Gary began painting and showing an interest in being an Artist when he was 5 or 6 years old. Although his family was very poor and lived at 5961 Maple Street in what now seems to be an antique ghetto complete with a horse drawn vegetable cart.
I guess the term Honeymoon Apts. somehow hung on well after it became the home to mostly Italian, Irish, and Polish families each with many children. Most of them were first generation with their immigrant parents living with or near by. We were one of these families. My Grandfather Louis Giovagnorio, who was a master carpenter had emigrated from Italy, lived down the hall with my my crazy creative Uncle Louie. Zygmunt my father or "foder" as he would pronouce it , had come to America from Poland when he was 19 and enlisted in the American army. He would go back to Europe to fight against the Nazis that had taken his father off the boat he himself had escaped on. His father was killed in a Concentration camp. He was Catholic but was also an important Labor leader. I suppose he was a threat to the Nazis. His brother, my Great Uncle was a stamp painter for the Polish government. Zygmunt had grown up in a affulent family that inculded summers on the Baltic seas . There he learned fortune telling from gypsies, and had taken a trip to America when he was young. I feel now that Zygmunts abrut seperation from his own father could very likley explain how he ultimately would come to abandon his own family - but when I was five he was great. No one I knew had a father like Zygie . We went to soccer games , baseball games, go-carting, trips to New york City and at about this age he and my Grandfather built a summer home in Ammagansette Long Island. He had started working sweeping floors because he could hardly speak English. By the time I became aware of his work he had climed the corporate ladder and was now in the postion to get jobs for many local people and family.
My mother Louise or "Cookie " has always had the beauty to be the belle of the ball. Looking back , the landscape may have looked bleak but the love, warmth and safety of the extended family blinded you to any feelings of having less. It would only be later when I was 9 or 10 when my father (Zygie-Zygmunt) took me to visit a friend. They lived in a single family home complete with a flag stone walkway. Gee, I thought to myself, these people made the desision to put these stones on their lawn because they owned it. Wow what a revelation!
" THE MERMAID OF MORPHEUS " In the 1950's the family built a summer house near the beach at Ammagansette, Long Island. It was there at the ocean that Gary would find a lifetime of inspiration that would inspire such works as " THE MERMAID OF MORPHEUS "
He continued to follow his dream throughout grammar and junior high school winning many awards and he was kept busy painting school projects. For many years during this period, Gary's girlfriend Joanne became his muse and her love helped Gary to overcome a horrible home life destroyed by divorce. When he was 16 he went to Woodstock .
Gonna take you higher, baby, baby, light my fire is playing over and over. I've just dropped a tab of orange sunshine, purchased as we hike down the road to Woodstock. The Highway had once had two lanes going out and two lanes going in. There are now four lanes all heading in to the concert. Earlier that day my best friend Christopher Bruneau, my brother Steve, Joanne and myself had all snuck out of our homes. We had tickets for a bus to take us to Woodstock, the greatest concert the world would ever know up to this point in history. We had bus tickets, but did we have the $30.00 tickets for the 3 day concert-noooo - we are so positive that our need to be there will override any obstacles in our way. I've got a couple of dollars , a couple of joints, and my tee-shirt and cutoff jeans. Everything is cool -we're on the bus , but somewhere about 20 miles from the concert grounds, the initial excitement of how many people were heading the same way as us faded and a traffic jam of epic proportions was upon us. Panicing, I pleaded with the others "we gotta get off this bus or we ain't getting into Woodstock. Reluctantly they agree and we begin our hike.
" Gonna take you higher" by Sly and the Family Stone is blaring from some oversized truck. This truck is covered by hippies catch'n a ride. All the characters are perfect, a kaleidoscope of colors and hair. It must be the only tape they have and since the traffic keeps them going at about the same speed as we are walking - this acid is coming on and the beat gives power to the feet. "Baby, Baby, Baby light my fire - Boom Schacallacka Boom" plays on as the throngs of people along this new 4 lane highway swell. There are a lot more of us than I thought. As we near the concert site there are elaborate tents - hmmm they seem much better prepared than us. The acid is really coming on now and I am getting anxious to get to our goal. Suddenly the whole scene opens up, the grand vista includes a vast bowl shaped valley, a stage in the distance with tall monolith like structures dotting the site. Joy is everywhere especially for us. The fence that might had once ended our dream had already been flattened. As I walked across that chain link fence and entered this place - this magical place that had been hoped for ever since the wave of consciousness rising had revealed itself to me and to all those who heard its freedom call. The call was to Love - Peace - and to the power of the creative thought. Those who heard it grew their hair (as I had at 12 after my father left) and throw out any and almost all doctrine religious or otherwise that the previous generation blindly observed and quite expected us to follow. When you heard the calling you knew that War, prejudice, and injustice were wrong. Little did we know how much we would have to fight for our beliefs. The painting above " Faces of 1969" that I painted during the tumultuous times shows many small faces that make up several large faces. The small faces represent the individual people in each country that give that country it's unique face. I felt then and do today that the hippies where the conscience to the new face of America, an America that the world could see now had a kind and more loving face, an America that might think twice about entering another war, an America more willing to share it's great wealth for the benefit of all mankind. The America I am Proud of today, but on that hot summer day in 1969 as we entered the festival all the problems of the world are a million miles away.
Orange sunshine like most of the other LSD out of California (blue cheer, purple Ozlies,) was cut with speed . Your mind would race faster and faster, a smile from ear to ear became a permanent feature on your face, as you entered the peak of that trip. I began to peak as we roamed through this sea of humanity. We set our sights on a hill that rose up beyond the stage with an old barn on it. To our utter amazement we were met at the top of the hill by at least 10 friends from the different Hippie tribes from Yonkers. They were mostly the older guy's 18 or 19. These guy's had been "greasers" . Most of them were bikers, some of them heroin addicts. The mad man Skippy Spangenbuger was there. Two years earlier and he would have beaten the fuck'n shit out of us fuck'n fairy longhaired hippies , but he had come around and actually became a great protector to us younger hippies. I guess he dealt a lot of drugs. He was always passing us some joints. One afternoon in HOMEFIELD I ran into him with some funny looking characters. Suddenly he hands me a knife and tells me to wait there and that he'd be back. Luckily they didn't kill me and I had survived another encounter with Skippy but on this hill behind the stage the sight of him and his campertrailor was a welcome sight.
The four of us Christopher, Steve, Joanne and I stayed close together and began to explore the nearby barn . Maybe we would stay there. The sweet smoke of dope (as we called it) obscured most of the mass of bodies that occupied every square inch of this Hippie palace. It seemed as everyone had been there forever and I began to think that we might be here forever too. Perhaps this was the place we were searching for as a people. We were like any oppressed group of people from history. The big difference between us is that there was no longer any uncharted land on Earth for us to discover and call our own. Maybe this is a plot by the government. They do have us all in one place. We could all just lift right off the ground into outerspace with are spinal cords dangling in the wind--whoaaaa - lets get out of this barn.
As we wander through the many campsites we meet my cousin Paul. Cousin Paul is 20 years old. He had a full set up but I don't think he ever went down to the concert. Steve had given Paul two tabs of Bluecheer LSD about 2 years earlier. He promptly dropped out of M.I.T and had taken too much acid since then. So as we sat around his well equipped campsite, I had those very weird feelings I always get around him. We start passing a joint around when suddenly Steve and Christopher totally freak out. They both get up and start running screaming "there's a bust". At this point since I am totally fried myself, I grab Joanne's hand and we run blindly through the scene - paranoia strikes deep - think of the word "bummer" then multiply it by a million - that's what we felt. Joanne and I had been inseparable since the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I was sure we were made for each other from the moment I saw her walking across the Odel Bridge in Yonkers. Sometime over the summer she had straighten her long mahagony red hair. With her straight bangs and jeans I knew somehow she had heard the same calling to freedom as myself. It wasn't easy but soon I had her by my side. Although my homelife was a disaster and now I'm sitting here freaked out around all these people, we have each other. Somehow we find our way back to Skippy's camper were Steve and Christopher still seem to be bumming . Night is beginning to settle in. We huddled close - feeling paranoid. We can look out past the stage . The concert has begun. All of a sudden there is a burst of light that sets the whole valley aglow. Wow! what a trip. Joan Baez is singing "We shall overcome" and had gotten everyone to light a match. It was at this moment our bummer trip ended and we decided it was time to go down to the concert.
Holding hands we made our way down into the dense crowd on the only road in and out of Woodstock. Talk about being a cog on a wheel! With so little room on the road the people were literally meshed together and would spin and roll over the cars that held people unlucky enough to be caught in the mudslide of humanity. Truly the only sound you could here was the word people-people-people-people-people. They were probably saying "look how many people" or "have you ever seen this many people" but all I heard was People- people - people until I began to hear Whoa ! Ohh! Wow! Whoa! - it started getting louder and louder - what was coming up? - there was no stopping the crush from behind - And then from our own mouth's -Whoa! !!! There it is - the end of the line. This must have been a two way street but now to everyone's amazed horror were two cars - these two cars were headlight to headlight at a dead stop. The line behind each car I presumed went on forever. The terrified look on the poor souls in those cars is unforgettable. There is nothing for us to do but go with the flow and back to people-people -people. ( to be continued )
Then while he was a student and Hippie at Roosevelt High School his art teacher Mrs. Brody secured Gary a full scholarship to Pratt Institute. After college Gary moved to midtown Manhattan in New York City. His first job there would be restoring antique paintings and panels. Paintings would come in totally cracked - after cleaning and restretching, all the cracks would have to be "in painted". That meant matching each color exactly to hide the cracks while making sure no paint gets on the original artists work. This taught Gary everything he would need to know about color matching for his next job as colorist in the textile industry. He quickly became a Textile Designer and in 1974 he and 3 friends created EMMM DESIGNS, a textile design company. This studio was very successful and it was great fun to see many people wear EMMM designs on the street. It was during this time that Gary painted some of his most surrealistic artwork like the painting "88's.
It was also during this period that Gary won an award from the Society of Illustrators for his Painting "INFANTS OF INFINITY". Gary married Marietta one of the M's in EMMM and they moved to Southern California. They found themselves in GOD's country, a deep green valley high above the surrounding high desert. The scenery was pure inspiration to Gary and he painted many local scenes .
At this point that Gary was introduced to Etching. Gary created about 60 limited editions and hundreds of monoprints many of which are still available today. All this beauty, unbelievable quiet and slow talking locals proved too much for Marietta and she escaped back to New York. Meanwhile Gary's appreciation of his environment grew and his new found freedom led him to search deep inside. " THE JOURNEY " With his New York connections fading, Gary found himself hard pressed to pay the mortgage on his home. Gary took off the closet doors (they would serve as easels) tied them to a wooden roof rack he had fashioned on his Volkswagen squareback, collected his portfolio and headed for the Venice Boardwalk. It was then that Gary visualized an Astral Being and proceeded to paint a series of paintings depicting astral travel including "THE JOURNEY" . There in the Carnival atmosphere of Venice, Gary's Astral Paintings sold well. The mortgage was paid. Gary was exhilarated by this new kind of acceptance of both his art and himself.
It was the perfect life of a young single artist. Gary would feverishly paint Monday through Friday then pack up and head for Venice on the Weekends. The sun would be warm. The sales and talk good and since Green Valley was so far away there always seemed to be someone there at 5 o'clock who could put him up for the night. As all things, times were about to change. A very spiritual and the most important meeting of Gary's life was about to occur.
Gary knew he had met his true soulmate. She would become his new muse and her beautiful face inspired endless paintings throughout the years. These paintings include "MOTHER OF THE UNIVERSE" "MOTHER OF THE UNIVERSE "a painting depicting Judy giving birth to the universe.
" ELAN AND SEAN "The family Gary Judy Sean Elan and Alicia Gary painted it just before she gave birth to Elan the first of two sons Elan and Sean that she would bare for him. Gary and Judy together move forward.
This biography is a work in progress - more to come