“Cult artist,” Quinn Stilletto, is perhaps among the last of a vanishing breed of vagabond, renaissance artists. His work has surfaced and resurfaced throughout art circles in the Cleveland area for the past thirty-five years. Born in London, England, Stilletto, with his family, immigrated to America in 1956. Residing briefly in New York, they settled in Cleveland’s inner city toward the end of the decade. Stilletto was educated in the Cleveland Public School System and began his secondary education with aspirations toward priesthood. Following a series of unilateral decisions (none his own), Stilletto was redirected to a liberal arts programs with an emphasis on religion and theology. During and after an extended academic career which spanned more than a decade, Stilletto, as one of the founding fathers of the Cleveland Free Clinic, worked in several aspects of public health.
Following his return from New York in 1980, Stilletto’s life was consumed by his passion for art, not only his own but, “The Big Art,” as he defines it. In his own words, “Art is a language unto itself and every artist speaks it. It interrupts normal thought from hidden crevices of one’s consciousness and continues to do so until acknowledged.”
Throughout his career in the arts, Stilletto has enjoyed numerous and diverse adventures associated with a life less ordinary. He served on the Board of Directors of the Coventry Art Gallery and, in 1982, was design assistant for Giancarlo Menotti’s production of Amal and the Night Visitors.
In 1993, with the cooperation of David Martin, former director of St. Augustine Manor, Stilletto created the Cleveland AIDS Memorial, also known as the Caritas Memorial Collection, in remembrance of members of the arts community who succumbed to the first wave of the epidemic. The permanent exhibit now contains more than 100 works of art donated by Cleveland artists as well as some nationally known individuals. A former substance abuser himself, Stilletto’s curatorial role was somewhat more than personal, “the arts community has been decimated by the tragedy of AIDS. I have sustained personal losses. I hope those of us who have escaped will continue to work on behalf of those still afflicted. AIDS is still ultimately a fatal disease.” Stilletto continues to serve as the collection’s curator.
Stilletto’s more commercial endeavors include a term as staff designer for Retex International Corporation where he designed textile surfaces. As an associate photographer at Crowther Photography, he specialized in fashion photography and product presentation. Late in 1980, the design firm of Concept by Stilletto was established. Over the years, Concept has undertaken a wide array of projects ranging from designing album covers to developing floor plans used in the construction of a product showroom in Miami, Florida. Recently, under the label, Unwanted Children, Stilletto has launched a website featuring apparel with pop culture themes. His designs promote social awareness, political incorrectness but, most of all, encourage conversation. As he often insists, “Truth is always in style.”
Stilletto’s fine art (paintings, photography and sculptures) have been exhibited in several group shows from Kansas City to New York. His work was featured at the Agora Gallery in New York’s Chelsea district in October of 2006. He has also had one man shows at Cleveland’s Barth Gallery, Pentagon Gallery, The Kelly Randall Gallery, The Greg Martin Gallery and Novo Metro.
From the Artist
I was unable, or more accurately, unwilling to follow through with my commitment to solidifying a nearness to my “undefined and amorphous” God. My pursuit of piety ended in 1971 but not without instilling in me a profound truth. God speaks to the spirit in a language which is understood fully by the essence of the soul. My God reveals truth directly to the subconscious, circumventing all interference from intellect, logic, memory and interpretation. Thomas Aquinas refers to this phenomenon as infused faith. Saint John of the Cross calls it contemplative knowledge. Ironically, both mystics acknowledge that truth is never transmitted by word.
In my experience, art has never been an endeavor or a vocation. Art is my assignment, albeit from an unmanifest source. The concept of creation, creativity, etc. originates from the Hebrew “bara” and is only used in conjunction with the word “God.” Therefore, the artist does not create, only God creates. The artist merely receives. Art is a language that addresses and communicates the essence of the soul, the unfiltered passion of “being”.
Thomas Edison stated that, “Ideas are in the air. All you have to do is grab hold of one.” My work is inspired by ideas in the air, some so compelling that any effort to subdue them is futile. I establish a relationship with each piece at its inception and continue a dialogue until it reveals to me any unsettled truth contained within it. I have a gift of being able to exist on several planes of reality simultaneously. Lori Hylar has labeled them “layers” of consciousness. The schizophrenic appearance of various works chronicles the moments I’ve spent vaulting from level to level, void of sensual clarity yet, fervently attempting to translate the barrage of information there collected.
I am told I live in a fantasy world. I will not deny it. It is, however, the world I’m best suited for. Believe when you’re able, accept what you can. Truth is unstable, it’s built upon sand.