Joseph Angelo Orffeo (1926-2013) was a Western New York artist, painter and sculptor who studied at the Art Institute of Buffalo in the 1940s and 50s with influence from the likes of Robert Noel Blair (1912-2003) and Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967). Orffeo’s art developed in an atmosphere of experimentation, spanning several decades and multiple mediums.
Whether inspired by the local countryside, southwestern mesas, or pure imagination, Orffeo’s watercolor works might best be described by Anthony Bannon, director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center: “…Orffeo reduces, simplifies, clarifies the visions that are given to him. But his is a vision that begins in a voluptuous manner, in many colors, and absolutely unheard of before.”
Nancy Weekly, curator at the Burchfield Penney, likens Orffeo’s approach to a concept quoted from Georgia O’Keeffe: “I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.” Weekly asks of Orffeo’s work, “What greater equivalent could exist?”
Joe Orffeo passed away on March 6th, 2013, in Colden, New York.
Listen to Joseph Orffeo's interview with Heather Gring of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, conducted on July 6th, 2012. Hear him discuss how the Buffalo Art Institute influenced both him and the blossoming art scene in Buffalo in the 1940s and 50s and why he thinks the Burchfield Penney has the potential to and should do the same thing today. With fellow Institute students David Pratt and Walter Prochownik, and teachers Jean Mackay Henrich and Robert Blair, Orffeo helped to make Buffalo a creative oasis. He believes that there will be a similar renaissance in Buffalo soon.
Orffeo also speaks of marriage and job hunting, and discusses why the medium of watercolor is “the love of [his] life.” In his own words, to be a successful artist, one has to “be really determined and have something to say” as well as the wherewithal to “keep working and keep painting.” It is as simple as that.