BY STEPHANIE S. BEECHER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT HAAS
My work is a representation of
love, truth, life and death.
— Artist Carmelo Blandino
On a late dreary afternoon, Carmelo Blandino stands in his basement studio peering at the three large paintings before him. He pauses, rearranges the canvases, and takes a step back to reflect on the alternative vantage. Ardently aware of his visitor’s presence, he is reticent: “I’m trying something new. It’s not finished.”
The statement, subtle yet revealing, encompasses everything that Blandino has become: a master arbiter of artistic experimentation extricated throughout a 15-year oeuvre of professionally painted works. But leave the description up to him, and he’s likely to pronounce, “I just paint.” Blandino doesn’t live for labels.
Perhaps it has something to do with his meandrous upbringing. Born to Sicilian parents in Tübingen, Germany, his childhood combined the cultures of the Baroque city of Modica, Sicily, and “La métropole,” Montreal, in French Canada. It was in Canada, in fact, where Blandino first began to cadge his creations — as a freelance illustrator for advertising agencies. But it wasn’t his true calling; he was plagued with the urge to follow his dreams.
Following an identity crisis of sorts, he decamped from city life to contemplate his future in a cottage buried deep in the Canadian forest, where he had only three things: “a connection with the earth, a connection with my spirit, and a connection with a paintbrush.”
This spiritual shedding is reminiscent in Blandino’s 2002 painting “Santo Paulo,” a murky depiction from which Blandino’s shadow emerges from the dark depths of the plane, as he walks away from his previous verve. He says he took solace in his natural surroundings. It also became an infinite source of inspiration.
“Nature is real, and I needed to paint it,” he says. “Every human can relate to it.”
Nature would continue to be the fil rouge in Blandino’s work. After creating a series of expressionist landscapes, he began to transfix his energy on the transcendental beauty of flowers. Today, after moves to Connecticut and Florida, broadening Blandino’s entrée in the professional art world, his flower series has become his signature trademark.
“The figurative work is the maturation I was waiting for,” Blandino says upon discovering his style. “Flowers spring from the earth. I wanted to offer reflection. There is freedom in my brushstrokes, and people want to feel that [freedom] in their own lives. I want to be uplifting.”
Blandino wields his ambidextrous talent to create wildly colorful, seductive and provoking renderings of blossoms. Though his work inducts his admiration for such painters as Georgia O’Keefe and Vincent van Gogh, it neither carries the precisionism nor the post-impressionism of his artistic influencers. Blandino’s style is entirely his own. And yet, he strives to make it universal.
“I’m not conceptual in my paintings — my work is a representation of love, truth, life and death,” he says. “A lot of paintings are considered sociopolitical. But, beauty will always outlast protest.”
“In beauty lies truth,” he adds.
Fifteen years after Blandino’s transformation, his credits include exhibitions in galleries across the U.S. and in Canada, including in New York City, Palm Beach and Naples, Fla., Atlanta and Milwaukee, as well as in Stockholm, Toronto and Montreal. He has his first show in London later this year.
In the meantime, Blandino has taken up residence at Peabody’s Interiors in Brown Deer, where he is working on privately commissioned works. While flowers remain his biggest draw, Blandino continues to be immersed in a constant state of self-experimentation, as evidenced by his surrealistic portraits, sculptural work and mixed media artforms.
“I don’t ask myself questions anymore,” Blandino says in his artist book, “In Bloom.” “I let life guide me the way paint lets me guide it.” M