About 15 years ago, Philip DeAngelo woke up and realized he had everything and nothing at all.
On the one hand, he was an internationally recognized painter published by the likes of Bruce McGaw Graphics, a leader in the fine-art-poster industry. He also owned Sagemore Gallery, an esteemed fine art gallery in Ocean City, New Jersey, and Surfing Artists International, a business that distributed giclée prints and lithographs around the world. But for all of his success, DeAngelo felt like he had lost part of himself in pursuit of pleasing customers.
“I worked in pastels and oils in various styles trying to capture what I thought people would want to buy,” he tells Asheville Made. “I felt very unfulfilled.”
Desperate for inspiration, DeAngelo sold his 25-acre New Jersey sheep farm and moved to Asheville with his wife Tina in 2008. Once settled in the mountains, he completely reinvented his creative identity.
“I started painting for myself — for the sheer joy of painting,” he remembers. “I began using oversaturated colors, simple forms, and textured surfaces, all of which forced me to loosen up and be less fussy with my paintings.”
These flairs and flourishes have won DeAngelo a loyal following. Be that as it may, observant devotees have likely noticed a subtle shift in the artist’s style this past year.
As phrased by Greg Vineyard, gallery director of DeAngelo’s eponymous exhibition space in the River Arts District, “everything is still very ‘Phil.’” But if you look closely enough, you will see quips of inspiration from a motley crew of iconic creatives — everyone from landscape painter Wolf Kahn to iconic children’s-book illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). According to DeAngelo, these are the beloved predecessors who shaped him into the artist he is today.
Intent on honoring these creative forces, the Asheville painter has culled inspiration from his mentors to produce a robust portfolio of works. For example, in “It Happened One Day,” DeAngelo nods to the whimsy and imagination of Dr. Seuss. Meanwhile, in “Spoon Lady,” the artist leans into Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton’s affinity for soft shapes to tell the story of Asheville busking legend Abby the Spoon Lady. Another work, “Sport,” toys with the exaggerated realism of Americana painter Norman Rockwell.
But let it be known: This new series is about much more than mere mimicry. “Rather than copying another artist’s work outright, homage involves a creative interpretation,” says DeAngelo. “It’s about taking specific elements, techniques, or themes from the source of inspiration and reimagining them in your own way.”
Presented this summer during a solo exhibition titled The Art of Homage, the pieces have been well received by gallery-goers. “I think they have liked seeing what else I am capable of,” the artist notes.
DeAngelo has also enjoyed this exploratory process. “Some artists collaborate with others or participate in group exhibitions,” he notes. “In a way, this was my opportunity to collaborate with my personal heroes.”
Philip DeAngelo Studio, 115 Roberts St., River Arts District, Asheville, philipdeangeloart.com. DeAngelo will participate in the River Arts District Studio Stroll happening Saturday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 12, 10am-5pm. DeAngelo will also work with wire and metal sculptor Claudia Moore Field and ceramist and illustrator Greg Vineyard to produce a series of one-of-a-kind ornaments in honor of the 2nd Annual Holiday Collectors Ornament. An opening reception happens at Wedge Studios (129 Roberts St., River Arts District, Asheville) on Friday, Nov. 10, 5-7pm. Ornaments will be available for purchase at Philip DeAngelo Studio through Friday, Dec. 22 or until supplies last. A percentage of studio proceeds will benefit Shelter Dog Transport Alliance (shelterdogtransportalliance.com).