When William O. Folchi and his wife, Corazon, moved back to his childhood home in the Morris Park section of the Bronx in 2008, they knew they would have a lot of cleaning to do. But what they didn’t know is what they would find as they emptied out the basement and garage of the house. Buried beneath debris and garbage bags, and completely forgotten by time, Folchi unearthed a virtual museum of artwork: some 100 works—roughly half oil paintings, half watercolors—by his late father William P. Folchi.
“Eighty percent of the paintings,” says Folchi, an alumnus of the College (B.A., ’75), “I never saw in my life.”
Although his father, who died in 1992, worked all his life as a mechanic—he co-owned and operated a repair shop with his father and brother—he was a devoted painter, who used every spare moment to paint scenes of his beloved Bronx, particularly the family’s Morris Park neighborhood.
“I never saw these paintings but I remember going with my father, taking a drive to Hunts Point or Pelham Bay Park and sitting there while he painted,” recalls Folchi.
Again and again the moody, Hopperesque oil paintings bear witness to scenes of a bygone era: the Bronx of the mid-‘50s to mid-’60s. Folchi’s paintings capture scenescapes of simple and elegant beauty: street corners and back yards; brick homes and apartment buildings; the Throg’s Neck Bridge and the overpasses of the Bruckner Expressway. The details of the times, whether 1950-era cars or logos like an old Esso sign at a long-gone gas station, or the jutting lines of old telephone wires strung across the Bronx sky, are vividly recaptured.
Since rediscovering his father’s work, Folchi has been restoring some paintings while getting them exhibited, such as an art gallery in Long Island City, Queens, which showed a retrospective of his father’s work this past April. “My father never exhibited in his lifetime,” he recalls. “My father’s attitude was, ‘Why would people want to see my paintings when they can go to the Metropolitan and see Raphael?”
Now, however, an exhibition of his father’s work—William P. Folchi: Bronx Scenes 1955-1965—has fittingly, come home to the Bronx and will be on display at the Lehman College Library beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 4-Jan. 9, 2013. There will be an opening reception on Dec. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Co-sponsored by the Leonard Lief Library and the Alumni Association, this exhibit is free and open to the public. Visitors must present a photo I.D. in order to enter the building. For Library hours, visit lehman.cuny.edu/library.