Interview conducted by Emily Tallo
If Michelangelo Celli is the heart of the US Project, Art Crivella is the brains of it. A self-proclaimed inventor, Art handles many of the practical elements of the US Project. Even as I step into his backyard, I recognize it from pictures of the private watercolor exhibition that was held there. But as we talk Art places himself in the position of someone was simply there to assist his friends with their dream. Of course, when your friends are Anastas, a loud, charismatic, but intelligent man for whom art is the most natural thing in the world, and Michelangelo, his impassioned—but perhaps more driven—manager, you can’t help but do more than observe. This interview explores how Crivella happened to become an active supporter of the US Project and what he has learned along the way.
Tell me about yourself and what you do.
I’m an inventor. I try to come up with inventions by thinking how it would change what people do, and that takes me into thinking about process. I think about how people accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish with set resources and actions. My invention tries to change that model, and then I try to sell it to people.
How did you get involved with the US Project?
Michelangelo is a good friend of mine. He and I know each other on a special basis: he’s my friend who will never turn away a crazy idea and I’m his friend who will never turn away a crazy idea. I first got involved with the US Project when Michelangelo came over to my house, looked around, and said, “Art you don’t have an artwork in your house.” You know, I have a lot of paintings so I asked him what he meant. He said that there’s nothing about you in this house and the other thing is there’s no art on these walls. I didn’t know exactly what he meant, and so he said to me that he met a man in Bulgaria who was the greatest artist that he’d ever seen. He was so profoundly moved by this artwork. He said, Art you don’t know what art is. I wasn’t offended by it; he had his opinion. But he invited me to go to this artist’s exhibition in Bulgaria. When I landed there, I was exposed to Anastas’ work and I understood that I didn’t have any art. I had artwork, but I didn’t have art. So my role in this is not the promoter of Anastas, as much as I love him—I’m Michelangelo’s supporter, but I also happened to learn something for myself along the way.
How did you come into contact with Anastas’ work?
Before we went to the exhibition in Bulgaria, Michelangelo showed me his thick retrospective catalogue. You can flip through a book and think you understand him, but there’s nothing like standing with the man, in his home, which is completely surrounded in every way with art. If I’m Anastas, this patio floor, I designed, those walls, I designed, these trellises, I designed. If you sit in front of a fireplace in my home, I designed it. If you drink wine out of a wine glass, it’s a work of art that I created. He’s trying to get all of his art inside of him out. He had the right opportunity, the training, and the discipline to develop these skills. It’s not like he’s trying to create a work of art, he just sits there and it comes out. He’s not in control of it. It’s like the man’s possessed!
What are some of the things you’ve done as a result of the US Project?
I try to keep Michelangelo focused and help through the practical issues of how to make his vision happen. I move the pieces on the board to get them in the right position so that his dream is possible. His dream is simple: he wants the whole world to know what an outstanding artist Anastas is, and he wants to do it while the man is still alive. If there’s a party and we need to use my home, I do it. If we need to take my paintings off the walls so we can display new artwork, I do it. If we can need to get the right people to show up to the party, I try to do it. Michelangelo is building a name for him. He’s not trying to get rich. He’s not even trying to make money off of this—maybe he’s trying to not lose money. Why is he doing it? He loves art.
What’s your impression of Anastas’ art?
It’s vivid, perceptive, deep, with a nuance of spiritual. The first time I ever experienced his art in person, we were in his studio. Anastas, Anastas’ wife Emilia, Michelangelo, and I were looking at this work of art and we start to think about what it’s saying. I think i
t would be wrong to say that this is what Anastas is saying, because I’m not so sure Anastas himself consciously has these messages. It’s sort of like a musician. When a musician is performing a beautiful solo, they don’t intend to send a message—they’re just performing. Anastas himself comes out in symbols, figures, depth, and color. One very vivid painting I remember is a painting of Jesus Christ that is all done in red. What you don’t get by looking at a photo is a size of it. It’s a huge painting. It is absolutely memorable. It’s not of a saintly Jesus with a halo; it’s this vibrant, emotional spirit. I believe the red symbolizes the passion of the spirit.
Tell me about any paintings of his that you own.
I only own one painting, and that’s because my son liked it. It’s a watercolor of a reclining woman. It’s a beautiful painting. There are other works of Anastas that I would like to buy but they’re big and I’m not into the possessing of art.
What makes Anastas’ art so remarkable?
What makes Anastas’ art remarkable is that it’s a pure expression of his feeling with a tremendous sense of imagery and symbolism. Every detail of that painting means something, and you can sit there and figure it out. It’s not just paint thrown on a canvas in an attempt to mimic something. He’s taking a feeling and he’s expressing it. He’s taking an idea and he’s complementing it and putting it on canvas. When he’s all done it all ties together. It’s the integration and connectivity of all the elements. I don’t even understand how the man does it. I understand a phenomenal composer that composes a symphony that can unify the various voices and instruments into the harmony with a sense of a progression. I can understand that. I never thought it could happen in anything visual, but there he is.
What status do you think Anastas deserves to have on the North American art market?
Everything Michelangelo told me is true. Anastas Konstantinov is a great living artist. How many others are there? I don’t know. But I think I understand now what Michelangelo meant when he said that I don’t have any artwork. What he really meant was, “You don’t have a vivid sense of human personality in your artwork,” and Anastas has that.
Thanks, Art, for sharing your thoughts!