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Larchmont's Resident Artist: Paolo Corvino

Paolo Corvino surrounds himself with works of art.

It’s a wonder that there hasn’t been a rash of fender benders as drivers swivel their heads to look at the life size pink rhinoceros that has been parked on the sidewalk in front of the in Larchmont for the last two weeks. 

Two more colorful sculptures also adorn the stretch of sidewalk along Palmer Avenue in Larchmont just north of Chatsworth Avenue. The artworks are the product of one of the village’s best kept secrets, Paolo Corvino, who owns and works out of the storefront gallery a few doors down from the Globe and lives right across the street.

Corvino’s work has been displayed next to the works of past masters in several international museums and he’s made a nice living as an artist. A 50-year retrospective of his work, bound in a soft cover book, weighs several pounds and runs over 200 pages.

In it are several photos of him hobnobbing with George H.W. Bush, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa, Mickey Mantle, Walt Frazier and a host of other actors, entertainers and politicians

“In my little world, I’m probably a star, but in the big world, I’m lost,” he said.

Patriotic themes infuse his work, along with sports scenes. Picasso is a big influence, but he works in myriad media that includes abstracts, portraits and street scenes. His created a large sculpture, Rising From the Ashes, out of structural steel salvaged from the World Trade Center after 9/11, but he’s not allowed to sell it due to restrictions imposed by the Port Authority.

Partly due to his artistic sensibility, Corvino, 81, is a bit out of step with modern life.  He’s never used a computer, but he has a nice web site that he’s never seen.  If he wants to communicate with someone who is not in close proximity, he prefers a landline phone and gets impatient with people of the younger generation who stare at their handheld devices all the time.

He calls his wavy-lined sculptures Tempo #3 and Tempo #5 and only uses odd numbers to designate the series, though he doesn’t know why. He also shuns commissions: “I have to do it myself,” he said.

To him, art just happens without explanation. “I do things and all of a sudden, I’ve made a pink rhino; I don’t know why,” he said. “Once I started a sculpture of Abe Lincoln and it turned into Jesus Christ. Sometimes something comes to me and I start on a piece one day and the next day it completely changes.”

The steel sculptures used to stand in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations. He has held massive exhibitions at local airports, including a 128-piece show at JFK Terminal 4 and another one at LaGuardia’s Terminal 3. 

“How many people pass through there in a day?” he asked rhetorically. “They’d call me and say ‘I’m standing in front of one of your paintings; how do I go about buying it?’”

He would like to arrange to have the pink rhino sculpture— aptly named Pink Rhinoceros—placed along the median in Park Avenue, unless someone buys it first for $85,000.

“Hopefully, it will be like the bull statue near Wall Street,” he said, though he admitted that it’s not quite as iconic a symbol as the sculpture in the financial district.

Corvino grew up in the hardscrabble Bronx and moved to Larchmont 30 years ago. For years he worked as an architect and opened the gallery in 1996. The cluttered space doubles as a painting studio and he also creates larger sculptures in the basement.

His work been displayed in the some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, including the National Museum of Art in Washington, DC, the Vatican Museum and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his sculpture Sitting Girl stood next to Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy during a 1994 exhibition. His painting, Wall Street-Fourth of July, is in the permanent collection of the White House.

Locally, he has donated work to , the Globe Bar & Grill and will be placing a painting at the in Mamaroneck.

He has placed sculptures outside the Globe for the last couple of years. Those who know him comment on his whimsical qualities.

"It draws attention,” said Claudio Gottardo, the restaurant’s owner. “People stop and take pictures. He’s a good friend, he’s local and he’s a great guy. The amazing thing is that he’s been in and out of the hospital lately and when he comes out, he’s still creating and is excited about the next project. Today, he attached balloons to the rhino, almost like a little kid just enjoying life.”

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