Dan and Pauline Campanelli
When Life and Art Are One
Dan and I were married in 1969. It was the Woodstock Summer. The war in
Viet Nam continued and the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to succeed.
Consciousness raising and a return to Nature appealed to us. we lived in a
furnished room for sixty dollars a month and earned a living by selling our paintings
at sidewalk art shows. We longed to live in an Eighteenth Century house,
on land where we could be self-sufficient, and lie in harmony with nature and
the rhythms of the season. But that seemed like an impossible dream.
In the meantime, we spent our spare time visiting museums and historic
restorations, and rummaging through antique shops looking for treasures
overlooked by others. We bought the primitive pieces frowned upon by those
who collected only fine period pieces, or the unmarked pewter plate identical to
those signed by Thomas Danforth. Ours is the slipware plate with the
hairline crack, passed up by those who only bought perfect pieces, and ours too
are the stoneware crocks with the imperfections that make them the subjects for
my still lifes.
The years rolled by and Dan and I worked hard, both at our craft and at
making a life for ourselves. There were no miracles or millionaire
lotteries, no severed ears or escapes to Tahiti, just a steady plodding n the
direction of our goal. There were times Dan could have taken a job
as a taxi driver or carpenter to make life easier, but we agreed never to stray
from our chosen path. We supported on another in that decision and we
never lost sight of our goal.
It is not really possible to point to a date on a calendar and say,
"This is when I began my art career." I had sold a painting or
two before I graduated from art school, and Dan earned his art school tuition by
teaching drawing. Our earliest works were smaller, simpler statements with
less commitment. Mine were a bit "looser" and less detailed than
my work is today, while Dan's earliest pieces were painstakingly detailed, but
in pencil, or sometimes stone lithography. Over the years of living and
working together, we seem to have taken on each others qualities. I've
learned Dan's patience and pleasure in minute details, while has acquired my
love of color, soft and subtle.
Dan's first watercolors were still lifes, and rather monochromatic, not
unlike pencil drawings. Eventually, he began seeking out the stone and
wood barns of new Jersey and Pennsylvania, and would drive for hours to get to
his subject matter. It was not until we moved to what was to become Flying
Witch Farm that he was able to just look out a window or walk up the road to do
Meanwhile, my work became larger and bolder, with stark white backgrounds,
rather than the academic still lifes that I used to dash off in a few days.
Today, Dan and I continue to inspire one another, in ways both subtle and
obvious, but we do so in an environment that we have created to contain and
facilitate our endeavors. All we need to do now is to draw upon that
environment for the subjects we paint, so that we may share with others the beauty
that we have found.