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Vincent DiMattio: Celebrating the Life of an Artist

Thanks to my dad, Art Professor Vincent DiMattio, I was lucky enough to call Monmouth College my playground when I was younger. Dad would take me on campus and let me sit in on his classes and observe him in his studio. I’d play darts from the paint-covered couch and watch, from the corner of my eye, as dad studied the piece he was working on. Would he add more cerulean blue? Perhaps a stroke of canary yellow to add drama to the piece? In the old 800 building, dad pushed the limits of his own artistic abilities and created various series that are still remembered today as his most prominent – his most inspiring. This included his Tube Paintings, where he would precisely press separate lengths of paint directly from the tube onto the canvas, creating layers upon layers of color, shape, architecture, and landscape. His partnership with Liquitex allowed for this series to evolve into a collection of over 100 pieces. As I’ve unearthed these pieces in the last few years from his studio, his office, and his storage unit, I continue to be in awe of his productivity and dedication to his craft.

As diverse art movements developed and faded over time, dad made it a point to be different. He never wanted to copy other artists or join current trends – and while he did take inspiration from greats like Matisse, Schwitters, Modigliani, and Miro, he was authentically himself, the representation of an independent powerhouse of an artist. Even in his final years, dad found solace in his work. His last series, a tribute to his father-in-law, highlighted pieces of dismantled pianos in their natural form or painted white or black as an homage to the colors of the keys on a piano. To watch him continue to find life in found objects and compose a symphony of color on each canvas was nothing short of extraordinary – or, dare I say, awesome.

On January 17, 2024, dad took his final breaths. His impact on this world and the thousands of people he affected did not go unnoticed in his absence. The amount of phone calls, Facebook messages, text messages, letters, and emails proved the dedication and force of what he achieved in his lifetime – his legacy. Dad was an artist, a professor, a husband, a friend, a colleague, a father, and a PopPop. He loved being around people, especially his family, and telling stories about his youth, about the TV shows he was watching, about the books he was reading. He loved hearing what his grandkids were up to. He loved to travel and took over twenty trips to Europe with his students – most of which I was lucky enough to take part in. Those are some of my fondest memories. I recall dad at the head of about 15-18 students in London reminding all of us to be careful when crossing the street. “They drive on the opposite side,” he explained, “so don’t be a knucklehead and try to cross without looking both ways.” Twenty seconds later, dad drifted into the street to cross and was hit by the rearview mirror of a passing vehicle. Immediately, a coy smile appeared on his face as he slowly turned back to us, all of us in a fit of laughter. “Like that. How lucky you all are to have me to demonstrate my lessons to you.” There’s an apparent void now. A missing piece since he’s been gone. His sarcasm and self-deprecating jokes have left all of us craving his familiar voice, his words of encouragement, his teasing, and his advice. I sit in the aftermath of his departure wondering about all the stories I didn’t get to hear and all of the lessons I didn’t get to learn from him. I remain beyond grateful for what I do have – memories that are abundant and the pieces of himself left behind in packed boxes, finished and unfinished works, opened and unopened letters, collections of this and that, his books, and, most precious, his sketchbooks.

Going to Monmouth and asking for an exhibition to memorialize dad’s work and life was the natural next step, and we were met with excitement and immediate interest by dad’s close colleagues – incredible people who are like family to us. As I document his work and discover new pieces, the blueprint for the exhibition becomes more clear: a tribute to each stage of his artistic career, beginning with works rescued from his college days. This show, curated by Scott Knauer, will represent a timeline of dad’s achievements from around 1960 to 2020. There is nothing more dad would want than to have his gallery filled with the people he loved and admired, reminiscing about him and commemorating his 50+ years as an artist and professor at Monmouth University.

The opening of his exhibition will be held Friday, May 31 from 6-9 p.m. in the DiMattio Gallery at Rechnitz Hall. In lieu of flowers, we are accepting donations to fund a scholarship in dad’s name. The event will also feature The Other Vincent, a documentary film produced by Monmouth University Production Services and DiMattio: In Color, a short documentary I produced about dad after his forced separation from art thanks to dialysis and tremors of the hands. There will also be a space for people to share stories and memories throughout the evening.

We ask you to please join us to help celebrate the life of Vincent DiMattio – the man, the myth, the legend.