Artist Ron Di Scenza has a fitting last name. In Italian, conoscenza means knowledge or awareness, and a knowing sense of familiarity comes through Di Scenza’s canvases, giving his images special meaning and significance.
Di Scenza’s deep understanding of human nature is expressed in the faces and body language of his figures, much like Spanish painter Diego Velasquez, and his ability to report life as it is recalls American painter John Singer Sargent. Especially exciting, Di Scenza’s detailed realism is on par with Flemish painter Johannes Vermeer’s, while the soulfulness of his subjects brings to mind Italian artist Michelangelo Caravaggio. Carrying on these powerful painting traditions in the 21st century is Di Scenza’s way of connecting the classics that shaped him at an early age with today’s modern, fast paced world. He is intrigued by the universal traits of humanity that span the centuries and are always relevant.
“When I paint, I try to continue the great painting methods that came before me,” explains Di Scenza. “At the same time, I seek to create the immediacy of the here and now through the unique spirit of the person I’m painting. From a larger perspective, I think people of today need something to believe in, to recognize. They respect skill and want quality.”
Born in 1954 in Ohio, Di Scenza’s mother took him to Rome where Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Sistine Ceiling convinced him then and there to become a painter. He recalls many idyllic summers spent in Italy surrounded by his sister, cousins and a vibrant natural landscape. Back home in America, he moved with his family to Long Island in 1970 and soon Di Scenza became exposed to the exciting art scene of New York City. His formal training includes the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where he was awarded a scholarship and earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree. After graduating, Di Scenza became the school’s youngest instructor at the age of twenty while he simultaneously embarked on a career in illustration that would last twenty years.
Di Scenza’s real calling didn’t come until 1995, however, when he was 41 years old and on vacation in his parent’s home town in Italy, the place of his original inspiration. One day he looked out at the breathtaking scenery and into the expressive faces of his Italian neighbors and realized he always wanted to be a fine artist, particularly an oil painter. “I had no doubt. I knew I had found my destiny and I decided to stay” recalls Di Scenza. “The golden light and warm colors of Italy cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” he continues. “The country is a natural palette of sienna, umber, ochre and warm greens and blues. From the earth to the skin tones of its people, from the old stone buildings to the air itself in Italy is bathed in a warm glow.”
Today Di Scenza lives with his wife Maria, whom he met in Italy and their young son in the Italian region of Molise. He works in his studio twelve hours a day. His process begins with preliminary drawing transferred to the canvas and he works “from dark to light.” Once Di Scenza established his monochromatic design, he adds color. “Some of my color is opaque; some is comprised of several layers of glazes,” he asserts. “Light bounces off the glazes, adding life and luminescence.” Di Scenza often often works from models and his own photographs to position his figures and uses his imagination for the landscape in the background. His skies and buildings are done in fìgreat detail from memory, a skill he developed as a young boy.
Di Scenza’s work is bold and precise and he uses the lines canvas with an ultra fine grain to produce extremely smooth surface. Dramatic lighting is a key attribute of his works and he either creates the light effect he wants or finds theme in nature. “One of my early influences, Rembrandt, used candles for his moody images and Vermeer often painted women seated in a dark room next to a bright window. You can’t go wrong with a window,” he laughs.
The Ron Di Scenza gallery: