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As a multidisciplinary artist, over the last decade, Greenwich based Joseph Dermody has been expressing himself through music, painting, sculpture as well as design. Growing up near the water in Rhode Island had an early and profound impact, one that would inspire the serenity, flow and movement in his art. Transitioning seamlessly between performing symphonies to designing and creating sculptures that have been described as “dimensional expressionism,” he spends his life bringing a sense of calm and great beauty to those who experience his work. In advance of a special showing of his work for The Local Vault on Wednesday, November 13th 6-8pm at Rodd and Gunn on Greenwich Avenue, we discussed how his work comes together, where he finds inspiration and how his work in various disciplines impact one another.
“Plié” Wood and Black Melamine Sculpture
TLV: In addition to music and painting you also work in sculpture and structural design. How do these disciplines work in conjunction with one another?
JD: They work not only complimenting each other but inspiring each other. My sculptures came from a place of recreating the movements of dance the 3rd dimension. The structural and functional designs of my furniture all have a recycled or repurposed aspect, which ties to my artwork about recreating something in a new way, from something that was used in an old way.
“Lateral Rotation” Wood and Melamine Sculpture
Every night after a symphony rehearsal, Trio performance, or just teaching a piano lesson, I come home and am filled with all those musical idea, which then become visual ideas and I try to get them on the canvas as often as possible. I have also painted alongside my musical colleagues to create a multi sensory concert experience, and vice versa, where I will perform on my viola for my artist colleagues reception. Art and Music are one and the same for me… and one day they I will find a way to create them at the same time.
TLV: Your work is marked by a willingness to explore and experiment. Did the confidence to express come naturally or over time as your talent and skill blossomed?
“Ocean’s Light” Acrylic Painting
JD: My confidence came when I realized that successes and failures complement and support one another. When I choose to explore and experiment with minimal boundaries I find new ways of expression. Though they seem to contrast, my strict classical training, as a musician, definitely created an open, fearless, experimental, and improvisation-like art style. I’ve learned quite well to keep my musical expression within the confines of another composer’s creation, so when I started creating visual art, I went to the opposite side of the spectrum.
“Wire We Connected” Copper Sculpture on Wood
TLV: In addition to the sculptural pieces you design and hand crafts furniture in your studio upstate. How does the space influence your work?
JD: My upstate studio is a space that’s been in my family for generations. It’s like an all purpose workshop, a great source of inspiration, creativity, where anything was possible. That really fed into the willingness to experiment, try different things, and grow my obsession with recycled materials. My time in the country makes the clock run a little slower, as you’d expect. I have long visits with extended family, and work until sunrise. I love to hunt for unique materials, but once I collect them, the process is quite organic and all by hand.
TLV: Your paintings and sculptures share some aesthetic similarities, particularly in your current work. What is the common inspirational thread throughout your work?
“Monarch” Newspaper and Acrylic on Canvas
JD: Movement and direction are at the core of my art, and the longer I work, the more I see it and feel it. First was music, and for years it was just music, which has movement embedded into its soul, but since we can’t see it, it’s hard to recreate it in another form. Artists have been attempting it forever. My more current paintings use a pouring technique, and this requires much more movement in the physical process, and you can see this on the canvas… these paintings actually came after the invention of my sculptures, and seemed to be a flattened, yet more energetic version of the same energy. I’ve always said “Music is the physical movement, of a non-physical object”. I guess you could say my art is the visual representation, of a non-visual object,
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Text by Liana Hayles Newton