Artistic violence sometimes reveals is true power in its ability to stand the test of time. A sensationalized video of gore and explosions, for example, may shock viewers one day, but after a few years it runs the risk of appearing campy. Consider, for a moment, how the sweetly disturbing illustrations of Edward Gorey or the videos of The Brothers Quay have been able to quietly provoke viewers long after their creation.
Such is the case with artist Luca Dipierro, whose paintings and video art are enchanting and macabre all at once. Aesthetically reminiscent of Mexican Day of the Dead Folk Art, antique circus posters and old comic books, Dipierro's work quietly infiltrates the mind through the disarming characterization of nuns, sailors, acrobats, hanged creatures, caskets and detached limbs. "The art I am interested in is one that is little, but adventurous," he says.
To produce his animations, Dipierro first creates paper characters using just acrylic paint and markers. Each paper cut element is rather small — no bigger than 4 or 5 inches, but often Dipierro must create multiples of something to establish movement in his work. Blood emanating from a hand in one animation required 80 red paper drops. "Some animators would just make a loop out of five or 10 drops," he says. "Instead, I cut the 80 drops. On a subliminal level, people understand that they're all different."
It is essential to Dipierro that the hand-made element be prevalent in his work. "There's a sort of obsessive quality you reach when you work on things that small," he says. "The art carries the traces of what you had to go through, and the viewer sees how crazy it was to make."
After the paper cuts are documented by camera, Dipierro finds homes for them in his visual art, created on found objects like book covers and boards. Paintings like "Three Annunciations" have nostalgic appeal with their line-drawn illustrations and straightforward use of primary and secondary colors. His dead-pan characters add an element of dark humor in their indifference to all that surrounds them. In "Tomorrow You Will Not Wake Up," a nun presides over a coffin covered in Italian writing — a short story Dipierro has written himself. "Resurrection of 14 Birds" depicts birds flying out of a casket in singular formation, flanked by two acrobats in striped shorts.
Dipierro recalls that as a child growing up in Moreno, Italy, he would visit a church where glass caskets held the skeletal remains of bishops. The robes and jewels that decorated the bishops' bodies (along with art of the Catholic Church, the Northern European Gothic architecture of his hometown and Italian Puppet Theater) left a lasting impression. He got his start as an artist illustrating posters for rock bands in his teens while living in Italy. "I'd almost prefer to have my art on a record cover than in a museum," he says.
In 2006 Dipierro moved to the U.S. and he lived in Brooklyn before moving to Marshall, six months ago. He recently relocated to Asheville with Leni Zumas, a writer, whom he frequently collaborates. The two have begun work on an illustrated story entitled "Until I Find It," which can be viewed in installments online at thegiganticmag.com.
Dipierro plans to screen his animations in Asheville later this year. For now, his paintings are on display at Hip Replacements in downtown Asheville. DVDs of his videos are also available for purchase, and they are a must-see. The enlargement of his images through video adds dimension to the drawings, as does the haunting music/narration that accompany each vignette. Paper fibers, cut edges, brush strokes and shadows are more apparent at this scale than with the naked eye. "Animations are art plus time," says Dipierro, "it's not just telling a story — it's a painting that moves."
Luca Dipierro's exhibition Circo Di Carta is currently on display at Hip Replacements, 72 N. Lexington Ave.