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Robert DiCaprio’s art comes home

Robert DiCaprio art exhibit

Maria DiCaprio-Sunta talks about the life and art of her late brother, Robert DiCaprio, at an exhibition of his work at the Robert F. DiCaprio Art Gallery at Moraine Valley Community College.
Photo by Anthony Caciopo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit runs through Feb. 1

By Anthony Caciopo

Regional News Editor

It is a homecoming, of sorts, as the art of the late Robert DiCaprio graces the walls for the first time in the gallery at Moraine Valley Community College that bears his name.

“This is a meaningful moment for myself, family and the Fine and Performing Arts Center because in all the 26 some-odd years the name has been on the gallery, no one has ever seen my brother’s work,” said Maria DiCaprio-Sunta.

More than 40 pieces of Mr. DiCaprio’s art are on display at the Robert DiCaprio Gallery through February 1, and a reception last Friday attracted at least 60 people who admired his work in acrylic paints, photography, drawings and graphics. The exhibition is titled The Robert F. DeCaprio Retrospective.

Linda Buchanon, a member of the Board of Directors at McCord Gallery and Cultural center in Palos Park, said “I know the gallery has the family name so I at least wanted to come see the exhibit. I know it was a mix of work so I wanted to see what was here.”

Robert F. DeCaprio

Robert F. DeCaprio

Of particular interest to her were Mr. DiCaprio’s drawings.

“I really enjoy all the graphite, the pencil work,” Buchanon said. “It’s fascinating detail.”

The gallery was abuzz during the reception, which took place under a threatening weather forecast that would result soon after with almost six inches of snow in the Palos communities.

With beverages and hors doeuvres often in hand, visitors moved slowly from piece to piece in silent appreciation, but also with animated conversation and good cheer as art lovers recognized one another and paused to socialize.

“If Rob could be here now, he would be quietly mingling with everyone,” said his sister to all the visitors. “He would be modestly accepting compliments or making you laugh with his dry sense of humor. He was just one of the crowd.”

“It’s awesome. He could be so fine in his strokes,” said Don Lewandowski of Orland Park. “I do a lot of photography and I’m kind of a perfectionist. He has carried so much detail from his photography into his paintings.”

Mr. DiCaprio, of Palos Heights, had a love of drawing and design that began in childhood, said his sister. He worked at Moraine Valley from 1975 to 1987, according to a news release from the college about the exhibition. He was a graphic artist in the marketing department, lead designer for the Fine and Performing Arts Center projects, a photography instructor and an audio-visual technology artist. He had earned a communications design degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

“It is really hard to imagine but he did all his design work by hand, which was then photographed to make it camera-ready to go to print,” said DiCaprio-Sunta, herself an artist and chairman of the Public Arts Commission in Palos Heights.

Robert DiCaprio painting

“Library Park, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin” is an acrylic painting by Robert DiCaprio.

His sister told the gallery guests that he and the family took a whirlwind five-country excursion sponsored by the college. On this trip, she said, her brother often wandered the road less traveled, accompanied by his prized Pentax 35mm film camera, which was on display at the reception.

“The other travelers on the trip were amazed at his photos, as he saw things no one else discovered,” she said.

Mr. DiCaprio often studied his photographs under a magnifying glass and used graphite pencil “to produce the rich value, depth and perspective,” she explained.

“Page after page (of his sketchbook) takes you on a journey of his travels, but suddenly in 1991, the remaining pages where left blank,” said his sister. “If he had lived, I know he would have traveled extensively, studied theater design and acting and continued his education of graphic design to stay current with the times.”

Mr. DiCaprio, 36, died that year following an accident in Palos Heights with his bicycle.

“His chain broke and that threw him over the handlebars,” DiCaprio-Sunta told The Regional News. “He had a head injury and they did surgery. They thought they had it under control.”

After seven days in intensive care he was released.

“They thought he was going to be all right, but then he had an aneurysm and he was on life support for 17 days,” she said.

Test showed his brain activity was getting worse, and the family knew he wouldn’t want to live in a vegetative state.

“Being an artistic and creative individual, keeping him alive for us, not for Rob…everything he loved was gone, so we decided it was the right decision,” she said about the end his life.

About a year after Mr. DiCaprio’s death, his family attended the opening of the Performing Arts Center at Moraine Valley Community College where the gallery is located. The gallery had not yet been named “and we thought maybe there would be an opportunity to remember him in that way,” said DiCaprio-Sunta.

Talks were entered into and financial arrangements made with Mr. DiCaprio’s parents, Robert and Frances, for the gallery to have their son’s name.

“My dad has been gone for a while now and he felt he did one of the best things he could have ever done to remember my brother,” DiCaprio-Sunta said. “He felt it was a very positive, vibrant place. He never felt sad coming here. He always felt happy.”

The Robert F. DeCaprio Retrospective exhibition runs through Feb. 1 in the Fine and Performing Arts Center on the Moraine Valley campus, 9000 College Parkway, Palos Hills. More information may be obtained at www.morainevalley.edu/fpac.

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