John Orgera is picking up an art career he started in the 1970s. He moved to San Francisco in 1967, and entered an ArtForum magazine competition in 1971, doing well enough to have his work included in the magazine's traveling exhibit. His work was shown in several galleries in San Francisco. “I was full throttle doing my artwork, when life intervened,” John says. Orgera began working on his art again two years ago, and he says his wife Lisa encouraged him to keep going.
His current work is in acrylic on three dimensional scultped canvas in sizes ranging from one to four feet. He builds his own frames of wood, with protrusions such as a center post that creates a shape like a circus tent. His round pieces resemble shields. Creating a smooth painting surface over his irregular frames is a lot of work, he says. “I buy 100-foot rolls of canvas, cut it to fit, then soak and heat it to stretch around those frames.”
He then gessoes and sands the canvas smooth, and applies latex paint. The resulting surafaces are painted in vibrant colors in what he describes as a mandala or aborignial style, which has evolved: “The dot motif came to me because I had an affinity for mandala work. I do these with mandala brushes that I make.”
Orgera draws his designs freehand, sketching on a pad before he starts painting. “I do each color separately. I’ll spend weeks dotting. As I work around the piece, the internal shape comes to me. I start with a basic color background then slowly work, meditate and think on it and it comes to me. It’s something I think is unique in the artworld, to do dimensional work.”
Orgera says he’s happiest when he’s working in his garage studio. “It’s a burning desire from within me,” he says. “I’m from a family of passionate Sicilians. My great grandfather was a bronze artist. He came over in 1894 to New york City from Naples. He worked in metal foundries and did artwork on the side. I have some of his small pieces in my house and I treasure them.”
Artist Profile by Karen Wilson
Edited by Lisa DeFinis