On my way home from the gym, I'd pop my head into Gabriele's studio, as he painted the hours away, working on pieces which were full of humor and vibrant colors.
Sometimes on warm spring or summer evenings, he and his then girlfriend would bring me inside the studio, which was literally walls covered in paintings from top to bottom, and offer me a glass of Italian red wine. I would sit and talk to them for hours on a range of topics, but mostly just enjoying the company of creative individuals, who had lived interesting lives. And of course, I was always eyeing his art.
The works, ranging from $400 to literally, thousands of dollars were well out of my price range.
Gabriele once shared with me, that one of his paintings which hung in his studio, had been used on the set of the TV show, 'Friends.' He had shows in galleries all over the City, and the world.
My favorite collection was titled, "The Ladies of Perici," comprised of the paintings which hung in his studio when I first met him. Oddly, the women he painted looked a lot like me. Or perhaps, resembled me. I was drawn to them, and knew I had to own one - one day.
Back to the painting in my apartment.
I came to be the owner of a one-of-a-kind Perici painting, after paying more than I should have, but less than any other collector of his works. My painting is signed on the back, a special note from my friend Gabriele, to his neighbor (me). And I love it. But not everyone does.
"Oh, is that a painting of you?" I have been asked.
My answer, "No, but it sure does look a lot like me."
Then comes, "Oh my, the dog is sniffing her..." (Yeah, I know, remember I bought the painting?)
You may be thinking, Why would you buy this painting of a naked woman who looks like you, with a dog sniffing her butt? Well, the answer is quite simple.
To me, the dog sniffing the woman's butt is beautiful art, with a personal connection, and it makes me laugh. It's a daily reminder, that I should never take myself too seriously.
It reminds me that beauty exists in all forms. And that life is too short to criticize that which we don't understand.
I never did ask Gabriele what his thoughts were behind this painting. And now, I don't think I'll have the chance to ask. See, he moved out of his studio a few weeks ago, and I haven't seen him since.