Some people dabble in art as a hobby. Others paint with the hope of selling their work. For Mario Belvedere, his art is his passion. He learned other things to survive.
"Art possesses you. You don't possess it," he said.
Belvedere came to this country as a young man from Catania, Sicily in Italy where he studied drafting engineering. In 1964 his father, a custom tailor, brought Mario and his family to America. A few years later he met and married Stephanie. They had two children. He spoke Italian and French -- little English. This did not stop him from continuing his education.
He attended college at night to earn a degree in business administration, then a bachelor's in fine arts, a master's in teaching art and a Ph.D. in Italian literature. He worked, studied, and always found time to paint. He painted at every opportunity.
Belvedere supported himself and his family in various ways. In the stock market arena on Wall Street he handled billion dollar portfolios. He worked for federal agencies in various capacities. He bought and sold other artists' paintings. He became a teacher of art and Italian.
He said, "I was 30 when I started to paint." After that he could not sell others' paintings anymore. Painting became his life's work.
"Modigliani was my master," Belvedere said. He started painting because of him. During his time in New York, the 60's and 70's, the Soho district of Manhattan became a mecca for artists. They included Frank Stella, Alexander Calder and Susan Rothenberg.
He studied with these artists and others. "I was trained by artists doing abstract expressionism."
Expressionism can be defined as a style in which the intention is not to reproduce a subject accurately, but instead to portray it in such a way as to express the inner state of the artist.
He believes the artist has his own view, but "The painting becomes universal to the viewer."
Much of Belvedere's current work covers a mixed media style. He uses different types of canvas and paint. Mixed media also can be an assemblage of objects.
Modern art with a purpose is the way he describes his work. He seeks the soul of a piece. In his teaching he gives guidance to the student, "The trick is to paint whatever you want," he tells his students.
In learning to paint and enjoy art, Belvedere believes one doesn't have to be a painter.
"They have to detach and play," he said. One rule in his art classes is that there is no rule.
Students learn about more than just painting. "I create and my students will create and find things they don't know about themselves," he said.
Belvedere now lives with his wife in Pine, He will be teaching a class this fall at Gila Community College, Payson campus, titled, "Mixed Media Techniques in Contemporary Painting."
This course is designed to provide instruction in the numerous techniques, materials, and approaches to mixed media painting in contemporary art, including the use of tools, application of materials, and composition. The class will begin Aug. 18 and will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Wednesdays.