Published: February 7, 2001
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – “” is a major retrospective on the life and work of folk artist Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997). The exhibition, containing 50 examples of his work, opens at Fenimore Art Museum on April 1 and closes on December 30.
“Fasanella’s paintings chronicle the pageantry of life in Twentieth Century America,” said Paul D’Ambrosio, Chief Curator for Fenimore Art Museum and the leading expert on Fasanella. “These large, colorful, and detailed canvases show the struggles, triumphs, joys, and celebrations of working people.”
Fasanella was born in 1914 to Italian immigrants in New York City. The most formative influences on Fasanella’s life were his parents. His father was an ice deliveryman, and his mother worked in the garment industry. It was his father who introduced him, at and early age, to the physical rigors of working class life, while his socially conscious mother taught him about working-class struggle and social injustice. Fasanella’s early life experience would also later greatly enhance the potency of his art: stints in reform school, the effects of the Great Depression, and a short term of duty in the military in Spain from 1937 to 1938.
It was during the Great Depression that Fasanella developed strong political beliefs- and his interest in baseball increased obsessively. To him the game represented the kind of teamwork and cooperation that was an answer to the individualistic greed that he felt was the heart of the country’s economic problems.
It is fitting that “” is divided into four main themes: “New York City,” “Politics,” “Baseball,” and “Labor,” as numerous paintings for each of the themes were created by Fasanella. The theme New York City is well represented in a painting by the same name. “New York City (1957),” the finished work, is one of the most visually arresting images of New York City in the history of American art.
Perhaps a fitting image for the theme “Politics” is “May Day” (1948), in which Fasanella attempted to capture the scope and spirit of the protest movements of the 1930s. It was his first major political painting. “Night Game – Yankee Stadium” (1981) is, in many ways, the culmination of Fasanella’s artistic preoccupation with baseball – an interest that began when he was just a young boy in reform school. The garment workers strike in 1912 in Lawrence, Mass., was the focus of a series of eighteen paintings. “Lawrence 1912 – The Bread and Roses Strike” (1977) depicts both facts and feelings about one of the most celebrated events of American-immigrant labor history.
Fenimore Art Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 am to 4 pm and is located on Lake Road, Route 80, one mile north of the village of Cooperstown. For information, 888/547-1450.
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