A Final Hurrah

He’s still got it. Ninety-four-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident and near-lifetime artist Matthew Carone has launched his latest show, Hidden Visions Past and Future. It will run through August 4 at the NSU Art Museum. The show is part of a broader NSU Art Museum exhibition, The Daily Act of Making, focused on a trio of artists who have dedicated their lives to creating artwork daily.

The oft-spontaneous and abstract expressionist Carone is saying it will be his final show. It’s also his first at NSU Art Museum in 62 years. Amid so many big numbers and a surely emotional moment, he’s feeling quite reflective.

On his legacy, he says he gets “great pleasure in being a contributor to audiences in South Florida, primarily to make some people receptive to the ‘essence of creation’ rather than just a literal representation of it. Every individual is capable of grasping this concept… all it takes is a curious mind to begin with.”

Carone credits his older brother Nick, who was also renowned within the abstract expressionist movement, for taking him under his creative wing beginning at 7 years old. In his teenage years, he recalls summer studies in Provincetown, Mass., where his brother took classes from famed artist Hans Hoffman. Hoffman asked Carone to be a model for one of his classes, sparking him to take up painting.

Carone Art

He arrived in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 21 after a stint in New York working for Chemical Bank and Trust and after being discharged from the Air Force. He recalls that the only job he could find was being a lifeguard on Fort Lauderdale Beach, which paid him $35 a week. In 1953, following encouragement from his sister, he auditioned for a music scholarship at the University of Miami. He was already an accomplished violinist with a decade-plus of study. Throughout his time at UM and well before, he was always drawing and painting whenever he could.

In 1956, Carone got married to his sweetheart Jodi—whom he loved dearly until her passing in 2000—and obtained a teaching degree. In 1959, he was approached by Jack Harris, the owner of a gallery on Las Olas Boulevard who had seen some of his work. Harris offered him a show, and Carone accepted and sold five pieces. Carone, who said he “was on a high” from the sales, subsequently approached Harris about buying half his gallery. Harris came back to Carone the next day and offered to sell it for $4,000, and Carone immediately said, “Sold!”

At the time of purchase, Carone was making $3,800 a year as a 6th-grade teacher, but he was destined to pursue his passions. Within a year, he purchased the other half of the gallery and established his namesake Carone Gallery on Las Olas Boulevard, a regional art hot spot for decades. Within the space, he focused on representing serious artists, including Wilfredo Lam, Leon Kroll, Wolf Kahn, Enrico Donati, Jim Brooks and Roberto Matta.

Carone considered Matta, one of Chile’s most iconic abstract and surrealist painters, to be among his closest friends and mentors, helping to attract a high caliber of talent to his gallery from the get-go. That close friendship lasted nearly five decades, Carone says. In 1997, Carone arranged a show of Matta’s work at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, selling more of Matta’s paintings than all of the other galleries the Chilean artist had worked with combined. Matta passed away in 2002.

While running his own operation, Carone continued to paint and draw. In reflecting on his proudest shows, they include ones at Georgetown College in Lexington, Ky., Cesare Galeria in Genoa, Italy, the Boca Raton Museum of Art and—his proudest moment—at The Palazzo Panni Museum in Arco di Trento, Italy. Another satisfying moment was his art being featured at the Florida pavilion of the World’s Fair in 1965.

Carone Artwork

On his creative process, which was heavily influenced by Matta, Carone says, “[Matta] encouraged me to experiment and believe in the power of my creativity. It’s important not to take things so literally, rather let your curiosity and creativity guide you.” He further adds, “Our unconscious are living with past influences that started a million years ago. We pick up influences from our preceding experiences.”

Carone has certainly made his creative mark on Fort Lauderdale and well beyond. Amid countless creative expressions throughout the decades, this final one in the form of a show should certainly be cherished.

Photo Credit: NSU Art Museum

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