CHARLES G. PASQUALINA
Remember, the real reason for painting is to leave our mark—to celebrate our existence.
Charles “Charlie” Pasqualina, devout Roman Catholic and treasured husband, father, grandfather, and brother, passed away peacefully in Roslyn, New York on July 23, 2016, following a fearless and inspiring battle with colon cancer. He was the founder and director of the Roslyn School of Painting, where he taught drawing and oil painting to countless students of all ages, provided a venue for working artists, and practiced his own craft as a portrait painter.
Charlie was born in 1932 in Flushing, NY, where he attended St. Andrew Avellino elementary school before attending St. John’s Preparatory High School in Brooklyn. From ages 11 to 21, he received intensive formal training from the master Italian portrait painter Giuseppe Trotta, whose indelible influence shaped Charlie’s personal and artistic development. While attending the School of Visual Arts, Charlie worked as an apprentice at Fredman-Chaite Studios and then at Charles E. Cooper Studios, during which time he gained exposure to some of the top illustrators of the mid to late-1950s, including Bob Peak and Coby Whitmore. At age 20, Charlie enlisted in the Air Force in anticipation of the military draft for the Korean War. He was first stationed at Sampson Air Force Base in Buffalo, NY, where he painted a portrait of an Air Force colonel to showcase his talents as an artist to the military. As a result of the portrait, he was transferred to Governors Island to work in a communications unit where he helped construct specially crafted scale models of military bases. Charlie completed his tour of duty at age 24 but continued working for the government in the U.S. Naval Training Devices Center in Sands Point, Long Island, where he first met his dear friend and colleague, Dick Tyson, a master watercolorist. Charlie then continued work as an illustrator in Detroit, Michigan before returning to Long Island.
He opened the Roslyn School of Painting in Roslyn Village in 1960, first in a basement studio and then in a larger space across from the Roslyn Clock Tower. Charlie relocated the school to its current location on Old Northern Boulevard in 1973. Beginning in 1975 with the birth of their first daughter, Raphaela, Charlie and his wife, Lydia, built both a business and a family in the new studio space. Charlie expanded the space to include a residence, in which he himself completed much of the interior design and construction. He and Lydia would welcome their second daughter, Michele, in 1977 before completing their family with the birth of their son, Stephen, in 1985. Over fifty-six years, Charlie shared his incomparable talent as an artist and teacher with an impossibly wide array of students, many of whom would go on to become internationally recognized easel painters, graphic designers, web designers, and illustrators. Earlier this summer, John Durkin, Mayor of Roslyn Village, declared June 21 “Charles G. Pasqualina Day” in recognition of his unparalleled service to the community.
Charlie was a true renaissance man. His skills were wide-ranging, including model airplane construction, computer programming, and woodwork. Most importantly, he was a profoundly passionate Catholic, always eager to share his faith through words and actions. His talent as a painter and teacher was matched only by his ability to discuss deep theological questions. Charlie was a father to far more than his three children: countless mentees—and just as many cats—benefitted from his warmth, grace, and wisdom. His passions included attending air shows, watching Clint Eastwood movies, talking religion and politics, and eating oysters on the half shell. Family, friends, students, and colleagues enjoyed his love for long, corny jokes; his infectious enthusiasm for conversation and laughter; his limitless kindness and generosity; his deeply resolute faith; and his inimitable handlebar moustache. He is survived by his wife, Lydia; his children, Raphaela, Michele, and Stephen; his brothers, Robert and Russel; his sister-in-law, Trisha; his son-in-law, Anthony; his grandchildren, Christopher, Anabella, and Luca; and his loyal cat, Crispin.
Reposing will be held from 6 to 9 pm on Sunday, July 31 and Monday, August 1 at Fairchild Sons Funeral Chapel, Manhasset. Celebration of the Liturgy of the Christian Burial will be held at 11 am on Tuesday, August 2 at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Roslyn Harbor. Interment will take place at Roslyn Cemetery, Northern Blvd. A small private reception will be held at the Roslyn School of Painting immediately afterwards.
Donations in lieu of flowers:
Sisters of Life
38 Montebello Rd.
Suffern, NY 10901
Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
421 E. 155th Street
Bronx, NY 10455
Cancer Institute at St. Francis Hospital
Foundation Office: (516) 705-6655
delivered on August 2, 2016
at St. Mary's Church, Roslyn Harbor, NY
by Stephen Pasqualina
I want to begin with a brief anecdote about Edward Hopper, who was a painter my father admired. You might know Hopper for his painting titled Nighthawks, a painting that features a man alone in a diner in Greenwich Village. Or you might know him from any number of paintings depicting women sitting alone eating or sewing or just slouched in bed. For good reason, critics would often write that Hopper’s paintings were about loneliness. To my mind, Hopper’s subjects look pretty lonely. But Hopper himself didn’t see it. Whenever someone asked him about the lonely feeling that his paintings evoked, Hopper would say he didn’t know what they were talking about.
My dad loved to tell stories, about himself and others. Some of them were even true. He claimed to have bowled a perfect 300 the first time he ever went bowling. My dad was convinced The Beatles grew moustaches in the 1960s after seeing him at an airport. He especially loved to retell this Edward Hopper anecdote whenever someone got ahead of themselves with interpreting the deeper meaning of a painting. To my dad, a painting was never about an idea—it was never about truth or freedom, hope or despair or joy. My dad would often say that the most important thing to know about a painting—in some ways, the only thing to know about painting in general—was the feeling of putting the paint on the canvas. Whenever we would talk about painting, he would eventually end on this point: that the feeling of putting paint to canvas was so intimate and sensual that it really couldn’t be put into words, and that it needed to be felt in order to be understood.
I have felt something similar over the past week, attempting to put words together to describe the loss that I’ve felt since my father’s passing. But at the same time that I feel unable to describe the remarkable feeling of loss that I and so many of us feel today, my dad’s words on the sensuousness of painting draw me closer into his presence, that striking, singular physical presence: his booming laughter; his dramatic hand gestures; his belly, round and firm as a basketball; the dramatic dip in his thick head of white hair; his shameless Pasqualina nose; and, of course, that moustache, itself a force of nature.
Often when I would visit the studio, my dad would say something like, “How’s it goin’, Ace?” Or after I moved to Los Angeles, he would ask if my arms were tired from flying cross country. And pretty soon after that first exchange, he’d dip into silence. He’d flip through a computer magazine, or tinker with his computer, or stare at a painting in progress for a while. My mom would inevitably say something like, “Charlie, your son is here! Why don’t you speak with him?” My sisters and I would joke about this often, but it was really true: what was important for my dad was just that we were there with him, in the same room or even just the same building. It may come as a surprise to those of you who know my dad as the guy who tells you the story that you have always already heard 20 times before, but, at home, he was usually short on words.
But even when my dad wasn’t speaking, you felt him. You felt the heaviness of his thoughts (my dad was a remarkably deep thinker) and you could feel the joy he felt from having his children, his wife, and his cats around.
To paraphrase one of my favorite poets, being there together was enough.
I have not come to terms with the loss of his physical presence, and I’m not sure I ever will. It pains me—it pains us all—that we can’t hear my father tell that joke about the duck walking into 7-11, that we can’t see the linseed oil caked into his fingernails, that we can’t feel his firm handshake or his mock-chivalrous kiss on the hand.
But my father’s presence here on earth was so strong, so indelible, that, like any of his portraits, he refuses to be washed away by the passage of time.
The night after my father passed away, I returned home and walked through the studio, alone. I wandered around, looking at the cabinets my dad had installed and the paintings his students had produced before landing on my dad’s portraits of me and my sisters. And I got up very, very close, just short of touching the canvases. If you get a chance today at the studio, I encourage you to go up close to one of my father’s paintings. One of the last paintings he completed is a portrait of me. If you look from a distance at one of my eyebrows, you’ll see a simple brown streak. But if you look closely enough, you’ll see in my eyebrow the range of my father’s limitless palette—the reds and blues that only he could locate in the most mundane objects.
What I see in his brush strokes, in those light touches of alizarin crimson and yellow ochre, is a confidence, a palpable life force that he gave so graciously and lovingly to each of his subjects. In part, it’s in those brush strokes that my father refuses to pass on. But more importantly to him than even his paintings are the contents of his life’s palette—all of us gathered here together, his immediate family, and the extended family of his dear friends and students. Each time we come together to eat oysters and drink Bloody Marys, to paint and to laugh, to argue over politics, to say the rosary or visit the confessional booth or attend mass—each time we relive these joys that my father gave us, he lives on. He lives on and lives on because he is in each of us.
In a real way, he is each of us.
It’s through these literal and figurative brush strokes that my father refuses to fade.
From the Office of the Mayor, Village of Roslyn
Proclamation dated July 21, 2016
“Whereas, for the past fifty-six years the citizens of the Village of Roslyn and the surrounding communities have benefited richly from the talent and spirit of Charles, “Charlie” Pasqualina, and
Whereas, since 1960 when Charlie founded the Roslyn School of Painting, artists young and old have been given the opportunity to learn from the extraordinarily talented individual who inspired them to express their artistic creativity in painting with oils, and
Whereas, all those individuals lucky enough to know Charlie celebrate this soft spoken renaissance man who can tell a story by the stroke of a brush, and
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that I, John Durkin, Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Roslyn, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and all of the residents of the Village of Roslyn, do hereby proclaim the this day, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 as Charles G. Pasqualina Day.
In Witness Whereof, I set my hand and caused the Seal of the Village of Roslyn, New York, to be affixed on this 21st day of June in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Sixteen.”