Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Renaissance Man Edward Boccia He Expresses Himself in Paint, Poetry and Religion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Renaissance Man Edward Boccia He Expresses Himself in Paint, Poetry and Religion

Article excerpt

ED BOCCIA remembers what moved him to lay his paintbrush aside from time to time and take up the business of writing poetry.

Boccia was teaching a class in the Fine Arts School at Washington University, delivering what was apparently a rapturous description of some painting or some artist. One of the young artists interrupted him.

"When you talk to us, Mr. B.," the long-time-ago student said, "it's poetic. You ought to write it down."

About 25 years ago, he did. At that time there was a young fellow at Washington U. called David Clewell, and he was teaching poetry writing in University College, the school's evening division. He was a good teacher, Clewell: " He gave me excellent crits," Boccia said, borrowing a term used in the art school for evaluations of work. "I tried to make the word be the paint." Nowadays Clewell, a poet with at least six collections to his credit, teaches at Webster University.

"He's my mentor still," Boccia said. "We get together with my poems and spend hours discussing them."

This afternoon Boccia will read his poems in the McNamee Gallery at St. Louis University, located in the lower level of Cupples House, which is in the middle of the university's main campus. Not coincidentally, that is where part of a large and rewarding exhibition of Boccia's work is hanging through the end of June.

Boccia has had a long and successful career in St. Louis. The late dean Kenneth Hudson brought him to Bixby Hall, the art school's home, in 1951, from Columbus, Ohio. He was born in Newark in 1921 and reared in New Jersey, and studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and at the Art Students' League and Columbia University in New York City, from which he received his graduate and undergraduate degrees.

He just missed one of Washington U.'s moments of special glory, the time when the great German expressionist painter Max Beckmann taught there. Beckmann's leaving did not prevent Boccia's being affected by him. "He became my God after I came here," Boccia said.

There are many influences at work in Ed Boccia's art: He tips his hat to Picasso and Cezanne with regularity. In the work, you also see signs of such diverse influences as the synchromists and Marc Chagall, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch. But Beckmann and Christianity prevail as the most marked influences.

Boccia met Beckmann in Morton D. May's carriage house in Brentmoor Park, Clayton. Buster May, a member of the wealthy department store company family and an avid collector and amateur artist, was a friend of Beckmann and his wife, Quappi. When they paused here briefly in the late 1940s, May took art lessons from Max Beckmann.

May was also a major collector of German Expressionist art, and of Beckmann's work in particular. The carriage house was his storage facility, and Boccia remembered marveling at seeing Beckmann's paintings hanging three deep. "Beckmann held on to the humanism of the Renaissance and brought it into our time. …

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