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Speaking With Living Museum Multidisciplinary Artist Frank Boccio

I came upon Frank Boccio’s infectious aesthetic on my first visit to the Living Museum on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. I recently had the opportunity to find out a bit about the talented artist behind it.

When did you first begin to draw? Become interested in art?

I knew I wanted to be an artist from the time I was four years old. I began with coloring books.

What is your earliest art-related memory?

Drawing imaginary flowers. I made them up as I drew them. My mother used to give me the sheets of paper that came with the stockings that she’d bought. Those papers were my canvas. My first painting was a copy of American Gothic. My first real painting was of an American Indian. I was 15 at the time.

How did your family respond to your artistic bent?

They didn’t. My father didn’t want me to be an artist, and my mother never provided me with any art supplies — other than the papers packaged with her new stockings.

What inspired you, then, to keep doing art?

I liked it. I liked looking at art, studying it and making it.

Have you any favorite artists?

Jackson Pollock is a particular favorite. I love that he found a new way to play with paint.  Other favorite artists include: Salvador Dali and René Magritte.

Any cultural influences?

American culture…film… Andy Warhol

How much time do you generally spend on a piece?

It depends. Some come quickly and some take years.

Have you any other passions – besides painting?

I’m passionate about photography. I also play the piano and I write music.

Have you exhibited your work?

I exhibited in Soho back in the 80’s, and in 1986 I had a solo exhibit at the National Arts Club. I also showed at Adelphi and here at the Living Museum.

How important is the viewer’s response to your art?

It doesn’t matter much.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

Yup! I work up to my own standard of what’s real and what’s good.

Do you work from a preliminary sketch? Or do you just “let it flow?”

I don’t work from a sketch. I paint from my head.

How has your aesthetic evolved within the past decade?

I’m more into abstraction than I used to be.

Have you a favorite setting to work?

Anywhere there’s an easel.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I have a BA in Fine Arts from Oneonta State College, and I’ve taken classes at SVA. I’ve never stopped studying art or creating art. Even the 19 years I worked as a Special Education teacher, I was painting and drawing. I left the school system after getting eight separate death threats. 

What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

About 90%. When I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it.

Where are you headed?

I don’t know.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of images by Lois Stavsky