by RONA MANN

dsc03436-copyLeonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance Man whose vast and varied areas of interest included mathematics, history, writing, botany, geology, anatomy, science, music, invention, engineering, and cartography. And to quote Da Vinci himself, “I also paint a little.”

Dr. Michael Sullo, perhaps also a Renaissance Man of sorts, takes his work seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Although he prefers to be addressed as Dr. Michael Sullo, the title is meant to be neither pretentious nor stuffy. It’s just that he labored long for the degrees he holds, especially his PhD in Art History, so why not be proud of what he worked so very hard to achieve?

Fact is, Dr. Michael Sullo is still achieving…every day. He will readily admit after 61 years of creating art, “Like most artists I move from genre to genre. For a while I did geishas, until there were no more to paint, and I burned out. Then for a few years I painted seascapes, but that burned out as well. For the last eight years my genre has been religious art. That hasn’t burned out yet.”

Indeed if one visits Sullo’s gallery space on the second floor of The Velvet Mill in Stonington, you are at once overwhelmed with the scope of, and passion for, his sacred work. The oils adorning the walls are massive, most measuring three to four feet in size and are bold, rich with color, and “with a lot going on. There’s nothing static about them.”

Sullo has perhaps understated his own ability with that remark. Each painting vividly tells a story, and the artist is all too glad to provide the details in story-like fashion. His current project – perhaps his most ambitious to date – is a series of  twenty panels depicting “The Mystery of the Rosary.” Currently five of them, portraying the Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, are completed and hang prominently in his studio space.”The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary,” “The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth,” “The Nativity,” “The Presentation of Our Lord,” and “Finding of Jesus in the Temple at Age 12” take up a vast amount of wall space in the gallery.

dsc03357-copyWhen Dr. Sullo speaks of each oil it is done lovingly…with a respect for his work, but with a much higher respect for the story each imparts. He carefully points to Mary in “The Annunciation” panel saying, “She was just a young teenage girl. Imagine how shocked she must have been when the angel Gabriel came down to her. I imagine she might have fallen back against those pillars in shock.” And when Sullo gazes upon his oil of “Finding Jesus in the Temple,” he equates it to the parents of today, sternly chiding a child who has wandered off. “In those days they had to go everywhere on foot or by camel. When Mary and Joseph suddenly realized Jesus was not with them and they had to go all the way back to get him, they weren’t happy.” Sullo depicts it by clearly showing in their facial expressions a mother’s angst and a father’s stern admonition of a wayward young boy.

There are still 15 more oils for Sullo to create, illustrating the Sorrowful Mystery, the Glorious Mystery, and the Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. It is a daunting commission the artist has undertaken, but he is determined to complete it and eventually publish a book of the sacred art.

Another room in the gallery is strictly reserved for Dr. Sullo’s classes, as teaching is a strong passion; and Sullo embraces the opportunity to share his knowledge. “So many students think they come to an art class for technique, but I try to teach them that being an artist is really communication. When you make art you have to give of yourself; and while technique is certainly important,  if you do only that, it’s just decoration.”

When Sullo speaks, he frequently leans over grabbing a nearby volume or two of the masters whom he reveres: Da Vinci, Botero, Renoir, Monet, Donatello…they’re all there, all part of the past, but a solid influence on this artist’s present and future. He looks to them as teachers, he respects their work, and thus is inspired to delve even deeper into his own.

feb-10-007-2It only follows then that Dr. Sullo takes his vast experience out into the community as a much-requested fine arts lecturer. He speaks on the art found in major U.S. and European cities, appealing to both beginning and experienced artists, those interested in a deeper understanding of fine art and the masters who created it, or perhaps to those planning a trip to international museums. Sullo can lecture on many of the masters and their techniques from renaissance to modern art. Currently he is engaged in filming a 12-part television series entitled, “Exploration of the Fine Arts,” in which he will travel to 12 different museums throughout the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, educating people through each venue’s paintings, sculptures, fine arts, and architecture. The programs will air throughout eastern Connecticut on Comcast Cable’s Channel 12. A schedule of dates will be available in the months to come.

Dr. Michael Sullo…artist, lecturer, architect, teacher, may not necessarily be termed a Renaissance Man, but he is most assuredly his own man. He knows who he is, where his talents lie, what he wants to do, and where he’s going. Yet he continues to refer to those ponderous volumes, still studying the art of the masters. He is still intrigued, inspired, awed, and humbled by religion. He enjoys not only teaching, but watching his students struggle, progress, and ultimately achieve. He possesses great humor, insight, and an energy that belies his years, and is as multi-faceted as the oils he creates. He is a much sought after portrait painter of political figures, musicians, and captains of industry, a go-to authority for altar pieces and church adornments, and a teacher who creates a  passion for art within each student he mentors.

And oh yes, Dr. Michael Sullo also paints a little.

Whether you wish to learn to paint in oils, commission a portrait, arrange a lecture for your organization, or just enjoy and observe a most unique gallery,. Dr. Michael Sullo may be reached at The Velvet Mill, 22 Bayview Avenue in Stonington.
www.drmichaelsulloart.com; (860) 333-7929

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