Paolo Bianchi puts his pen to paper and let’s nature do the rest. His brightly colored paintings that line the walls of his house typically start as sketches, many of them scribbled onto napkins or whatever scraps he pulls from his pocket when inspiration strikes.
“These things can come accidentally,” he said. “Sometimes a whole painting is like someone is driving your hand to do it.”
The stories behind the paintings he creates run much deeper. For the past 12 years, Bianchi has been adding to a collection he calls “Gente di mare,” or “People of the Sea” -- surreal depictions of Bianchi’s earliest memories of growing up in a small Italian fishing village off the Adriatic Sea. Images of life on the water and its struggles stayed with him throughout his life.
“The people live and die by the sea,” he said. “Fishing families fight with the weather and the sea and it’s a harsh life. It always intrigued me.”
Bianchi paints in acrylic and his work is composed of stark, faceless bodies against striking red and orange backgrounds. They depict fisherman and the families they leave on the docks to watch and wait for signs of their boats returning.
“My work is about real stories,” he said. “I want you to get closer into the work that’s why I want you to know the stories.”
The idea for “People of the Sea” was always in his mind, Bianchi said, but he was waiting for the right style of painting to strike him. He always had the idea to partner with a writer who could tell the stories behind his work. But again, he left it to nature to match them.
Three years ago, Bianchi moved from New Jersey to Babylon without any real motive behind selecting a location, he said. A year after that, he met Matt Erickson, a school librarian who lived around the block and walked his dogs past Bianchi's house every morning. Erickson is also a writer.
“When I told him I was a writer his eyes lit up,” Erickson said.
At that point, Erickson had written one unpublished science fiction novel, and had never written anything about art. Bianchi sent him a photo of one of his paintings and told him to write whatever he felt. The story, about three women waiting on the dock for their husbands to return from sea, was perfect, Bianchi said.
“We were a natural fit,” Erickson said.
Since then, Erickson has written about 50 stories that coincide with paintings by Bianchi. They exhibited their work together in October at an art exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Amityville and are hoping to publish a book together.
Bianchi said he still has more to add to the “People of the Sea” collection, but thinks he’ll move on to something different in a few years. He’s not sure what, but he never takes for granted what nature has in store for him.