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Anthony Paul Filiberto: In Broad Strokes

An artist who lived as large as he painted.

Ric Ide Photography

There is a notion of the artist as a quiet recluse who needs to be by himself to protect his creative instinct, and artists themselves subscribe to it. In a poll of some 140 painters taken by a top art blog several years ago, nearly 80 percent self-identified as introverted or very introverted.

Then there is Anthony Paul Filiberto, who signed his paintings “A Paul” and was known to those in his life as Tony. The bold, sure-handed strokes of his palette knife—the movement and color and texture that give his works such a strong sculptural quality—directly reflect the gusto with which he engaged with people, encouraged them, brought them into his circle and forged abiding and meaningful friendships. In fact, his lust for humanity, for community, fueled his artistic power rather than enervated him. Whether painting flowers, a path in a forest, traffic in a rain-slicked city, a seascape, or a baby grand piano (no one-trick pony, A Paul), he liked nothing better than to have people come talk to him while he worked at his studio on Provincetown’s bustling Commercial Street. It was just a block from the Cortile Gallery that showcases his and other artists’ work and is run by his wife, Kerry Filiberto.

“He thrived on people coming in,” Kerry comments, “talking to him about the work.” 

Truth be told, he wanted to be connecting to people through his art whether they met in person or not. He said in a video some years ago that his goal was for people looking at his work “to feel the energy I’m feeling when I’m painting.” (It’s hard not to.)

Part of the energy is the sense of rhythm his paintings impart. An expressionist, Tony called himself a rhythm painter. (He often liked to paint to music.) The rhythm is encouraged by his blending of colors on the canvas with tools that include rollers and plaster knives. It imparts a different, perhaps at times more fluid, effect than colors mixed on a palette. Using such tools and working with a palette knife instead of brushes was as natural for Tony as frosting a cake, Kerry says.  

He was happy to share his knowledge and approach. “He had no trouble telling you how he did things,” says Boston-based painter Nella Lush. “That means a lot among artists—and among friends.” 

Celebrated Cape artist Anne Packard knew and enjoyed Tony’s outgoing manner. She liked to joke with him and, especially when he was still relatively new to Provincetown, visit him at his studio to discuss art and talk in general. Once he had both oars in the water, as Kerry puts it, she would come by less often, but they maintained a warm rapport. 

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