Robert Striffolino

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Robert Striffolino was born in New York in 1950 and was raised on Long Island. Although from his childhood he could draw spontaneously with extraordinary skill, he never took a formal art class, feeling that his drawings were so personal he could allow no one—not even teachers—to interfere with his art. Instead, he majored in architecture at Ohio University. After his graduation he was hired by the City of Cincinnati as an architect. However, in spite of earning good commissions and professional recognition, he began to feel increasing frustration over a life and career too distant from the art he loves.

In 1978 Striffolino left his architect’s job to embark upon what he has since called “an odyssey: I decided to travel for as long as I needed to reestablish something in my soul, something I had gotten away from.” He backpacked and camped alone for seven months starting in the Great Smoky Mountains, then along the Gulf Coast and across Texas to New Mexico, through the Rocky Mountains north into Canada, and finally across to the Pacific and down the California coast. It was while camping in California within sight of the Pacific Ocean that he made the decision to settle down and paint in earnest. This decision he later said “resounded in my soul.”

“Elmer Bischoff said, ‘You have to bring off a fusion of your interest both in the subject and in the painting. It’s like walking on a tightrope…the paint on canvas plays a double role — one of an alive, sensual thing in itself, and the other conveying a response to the subject. Between the two is the tightrope.’ I like the fact that I need to feel that tension. I feed information onto the canvas until a dialogue begins. Listening becomes paramount because then I can discover what the painting needs in order for it to blossom. Another balance and tension I seek is between the landscape imagery and my emotions. That kind of tension and edge keeps me coming back to paint again and again.”

Working in series or motifs, Striffolino does not usually paint specific places, but paints ideas or conglomerations of places, concentrating mostly on the interactions of color and shadow to express the idea of a place. He strives to simplify—to break the elements of a landscape down to their essence of light and shadow. He wants to articulate on the canvas the intense feeling he has about the physical dynamics of the landscape or the juxtaposition of colors and light.

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