Artist Profile: René Capone Romaine Brooks Gallery Artist Profile: August 2011 Written By Alan Bennett Ilagan
It is a story steeped in unfathomable abuse, horrific depression, and the darkest of childhoods. It has local beginnings and universal resonance – and it has a protagonist who moves from Albany to New York City to San Francisco, California. It is, above all else, a story about the redemptive and healing power of art – as escape, as therapy, as a means of life-saving transformation. Now, René Capone is coming back to where it all began – to the area where he was born and raised – to the very Center where he attended Teen Support meetings as a gay teenager – only this time he is the featured artist at the Romaine Brooks Gallery for the month of August. Coming back home is not always easy, especially when the memories aren’t all happy ones. “Growing up was very hard,” he admits. “I was an abused child to a degree that was frankly sort of terrifying and it took me a long time to have the courage or even the knowledge that I could be something more than that. However, it is a part of who I am. I think it does make me a little more likely to look for the light in things and in people rather than the dark. I would like to inspire any one abused to stand up for themselves and dare to be better than what the world gave them.” For Capone, the way to the light would be found in his artistic expression, and art became both a method of survival, as well as a way of dealing with the pain. The purpose of his art was, “To make a mirror of the self and of the world around you for the viewer to see. A good artist is a mirror for any audience looking to find themselves, and the truth is we’re all trying to find ourselves.” I first met René a number of years ago in San Francisco. I was writing a piece on his ‘Hedgehog Boy’ art project, and we met at his studio/apartment. There were paintings – some finished, some still in progress – all over the walls and the floors, anywhere there was space. There was artwork and the artist’s tools spilling from corners and closets –yet it was neither cluttered nor claustrophobic. We spoke of many things, but it was clear that he was most passionate about his work as he described a new line technique he was experimenting with or his preference for certain colors. According to Capone, “My proudest accomplishment is doing what I was told could never be done - to be a working artist in the face of a corporate brain-washing that would tell us that art is nothing more than a luxury. Making anything beautiful is an accomplishment. Art is not a luxury, it is the only thing that connects us to the past and the future, it is also the only part of a civilization that is kept when we are gone.” More than that, art was a way for Capone to have control over something – to a certain extent – after coming from a place where he had little to no control. The fact that he favors watercolor as a medium is also both telling and perplexing. “Watercolor I think is a force of nature, and it interesting to me to see if I can bend it to my will and where I
simply cannot and have to let the water take over. It’s a very delicate balance that involves a lot of trust.” Much of Capone’s work is whimsical, with a very dark edge. Here, humans can transform into animals – both vicious and kind – almost as if the artist is trying to discern which world has the most, and least, compassion. The idea of transformation informs the title and theme of the show as a whole. “It just seemed natural as these are the paintings and drawings I’ve been making after completing my graphic novel that’s all about rebirth and acceptance.” As he returns to upstate New York for this exhibition, Capone does so with a hard-earned wisdom and philosophical grace. In many respects this is an artist coming full circle – artistically, emotionally, and physically. When recounting those early days on his website, Capone wrote a heartrending piece that gives but a small indication of his world: “While living in NYC, someone whom I remember as being very special and magical said to me (in response to a heated relationship conversation), “It's not your fault… You don't know how to be loved.” Never will I forget that, and never do I want it to be true. He was right, but it’s not the way I'm going to end up.” René Capone will be the featured artist at the Romaine Brooks Gallery for the month of August 2011. His show, ‘Transformations’ premieres on Friday, August 5, 2011 from 5 to 9 PM as part of 1st Friday Albany. Further information about the artist can be found on his website at www.renecapone.com. The Romaine Brooks Gallery is located on the 3rd floor of the Capital Pride Center at 332 Hudson Avenue, Albany, NY 12210.