PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - As the chief engineer for the Army's first GPS-guided artillery round, Program Executive Office for Ammunition employee Raymond Sicignano's workdays are spent managing the technical intricacies of the Excalibur 155 mm artillery round.

However, in his free time, Sicignano is a professional artist whose paintings have been showcased as part of the set on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show, displayed on New York City gallery walls, and will soon be featured in an exhibit at The United States Military Academy's Eisenhower Theatre Gallery at West Point, N.Y., from Jan. 30 through March 6.

The exhibit collection, titled "Urban American Portraits," will feature approximately 15 brightly colored oil paintings that depict urban city scenes from around the country.

While each painting has an individual story, as a collection the paintings almost function as an anthropological study of a genre of American culture, Sicignano said.

"It's a story about America, and where it's going," he said of his art, which typically focuses on mom-and-pop type establishments. "A lot of these places I paint are gone now, so there's also that vanishing face of America part of it.

"But I also try to be more positive. It's also about places that prevail in spite of big corporations and franchises. Individual shops and businesses that can make it on their own, doing their own unique things."

People move to certain areas because they are attracted to the local charm, Sicignano explained. But often developers follow as well, building structures that detract from the individuality of the area by creating a commercialized neighborhood.

"This (art) captures a part of America that has managed to stay unique despite the influx of corporate franchises and developers," Sicignano said of his city scenes.

Though his paintings may tell a story, Sicignano didn't start out trying to paint the vanishing face of America-he just started painting distinctive scenes that caught his attention.

"Colorful buildings, humorous signs and anything that has personality to it," Sicignano said in describing what he looks for in his subjects. "I always say, 'I don't find these places, they find me.'"

All his paintings are based on real buildings. As he paints, Sicignano said he keeps the scene as true to life as possible.

Even the signs painted on the buildings, which are often ironic, humorous and witty, are original elements of the structure.

Sicignano usually takes 20 to 60 hours to complete a painting, depending on the size of the canvas.

Besides capturing a piece of America and providing personal enjoyment, Sicignano said his painting has also helped him with his work. It has made him more of a team player because the process of painting amply satisfies his ego.

"I get a lot of personal ego satisfaction out of painting. It helps me at work because I'm more comfortable working as a team and deriving my personal satisfaction from the success of the program as a team effort."

ART GALLERIES AND BISTRO
Sicignano's art has been showcased throughout the Northeast at various galleries or museums.

Solo exhibitions in various New York City galleries include the Benedetti Gallery, the Sugar Hill Gallery, and the Brownstone.

Sicignano has also been featured in group exhibitions that include the National Arts Club in New York City and the Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, Va.

This month, his work is on exhibit at the Mary G. Hardin Cultural Center for the Arts in Gadsden, Ala.

His painting "Baobab Tree" was also featured as part of the set during a scene on Chappelle's Show, after a staff member noticed his work hanging in a bistro in Harlem.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16