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pierluca de carlo, 55, visual artist, director, los angeles

ageist EDITORS | December 7, 2017

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Maybe it’s been like this since his childhood in Italy. Or maybe it’s been his frivolous, whimsical relationship with the English language that planted the seed.

But a year ago the career commercial director suddenly felt a burst of creative expression that he could no longer contain. On paper, and later on canvasses, he started creating paintings with strong typographical messages.

LIFE OFF THE GREED went one. Or L.A. DOLCE VITA as an homage to his new hometown (as of September), or YOU ARE DONE OLD TRAMP, over an abstract painting of America’s president.

“Words stick in my mind — and I try and make a picture to the phrase,” he says. “My kids, they always correct me. But I hear the sounds of the words and to me it makes sense.”

And De Carlo is kind of a genius at it. When I visited him in LA for the interview and photo shoot last weekend, I threw the word ‘confidence’ at him to play around with.

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“Confi… let’s see, that to me is ‘comfy’ like comfortable,” he says. “And ‘dence’ is a dance… so it’s a dance with comfort!”

De Carlo’s creativity flows throughout his work, of course. Up until two years ago, his main outlet was the commercials he did for beauty brands like L’Oreal and Pantene. He’s a hair expert, you see… someone who can make hair look incredible on screen in those gauzy, whispery beauty commercials filmed in decadent 16th century palaces.

He got his start after his father “rescued” him from studying agriculture. An unfulfilled artist himself, his father saw the potential in Pierluca and put him into art school. In 1986, he moved to Los Angeles to secure his slice of the LA Dream Life that captured the fantasies of many European kids. He soon found work with famed photographer and director Herb Ritts, eventually becoming a director alongside him, launching his own career.

But 20 years ago De Carlo looked at a polaroid that he had taken and wrote the words “I want to be Ed Ruscha.”

“That was my expression of the frustration that I would never be a painter,” he told me; never be a visual artist like the LA legend. “I’m a loser. I can’t paint. There was a voice inside of me that said ‘Just do commercial stuff.’ ”

De Carlo’s main battle was with fear. It was the classic artist’s conundrum of putting something out there in the world that would be judged.

“Fear runs our life,” he says. “But what I say to my kids is, ’It’s okay to be fearful, admit it to people.’ I have fear. Still now, at 55, I’m full of fear … But when I got older, what I liked is that the judgement goes away faster and faster. Because it’s now … For me it’s the most beautiful, positive thing. It’s much more present. Let’s minimize the damage of regrets in life.”

The polaroid nagged him, it tugged at him. With last year's election, he finally could contain it no longer. He wanted to say something. To put something out there. What did he have to lose after all?

“I truly finally feel that I’m expressing myself. I started talking, like a child of one and a half. I started at 54. I found my voice. I never had it before, really. For 55 years I’ve been mute. For the next 55 I have to talk."

Being with someone who is in a state of flow, who is connected to a stream of ideas and inspirations that seem to enter them without them doing anything, is truly impressive. It's true that Pierluca was trained as an artist, and that he has been interested in world of art for some time. But to witness in real time how this plays out is extraordinary. I’m not particularly religious, but it's as if the human is a vessel for the divine, or they are channeling something beyond themselves. 

Upon my arrival at his home, Pierluca told me this: “When I read the name of the magazine, it says AGEIST, and I was not sure if I wanted to be associated with my age. But then I realized, that’s insane, you need to own it”.