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Meet John DeFaro

Today we’d like to introduce you to John DeFaro.

John, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am an interdisciplinary visual artist and designer. My work as a visual artist was first influenced as a youth in an apprentice type of mode from my one-on-one connections with Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Jane Wilson, among others, all artists who were neighbors in the Hamptons, NY. The natural landscapes and seascapes, homes and gardens, artist studios and access to NYC made an indelible impression on me. I am self-taught.

From age 25-27, if not gardening and making art, I worked as an assistant in Southampton for Henry Geldzahler, the noted curator, critic and public official whose enthusiastic advocacy of contemporary art made his name synonymous with the art scene in NYC for three decades, in the ’60s through the ’80s. A close friend of David Hockney and Ellsworth Kelly, Henry introduced me to renowned contemporaries.

A most memorable moment was driving Henry to visit Isamu Noguchi in 1986 at the artist’s studio in Long Island City. We interacted with Isamu for hours as Henry needed to resume in person a past conversation with the artist. Isamu was the artist representing America in the 42nd Venice Biennale the same year. Henry was the curator.

I also clearly remember Henry sharing how one forms their art appreciation by first looking to art history and pop culture and how we each can develop our own unique taste for art and design over a lifetime. For anyone curious, look up the painting by David Hockney from 1977 ‘Looking at Pictures on a Screen.’ Henry Geldzahler is depicted within the artwork.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Smooth road? Not. The HIV/AIDS crisis during the late ’80s and ’90s was life changing. During that time I isolated and disconnected.  Fear and stigma presented a profound creative block. HIV/AIDS has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. I isolated as many friends were lost to the disease. I looked to home interiors, intuitive art makers and the comforts of home furnishings. An object such as a patterned wool blanket would become a simple yet fantastic solace. I embraced my prior and ongoing fascination with Outsider artists, early American folk sculpture and 19th century Shaker furniture.

In a short time, I began sketching new ideas for early Americana furniture and objects, which led me to a significant venture. Following these early sketches major design companies became interested in my work and for five years, beginning at the age of 29, I created original home furnishings and textile designs for Lexington Home Brands in Thomasville, NC. For Lexington, I launched a licensed home furnishings collection bearing my legal name, DeCristofaro, for which I received royalties for over five years. This allowed me to travel, meet artists and designers, and enjoy a multitude of landscapes.

At the same time, while living in Watermill, NY I developed and sold sculptural works in metal and wood and developed my drawings based on nature. In 1997, the furniture collection was discontinued, and royalties became a fat zero. At 35, I moved to Miami Beach and enrolled in the Miami Ad School. During this time, I also interned at 180 Global in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for four months via a residency program offered by the school. Back in Miami, I then developed an art project and narrative on hand-creating and marketing of a gift and collectible item with mass appeal.

I also involved this branded project with such organizations as the Miami Children’s Hospital and Food for Life Network, which I trademarked as Love Paintings. My skills at the Miami Ad School in art direction were encouraged by my teachers to be smart vs. clever. Sadly, as my ad school portfolio program was coming to an end, 911 hit. The ad industry experienced a harsh slowdown as I also experienced my first devastating break-up. So with ‘love being lost,’ my Love Paintings project was disbanded and put in storage.

For the next ten years, I managed a restaurant bar on Miami Beach which allowed me the time to create art that spoke to environmental issues and implementing found organic and man made discarded materials. Re-purposing was also important to my approach.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
What sets me apart? I enjoy knowing nothing sets me apart. Honesty and remaining teachable is something I celebrate. I own a lot of appreciation for unique experiences and keeping a keen focus on what is raw, provocative and engages humans to think openly.

I obligate myself to find a place to live that has a yard for my dogs and a garden I can cultivate and reflect upon. My mind and body will always find the poetics of space. Bringing awareness of important social causes through art installations, exhibits, and advocacy in the areas of HIV/ AIDS stigma, health, and the environment is important.

I can also throw a great party! I directed the full scope of event planning for the first private party hosting 200 guests at the Vagabond Hotel in Miami. As with any art event I organize, I will develop the creative theme; design invitations onto commissioning artists and designers to realize art installations and visual elements. A complete run-of-show.

Trees are prominently depicted or referenced in my current tangible artworks. I draw and paint trees as an entry to discovery. During my youth, after-school jobs were gardening jobs. Later in my life, I can still support myself through horticulture and landscaping.

My drawings and works on paper reflect this personal history. They are a separate body of work and relate to my other work because they are mine, but they aren’t related in one completing the other. Much of the overall imagery accomplished is more than organic forms produced by nature but also what organically develops into designs. A mix and match occur. A short time ago I exhibited at The Art and Culture Center Hollywood, FL, The Boca Raton Museum, FAT Village Projects in Fort Lauderdale, The Miami-Dade Kendell Campus Gallery and included in two group art shows curated by Carol Jazzar.

So, what’s next? Any big plans? From 2015 to 2017, I was the Executive Assistant to the founder and Executive Director of Tigertail Productions, Inc. in Miami. Working side by side with founder/executive director Mary Luft was rewarding. Tigertail Productions was a leading not-for-profit organization that presented and produced performance arts. The board of directors was diverse, enthusiastic and involved. I received praise and respect from the organization. Tigertail was disbanded after 38 years at the end of 2017. The experience was humbling.

After my employment with Tigertail I began working as an independent contractor for Viviana Dominguez of Art Conservators Lab, LLC in Miami. Viviana is a gifted professional and mentor. We analyze and conserve paintings, sculptures works on paper, photographs, and framing on behalf of renowned arts institutions and private clients. I co-managed the development of the lab’s marketing, establishing the creative and editorial vision for both print collateral and social media.

I am a Creative Director and Visual Artist whom capitalizes on art direction, creative concept development, and project management. Building my tribe of creative practicing professionals both young and older is paramount. I gravitate and learn from those relationships and have been mentored and trained by some of the best.

My thirst for new experiences as a creative director provides a nice balance for my art-making practice. I surrender to my creative process and share with others. I approach not only the landscapes on earth we know or might imagine,  but continue to evolve and develop ‘what is new’ from within my studio practice indoors and out.

I will end with some exciting news! Forever remaining open to new opportunities, I was recently hired at Books & Books’ new location in Coconut Grove to serve as a hospitality/aesthetic consultant in helping operate and oversee the soft opening of their recently unveiled café and wine bar. The Books & Books’ curated programming and their retail offerings is highly respected and admired. I am in much gratitude today.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Eliot Hess

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. John DeFaro

    January 4, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you VoyageMIA for the opportunity to share.
    Happy New Year 2019!
    John D

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