The Infinite in the Intimate

David DiPietro
May 01, 2002
watercolor painting of purple, gold, and green landscape
David DiPietro

"Pennsylvania Consideration," Watercolor and pastel, 10" b 14" by David DiPietro

I have traveled to Italy every year since 1991. My first interest was to learn about my heritage. Gradually, however, I became more and more interested in the 20th-century master Giorgio Morandi, who lived and painted most of his life in Bologna. Morandi has been called "a painter's painter." His subtle, seemingly repetitive still lifes are universal and particular at once: They are deliberately stripped of recognizable detail, but they are painted in the subdued, earthy colors of Bologna. His arrangements of bottles even resemble the medieval towers of the cityscape.

Like Morandi, I am interested in the surface, more than in traditional narrative. Like him, I'm something of a provincial painter. My subject matter is limited. He painted still lifes, and I paint the landscapes of southwestern Pennsylvania. Seeing how he worked, and how deeply his work reflects the place where he spent most of his life, got me thinking: Why do I continue to repeat these landscapes? What keeps me focused on these simple objects? And I think it's because my approach is basically contemplative. I'm trying to capture not just a place or a space but a moment in time, and to evoke that particular reality not by a narrative device but by developing the surface. It's like an epiphany. When I go out into a field, I walk around the field until I find that intimate little spot, that instant. People drive by and they'll say, 'He's painting my house.' And it's not that. I'm using that house as part of a still life. I'm thinking about how I can manipulate the surface to capture that instant of reality. To me, it's a poetic approach, rediscovering something about painting and myself each day.

multicolor watercolor landscape with street
David DiPietro

Thought on a Pennsylvania Field (detail), watercolor and pastel on paper, 56" by 60," by David DiPietro

We tend to think of a landscape as different from a still life, something infinite, with a horizon and sky. But it is also intimate. Morandi was seeing those towers as bottles, turning his cityscape into small, intimate still lifes. I'm striving for that kind of intimacy.

David A. DiPietro, M.F.A., is associate professor of art at Penn State Fayette campus, 302B Eberly Building, Route 119 North, P.O. Box 519, Uniontown, PA, 15401-0519; 724-430-4246; dad4@psu.edu.

Last Updated May 01, 2002