The art of Ross Caliendo radiates energy, which only grows greater upon a closer look. His fantastical use of color creates depth in ways one might forget is possible with paint. The images he has etched or boldly laid upon canvas allow for a story that we may think we understand—but our uncertainty regarding the stories is what makes his art so human. Caliendo isn’t hiding his feelings or ideas regarding his work from the audience, but watching and waiting for the stories to unfold with us. His work shows the progression of movement, color, vibration, and what happens when the artist embodies the act of making art, not the idea. The honesty achieved in his work, as well as its progression, is what makes this artist truly intriguing. We may not understand how each piece was constructed or why, but surely that’s exactly what makes it so compelling.
Associate Art Editor Krista Drummond spoke with Caliendo about his creative process, how his abstract paintings and graphic novel illustrations are parallel, and what makes art good.
I see painting as an infinite formula. Anything can happen, anything can be portrayed.
On Creative Process:
I started all the paintings listed by first making the stretcher bars and then priming the canvas with different colors. This ground has always been a kind of barrier creator, for it sets up the play of deciding what compositions will be possible and what colors will probably occur. All these paintings are completely intuitive. The process is reactionary, and the subject matter varies from influences of anything I have been currently exposed to, each piece never having a realized end goal at their conception.
On His Art and Its Varying Translations:
I started abstract painting because I never knew what I specifically wanted to paint, never knew where to start, so I would let anything happen. It is such a direct medium, and so controlled you can make everything and nothing. The idea of making a painting in 2013 excites me. People have been painting for over 150,000 years. It is our oldest form of language, and to be able to use the same tools and ideology that humans used then, today, and make something fresh and new is exhilarating. I’m really honored to be able to play with a history as such. It adds this level of mysticism to it.
It wasn’t until the last year or so did I realize what I was painting. I had made all these abstract paintings and didn’t know why or what. I noticed when I would show them, people were not reacting and seeing my paintings the way I wanted them to be seen. When I made the abstract paintings, each stroke came with a different thought, as if each part/section depicted a different mood or idea. I didn’t really realize that I was abstract painting, until I noticed the images I had put down were only gestures and strokes; my thoughts were not being translated. I came to realize I was getting lost in my head and almost blindly letting my hand movements do whatever they wanted. It seems kind of silly, but it took me a while to understand that people could not read my mind, which allowed me to learn I wanted people to be a part of my meditation, in an open manner.
If it isn’t making itself, I shouldn’t be painting it.
I started making drawings to help myself understand what I was thinking and trying to say. After doing months’ worth of drawings, I noticed central themes and compositional elements that were reoccurring. These drawings ended up becoming the graphic novel I’m hoping to put out soon, Captive Masters. The drawings became a catalyst to the way I looked at my painting process.
It went from growing something that became a painting to seeing the canvas as limitless void. I see all the work as parallel, the abstract work being hidden and passive in my thoughts and the newest work being emotionally upfront and straightforward. The work is autobiographical. I feel as though you can say that every piece anyone has ever made is a self-portrait. You choose to paint whatever or however you are painting, and then your mind with your hands creates something. And that something inevitably is a piece of you.
The following illustrations were recently published in Felt Zine.
On Good Art:
What makes a good piece of art to me, be it a book, movie, song, play, or sculpture, is the obtainment of sincerity and risk within the work. Sometimes I feel I achieve it, and sometimes I don’t. The act is about not trying, not hesitating, not questioning. It is about letting it happen, and focusing on capturing that raw energy that moves your hand, not your brain telling you to move your hand. Just when you start to think you see something, you snag it, and move on. If it isn’t making itself, I shouldn’t be painting it.
Caliendo’s work continues to surprise and awe many. Whether through his abstract paintings or illustrative works, the voice of this artist is officially being heard.