Ronald DeNota, 78, ‘Subjectivist’ artist of Jane St.


By Albert Amateau

Ronald DeNota, co-founder of a group of painters who styled themselves “Street Painters” and “Subjectivists,” who displayed their work in a gallery on Prince St. for several years, died Jan. 4 at his home on Jane St. at the age of 78. With his partner of more than 30 years, Lucy Burns, he also maintained a studio in Tribeca.

He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and heart disease in recent years, according to John Lance Silver, a friend and fellow painter.

Ronald DeNota’s paintings were displayed in a group show, “New Perspectives,” in the gallery of the Manhattan Borough President’s Office in January 2005 and four of his paintings will be featured in an upcoming Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors exhibition to be curated by the painter Peter Colquhoun.

“Ronnie could do two things very well: paint and, until a few years ago, ride horses,” recalled his longtime friend and fellow artist Andy Pizzo. “He was always himself, almost naive at times, and would talk about anything to anybody.”

Born in the Bronx to Frank and Mildred DeNota, Ronald’s father was a prosperous men’s clothing merchant who left him and his mother — a professional ballroom dancer — when Ronald was 7. Unable to provide for him, his mother arranged for him to live with friends, Mabel and Arthur Kilcoin, who owned a farm near Swan Lake in Sullivan County.

“He recalled that his mother had told him he was going to live in a ranch, so he went with her to the Kilcoins’ with a cowboy hat on his head and carrying a lasso,” Silver said. “He told us that the first thing he did before the Kilcoins had come to the door was lasso a pig,” Silver said.

DeNota went to school in Swan Lake and to high school at Oakland Military Academy, where he learned to ride and to draw and paint. As a teenager, he worked summers at Grossinger’s, the famous Catskills resort, according to Silver.

He served in the Army in 1946 and 1947 and then went to work in the post office on Church St. to support himself while painting.

“He ran an elevator there for a while and he’d bring his paintings to show people at work,” said Pizzo, who also worked at the Church St. postal station. The paintings attracted admirers and earned him exhibits in a local U.S. Naval district office in 1965 and in the Postmaster General’s Office in Washington in 1968.

In the late 1960s he traveled and painted in Europe and acknowledged the influence of Van Gogh on his art. He also studied at the Art Students League and painted from nature in Montauk and Southampton.

In the 1960s he rented a studio on West Broadway and Murray St., three blocks from the post office. In the 1970s, DeNota, with painters including Pizzo, Simon Gaon, Leo Reeves and Phillip Sherrold, rented a storefront gallery with a studio in the rear at 159 Prince St., where they established the Subject Gallery and exhibited their “Subjectivist” works together — so styled because of their attempts to paint their raw feelings.

Despite Parkinson’s disease, he continued to paint and exhibit his work at Cork Gallery in Lincoln Center, Blue Mountain Gallery and at various Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors exhibits. He and Burns were familiar figures at Bus Stop Cafe on Bethune and Hudson Sts. and at Florent’s on Gansevoort St.

He left no survivors except for Burns and his many friends and admirers. The funeral was on Jan. 11 at Reddens Funeral Home and burial was in the military cemetery in Calverton, L.I.