When Greenport painter Vincent Quatroche died this year, on Easter Sunday, at age 89, his lifelong commitment to living the life of an artist still hung in the air around his home, reminding his three children and his wife that, even with him gone, they could continue to honor his memory by making art.
Two months ago, Mr. Quatroche’s son, Vince, had a chance encounter with Southold shopkeeper Ron Rothman, owner of Rothman’s Gallery and department store in Southold. The younger Mr. Quatroche, who lives in Dunkirk, N.Y., and teaches writing at Fredonia State College, was on his way to visit his mother, Edna, in Greenport. He had known Mr. Rothman since both were young men.
“I was walking through town, and I walked by Rothman’s and Ron was in front of the store,” said Mr. Quatroche. “He offered his condolences and said he’d like to be able to feature my father’s work at a new space next to his family store. I was flattered and floored. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom.”
This past Saturday, Mr. Quatroche’s first posthumous show opened at Mr. Rothman’s gallery. It’s a vibrant collection of the artist’s signature works, which combine a sophisticated sense of color with cubist and abstract expressionist influences. And for two short hours, it was also a multimedia feast for the eyes and ears, as Vince Quatroche gave a spoken word reading to music and the band TAOST regaled the audience with song. The show will remain on display through late August.
Vince Quatroche said his father had been an artist from a very young age. The painter was the son of a jazz drummer who died just after Christmas 1938 in a car accident with his band, The Suffolk Serenadors. Jazz is a theme that runs through both the painter’s work and that of his son, who incorporated recordings of his father’s radio playing in the basement of his home into his reading Saturday night.
“My father was my first collaborator, my fist teacher,” he said. “He gave me my appreciation for great jazz.”
The paintings featured in the show include series of interpretations of Picasso figure studies, which show that, even when paying homage to another painter, Vincent Quatroche was keenly aware of his own style. Also on display are portraits of jazz musicians — including Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis — and a series of works that Vince Quatroche used in his own collections of poetry and short stories.
Seen together, the paintings make clear that Vincent Quatroche is a master at exploring the landscape of an artist’s life among fellow artists. Vince Quatroche also explored that relationship masterfully Saturday night in his piece “Oranges,” a written response to poet Frank O’Hara’s “Why I am Not a Painter.” Both poems detail the spoken and unspoken worlds between words and brush strokes, where a poem could be all about oranges though the word “orange” is never mentioned, while a painting could reveal its true meaning through a title; where the writer could watch poets read aloud all night in a club, while the real art was not on stage but in the human interactions at the bar.
“All of my appreciation of the arts came from his influence,” Vince Quatroche said of his father. “I’ve been around his paintings like they were family.”
Vincent Quatroche was born in Sag Harbor in 1921, and attended the University of Washington School of Art and Oberlin College before serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He was as adept at sharing his artistic life with the Greenport community as he was at sharing it with his family. In 1971, he opened Greenport’s very first art gallery, The Greenport Art Studio and Instructional Center, in the building that currently houses Eastern Long Island Hospital’s Opportunity Shop.
“His work was always a presence in the town, all the time he lived here,” said Vince Quatroche. “So many of the images that I found so compelling had been part of my life since I was a little boy. It wasn’t until I grew up that I began to understand how good they were.”
Vincent Quatroche Sr.
54100 Route 25
Southold, NY 11971