Rio, Municipal Cathedral, 2020, oil on canvas, 48 x 32 inches
Fabozzi: Light, Landscape, Geometry
I was born in Amsterdam, New York, a once-booming small industrial city along the Erie Canal that has been home to generations of Italian Americans. My Italian blood comes from both of my grandfathers. My paternal great grandfather, Antonio Fabozzi, came to the United States in 1907 from a small town in the Campania and headed straight to Amsterdam. His brother-in-law was already there—and so were opportunities to work.
Antonio was a skilled craftsman who made carriages in Italy, and in Amsterdam he worked as a blacksmith. However, by the time I was coming of age in Amsterdam, in the 1970s and ’80s, the last of the large-scale factories were either closing or leaving. Amsterdam’s industrial decline gained momentum in the subsequent years. It was understood that, once I left for college, I would be wise not to return, except as a visitor.
As a teenager in Amsterdam, I went to a Catholic high school, Bishop Scully, which has since closed. My social studies teacher, Gene Lees, nurtured my interests in art and culture and, perhaps more importantly, organized an occasional Easter trip to Italy for a small group of students. Through some necessary support and a bit of luck, I was able to join one of these trips, as Gene’s assistant, during my first year of college. This was my first time on an airplane. An attentive teacher, Gene opened a world for me. During this weeklong whirlwind trip, we went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and I came home with an overwhelming sense of wanting to return to Italy—and for a much longer period of time.
During college, I studied painting, drawing, European history, and philosophy at Alfred University, and spent the fall of my junior year in Siena, Italy, in a study abroad program organized by SUNY/Buffalo. While in Siena, I lived as a guest/boarder in the home of a local family. Every aspect of this experience—from exploring the winding streets of this magnificent medieval city to participating in the daily two-hour-long midday meal with my host family—changed me deeply. Being immersed in the space and time of a location so different from any I had experienced prior presented questions that, in fundamental ways, I am still exploring in my work. When I arrived in Siena, I was painting and drawing to better understand modernism and abstraction; when I departed, I was examining the ways in which the built environment frames emotional experience. My interest in abstraction was now forced to contend with my connection to place.
Two years later, I returned to Italy for a second, extended period of study—this time in the ancient Tuscan hilltown of Cortona. Throughout this three-month period studying under the auspices of the University of Georgia at Athens, I was able to dig deeper into Italian art history and the Italian language as well as advance my painting practices. The light, the landscape, the geometries of humanmade forms, all so integral to Italian life, are still very present in my work. Countless hours spent in awe-inspiring churches of Tuscany, marveling at frescos by Giotto, Piero, and many, many others, left an indelible mark on my painting—perhaps most notably in my attention to the poetics of the painted surface and my interest in saturated color.
After receiving my MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, I moved to New York City. By 1996, I was a professor at St. John’s University—teaching students in Queens during the fall and spring and bringing them to Rome every summer to study Italian art and culture. I worked closely with a colleague in the Italian department to develop a dynamic program of study for undergraduates in Italian art history, language, culture, and onsite drawing and painting. Each summer, as I literally walked a new group of students through the history of Italian art, I reminisced about Gene, my former high school teacher, and marveled at how I was now able to share the gift of discovery and connection to a new generation of St. John’s students.
During twelve summers of focused, onsite engagement, I dug deep into Rome’s seemingly endless strata to educate my students in the history of this enduring urban center. At the same time, I continued to develop my painting and drawing practices as a vehicle for exploring the relationship between experiencing place and making images.
Fueled by my decades-long engagement with Italy, my approach to painting and drawing has made me contemplate and feel more deeply the extent to which spatial experience is the basis of perception; for me, the act of creating images is intertwined with making meaning from experience, which then loops back around and widens the parameters of my engagement with space and time.
In short, my work stakes a claim for the role that image making itself plays in constructing our conscious relationship to the world around us and explores our human need to actively establish deep connections to the physical world
MoMA #1, 2022, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 inches
Rome, Corviale #1x3, 2014, 48 x 72 inches
Istanbul, Kanyon #2, 2019, oil on canvas 32 x 48 inches
Installation view: You Are Here, 2022
Park Towne Place, Philadelphia
Image: Berlin, Galeries Lafayette #1, 2022, oil on canvas, 48 x 32 inches
Rome, Ivo #1, 2018, oil on canvas, 72 x 32 inches
Installation view: Paul Fabozzi, Place, Translation, Variation, 2018
Lycoming College of Art Gallery, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Studio view with MoMA #1b and #1c, each 2022, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 inches