Illustrator Joe Ciardiello has revered the Old West ever since he was a kid.
He grew up in a land where big-screen cowboys once galloped into the sunset – Staten Island.
More than a century ago, when motion picture cameras first started rolling, many Westerns were filmed at Fred Scott’s Movie Ranch in South Beach, a Staten Island, NY, town just a short stagecoach ride from Ciardiello’s boyhood home. Add to that historic proximity a teenage-boyhood during which Ciardiello was enthralled by the epic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and it’s no wonder that a story from his Italian immigrant grandfather would set alight his imagination.
Joe Ciardiello: Spaghetti Journal – a collection of Ciardiello’s western-themed illustrations premiering at the Hunterdon Art Museum on Sunday, Sept. 17 – was inspired by his grandfather’s recollection of seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in Italy.
The subject matter is primarily personality driven, featuring expressive portraits or caricatures of, say, Buffalo Bill (William Cody, who passed away a century ago) and the Lone Ranger. But it’s the inclusion of others like Emilio Salgari (the grandfather of the Spaghetti Western) and director Sergio Leone (whose films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly were shot in Italy and reinvented the western genre) that link the myths of the American West firmly to Italian popular culture.
“This collection of drawings represents my effort to knit these influences together in a kind of visual journal,” Ciardiello noted.
To create a number of the illustrations, Ciardiello viewed his already well-worn copies of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly multiple times, making screen captures when a particular image caught his eye.
“Seeing Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when it was first released in the U.S. had a profound effect on me as a 14 year old,” Ciardiello noted. “It remains one of my all-time favorite films. Now, 50 years later, it seems somehow fitting to reflect on the connections between my ethnic heritage and the uniquely American mythology of the old west.”
Joe Ciardiello: Spaghetti Journal, opens Sunday, Sept. 17 with a reception from 2-4 p.m., and everyone is welcome. The exhibition, which features 22 illustrations of pen, ink and watercolor, runs through Jan. 7, 2018. Ciardiello plans to complete more than 60 illustrations for the Spaghetti Journal Project, which he aims to have published as a book.
Ciardiello, who now lives in Hunterdon County, has worked for many major magazines and newspapers, as well as a variety of corporate and advertising clients, book publishers and record companies. He received multiple silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and was honored with its prestigious Hamilton King Award in 2016.
Ciardiello illustrated Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, which was released in 2007, and his portraits of blues musicians, Black White & Blues, was published six years ago by Strike Three Press.
Image Credit: Joe Ciardiello, Spaghetti Western (Puccini/Cody), 2013, Pen & ink, watercolor and collage on paper, 19.5 X 17.5 in., courtesy of the artist.