John DeFaro

Green Paintings, Layering years

My Green Paintings are how I connect at this moment with and to my past. They represent a visual intimacy where the truth can be told. 

This distinctive new body of work of monochromatic and minimalist-style paintings and assemblages embraces organically heavily worked and reworked surfaces to refined and layered compositions. I am exploring formal elements such as line and, above all color-combining references that are environmental, historical, cultural, and personal to create work that interplays between the formally composed and studied, and the free and instinctive.

The oh-so-noticeable crisscrossed patterns of paint on my paintings refer to my memories as a youth mowing lawns in alternating crisscross patterns every other week. Thus, the precision, of everything is captured in the spontaneous metaphorical cross-hatching of the paintbrush. The self-obligatory dutiful act to measure up and foster neighborhood curb appeal is revealed. There is no going back or correcting after layering 37 coats of paint on a canvas. This September I celebrate 37 years as a healthy HIV and drug abuse survivor. Reflecting on these 37 years, I am using each layer as a source of meditation and healing. The work responds to and reacts to the American temperature readings of the HIV/AIDS crisis since it began and my own personal story. I am connecting to my long-time love of gardening and advocating my personal experience with garden-based healing.

My subject matter is nature, whether it is a traditional landscape, assemblages of reclaimed organic matter, or a flower or tree painting, making the new reflect upon my visits to the garden. In American culture, plush, green lawns are intertwined with status, ego, family, personal agency, and more. Lawns are indicative of success. They are a physical manifestation of the American Dream of home ownership. We question our validity in others' eyes. My current studio work exposes the harsh environmental negative impact of everyday lawn care and maintenance that uses fossil-fueled equipment. My green paintings are connected to my personal approach toward protecting our shared planet.

The COVID pandemic cracked open a universe of solitude. My social life folded in, leaving vast tracts of time unscheduled, unshared. Time alone gave rise to re-evaluating and examining what truly matters. I thought of family. I vividly looked back to childhood visits to my late grandparent's home in Riverhead, NY. Much of the time was spent outdoors along a small canal behind their home. Their grass-green painted wood picnic table rested under a large old maple tree. The table and benches had a robust buildup of paint layers. The surface had a wavy sea current type of texture that shimmered in the daylight. I recall thinking about each applied yearly 'freshening up' coat of glossy painting and what each represented. A history registered by paint. 

My "green" garden in my painting and in nature is my extended family and audience. We work together with respect. I heal myself in order to help heal the planet.