The Art of Donald Langosy
An obscure moment justified
Long ago, on a warm summer day in Brooklyn, I sat drawing in my paternal grandmother's kitchen, the fragrance of ripening peaches wafting in through the window. I was perhaps four or five years old and, with crayon in hand, was busy manifesting my thoughts on paper. My drawings were always of naked people presented through the limited gingerbread-man poses of a child.
That summer day, my prodigious output of glamour girls shocked my grandmother and visiting aunts. When their attempts to get me to clothe my figures failed, my grandmother, a devout Hungarian Catholic, prayed to her statuette of the Virgin Mary and beseeched her photograph of the Pope to intercede. Only when my mother arrived did my childish drawings receive the delighted reaction they deserved. A lovely Norwegian girl, she was the first physical presence that captivated me and an inspiration and advocate for my developing aesthetics.
I grew up in and around Manhattan and Brooklyn, filling my formative years with the chaos and joys of European intermingling. The highlight of each year was attending the circus when it set up in Madison Square Garden. (Clowns dominated my interest. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were my childhood heroes. I wanted a monkey. I wanted to join the circus and become a clown.)
When I was nine, my family moved to New Jersey, where I was introduced through country fairs and carnivals to the oddities in life. One night, my family went to a carnival. A terrible storm descended upon the fairground, and we took shelter in a strange, cramped cellar. Lightning illuminated a huddled group of people, both carneys and visitors. With each flash, a character from the freak show was illuminated. I found myself seated next to the bearded lady. Lobster Man was across from me. Although I couldn’t see them all, I knew that even more outrageous oddities were concealed in the dark. I moved closer to my mother, huddling into her beauty for safety.
As I grew older, I fell in love with poetry. I also fell in love with Elizabeth, who would become my muse. In 1971, Elizabeth and I journeyed to Venice, Italy, to meet Ezra Pound. At that time, I was a 23-year-old aesthetic who creatively journeyed between painting, sculpture, and literature. I was working on a clay head of the poet and wanted to see him in person in order to achieve the resemblance I sought.
But my meeting with Pound was overshadowed, quite unexpectedly, by entering the Frari church one day and finding myself facing Titian's Assumption. I had arrived in Venice as a young painter whose thoughts swam between surrealism, American realism, and a naive understanding of modern art. My thirst for technique outweighed my understanding of how to translate emotions into images. My encounter with Titian's painting was an aesthetic epiphany. As I studied more of Titian and other Venetian masters, I began to understand how technique was the servant of ideas.
I grew up frequenting the museums in Manhattan and often visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Still, when I arrived in Venice, I had more the eyes of a viewer than a doer. But while I was there, words ceased having a creative hold over me. I had realized that it was possible to provide explanations purely through imagery. I found myself engrossed in composition, with actual, imaginary, and historical images all existing with no obligation to time.
After I returned home to Boston, deciding on a single composition became difficult. At times it seemed as if a painting would never stop recomposing itself. I was trying to find a way to convey many moments and impressions on one canvas. To represent the melding of different moments, I began creating my pictures out of two or more separate paintings that I would cut into pieces. I would then interweave the different paintings together. The overlapping canvases created an illusion of transparency between layers, and the suggestion of motion I sought to compositionally tell a story.
The 1990's ushered in a very experimental period for me. My paintings grew large, as I not only interwove my images but began bending and folding them as I molded my painted images into 3-dimensional forms projecting from my canvases. I felt that I was finding a way to connect the reality of the mind to solid reality.
On a personal level, however, the 1990’s were also difficult years, as my mobility inexplicably became impaired. As I gradually lost the ability to walk and became increasingly fatigued, I was no longer able to pursue connections in the art world or mount exhibits as I had in the past. I was told that my disability had psychiatric origins and that I would walk again when I was ready to do so. Over time, my paintings became as small as my housebound universe, sometimes shrinking to the size of a postage stamp.
In October 2003, I collapsed and was taken to a hospital, where I was finally diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Once I knew that I wasn’t crazy after all and began targeted treatments in the form of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the degeneration halted. I am convinced that a huge factor in my remission was my decision to not allow MS to enter my studio.
Although I no longer interweave paintings, I continue to affix patches of painted images to my canvases. For me, this remains an effective way to illustrate one moment’s relationship with another. My scale has grown large again, and my new series of paintings is perhaps the strongest of my career.
Please take a look at the paintings and drawings on this site, which represent my most recent paintings as well as my work through the past four decades. I hope this description of my influences and goals will enhance your appreciation of my art.