Name: Mariano di Guglielmo
Current location: Brooklyn, NY (for the moment)
City you were born in or raised: Brooklyn, NY
Company name, job title, job description: Working two part-time jobs at the moment. One as an art handler for OCS Art Services, where I pack and transport artwork. The other as an English teacher online for Chinese children.
Please provide any links to projects if applicable: Mdig-arts.com is my personal website, there is a selection of some of my favorite works in various media.
Tell us specifically about the type of art you do and the materials you use: I do mostly portraits, but I recently started doing murals, too. Through portraiture, I try to capture personality and emotion in a single image. I also like to inspire curiosity about my subjects, leaving an element of mystery. I work in mostly watercolor or acrylic these days, but I like to change constantly and experiment with new materials. I recently started painting on wood as an experiment and I really like the aesthetic.
Tell us more about how and why you started making art: I started drawing as a hobby, mostly graffiti and cartoon characters. I’m not really sure what drew me towards drawing but it was always something I liked to do, and people always encouraged me to keep developing my skills.
When did it become a passion for you? Was there a moment that started it? I think in high school when we had drawing studio and I could just put on my headphones and tune out for a while. It was a nice contrast to the rest of the school day.
What do you most enjoy painting and why? I enjoy portraits because there’s a certain moment when it turns from a collection of tones on a page into a person and I think that’s a beautiful moment, to be able to create the illusion of life with a few simple movements.
What’s your favorite painting you’ve ever done and why? Probably the painting I did of the Standing Rock water protectors because I really felt something while I was working on it. It was a new experiment, painting on wood, and the whole time I was thinking about this protest, and the history of native people in this country. It’s not an easy topic but it’s important.
Is there a particular theme you keep coming back to paint over and over again? What inspires you? I don’t think there’s been any particular theme to the portraits I’ve done, other than the fact that they’re mostly humans or dogs. I like to get inspiration from everyday life, the characters you see out on the street.
Is there a message you wish to convey with your art or is it art for art’s sake? I think it depends on the piece, but mostly I like to capture beauty or inspire conversation. My thinking is that if I can spend hours focusing on a subject, drawing or painting it, then viewers can at least take a few minutes to think about it and talk about it with their friends.
Do you have any favorite artists, painters or specific works of us? This is an answer that will probably be different every time you ask this question, so I’ll just say that my favorite at the moment is Jacob Lawrence. I saw a show with a series of small paintings about great migration. I loved his bold style and the historical context of the series. Very powerful work.
Do you have a favorite art museum or gallery in the world? Any advice for someone who wants to paint? Favorite museum I think would have to be the Met, because I remember going there as a child and seeing all sorts of inspiring things. From Egyptian ruins to knights in armor to fine art, there are so many types of inspiration there.
You were recently living in Italy. Please tell us more! I went to Naples in January 2016, to travel around Italy a bit and to teach English in a volunteer program. I really loved the experience of teaching because I got to connect with elementary school students in a public school in Naples—pretty much the opposite of most tourist experiences. I would come to class every day and it was like having my own fan club. Students would run up to me and hug me and yell my name in the hallways and on the streets. They were extremely appreciative of me being there, and it showed. After this program finished, I found a job working in a hostel and ended up staying in Naples for about three months in total, with a few trips to other parts of Italy. I also found a local community center where I organized my own volunteer English course. This community center (for lack of a better phrase) is called Ex OPG “Je so’ Pazzo” and it is by far the most amazing thing I saw in my travels. A completely student-run organization that provides all kinds of free services and classes to locals and immigrants. After three months I had to leave the Schengen Zone, so I traveled the Balkans for four months and then returned to Italy for another three.
Name some of your favorite local spots where you were in Italy: Naples really isn’t a city of bars, it’s more of an outdoor social life, where people can buy drinks and then drink outside in public piazzas. This was very different from what I was used to, but I really enjoyed it. It is also a much more inclusive social life because it is not about the newest or trendiest place, it’s more about who you’re with than where you are, and therefore it is more accessible to people that aren’t wealthy. The hostel I worked in (La Controra Hostel) has a nice bar and garden and is a good place to gather. Favorite pizza places would be both Da Michele and Starita, which are arguably the best pizza places on earth.
Did you pick up Italian? Favorite Italian word or phrase? I would say I’m conversational in Italian, but not fluent. I’m also trying to learn Napolitano, which is the local language of Naples. Favorite Napolitano phrase: Chill’ ten’ ‘a capa sulo pe’ spàrtere ‘e rècchie which literally means “He has a head only to separate his ears,” but is used as a way to call someone dumb.
During your European stay, what were other favorite cities you visited and why? I went to Catania, Sicily for a week, just to explore, I also went to Turin and L’Aquila (both to visit extraordinary ladies I met during my travels.) I spent some time in Rome and the Amalfi Coast, doing very touristy things with friends from the US that were visiting me.
If you were to pack up and move again, where would you move and why? I probably will before too long, and I’ve got my eyes set on Southeast Asia, but we’ll see how it goes. I am looking for jobs teaching English and I think this is a great way to travel and live in different countries, in a way that is more significant than a simple week or two tourist trip. Also, language teachers tend to be very well-respected and appreciated in many countries around the world.
As a lifelong Brooklynite, can you share with us your favorite neighborhood spots? So much of the Brooklyn we grew up in doesn’t exist anymore, but there are a few relics of old Brooklyn, in particular; Defontes, which is an old school Italian-American sandwich shop in Red Hook; Sunny’s Bar, an old longshoreman’s bar turned hipster hangout; Caputo’s, an old style Italian deli with cured pork products and real fresh mozzarella. Also, Montero’s Bar on Atlantic Avenue, which has weekly karaoke and a strange mix of old and new Brooklyn.
Anything else? I would just like to say that I’m enthusiastic about meeting fellow artists and collaborating and learning new things while creating original works.