Anthony Paul Filiberto: In Broad Strokes
It wasn’t just established painters Tony connected with. Sometimes people who wandered into his studio or the Cortile Gallery would mention that they had always wanted to paint but never had. He’d respond, “‘Then come paint with me,’” Kerry relates. “He’d supply the paint for anyone who wanted to give it a try.”
One of those people was Traci Logan, a college administrator who had barely picked up a paint brush before Tony invited her to create alongside him.
“We’d listen to fabulous music in his studio together,” she says. “He would teach me how to prepare the canvas and then block what I was painting. He would teach me how to mix colors. I would paint with a brush, and after a while he started teaching me how to paint with a palette knife and get that wonderful striation of colors in thick oil—texturized. He also told me not to be afraid to blend paint colors with my fingers right on the canvas.”
But at least as importantly, Logan says, they would have “these very intimate conversations about life.” She says he helped her not to shy away from “making changes in life.” His own painting was a metaphor for his willingness and courage to make changes that brought him happiness, she notes. He had come to painting full time only in the last 20 years of his life, when he was in his early 50s, around the time he met and married Kerry. Before that, he served as chief operating officer for a non-profit that empowered people with disabilities through vocational development and also supported employment and residency while ensuring their medical and dental care.
Ann Parks McCray, whose paintings are exhibited at Cortile, is happily familiar with Tony’s penchant for helping by sharing his own life experiences. “His well-known artistic expertise was matched by his openness of heart,” she says. “His work is almost like light captured on canvas, and I feel that reflects in large measure his generosity of spirit.
“One of his greatest talents was listening to a friend or a fellow artist with his whole being. We talked art, politics, life losses, joy in creation, and more.” It’s as if the range of subjects on which Tony could speak knowledgeably is a direct reflection of the range in his artwork. While much of his work is bold, a number of his pieces, his seascapes in particular, can be subtle and soothing. The full gamut of emotions is teased out under the broad tent of his creativity.
All artists who knew him appreciated his eagerness to exchange ideas, including about process—and to guide when necessary, but never in an overbearing fashion. “Tony was a person who really was up front,” says Ed Walsh, an artist who both exhibits at and helps manage Cortile Gallery. “He used bold, straight talk. But for all that he didn’t trample. He was very empathetic and gave his advice cautiously. I remember one time I was having trouble with sky. He started explaining in terms of brush strokes what I could do. And then, boom, it was like this door opening. I was able to develop the painting into more of what I wanted. He did it in a way that was matter of fact without being prescriptive, without telling me what to do.”
What Walsh also liked about him, he says, is that “Tony wasn’t just interesting. He was interested. He talked to people not just about his work but about themselves. ‘Where are you from? What do you do? What draws you to Provincetown?’” Perhaps that’s why, Walsh, says, that long after Tony had left his position as a COO in corporate America, people who had worked with him—not just executives but also administrative assistants and others up and down the ladder—would find their way to Provincetown and come to say hi to him, to chat with him. Once you knew him, you wanted to remain in his orbit.
Walsh credits both Tony and Kerry with putting him on the map as an artist by exhibiting some of his work in the first place. “One of their missions when they opened their gallery was helping emerging artists in town,” he says. “I was very, very lucky to meet two such vibrant people. How many emerging artists stop into a gallery and end up showing their work there?”
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