Habitat is a new weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.
This week’s studio: Federico Castelluccio, Morris County, NJ.
“As a child growing up I built car models. There was a brief moment where the Italian macho thing came out in me and I wanted to be a car mechanic,” said Federico Castelluccio, explaining when he knew he wanted to pursue painting, “but I quickly realized that I was painting them better then I was building them.” Since those days, Castelluccio has directed movies, worked as an actor (including his memorable role on The Sopranos as the Italian enforcer Furio Giunta) and continued to amass an impressive art collection, including works by Guercino, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, Ercole Gennari, Luca Giordano, Palma Il Giovane, and Francesco de Mura, among others. Castelluccio was born in Naples, but grew up in New Jersey, where he now lives and works. At 17, he worked at Paterson News after school, doing drawings and illustrations for the newspaper. One day, a reporter came in and said she was going to be interviewing George Burns. He enthusiastically offered to paint a portrait to present to Burns. “I stayed up all night reading a book about his life, went to Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material store in NYC for some reference photos, and did it in a week,” Castelluccio told me. “He loved the portrait and then helped me get into illustration, which led to my doing illustrations for PBS, NBC, and CBS after I graduated high school and was studying painting at SVA.”
It wasn’t until his last year in the painting program at SVA that he got into acting, after attending a friend’s monologue. “I ended up doing some extra work and one of my first experiences was in Crocodile Dundee II,” he said. “I met Paul Hogan and ended up doing a portrait of him.” Recently, Castelluccio finished directing a film, and will be curating an exhibition on the broad theme of vanitas in New York later in 2015. “The vanities of life, brevity of man—It’s a subject that I’ve always been interested in and attracted to. It always reminds me how much I want to do,” he said. Throughout his many professional endeavors, painting has been a constant. Some of Castelluccio’s work is currently being exhibited at Chetkin Gallery in Red Bank, New Jersey. In the slide show below he shows us around his studio and gives some insight into his process.
ALL PHOTOS: KATHERINE MCMAHON