Jerry Carniglia
Bio + Narrative

Unable to complete high school, I joined the navy in 1965. I was sent to Vietnam aboard the USS Strong DD758.

I had been introduced to the stage as a child, but war became full immersion in the theater of the absurd.

My brother was in college. He encouraged me to give it a try. In 1968 the College of Marin gave me a second chance. Just as I began to appreciate the cultural treasures there, I was again shaken by world events. Nixon invaded Cambodia.

Self conscious in Marin's quietude after my years at sea, I was taken with a desire to connect with the world's rougher edges. I left for Africa on two-year self-guided tour overland from Cairo to Capetown. I was made to confront my fear of animals and fear in general.

In 1975 I returned to California to finish a BA at UC Berkeley in Dramatic Arts. After graduation, I was a founding member of the Berkeley Lights Theater Ensemble, and San Francisco's Eureka Theater Company, working with CONTACT's Tony Taccone and Oskar Eustis. Concurrently I designed and fabricated sets in collaboration with MaFishCo in Berkeley eventually gaining recognition from the Alameda County Arts Commission.

I supported myself as a cabinetmaker — at one time my father's trade.

This lead to furniture making, and in the 1980's, to Art Furniture under the tutelage of west coast luminary, Garry Knox Bennett. I got my first experience with galleries showing with Jeremy Stone, Vorpal, and others leading to museum shows at Cooper-Hewitt in New York in 1988, and the Oakland Museum's New American Furniture in 1991.

Furniture's functional requirement became a limitation for me. I had been painting designs on some parts of the furniture I was making. Then in 1989 I became exclusively interested in painting. I made several trips to Europe to visit the major museums eventually concentrating on Masters of Northern Italy particularly of the baroque tradition.

I returned to attend the graduate program in painting at UC Berkeley. In the course of study I was awarded the Phelan and Eisner prizes, completing an MFA in 1993. I was 46 years old.

The following year my work was added to the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts through purchase grants sponsored by the Gerbode Foundation. In subsequent years my work began to take its own direction through experiments with painting techniques involving all manner of paint application. But the real investigation was into the meaning of painting as a life endeavor. This has lead more recently to the problem of consciousness itself, which I believe painting is most suited to resolve. I am assisted here by contemporary thinkers such a John Searle and Daniel Dennett who often disagree as to the boundaries of consciousness, helping as far as I am concerned, to prove the ontological rather than intellectual category of the problem.

These ideas matured during a MacDowell Fellowship awarded in 2008, generously endowed by the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation, and continue to be the motivation of my work.

In 2009, I was the visiting artist at Smith Andersen Editions in Palo Alto producing a series of Monoprints. Current work has evolved from this experience.


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