Joe Chierchio’s just come off of a show at the Belskie Museum of Art & Science in Closter, NJ. Called Ex-Madmen Who Create Art. The show featured illustrations by ad agency artists. Chierchio was an award-winning art director at Grey Advertising for 40 years.
Chierchio has also just sold a whole body of work called, well, Bodies of Work, from which he singles out a piece he’s particularly proud of, “Racer Girl”—“sexy girls, sexy cars.” Still, it’s Chierchio’s more subdued takes on urban and rural America in the ’50s and ’60s that have become his signature work. His art, which nods to Frank W. Benson as well as Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper, uses primary colors, but often, for example on this week’s cover, uses them in mellow hues. His work is distinctly narrative, giving glimpses into the everyday lives of hometown people, though on occasion Chierchio can also go moody and noir. His pictures typically tell a story that suggests staged nostalgia, compositions angled like a theater set.
The girl on the cover, her face turned away, is absorbed by the farm scene in front of her, her palette more boldly colored than Chierchio’s drawing! A cow looks off in the distance; a dog looks off in the distance—animals and girl casually united by sweet ordinariness.
Was colored pencil emphasized in your studies at the School of Art & Design, Pratt Institute and at the School of Visual Arts, where you also taught for many years?
I love to draw so when I work with pencils I feel like I am always drawing. It’s all in the touch. Hard, soft, light, dark, it’s a touch, a feel, tactile. I love the smooth, rich color effect of laying down an undercoat, augmented usually with gouache, and then blending and shading. I like to use rough-textured paper, which emphasizes the exaggerated perspective I go for, making the clear-cut forms stand out. In art school I worked in all media. Now I work in pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor and, of course, pencil. At SVA I taught how to come up with ideas and concepts, then the execution would follow. I’ve also lectured at various colleges and corporations.
You’ve been featured on many Dan’s Papers covers. How do you approach cover art?
I love the challenge of coming up with new ideas for the cover. I try to make it of the local scene, whether it’s an iconic spot like Wölffer [Estate Vineyard] or Candy Kitchen. I like to do the local color of the Hamptons, but whatever image I see around me, that turns me on, I try to create a moment. During my walks through the city, I am constantly rediscovering its various moods and tempos. I’m a storyteller. I have lots more stories to tell.
Has your passion for sculpting in stone influenced your drawing?
Sculpture is all about form. I try to bring that love of form and design onto the paper, giving my images a 3D look. If I’m drawing a person, a car, a tugboat or the waves the tugboat causes, it’s all shapes and forms.
Joe Chierchio regularly shows work at the Lucille Khornak Gallery and at the Chrysalis Gallery, both in Southampton, and at the Gallery of Graphic Arts in New York. At Chrysalis, viewers can see his marble sculptures. Visit joechierchio.com.