Twenty-five years ago, Vincent Crotty left his native Ireland and emigrated to Dorchester where he discovered a “land of opportunity” and a mentor who recognized his painting talents and counseled, “If you want to be an artist, start working on it now!” He picked up his brushes and has been developing his skills ever since. Eight years ago, he became an American citizen.
Recording American cities’ back alleys and working-class life dates back to the early 20th century New York-based “Ashcan School” of Robert Henri and George Luks; Crotty continues this tradition through his own works. He paints outside on location in the mode of plein air painting but his strongest work breaks away from its romantic scenes. He paints Boston’s working-class houses and streets, and the economic struggles and the hard-work ethic of people who live there. Edward Hopper’s lonely-person paintings immediately come to mind, but Crotty often deals with gritty scenes Hopper wouldn’t touch, such as the Neponset bridge.
Having driven over this derelict drawbridge many times, I cannot imagine it as worthy of aesthetic recognition, however, “Neponset Bridge,” is one of Crotty’s finest works. Bravura brush strokes define the swirling water of the river as it flows under the bridge, while at the same time the water also reflects the white and red colors of the bridge. Marsh grass, puffy clouds and distant buildings surround the huge red-steel weight of the drawbridge-like a lover’s arms.
“Winter in the City,” a brilliant depiction of sunlight rays glancing past the edge of a Dorchester house, depicts a scene few plein air painters would dare to paint; an ice-slushy street with cars parked on either side and telephone poles tippy in the distance. The late afternoon sun glares off the snow and water in blinding fashion, recalling an experience all drivers have in winter, the feeling that sunglasses are needed.
Crotty’s cityscapes are “memory” paintings of fleeting moments we experience in the ordinary day to day running of our lives, driving to the store, picking up the kids, or searching for a parking place. But Crotty imbues these mundane moments with loneliness, dignity, and a recognition that life is beautiful and precious even in the most ordinary back-alleys of “Dochestah ‘n’ Hyde Pak.”
Now 51, Crotty works out of Dorchester and Lower Mills with an occasional painting trip to Ireland. In November, his work was exhibited in a one-day viewing at The Milton Club, a new cultural institution. Legions of his admiring fans came to buy many of his paintings; Crotty is an artist who supports himself exclusively by painting! To back up this income he works as a master of intricate “faux painting,” and his redecorated walls at the Milton Club look exactly like mahogany, and oak.