Giuseppe Di Leo: Drawing from Life
by Anna Carlevaris
Lucky for him this enthusiasm was encouraged by supportive parents and good teachers. As a teenager he completed a drawing course through correspondence, an anachronism in our day but a testament to his determination to learn art by all means. After foundation studies at Dawson College, he found himself at Concordia University at a time when Montreal’s contemporary art scene was burgeoning. The internationally renowned painter Guido Molinari was one of his teachers and an inspiration; surprising at first glance because Molinari’s geometric-abstraction could not be further from Joe’s realism. But from this important artist-teacher Joe learned to understand the beauty of form, whether Modernist or High Renaissance in origin, and to recognize its transformative power. As Joe explained, Molinari opened his mind to the freedom that is art.
Today, as for the past two decades, Joe devotes much of his time to teaching. At Dawson College his students are those planning, like he once did, to continue their Fine Art studies at university and beyond. From him they acquire the rigorous training necessary to maturing as professional artists, lessons that include the ability to understand and critically assess visual art, not the least being one’s own. But his creative life involves more that making art and teaching it. As director of Dawson’s Warren G. Flowers Gallery, he plays a pivotal role in bringing art to the Dawson community and the public. Organizer, negotiator, problem solver, idea maker.
These are qualities of both a good gallery director and a good teacher. And if this, with family too, were not enough to keep him occupied, he also dedicates time to the study and collection of antique Oriental rugs. This seems an unexpected departure from the aesthetics of his personal style but then one comes to see the thread that joins together the schooling at his mother’s side, the formal training by Molinari, and his innate love of drawing. The controlled hand and eye, the inquisitive imagination that have been essential to Joe Di Leo’s calling to art since a child, transfers easily from paper and canvas to textile, and back again.
Anna Carlevaris is an art historian and a professor at Dawson College.
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