Traffic Lights and Toilet Bowls: The Stuff That Dreams (and Art!) Are Made Of!
Vito Bonanno (28), of New Haven, CT, was diagnosed with PDD/autism when he was almost four years old. Though he is a very talkative young man today, Vito didn’t utter a complete sentence until he was five.
When Vito was a boy, his teachers helped him tap into the artistic talent trapped in his mind. Vito remembers, “I would get paper from my middle school teacher and I would draw my dreams.” His dreams, he adds, frequently include things he especially likes – particularly traffic lights and toilet bowls.
“I remember dreams from when I was very young, and can even tell you the dates of some of my dreams. My disability helps me remember things like that, but it also doesn’t let me forget unpleasant things either—and so I must live with all that information in my head like it was new information, and some of it will be things that I end up obsessing about. Sometimes drawing helps me get some things that get stuck in my head out for a while.”
Vito graduated from high school and then attended Chapel Haven in New Haven CT, a school for young adults with cognitive disabilities, graduating in 2005. Two years later, he began art lessons at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, where he worked under the tutelage of artist Liz Pagano. It was there that Vito was first exposed to acrylics and printmaking. Though he prefers crayons over other media, some of Vito’s most recent works are created with aerosol paint, markers and pencil; enhancing his art with graffiti writing, he achieves a wonderfully distinctive style in this urban art form.
Vito remembers his first visit to a New York City art gallery with his parents as a turning point in his artistic development: “It was then that I decided that was what I wanted, to have my art hanging in a gallery and that I wanted to be an artist too. Right now I have two small jobs, but what I really want is for people to buy my art.”
During his time at The Creative Arts Workshop, Vito participated in student shows and at a members’ exhibition at Art Space, also in New Haven. In 2009, he was named one of 15 emerging young artists with disabilities by VSA Arts and Volkswagen, and was honored with an award of excellence from a juried exhibition for his printmaking piece, “Ghost Town on Davenport Avenue,” exhibited at the S. Dillon Ripley Center of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., followed by a two-year nationwide tour of university and independent galleries. A second piece, “South Haven People,” is on exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, also in Washington, D.C.
Early in 2010, Vito was first represented by Margaret Bodell, curator and owner of Umbrella Arts Gallery in NYC and founder of The Center of Public Art and Design in Bridgeport, CT. Since his collaboration with Ms. Bodell, Vito has sold his art in many exhibitions locally and nationwide, and he recently established his own studio in New Haven, CT, as part of Project Storefronts. Vito’s dream is becoming a reality.
See Vito’s past, current and upcoming exhibitions on his website
Learn more about Luis the Rat on Vito’s blog
Visit Vito’s online store where you can buy Luis merchandise
Visit Vito on Facebook and follow him on Twitter