or, he has squeezed tubes of paint or ink drops from droppers directly on the support. But usually he mixes on panes of glass to which the oil neither permeates nor tends to bond, thus maximizing workable duration of medium.
He has previously utilized up to three table-sized pallettes at once: a hue-based mimick of the theoretical color wheel or "primary" pallette, an earth-tone "pesudo-color wheel" (ochres for yellow-to-orange, siennas for orangish reds, terra cotta-coloured and maroonish clays for reds to purples, umbers for coolness, perhaps caliche for tinting . . .) and an "auxillary" or "mud" pallette of the "spill-over" of "over-mixed" grays that become can underpaintings or grounds.
Vascio's handground oil paints usually have more weight than pure oil of identical volume and pure pigment of identical volume combined because the pigment particles collapse when dispersed in binder. His oil paints have greater weight per unit of volume than most brands. He usually grinds to near the binder's saturation point, because thinning via medium can always happen more easily in the studio - and in the field especially - where thickening via more pigment would happen preposterously - although that happens too.
Since about 2004, he no longer uses "thumb-breakers," the pallettes designed to nestle in the crook of one's arm and stationed by the painter's thumb, because with his exceptionally heavy, high pigment-to-oil ratio paints, committing dozens of fist-sized gobs to the open air, "they really would break my thumbs."
He commonly spends days organizing one or more pallettes, perhaps tailored to the sight of a motif serving as the next series, with tints converging like bicycle wheel spokes towards a hub of several whites, before operating off those arrangements for foreseeable perpetuity . . . leading to seasons of reconstituting partially used-up pallettes, adding fresher colours as needed.
Sometimes damaged paintings eluded repair due to their production by no longer extant pallettes - thus they must go back on site for redoing entirely to reachieve self-consistency or harmoniousness. The labour-intensiveness shouldn't go understated: imagine having to recode software eveytime one wished to send a text message. An average viewer can percieve, even if at loss to describe, the purpose of this monastic discipline when viewing its tactility: from high chromatic saturations of gritty suction to modulatingly translucent glazes of irreproducible internal variance - snubbing the trend of prints substituting originals.
His main most recent recipe just before the shoot featured on this website: apple-cider & white wine vinegar-preserved whole raw eggs of pasture-raised geese to emulsify a safflower, walnut and alkyd oil mixture to increase the flow of his usually-sunflower oil-bindered "nuclear winter's supply".
Vascio somewhat rarely signs the fronts of his works. If signing the fronts, he most likely does so for those pieces most curvilinearist in character and least likely does so for those pieces most colourist in character, which serve as "uninteruppted windows to just look through," despite the visibility of painterliness. To compensate, Vascio often gratuituously signatures, website addresses, dates and notes technical idiosyncracies on the backs.
The struggle to push portfolio in new directions may go as elaborate as pioneering zeitgeist or as prosaic as adapting to arbitrary circumstance: hundreds of living situations irretrievably dispersed much artefact, rendering comprehensive lists dauntingly implausible for now . . .
. . . but materials used on luan, museum rag, masonite, sketch and watercolour paper and canvas (as well as supports within the catch-all phrase of "found object") have included wood burnt for charcoal and ash pigment, clays mined out of streambeds then filed, ground or pounded to particulate dust, calcium caseinate or milk lime paints, distemper as well as rabbit hide glue alone, polyvinyl acetate; acrylic primer, paint or polymer; aerosol, egg yolk tempera, glair, casein, vinyl and watercolour paints; linseed oil in raw, stand and sun-bleached form, polyurethanes, tung and poppy seed oils, most synthetic commercially-available lightfast pigments (like irgazines, cadmiums, quinacrodones, chromiums, anthraquinones, ultramarines, cobalts, ceruleans, naphthol, prussian blues, phthalocyanines, manganese violets, titaniums, dioxazine, interferences . . .); woodless and wooded graphite, coloured, pastel, carbon and watercolour pencils; conte crayon, chaulk, china marker; hard, soft and oil pastels; oil and encasutic stick; oil pens and on and on . . .