Tucked between the Allegany and Finger Lakes regions in the Southern Tier of New York State, there are a few small communities full of talented artists. Hornell is a community with an active art scene, and Ralph Berardi has made a fun life full of play. art, and music there along with many other artists and musicians. When Ralph talks about the circle of friends he plays with, there is a child-like humor and happiness in his voice. It is an honest joy with a warm openness, and it made our interview feel very comfortable.
Like Ralph himself, his art contains a playful energy. It has a humor to it, but is not cartoon-y. It is the kind of art that allows your shoulders to loosen, your breathing to become steady, and the the corners of your mouth to rise.
Ralph has always been drawn to art. He has been creating since he was very young, and was singled out by his sixth-grade teacher for a painting he did of a school bus full of children. Afraid he might be in trouble for something when his mother was asked to come in fora a conference, Ralph was relieved to find out it was his art being recognized! Both of Ralph's parents were artists, as was his grandmother.
Ralph describes his motivation for painting as something coming from within. He may be inspired by an outer image or experience, but the need to create is intrinsic. He describes the feeling as, "...something I have to do, it is part of my existence." He said art was one area of his life where he always felt confident. Art has always come easy to him. Maybe because of this or as a result of this, he has always felt at home in the art community.
A few years ago, Ralph was inspired to write a book. He said the art flowed out of him in no time, but the writing was a long, arduous process.
Seaweed Boy was published in 2014 by RoseDog Books. It is a light-hearted tale about an unusual family. It is silly, and full of bright, colorful illustrations.
Seaweed Boy tells the story of Bayne Denton. He is a boy almost like any other. His tale, from humble start to its heroic climax, teaches children to celebrate that which makes us all different. Filled with fanciful illustrations, its a delightful reminder that being just like everyone else isn't always all that its cracked up to be.
Then there is Ralph's music.
This is the Guifiddle:
Painting and writing are not the only artistic skills Ralph has up his sleeve; he is also a musician and songwriter. Of course, any old instrument will not do for Ralph. With his mind virtually exploding creativity, he can not be contained. When he decided to make a guifiddle, that is what happened!
With help and guidance from his good friend Tom, Ralph created this one-of-a-kind instrument that produces a unique sound and offers Ralph countless hours of enjoyment.
In addition to the guifiddle, he plays a Gibson guitar and other instruments. He even writes his own songs! Ralph's lyrics are true, silly, honest, and open. Simple, with room for thought and reflection:
Ralph Berardi enhances the art culture in Hornell, NY and the surrounding areas. From his fun pool-side art at the YMCA to his judging of area youth-art shows and involvement with the Hornell Area Arts Council, he offers inspiration to emerging artists, a kind smile to passers-by, and he infuses the community with his love for music. Ralph Berardi is Living Poetree.