This week’s cover by Joe Chierchio may not seem familiar at first glance, although the pumpkin is certainly an iconic object for the season. If we go a little deeper, however, we find that the image is iconic for another reason: it expresses men working at a task as they push the pumpkin out of the way. Chierchio’s previous cover, which shows Dan Rattiner moving from his old place of business, was another example, conveying the same idea about men at work. Although the artist’s subjects have been varied, including local structures suggesting the past (Sag Harbor Cinema and The Candy Kitchen), celebrations of the working class and people’s relationship to their environment have always been a potent theme for Chierchio.
Why the interest in men at work? Is it because your family members were blue collar workers?
Yes. My father worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His brothers were electricians, carpenters, plumbers. When I was young, I worked with my father as a plumber in the 1950s. After awhile, he said, “This is not for you. Go home and draw.”
So you combined art and the idea of working. That combination comes from a great artistic tradition.
Norman Rockwell for one. And Bruegel, who painted people working in the fields. The Ashcan School as well.
What is it about the subject that appeals to you particularly, besides the fact that you grew up in a blue collar family?
I want to show that people have a sense of pride in what they do, people experiencing a sense of accomplishment.
Maybe that’s related to why you paint. You can see what you do; it’s concrete what you do. The image lasts forever.
Right. My cousin worked on a bridge, and it’s there forever.
Anyone else in your family who is artistic?
My brother is in the plumbing business, but he’s very creative. He created “Bowl Art,” sculpture made from bowling balls.
I know you have other interests besides working people. What are your latest subjects?
I am doing a painting for my ear doctor, his 1929 Packard. I presented him with a few ideas, like I would do for my clients when I was an art director for an advertising agency. He didn’t know which idea to choose, so I am doing two pieces. That’s what I like a client to say: “I love them all.”
Are you doing commissions for other antique cars as well?
Yes. I have used old cars on some of the covers for Dan’s Papers, like an old pickup truck and a Packard. In fact, there’s an article about me in Hemmings Classic Car Magazine, the best publication featuring antique cars.
How about other projects? Are they also related to subjects you’ve done before?
Yes. I’m doing a series on Central Park; I love Central Park.
Why are you drawn to the Park?
I live down the street. It’s so scenic there. It’s the past but “so today.” It’s an oasis for people, a place to chill. Relevant today as ever.
How about other series you’re working on?
Another is Old Coney Island and then there’s “Diner People,” individuals who eat at diners. For this series, I’ve already done “The Thong Girls”: four girls sitting on chairs in thongs. There’s a touch of sexuality.
By the way, I forgot to ask why you are drawn to old cars?
I love old cars and drawing them as works of art. But it’s funny. I don’t drive.
Visit Joe Chierchio at www.joechierchio.com.
His works can also be seen at Sag Harbor’s Arthur Kalaher Fine Arts Gallery (175 Madison Street). Call 631-725-0170.