Joseph Genova in his art studio
BY JANICE LLANES FABRY
Some people are born with a natural talent and a passion so deeply ingrained that they can’t envision their world without it. Such is the case with Rye artist Joseph Genova. As a young boy, the self-taught oil painter discovered that the canvas would invariably be a part of his landscape forever.
“I thank God that I was born with some ability that I’ve developed,” reflected Genova, now 79. “When I’m painting, I’m sure that if you took my pulse, it would be very low. I get lost in it and I can paint for hours, breaking only for lunch.”
Margaret, his wife of 54 years, readily attests to that. Early in their courtship, she remembers seeing a painting he had done of Peter Paul Rubens’ iconic “The Wolf and Fox Hunt”.
“I was so impressed,” she recalled. “Throughout our marriage and our kids growing up, Joe has always been in contact with his art. It has been the center of our lives.”
Immigrating from Sicily at age 9, Genova and his family settled in Brooklyn. Growing up, he’d pass the time at his father’s shoe repair shop by painting. That’s where his reproduction of Rubens’ masterpiece came to be. He was only 14.
“I love art history and I would teach myself by reading and going to museums, especially learning from seeing the masters’ unfinished works,” he mentioned.
When it came time for college, he enrolled in Brooklyn’s prestigious art school, Pratt Institute. The practical side of making a living, however, got the better of him. He pursued a career in advertising, relegating painting to the weekends.
His creative and innovative nature, along with a unique perspective, served him well as he rose in the ranks. He became an art director and creative director for various agencies before running his own in Greenwich. Genova and Partners launched highly successful television, radio, and magazine campaigns for high- profile accounts until 2011. Retiring from advertising at 69, he embarked on another full-time career long in the making.
“I waited all my life to paint full-time. Now all I needed to do was market myself,” explained Genova, whose advertising background provided him with a foolproof arsenal of techniques with which to do so.
Through direct mail, then email blasts to galleries, he sparked much interest. Gallery owners, art dealers, and collectors were captivated by Genova’s vivid depictions of European landscapes and cityscapes, largely inspired by Renaissance master Caravaggio’s dramatically lit masterpieces. Before long, his exquisite traditional paintings were featured in one-man shows, countless galleries across the country, and private collections throughout North America and Europe.
The Genova’s apartment is adorned with his paintings of the picturesque hilltop town of Taormina in Sicily, a bagpiper in the old town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the Medieval architecture of Santa Chiara Monastery in Naples.
Genova considers himself a photorealist painter and takes a myriad of photos of his subjects from different angles before ever picking up a brush. At the same time, he is quite playful on his canvas.
“I’ll introduce a gondola or a balcony, even if it wasn’t there. You’ll never see drainpipes in my paintings of Venice, for example. That comes from my advertising background,” he observed.
The success of his traditional pieces notwithstanding, three years ago Genova made a conscious effort to go in a new direction. His success on social media platforms began superseding that of the galleries. “On Facebook, when people respond to my artwork with a comment that says, ‘you made my day,’ that is more rewarding than anything else.”
In addition, he boldly switched subject matter.
“I decided to reinvent myself, so I started painting flowers and fabric. I have always loved texture, along with tapestries and silk,” noted Genova, who has a penchant for experimentation. “I wanted to be more contemporary.”
His brilliant and elegant florals burst on the canvas. He prefers juxtaposing them with a black background, which “makes the colors pop and gets rid of all the distractions.”
As far as his silky, vibrant fabric paintings, Genova has been known to borrow acquaintances’ silk scarves designed by Hermes or Chanel. “They become my subject matter. I arrange the scarves in different ways and take 50 to 100 photos. I love the whole process.”
It takes him about two weeks to complete a painting and he paints an average of five to six hours a day seven days a week. His home studio is illuminated with natural light and filled with a painting of his mother, over 5,000 Winsor & Newton paints, and more red sable and hog bristle brushes than one can count.
Every part of the Genovas’ life is brushed with a colorful palette. A Cuban immigrant, Margaret is an English literature devotee who, up until the pandemic, was taking English Literature classes at NYU. They love to travel, cook, and spend time with their two daughters and grandchildren. Of course, visiting museums is high on their list, too.
“We’ve been to every museum from the MET, the Frick, and The Morgan Library in New York to the National Gallery in London,” said Margaret. “Joe can easily spend 20 minutes in front of one painting.”
The artist also makes it a priority to donate to local institutions, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Holy Child, and Sacred Heart. “I get a kick out of it because of the fact that these great institutions can raise money from my art makes me feel gratified,” said the humble artist in our midst.
For more information and to view his work, visit www. josephgenovafineart.com. Follow him on Instagram @genova.joseph or Facebook.