Frank Oriti Paints His Generation
After artist Frank Oriti graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2007, he returned to his family home in Parma only to be greeted by the Great Recession.
"I really didn't have a plan or a clue of what I wanted to do. I'd just gotten this degree in painting but there's not really a lot of things you can do, especially in Cleveland at the time where you're using your art degree," Oriti said.
He struggled for a while working odd jobs, but soon realized he wasn't alone.
"I started thinking about how a lot of my friends and myself included all left our part of town to go away to college or the military with the understanding that we were going to go out into the world and not return or return under different circumstances and then we all ended up coming home," he said.
The struggle of his millenial friends and family during the recession struck a chord with Oriti and he began painting their portraits.
In Oriti's photorealistic style one can see the influence of an American painter that he's been a fan of since he was a boy: Norman Rockwell.
For art critic Douglas Max Utter, what separates Oriti's millenial portraits from the work of Rockwell is a contrast of pessimism and hope.
"You wouldn't expect these paintings to be produced by a hopeful guy, by a guy who has Norman Rockwell informing his unconscious. I think that in the end is what those early discouraged people in those paintings are about, the fact that [Oriti] himself really is a man of considerable hope and determination," Utter said.
Oriti eventually got the attention of the Richard J. Demato Gallery in New York which led to a profile in the New York Times in 2013.
That same year Oriti won the Cleveland Arts Prize for emerging artists and was able to move out of his family home and become a full-time artist.
He checked off a bucket-list item in 2015 when his painting, Clarity, was accepted into the prestigious BP Portrait Award competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where his portrait was at the center of a mock theft by protesters.
The painting was returned unharmed, and, like many of Oriti's millenial portraits, sold.
Then in an effort to branch out from portraits, he began painting still lifes later that year.
However at the end of 2016 a fire at the Richard J. Demato Gallery destroyed 8 of his paintings, which cost him thousands of dollars and set him back considerably.
Today Oriti is back in Parma living at his family home and revisiting his portrait work from a fresh perspective.