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          Front Page


Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Artist Oskar D'Amico Once Designed Movie Sets in Italy

By Wesley Pulkka
For the Journal
    Oskar D'Amico was a world traveler, consummate artist, motion picture set designer, accomplished musician and creative adventurer. He died Saturday in Albuquerque at age 80.
    "Oskar was completely generous with other artists. If he saw that they needed something he would give it to them," said his wife and fellow artist Simone D'Amico. "He welcomed criticism because he felt it made him stronger. He loved working with other artists because he learned things from them and was able to share his own experience."
    He was born in Castelfrentano, Italy, in 1923 and studied philosophy and architecture before pursuing set designing and mural painting. He became a full time studio artist after moving to New York in the 1970s.
    "Oskar had enormous talent and a stunning body of work that was far from complete when he died. Anything that he saw or had an idea about moved directly from his mind through his hands. There are few if any other artists who could work successfully in so many mediums. Whether it was playing a piano or making an abstract painting his expression would take over the whole room," his longtime art dealer Helen Karsh said.
    He was best known locally as a painter and sculptor who founded the Arte Struktura Gallery in Albuquerque that specialized in art from the international MADI movement. The MADI movement was founded in Argentina by Carmelo Arden Quinn in 1946. MADI is an acronym for movement, abstraction, dimension and invention.
    Karsh said D'Amico worked in four distinct styles. He was a figurative painter who many compared to Picasso, he developed a unique abstract painting technique called materica, and worked in constructivism as well as MADI.
    His works are housed in private and museum collections in the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada and Hungary.
    D'Amico's son Philadelphia photographer and art director Pier Nicola D'Amico remembers his father as a courageous adventurer. Pier Nicola said his father made more than 50 films in Italy before moving to America to pursue his love for painting and sculpture.
    "I grew up in Philadelphia and planned to be an astrophysicist until I spent one summer in Mexico with my father. We used to go into town to make sketches with pointed sticks and coffee. My father wanted to teach me how to create values in a drawing so we painted with coffee to build up lights and darks. When I returned from that summer I dropped my scientific ambitions and went to art school," Pier Nicola said.
    Pier Nicola explained that as he grew up D'Amico would pass on his own creative inspiration during cross-country camping trips that avoided campgrounds in favor of nights spent in the wilderness.
    "We would just stop when we needed to sleep and pitch the tent. I wish I had his limitless courage for continuous risk taking. Who else would give up a successful movie career and move to America to become a starving artist? But he lived and loved his art," Pier Nicola said. "It was his meditation and he never lost his passion for its spirit."