Interview with Market Street Gallery

MSG >Hi Everyone... we are very excited about havingDonald-Rizzohere at the gallery for this micro blog interview.. Today you're going to get some pretty amazing insight on the exhibit and on Donald-Rizzo himself.Hi Donald Rizzo thanks so much for doing this micro-blog interview with us, on ourMarket Street Gallerypage, how are you doing today?

Donald Rizzo >Doing good thanks

MSG > We are very excited about your current exhibit. I know we have been talking about this exhibit since the end of last year. I, for one, am impressed with the body of work that you were able to put together in such a short time. But before we dive into your current body of work, let’s step back and learn a little bit about Donald Rizzo… how and when did you start painting?

Donald Rizzo > I started painting in 2006, my first, was an abstract of solid shapes of color separated by a black line. I started exploring painting during my psychosis to understand the visual hallucinations I was experiencing. I had no concept of color mixing, but had a vision of where I wanted to go I just needed to develop the skills. I began exploring decorative paper and toyed with using shapes cut from the paper to build a composition.  It was an art class I took at San Francisco City College in 2009 with James Torlakson and his color chart assignment when I started to understand color mixing. Also I asked James, if I could trying something different, in class, as I began the development of my process, he was very encouraging. At one point I asked him how does one painting glass like what is seen through a window. He responded,“Paint what you see, not what you think you see, paint what you see.” Ever since I’ve been painting what I see.

Donald Rizzo > I use a lot of paint, and acrylic is less expensive then oil, oil has an odor and more toxic. I tried open acrylic which performs like an oil paint but I like the faster dry time of acrylic.

MSG > Tell us a little about your subject matter and how do you choose your subject… where do you get the images and how do you choose the image pairing?

Donald Rizzo >While surfing the web, when I see an image and think I might be able to use that so I save it. When I begin the process of creating the composition I start with an idea or direction. Its an iterative process between photoshop and illustrator where I work the image. Shifting color, separating color the final image must work both as an abstract image as well as somewhat realistic image. The image pairings is where my link to my time living with my psychosis enters. As I begin looking through the and trying different combinations of image layers, I understand the message my sub-conscience is presenting, which in many cases is nowhere near the idea I started with. 

MSG > From our many conversations, you have very in-depth stories for each piece you create. Does the story come first or does the story come out of the resulting piece?

Donald Rizzo >The story happened first, I lived it. Its in the creation of the composition, where I have recognition of the story. The hours spent painting, is where I came to terms with it.  As I have gotten further away of that time of insanity, and deal with life today a similar thing happens that in the creation of a composition. I receive a message or an understanding of a current life event and it helps put perspective on it.

MSG > Is the story important to your artwork?

MSG > How did you choose your medium? Why acrylic paint as oppose to oil or water color?

Falling into dispair

Donald Rizzo >Yes, its a story of recovery. Most of my paintings have a message, overtly and covertly.  I discovered recently or realized that I was born during a lunar eclipses. So people born during a full moon are idealists, are able to see both sides of an argument, and struggle choosing between conforming and their uniqueness and personal freedoms. The term looney came from people born during a lunar eclipse. Throughout my life I’ve always wanted to understand all sides of an issue and often oscillated between them. With my Shades of Purple series I want people to consider or explore both sides and try to find common ground, to start a conversation, and find solutions. I also wanted the viewer to experience what I experienced during my psychosis. The viewer must construct the shapes of color into something recognizable to them, both minds are used.

falling into despair

MSG > Let’s talk a bit about your technique… how did you develop this technique and what do you call it?

Donald Rizzo >I call it color juxtaposition or abstract verism. 

Abstract: art that does not attempt to represent external, recognizable reality but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.


Verism: From the Latin word meaning “true,” verism is the name of a style of portraiture that is hyperrealistic and emphasizes individual features a naturalistic approach, in which every wrinkle and flaw is present; strict representation of truth and reality including the homely and vulgar.

I’ve said in the past, “Every painting is a fragment of my self portrait”

and "I've earned every wrinkle and scar, why hide them"


MSG > Can you tell us a little about your technique?

Donald Rizzo >I knew what I wanted the end product to look like, I didn’t have the skill to get their. I lived in London for four years and I saw a program titled “Faking It”. The first program had an X-ray technician trying to become a fashion photographer and he was given just four weeks to master this skill well enough to fool a panel of expert judges. The takeaway for me was if you immerse yourself in a subject matter 24/7 you can learn it and master it.  I knew the palette I wanted but how to mix paint to get that color, practice. All of my early paintings you can see how I was trying different things to get to where I am today. Also the development of my image in image paintings, which I call image juxtaposition. You can see the development of this technique from my first attempt “Shadow Self” then with “Double Trouble” playing with orientation to my most recent on display here “Vitamin D Deficiency” 


MSG > I like the consistence in your work… from the merging of the different images to the style… well done!

Donald Rizzo >On my website I have a painting twice once in its series and second by year so anyone can look at the progression. When I goto an art museum, well lets take Picasso as an example, I like looking at his paintings and then look at the year to see how he tried different things and then went back and you can see the evolution

MSG > Now let’s chat a bit about the exhibit... Life Rebuilt… this is a very personal exhibit for you right? From the artist statement… the title itself is very deep. Can you tell us how you came up with the body of work? And why did you decide to make it so personal?

Donald Rizzo >I had a show here at Market Street Gallery, back in Nov/Dec last year and one evening while I was here at the gallery, well this can be a very entraining city block at times. Three separate homeless people came in to have a look, the joy they expressed while experiencing my art, reminded me of my own time as the lonely, the forgotten and the outcast. After the third person left, I did get slightly emotional, first that my art could bring someone joy, in an otherwise rough life. And second that I have moved past my own personal time as the lonely, the forgotten and the outcast. With that mind set I started working on these 11 pieces and then Robert you asked me if I’d be interested in describing each piece for an e-book. I think about the addict still suffering and maybe this story may resonate with them.


MSG > Every piece has an amazing story behind it, this will allow people to really take their time and experience the story since we printed the story and posted it right by each piece. And we also posted the FREE ebook [] so our followers can download and read… What would you want people who stop by the exhibit to get out of the exhibit?

Donald Rizzo >My daughter once asked me “If you knew then what you know now would you change anything”. At the time she asked, I couldn’t answer the question. Knowing how much pain I caused when I came out answering No didn’t seem right and answering Yes meant that she wouldn’t be here. It took time and art, to finally answer her question. Not to long ago I told her I can answer your question; “I wouldn't change a God Damn thing” She, responded “Right answer” No matter the path we end up here. 

MSG > Is there one or two pieces that you want to tell a brief version of the story about for this micro-blog?


Donald Rizzo >Psychotic EchosAt times the voices would not shut up, I would be driving and one would start “Don you’re driving too fast” another “Yea, Don the roads are really slick, slow down” I’d say “Shut up and let me drive, what do you know about driving?” “Don Slow down you’re going to go off the road.” I’d speed up “You want me to slow down, shut the fuck up, give me a god damn minute just one minute of peace” “ No not until you slow down” I’d speed up some more. I wanted to be able to go sit outside with no observation, no monitoring, and defiantly no voices. Just give me 20 minutes, please 20 minutes, that’s all I ask what’s 20 minutes. A few times I would hide in the basement, in a room with no windows, in the dark. No phone, no computer, but those damn voices were always there. “Don what are you doing, you can’t stay down here forever. Eventually you have to come out.” “Not until you promise me that you aren't going to start fucking with me” this conversation would go on and on for more than two hours. Eventually they’d promise me that today would be different and I’d come out and like Lucy and the football, it would be groundhog day all over again.

MSG > For this and the past exhibit that we had here at Market Street Gallery… you chose to hang out at the gallery on Wednesdays from 4-7… why is that?


Donald Rizzo >I really enjoy watching people experience my art. I spend 10 to 12 hours a day by myself, in my head working on these pieces. This is where I see if what I was trying to accomplish worked. 

MSG > I know our patrons are appreciative of you being here to tell your story… so we thank you for doing that.

Donald Rizzo >Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity

MSG > I was happy that we were able to arrange this exhibit to coincide with Pride month, and better yet, having the Pride Kick Off party… where we will have Jill Felta-Fish perform new numbers just for the party, are you excited about that? Have you ever seen her perform before? and do you know what we can expect?

Donald Rizzo >I am really excited to have Jill perform. She has a great reputation and is very playful and colorful in what she does. She has a great energy that shows when she performs and dances, but don't be fooled, she can get across some serious messages in her performances but always in an entertaining way. She regularly performances at the "Monster Show" in the Castro at the Edge.

MSG > Is there anything else that you want to share with our followers Don?

Donald Rizzo >I currently have “Shades of Purple” series at the Castro Country Club 4058 18th St, and a selection of portraits at Community Walgreens 2262 Market St, between 15th and 16th, both of these will be up till the end of June, maybe longer.

MSG > Well.. thank you so much for doing this micro-blog interview.. it was fun! We learned a lot.. and got some pretty amazing insights on you and your works! We here are Market Street Gallery are very happy to be able to exhibit your work. And for you to be able to put the exhibit together in such a short period of time, that’s amazing!

Donald Rizzo >Thank you Robert and Ron for the opportunity, you guys are great and lets not forget Moe.

MSG > Just a reminder to our followers.. we do have the Pride Kick off party on June 28, 2014… it’s between 6-8PM.. and we’re going to have special guest performer Jill Felta-Fish doing 4 unique performances throughout the evening! These are fresh new performances. Don’t miss it! Looking forward to seeing you and your friends at the party!

© Donald Rizzo 2006 -2021

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