Rededication to his art

Artist: Two years ago, at age 58, Gerard Valerio decided to return to painting, something he had loved since childhood. His work is on exhibit in Annapolis.

October 11, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Artist and book designer Gerard Valerio has spent much of his adult life cheering on his family, and why not?

His wife, Shari, is one of the Annapolis area's most talented actresses.

Daughter Kristen has been a leading lady at Colonial Players of Annapolis, and is pursuing an acting career in New York City.

Son Tony is an accomplished French horn player with the Naval Academy Band, and daughter-in-law Kim, the gifted principal flutist of the Annapolis Symphony, is one of the smartest hires the orchestra has made in years.

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's Anne Arundel edition, the credit for a photo of Gerard Valerio was omitted. The photographer is M. E. Warren of Annapolis. The Sun regrets the error.

It turns out, though, that Dad is right there on the artistic front line with the other members of his multitalented family.

A former director of design for National Geographic and a book designer for 38 years at the Bookmark Studio he runs in Annapolis, Valerio has rededicated himself to his love of painting over the past two years.

"I was 58 years old, and knew I had loved to paint since I was a kid," he says. "So I simply decided to go full blast in the fine arts. It was time."

The result of his efforts is "Now and Then," an exhibit of 53 oils and drawings on display at the Artists-In-Residence Gallery at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Valerio's portraits, figures, landscapes, seascapes and still-lifes are on exhibit through Oct. 26.

Though Valerio's work was distinguished enough to win him a residency at Maryland Hall back in 1984 and 1985, fewer than a dozen pieces from his current show date from before his 1999 turning point.

Of those, the most striking is Island Breeze, a 40-by-30-inch oil depicting Shari Valerio holding little Kristen as the curtains billow inward from a gentle waterfront breeze.

The placid tenderness of the scene underscores the artist's summation of his work, then and now.

"With me," he says, "it's always the human subject. Even in the nonfigurative scenes, I try to make something of the human come through."

Valerio's evocations of nature provide a case in point. His penchant for underscoring the emotional tugs of his wintry seascapes, or the oranges and rusts of his Autumn Still Life tempts me to coin a term and refer to him as a "seasonalist" artist.

The winter scenes are especially affecting. The solitary chair starkly set among snowy whites and blues in Waiting for Spring is one highlight; the single rowboat moored amid winter's desolation in Winter Slip, Chestertown is another.

How lovely, then, to happen across the Spring Landscape at Wye Mills, where the undulating greens and deep blues testify to an appreciation for burgeoning life in all its forms.

If Valerio can make nature ripple with humanity, it goes without saying that his portraits do, too.

A special image is the face of Maryland's laureate photographer, Marion Warren, mouth open, gazing intently on the water, perhaps connecting with some of the classic seascapes that emanated from his aesthetic eye in his extraordinary time behind the camera.

"He sat for me in my studio at night," Valerio recalls. "and I just had to open up the wall and get him connected with the water."

The most striking of all the faces, though, is the Self Portrait, which shows the grim, purposeful resolve of a gifted artist who decided to lay it all on the line at midlife, and devote himself to crafting these images that elicit such a deep and lasting response.

Gerard Valerio will be the host of a gallery talk at the Artist-In-Residence Gallery at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts at 7 p.m. Oct. 25. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and during all Maryland Hall events. The hall is at 801 Chase St. in Annapolis. Information: 410-263-5544.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.