Music and art. Art and music. For Frank Latorre, it’s like Frank Sinatra sang it:
“They go together like a horse and carriage…”
Having music and art in his life has been a constant. Mr. Latorre picked up a pencil at five years old. The harmonica followed at 12. Since then, there’s never been a reason to choose one over the other. “It’s a yin and yang thing,” he said. “It balances me to have both.”
As an artist, Mr. Latorre’s painted trompe l’oeil murals for around 30 years. His art that “tricks the eye” ranges from creating the illusion of entire outdoor areas on enclosed restaurant walls, windows with views that don’t exist, skies on ceiling and fantasy scenes. His murals are in private homes, restaurants and other public places.
He’s also known for his airbrush paintings. He’s made a series of portraits of blues icons that demonstrate a commanding use of lights over darks to create depth and interest. Besides his free-hand airbrush art on canvas or paper, Mr. Latorre’s airbrushed cars, motorcycles, electric guitars and more.
Mr. Latorre’s latest move is to create a home for both art and music. He became the owner of Art & Soul Gallery in Eastport in November 2009. Since opening, art and blues music are permanent staples of the gallery’s line-ups.
Mr. Latorre arguably has a higher profile as a blues musician and harmonica player. His band, Frank Latorre and the King Bees, took fourth place at the 2010 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the second time the band was selected to represent Long Island by the Long Island Blues Society.
This year, Frank Latorre and the King Bees are playing at the fourth annual Great South Bay Music Festival. It will be held in Patchogue from July 9 to 11.
Now that he has a gallery, Mr. Latorre has switched his subject and paints in acrylics. Installed in the walls of his gallery are seascapes inspired by beaches in Westhampton, portraits that look like mosaics and butterfly paintings. The seascapes are unique, hosting mini-landscapes inset into the painting.
Art & Soul gallery also gave Mr. Latorre the chance to teach what he knows. He holds classes to show students how to quickly lay out compositions. Central to his technique is the same way he uses lights over darks. Laying in the silhouette of the major composition elements is also key, he said.
The fact that he’s a self-taught artist is a benefit, he said. He doesn’t get hung up on theories or how the painting will fit into art history. It’s all about making art that you like and can be proud of, he said.
The gallery has also given him the chance to reach out to other artists. Once a month, artists can participate in a non-themed open call art show. The artwork is judged and prizes awarded.
Ultimately, his vision is to transform Art & Soul Galley into a cultural hot spot where the creative gather. “I cater to Long Island artists and music,” he said. “I’m keeping culture in this place. I call Eastport the Miracle Quarter Mile. There’s not one store for rent. You can’t say that’s true for most of Long Island.”