Memory and emotion

Jules Maidoff’s Arte Come Totem/Art as Totem

Laci Coppins
September 18, 2008

Jules Maidoff, founder of Studio Art Centers International (SACI) and internationally noted artist, continues his legacy and leadership in the Florentine community with his unique and personal exhibit at the Marino Marini Gallery. Though Maidoff has shown extensively around the world, this is the first time the American artist has exhibited in Florence, his adopted home since the 1970s.


The show, entitled Arte Come Totem/Art As Totem and curated by Giuliano Serafini, features approximately 70 of Maidoff's works, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures; most are from the last 10 to 15 years.


The works focus on people-their hopes, problems, fears, and disappointments-but also on Maidoff's life experiences, from which emerge themes of raw-edged energy, pulsating upon canvases, inviting you to take a look into the mind of the artist. 


Maidoff recalled being told once after a show in Milan, ‘Your work is disturbing. The pictures disconcerting, almost scary.' He points out that his pictures are not ‘easy or soothing or decoration', but explains that they are the result of his compulsion to communicate, to push people to feel something they may not have otherwise felt.


Originally from New York, Maidoff often finds ways to show his roots, as he does in pieces like Dancing at Poe Park, The Bronx. Using the vibrant, all-American colors red, white, and blue against a field of grays and browns, Maidoff describes a young man's ‘awakening of litigious interest in girls . . . and the humorous things going on.' Another work in this vein, Self-Portrait as a Chimpanzee, evokes the Bronx Zoo, near Maidoff's childhood home, where the artist attempts to poke fun at himself while offering another way for the spectator to connect to the artist's personal experiences. His work, however, is varied: images of the devil in some pieces remind the observer of the epic struggle between good and evil; a series of portraits placed around tables offer a variation of the theme of table as a center to meet and talk, ‘an environment in which all things can happen, a structure to discuss the home.'


Mary Beckinsale, current president of SACI and colleague of Maidoff, says of him, ‘He is a very considerable artist with an undeniable way of painting. The human connections, the tragedies, they blend and begin to make sense.' Romeo and Juliet, for example, reveals the heart and the man that is Maidoff. Depicted in contrasting shades, Romeo finds Juliet floating in a lifeless stream; Maidoff says he embarked upon a similar crossing as a way to deal with the loss of his wife. Believing ‘that art can change lives,' he uses the stroke of his brush to convey emotion.


While Maidoff's overreaching artistic goal is ‘To recount my life, not only that which is measurable, but those places in between', his hopes for the Arte Come Totem/Art As Totem exhibition are different: ‘To leave patrons creatively confused and stimulated.' 


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