Catching Up With … Joseph Lorusso

By Norman Kolpas
Joseph Lorusso had been painting full time for just two years when he was featured in the October 2000 issue of Southwest Art. Then 34 years old, the Chicago-born artist, a graduate of that city’s American Academy of Art and of the Kansas City Art Institute, had worked for 10 years as a designer at Hallmark Cards before making a commitment to his passion for creating small-scale, highly intimate oil portraits of men and women deep in thoughtful repose. 

The article, Lorusso recalls, was “pretty much one of the first major interviews I gave. It became part of a chain reaction. Two galleries had already begun to show my work, and others started calling to see if I was represented in their area.” Today, he’s still with that original pair—Meyer Gallery in Santa Fe and Howard/Mandville Gallery in Kirkland, WA—as well as four other galleries, making his paintings available literally coast to coast.

Continued success and career stability, says Lorusso, have given him the security to keep fine-tuning his skills and sensibilities. “I’m tending to paint smarter and more effectively,” he notes. While his distinctive style seems essentially the same almost a decade later, Lorusso says his draftsmanship has become more refined, and “I’m focusing more on color harmonies and relationships.” It’s all part of the natural evolution of his enduring fascination with “the human figure, people in general, and storytelling.”

The spellbinding nature of the human stories Lorusso captures on canvas has won him a growing roster of admirers, including Terry Oldham, director of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in Saint Joseph, MO, just outside of Kansas City, where the artist lives and works. “We met several years ago,” Lorusso recalls, “and he invited me to exhibit there.”

The museum is mounting a one-man show of Lorusso’s work this spring. Entitled As Dreams Begin, it features 50 to 60 paintings, including approximately 40 new ones. A number of the new pieces portray multiple people in a large format, with canvases as big as 50 by 60 inches to suit the scale of the setting. 

As significant as the exhibit is to his career, Lorusso and Katy, his wife of 2 1/2 years, are looking forward to an even bigger milestone: the birth of their first child, Francesca, due in early May. “With marriage and parenthood,” says Lorusso, “I’m maturing as an artist. In my bachelor days, I was sometimes a little brash and edgy. Now, the things that attract me most are human stories on a more romantic, endearing level.”
Norman Kolpas is a Los Angeles-based freelancer who writes for Mountain Living and Colorado Homes & Lifestyles as well as Southwest Art.

Meyer Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; OverlandGallery of Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Morris & Whiteside Galleries, Hilton Head, SC; P&C Art, Washington, DC; Galerie du Soleil, Naples, FL;
Upcoming Show
Solo show, Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, Saint Joseph, MO, April 18-June 7.

Featured in April 2009