Paul Ciaramitaro grew up working on the Gloucester waterfront, in a family where money was hard to come by. His hard-knock life has been marked at various periods by the back-breaking work of both fishing and working on the wharves, by addiction — not uncommon among waterfront workers and fish hands — and the constant struggle to earn enough money to stay afloat.
But Ciaramitaro’s lifelong penchant for drawing never waned, and as an adult, he has transformed his childhood passion into a career as an artist. He is about to host a solo show, “Wooden Boats and Iron Men,” that will open the season for the North Shore Arts Association next Thursday, April 24.
He has put these scenes to canvas so vividly because he worked them for nearly two decades, and Ciaramitaro wants to pay homage to an industry that is struggling to stay in existence with strict government restrictions, limited days to fish, and ever-increasing costs.
“I wanted to draw fishermen. This business is dying,” said Ciaramitaro, now 64. “I think fishing captains would be proud and honored to know that they are continuing to be remembered. Gloucester exists in history because of the fishing.”
The show is comprised of three parts focusing on the kinds of work in the fishing industry: One wall will feature the fishermen, another will feature the lumpers, and a third be the dock workers, all with a few paintings of sea gulls and the old wooden draggers interspersed among them.
Charles Movalli, an artist, author and teacher, said he never met a man more obsessed with art, especially given that unlike most painters, Ciaramitaro didn’t go to art school or study under some master.
“He found and studied good books, haunted the great historical shows at the Rockport Art Association and the North Shore Arts Association — those devoted to Hibbard, Lester Stevens, Gruppe, etc. — and, believing that drawing is one of the most important elements in art, not only taught himself to draw, but, more impressively, became an expert on the complications of human anatomy,” said Movalli. “It’s nothing for him to draw the bones of the body and then the muscles attached to them — with all their Latin names.”