Peter D. Cimino has forged an unstructured path through various countries, artistic mediums and startling spiritual experiences, leading him to softer ground in later years as a Resident Artist at Tyler Park Center for the Arts (TPCA) in Richboro.
He was raised in the San Francisco Bay area and felt abandoned as a child because the man whom he believed to be his father was not.
“My mother was in the Army, gone five years, serving in D.C. My grandparents cared for us. As a young parent, [my mother] started as a seamstress, then worked as a stenographer, which I thought was cool. Her transcriptions looked like hieroglyphics. Later, in the military, she went on to have top secret clearance at Lockheed. I guess I thought she was, perhaps, a spy,” divulged the son.
“In high school I got thrown out of my classes. I was a free spirit of the 1960’s who pushed back against authority. I loved wood shop, auto shop, but always gave my teachers a hard time,” he remembers.
As the dress code and restrictions were loosened at school, the administration let him back into classes. All the time, Peter worked with paint, paper, pen, and clay. While in high school he was commissioned by Bank of America to design a sculpture, and in the senior yearbook was designated, “Most Likely to Succeed.” But after graduation, the young Californian eluded the Vietnam War draft and fled to Mexico where he delivered free meals to rural schoolchildren.
He was asked by a professor there to teach art, a vocation that afforded him a meager living. Eventually he applied as an emancipated minor, thus acquiring a passport, allowing him to legally travel.
“I started sailing, racing boats. At 31, I sailed from Mexico to Hawaii then to California.”
He sold his custom boat, then started building hot rods and motorcycles, even racing some of his metal marvels along the Bonneville Salt Flats. Peter transitioned to designing houses including Zen features such as Koi ponds and waterfalls.
One day he was working on pond illumination, using a 1,000-watt amp light while on a tall ladder wedged against a tree, when he was electrocuted and thrown to the ground. The current finally released him from its charge and he somehow survived. Another other-worldly occurrence sent shockwaves through Peter’s life. He had just built a swimming pool and positioned one of his gargoyle sculptures by the pool.
That evening he felt a negative force. The next morning when he went out to the pool, the grass from the pool down the hill appeared flattened. At the bottom of the hill lay the gargoyle with both wings broken.
“I can’t explain this force that seemed to follow me since I came close to death. I did not experience anything like it before or since. It was dark and felt like something was right behind me. The gargoyles served as a talisman, as did one of my most famous pieces to date, I named Draco, the Companion. Both mythical symbolic statues helped me on this uneasy journey,” declared Peter.
“A 90-year-old painter friend once suggested that perhaps my near-death experience opened a portal. Do you think that’s funny? There are some things that happen in our lives that can’t be explained,” assured the multi-faceted artist.
Peter and his wife, Mary Frances Frabotta, became involved with the New Hope Art Center from 2008 to 2010. Draco was in the NHAC Outdoor Exhibit from 2009 to November 2010 and was installed in front of the Gallery Of Stars by the canal side of the building as visitors crossed the little bridge by the Bucks County Playhouse.
On one occasion a New Hope photographer saw Draco and asked if the large beast could showcase a nude model. “My wife, Mary Frances, didn’t hesitate and said ‘Yes, if I am the model.’ We both are fearless. So, that happened.”
In 2012 Draco was installed at TPCA where Peter became a participating Artist, and Mary Frances a volunteer. Peter pays special thanks to Herb Hart, head of the Art Department at Sunnyvale High School in Sunnyvale, California.
Herb passed away last year at 98. “We stayed in touch all of these years and he looked the same as I remembered him all those decades ago. He was like a true father to me,” immortalized Peter. Peter D. Cimino, sculptor, artist, builder extraordinaire offers classes and workshops at Tyler Center for the Arts and also works on commission.
PHOTO CAP: Peter D. Cimino with some of his work at Tyler Park Center for the Arts