The late Joseph Reboli’s luminescent oil painting on this week’s cover, featuring pumpkins against a dramatic fall sunset, brings to mind all that the East End has to offer this season.
Reboli, who died in 2004, left behind more than 3,000 paintings. His devoted widow, Lois, herself an artist and longtime art teacher at Southampton Elementary School, has become the keeper of Joe’s flame and the founder of a center and a studio in his honor. These collections will showcase his work and also serve as focal points for other artists, art education and related cultural activities.
The artist was a master colorist who evolved over the years from Wyeth-like subdued, textured compositions to depicting en plein air scenes that glow with warmth and light.
Though Lois paints, she modestly says that Joe “was the real artist in the family,” a talented painter who was also a “good man, comfortable in his own skin.” The Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival he founded is in its 11th year at Gallery North in Setauket, the first gallery that exhibited his work.
Joseph Reboli studied at the Paier School of Art (now Paier College of Art) in Connecticut, a small, private four-year institution whose mission is to graduate “literate artists.” How did study at Paier affect him?
Lois Reboli: Paier was founded by artists from Yale who specialized in realistic painting and believed in knowing the basics—techniques, mixing colors, drawing. Among Joe’s teachers at Paier was the noted American realist, Ken Davies, a meticulous painter whose exacting work is often likened to photographs, trompe l’oeil and surrealism. He was a great influence on Joe who worked with Davies on a project for the White House Historical Association in 1999. Davies asked Joe how he was able to complete a painting so quickly and Joe said, “Don’t you remember that every time we got in trouble in school our punishment was to complete a painting in three hours? I got in trouble a lot.”
Why did you inaugurate The Friends of Joseph Reboli organization in Stony Brook?
The mission of The Friends is ‘to collect, preserve and exhibit artwork, documents and artifacts’ about Joe. I’m in the process of ordering his work contained in many, many slides of his paintings, establishing categories and chronology with the help of many good friends. Quite recently, with the aid of a small grant and generous donations from friends, we signed a contract to take over an empty bank building in Stony Brook. It’s directly across the street from where Joe was born and raised—all the stars must be aligned! But The Friends is not all about Joe. We will also be working with cultural institutions in the Stony Brook area and exploring the university’s special collections on Long Island history. Having an educational component, as well as a history component would have been important to Joe—he wanted to encourage and support local artists and to offer classical art training to both children and adults. When the Reboli Atelier opens in St. James in January, with Kevin McEvoy as director, we will also be presenting art shows and musical events.
Joseph Reboli’s work will be on display the weekend of November 13–14 when The Reboli Center of Art and History holds its grand opening in Stony Brook. The Reboli Atelier will open in January 2016 at Flowerfield in St. James. For more information, visit rebolicenter.com.