John Sideli

I became very interested in antiques and old houses during the two years between graduating from high school and deciding to attend art school. I enrolled in a fine arts program at Southeastern Mass University, and attended for only one year. Two months into my second year, I met my wife during a bomb scare evacuation of the buildings. We dated for a few weeks and then eloped, got married, quit school, and began peddling antiques. It was the sixties!
Not long after leaving school, my wife and I had the opportunity to live for free on the Connecticut estate of the sculptor Alexander Calder, as caretakers. At that time the Calders were living in France for most of the year and only visited occasionally, and needed someone to look after the place. It was one of those great gifts of cosmic grace that come along and influence your life in ways you could never have imagined.
 We spent two and a half rich and carefree years there on the property in Roxbury. Sandy Calder was always kind and generous with us, even making room for me to paint in one of the studio buildings on the property, and giving me canvas and stretchers to use.
 It was probably during this formative time in my understanding of art, that the seeds of assemblage began to grow in my subconscious. Calder's hand was everywhere on the property and in the buildings. His playful and inventive approach made use of every sort of material, and object that you can imagine. Garden stools made of logs had penises, elegant origami type birds were made out of cut up coffee cans and strung on string. A worn and broken wooden kitchen spoon became a work of art with the addition of an artfully conceived brass wire repair. His sense of humor and creative genius were in evidence everywhere.
 It is difficult to say why I am so drawn to antiques and relics of the past even when they are only fragments. There is something compelling for me in their sense of history, aged surfaces, and unusual forms, no longer relevant in todays context of speed, technology, and mass produced obsolescence. 
Having been a dealer in American painted furniture and folk art for nearly 45  years now, specializing in items with original surfaces and a clarity of form, I have had ample opportunity to refine my sensibility and taste.
When I turned to making art, that same sensibility came into play. And I have no doubt that my time spent in Roxbury at Calders, together with my love of history and antiques percolated in my subconscious and led me to the kind of work that I do. While I have been doing this kind of work since the early eighties, it is only recently that I have decided to devote the major portion of my time and energy to it.  
My process is very much about seeing, discovery, and establishing relationships. I find that the simplest most humble objects can have a powerful eloquence and strength. In working with found objects, I find that my visual vocabulary is virtually unlimited. I can tell a story, or evoke feelings of  sadness,  joy or compassion. I may recall and comment on a historical event or express my concern over current social  and environmental issues. Or I may simply celebrate the essence of various objects and the way their colors, texture, and forms relate to noe another on the most basic abstract level. Words and symbols are key elements for me as well. 
I assemble and arrange objects in the same way that a poet chooses words. I try to carefully combine them in a way that allows them to transcend their original form or purpose and evoke a feeling or tell a story.  And as with poetry, there is a certain rightness to a particular combination or arrangement that will express with directness and simplicity what I want to say.
I believe that there is spirit in matter, which, if tapped, can have a powerful resonance when objects are carefully tuned, coaxed, combined and juxtaposed.
Years ago, a collector, after looking at a group of photos of my work, turned to me and said; "You see it in everything, don't you?
It's what I think. It's what I do. It's who I am 
There is no struggle in it for me, no pain, only joy.
John Sideli Art & Mixed Media 
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