David Colts, Youngstown, Ohio
Gift to Akron Art Museum, June 30, 1992
2014 - : Haslinger Galleries, 10/22/14 - , Akron Art Museum
2007 - 2011: "Opening exhibition, Haslinger galleries" 7/7/07 - 11/6/11, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "A 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97 - 1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1995: "Self-Taught and Outsider Artists from Northeast Ohio" 4/8/95 - 6/4/95, Akron Art Museum
1992 - 1993: "Outside the Mainstream: Recent Acquisitions" 10/9/92 - 4/28/93, Akron Art Museum
V4: Show me the path where I should go, Oh Lord, point out the right road for me to walk.
V 5 : Lead me; Teach me; for you are God who gives me salvation, I have no hope except in you.
Verso: Signed in pencil: source, name, title, date, verse. Recto: LR: "TJS"
Verso: Signed in pencil: "From the Lamsa's Bible. Drawing. Tony Joseph Salvatore. Psalms 24, Verse 4 and 5. Nov 27, 1991." In ink: "V 4 - Show me the path where I should go, Oh Lord, point out the right road for me to walk. V 5 - Lead me; teach me; for you are God who gives me salvation, I have no hope except in you." Recto: LR: "TJS"
Anthony Joseph Salvatore
Psalms 25, Verse 4 and 5, 1991
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
Anthony Joseph Salvatore dedicated himself to fulfilling a divine mission—the illustration of the Holy Scriptures in order to spread God's Word. The subject of Psalms 25, Verse 4 and 5, which is a relatively large painting for Salvatore, can also be seen as an allegory of the artist's own life. According to the biblical verses represented, the figures in the blue and white robes say, “Show me thy ways, O Lord, teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art my God and my Saviour; on thee do I wait all the day.”1
In the course of daily prayer, Salvatore says he received from God not only instruction on which biblical texts to portray but also three-dimensional, full-color, animated visions of the texts—similar to scenes in movies or stage plays.2 For him, accurate transcription of both text and vision was essential, completely overriding concerns about naturalism, formal structure, or deference to past or present art styles.
Salvatore's lack of shading and use of multiple (often flattened) perspectives are in perfect accord with his work's symbolic function. His forms are sometimes so personalized that they almost seem abstract. The Lord appears here in the Old Testament guise of a pillar of fire—an enormous, dark purple column of smoke broken by bright orange-red flames. In accord with Old Testament proscriptions, the Lord's face is not shown, replaced instead by a light-colored halo with bright yellow "flames." Humans huddle in the pillar's warmth, sheltered from an unwelcoming, symmetrical landscape that yields no hint of the path to be taken. The fact that God answers their plea is symbolized by clouds of breath emerging from his mouth and the top of his head, and by the tiny, dark red, flamelike shapes coming from the humans. The latter device was used by Salvatore to indicate speaking in tongues, which, as a Pentecostal Christian, he understood to be a sign of communication with the divine.
Although first and foremost a visionary artist, Salvatore did receive some training in art, from childhood instruction in school and at The Butler Institute of American Art to a few years of classes at Youngstown State University around 1978. He came to the university with his style already formed. His professors' contributions were to introduce him to some new materials, encourage him to work on a larger scale, and help him develop greater formal sophistication, especially in his handling of color. Salvatore's working process, a combination of painting and drawing on either canvas or paper, began with a pencil or marker sketch, which was often followed by a ground of acrylic paint, then topped with multiple layers of drawing with crayons and oil pastels—media that allowed him to build up a glossy, color-saturated surface.
Salvatore was discovered in 1980 when Rafael Ferrer, a visiting artist at Youngstown State, took his work to a New York art dealer. Since then, Salvatore's work has been widely exhibited and has entered a number of prestigious private and museum collections, usually in the context of work by other self-taught or "folk" artists. Salvatore himself did not care how his art was designated as long as it attracted attention to the Lord's Word, which he felt was a pillar of fire that could provide guidance through the wilderness of modern life.
- Barbara Tannenbaum, 2001
1. Salvatore usually wrote out the citations for biblical text on the back of each work. Beginning in the late 1970s, he relied on the Lamsa Bible, an English translation of the Peshitta (Aramaic or Syriac) Bible, and on scholar George M. Lamsa's Bible commentaries. The Peshitta, probably executed from the original scrolls long before their Hebrew or Arabic translation, is believed by some to be the most accurate version of the Scriptures.
2. Information in this entry is based primarily on the author's interview with the artist in Youngstown on December 5, 1989; quotations are also from that interview. Additional information was provided by David Colts; the artist's gallery, Cavin-Morris, New York; professors James Lapore, Russell Maddick, and John Naberezny of Youngstown State University; and Sister Jean DelBono.
Maresca, Frank, and Roger Ricco. American Self-Taught: Paintings and Drawings by Outsider Artists. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993, 206–7.
Rosenak, Chuck, and Jan Rosenak. Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists. New York: Abbeville, 1990.
Tannenbaum, Barbara. "Pillar of Fire: The Visionary Art of Anthony Joseph Salvatore." Dialogue 12 (March/April 1989): 38–39.