Life is an experiential feast for painter Traeger di Pietro. He has a particularly sharp eye for people and their quirks, and doesn’t hesitate to say his full-time job of driving a truck melds perfectly with his life as an artist.
“I drive a truck 50 hours a week,” says di Pietro, of Vineyard Haven. “It’s perfect for what I do.” Besides being great fodder for people watching, he also unearths objects for his mixed-media pieces, such as a red tag for his new work, Price Check, a painting of a zebra in a fancy room wrapped in a fur coat. “The fur is obviously from another animal,” di Pietro says. The fur is painted, but the red tag is real.
The beauty of mixed media, di Pietro says, is “having the freedom to create whatever I want, with whatever I can get my hands on—crayons, charcoal, paint, found objects, archival paper.” In Dressed to Impress, a swan in a red tie ruffles its feathers in a hierarchal show of power, against a vivid backdrop of paint, newsprint, and glitter. The swan represents di Pietro’s stance on social status and possessions. “It’s not about money,” he says. “I couldn’t pay enough for the (treasures) I’ve found on the beach.”
The artist also works in impressionistic oils, inspired by his daily life on the Vineyard.Draggin’ is a moody rendering of a fisherman on a workboat, moving through his day on an unsettled ocean. The gulls alongside are an important part of di Pietro’s sensibilities. “There’s something beautiful about the simplicity of a bird,” he says.
He is fascinated by people, their possessions, and their relationship with nature. A neighbor of his childhood home in Swampscott was a lobsterman who left a deep impression on young di Pietro. The simplest things were stored in the artist’s memory bank: the man’s calluses, what he looked like unloading traps from his truck. “In a weird way,” di Pietro says, “I think the details of life have been training me all along.”