Jon D’Orazio, Painter/Sculptor

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

When Henry Geldzahler Came to Visit

Henry Geldzahler, curator of Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum, was very open to artists. Over the years, we spoke often at gallery and museum receptions. Henry visited my Westbeth studio in 1975. I asked my wife if she would mind going out during the visit. She preferred staying in our upper sleeping loft. My paintings then were spacious naturescapes. After showing Henry a mix of paintings and both of us sharing our feelings concerning the unique period of New York’s art world, we walked from my studio into the living room. Henry was facing away from the loft. As we continued our discussion, my wife popped up on the loft, waving her arms up, down, and around while making faces, trying to crack me up. I was not pleased. This was an important visit with an influential figure in the art world. She was being childish. I kept my dignity, remaining undistracted. Soon, Henry and I thanked each other, and he left.

It’s important to be aware that I’m a serious longtime practitioner/student of Tibetan Buddhism. This connection, along with its experience, leaves a strong imprint on my paintings.

In 1994, when I was working on abstract mirror paintings, Geldzahler returned to experience this new work. I had heard that he had cancer, and I very much appreciated his effort to visit. I was now living alone. It was a wonderful visit. Henry loved these luminous circular paintings, experiential works concerned with space and pure perception. He was extremely patient, viewing the works quietly for a long period of time. When Henry was leaving, he gave me a giant hug. I knew why. This would be the last time we would see each other. Before going, he said, “Jon, your paintings would be wonderful in a synagogue.”

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