I received an introduction to Lou Cacioppo’s art before I ever met the artist. I first saw one of his masks, and as the saying goes, I was “blown away.” Delighted that he lived in Gustavus, I looked forward to seeing more of his work. Then I met Lou, and, once he opened the Outpost, enjoyed several music nights in his place, surrounded by his marvelous inspirations. Now I have the pleasure of telling a little of his story and showing you a bit of his art. I’m sure you will agree that he has a great deal of talent. As his story shows, he has worked at perfecting his skills his entire life, and the results are reflected in all he has created.
Lou Cacioppo was born on November 28, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. Both his mother and father were Sicilians. Lou reassures us there were no mafia connections. Lou’s mother came from this country, while his dad was born in Palermo, Italy. Lou’s grandparents on both sides immigrated from Italy. They spoke Italian and English. The family lived in Brooklyn in a section of town called “little Italy.”
After Lou’s kindergarten in a parochial school, the family moved from Brooklyn. They first moved to Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, where 50 to 60% of the people were Italian or Jewish. His parents enrolled him in a Catholic school.
Lou was the “wise guy” in class, so he got in trouble with the teachers a lot. When he was a 4th grader, he became involved in a fight with a 6th grader, and ended up in Mother Superior’s office. She smacked him with a large paddle with holes in it. Lou swears she hit him so hard that her feet came off the ground. After the incident, at Lou’s insistence, his parents took him out of Catholic school and enrolled him in the regular school.
Lou’s parents had totally different views on his fighting. Lou’s mother would smack him for losing a fight. Lou’s father would hit him for fighting. Lou decided winning a fight was better — he didn’t have to suffer so many smacks from the other guy, or from his mother.
Around 1954, the family moved from Valley Stream to South Farmingdale, a suburban area with ranch houses and a nearby creek. The area still had trees. Lou played in the woods, either Tarzan or army, with sticks and fingers, nothing that looked real.
Lou drew constantly. He had paper bags filled with sketches. Comic books were his first texts for art. Teachers always volunteered Lou for school art projects, such as murals. Lou loved doing these projects.
South Farmingdale had a junior high — seventh and eighth grades — in a separate school. His years there were uneventful. Though not in sports, he was an avid weight lifter. Of course, he always did a lot of art. He says that he had art teachers all through junior high and high school. Lou says the art teachers were fantastic. His three greatest teachers were Mr. Denali, who was a big influence and took Lou under his wing; Mr. Cole, a great watercolor artist; and Mr. Schaffer. Lou made his first sale of a piece of his artwork to Mr. Schaffer. It was a wood sculpture, and he sold it for $15.00. He bought a pair of pants with that $15.00 — his first purchase of his own clothes.
Lou went to high school in South Farmingdale. He says it was a great school. From junior high through high school, his favorite academic subjects were biology and geology. In biological science lab, dissecting mice and frogs sparked a never-ending quest of how things are put together. He liked Continue reading