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Artist in Focus | Gaetano Rizzi

Icaro, 2020

Introducing Gaetano Rizzi, Queens, NY Artist


About the Artist:

My name is Gaetano Rizzi. I am a Queens, NY based artist mostly working in analog collage and mixed media. Making art is something I remember doing and enjoying ever since I was very young. But a more serious endeavor did not come until my late 20’s when I went back to college and earned a BFA from the City University of New York at Queens College in 2009. If nothing else at that time, being surrounded by other artists was the best part of my higher ed experience. Because of that, I was able to see other ways of image-making and for the first time, being intrigued by collage. Up until then, I mostly worked in painting and drawing, preferring to produce works of ordinary and discarded objects in a quasi-realist fashion. This was due to my fascination with 15th and 16th century Dutch and Flemish painting and their ability for storytelling through objects, as can be seen in the vanitas paintings of that period.

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Gaetano in his Studio

Shortly after graduating, my art-making methods changed, and I started incorporating analog collage into my practice. Overall, it gave me a greater sense of satisfaction and found that the medium offered me a much quicker and easier way to produce and convey my ideas. But whereas my methods had changed and evolved, my relying on objects to tell a story would remain and be of utmost importance in my process. This was something deliberate that I carried over into my collage making routine.

Secret Rituals, 2021

Many of my works incorporate similar motifs throughout. Sailboats, architectural details, bridges, and nature are some examples of images that I repeatedly use. I source many of these from modern day home and architecture magazines, coloring books, Nat Geo magazines, 1960’s-1980’s children science books, and anything else that’s not from this era. By appropriating, repurposing, and attaching personal added meanings to these images, I am attempting to create a visual vocabulary, one that is meant to explore and process the physical world around me, as well as my inner space, that which exists behind the mind’s eye.

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Top Panel - Emptied All Realms of the Galaxies, 2021 / Atavism Dream, 2019 / Fingerprints of Memory Immortality, 2020 | Bottom Panel - Mountain Dirge, 2021 / Time's Up, 2021

Using collage imagery, layering process, color, perspective, and language my work is an effort in exploring the tangible vs intangible. By investigating such themes as altered states of consciousness, memory, and the subconscious, I want to engage with the viewer on a transcendental level. The works are not meant to be didactic but instead facilitate an intuitive connection with the viewer. My objective is to create works that stimulate the viewer’s third eye and for one to tap into a place more closely associated with dreaming. I believe that it is from here that one can make connections and draw out their own conclusions.

Science Killer (Directions to See a Ghost), 2017


Q & A with the artist:

DA: You mentioned that analogue collage making became a part of your art practice not too long after graduating college. What was the catalyst? What influences at that time propelled you in this direction?

GR: I would say that one major influence that propelled me towards collage was the initial feeling of just being awestruck by the layering process and the final results that can be achieved. You see, in my last few semesters at college I had become friends with fellow artist Brandon Friend, who was in the graduate program and working in collage/mixed media. By frequently hanging out and visiting his studio I was able to watch the progression of his works and the layering he employed to achieve his desired results. He used things such as computer generated images, colored paper, reverse image transferring, and acrylic paint. I was amazed with the results and was left inspired to also start adding collage to my own art making practice.

DA: Collage is very much like a dream, don’t you think? It is the perfect medium to express what lies beyond waking awareness. Your chosen symbolic motifs— sailboats, bridges, and nature serve as visual triggers. It signals to us to cross over, transit, journey, and escape. It pulls us into a dreamstate, a mish-mash of seemingly unrelated things that come together to create a feeling that you can’t quite put words to. It truly does "stimulate the viewer’s third eye", as you said in your statement. Can you share an experience where your dreams crossed over into your waking life? What are your thoughts on the collective unconscious?

GR: I totally agree with everything you said in regards to this question. For me collage is very much like a dream or better an attempt of recreating a dream. The visual triggers that you described as ones which "create a feeling that you can't quite put words to", are meant to be received in that fashion. Though ineffable and you can't quite put your finger on it, you sense that there's a human connection or relatable inference. This I believe comes from what Carl Jung would term, the human collective unconscious. As the famous psychoanalyst's theory better explains, a segment of our deepest unconscious mind is genetically inherited. It is knowledge and imagery that all humans are born and share due to our ancestral experience. That's why I think we get that feeling that we're onto something but are not fully able to explain.

An example of this for me would be like when I have had dreams with people or pets that are deceased. I'll wake up from one of these with an overwhelming feeling as if it was "real". Though I am incapable of connecting all the dots and deciphering everything, I intuitively feel that something magical transpired. And though I am unable to grasp it all, I know there has to be meaning. For me, collage is like an investigative tool and a meditative practice on this subject matter.

DA: What projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to this year and beyond?

GR: As we finally begin to come out of this pandemic I look forward to participating and exhibiting works at live showings. I feel that I am in need of human interaction and feedback, for virtual comments and likes just don't seem to have the same effect on me. Secondly, I look forward to finally opening up my online shop where originals and prints of my work will be up for sale. And lastly, to just continue making works, accept any collaborative endeavor, and to continue being involved in the many creative challenges that this thriving and stimulating collage community has to offer.


Instagram | @gaetano_rizzi


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