Statement by Henry D’Amico, Artist, Former Student of Aesthetic Realism
Recently I was made aware of a website attempting to discredit Aesthetic Realism, an educational method whose veracity has been tested and verified for decades. This same website also slanders persons who study and teach Aesthetic Realism, who are dedicated to the accurate presentation of this profound thought defined and founded by Eli Siegel, poet, educator, critic. Throughout its existence, Aesthetic Realism has been dogged by petty, nasty sniping from various individuals. These are people who should have an honest desire to know and understand. I witnessed this injustice during the time I studied Aesthetic Realism.
My introduction to Aesthetic Realism began in the late 1960’s when as an art student at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan I studied printmaking with Chaim Koppelman, a noted American artist, and also one of the first students of Aesthetic Realism with Eli Siegel. Mr. Koppelman, using Aesthetic Realism as his teaching method, demonstrated the relevance of Eli Siegel’s philosophic principles. The truth of this principle, “All beauty is the making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves,” was demonstrated in the technical procedures involved in printmaking as well as in the criticism of the completed work itself. Further, the relation of technique and purpose in art to the questions in a person’s life was explained. I began to understand why, from an early age, I was drawn to art, impelled to study it. The power of honesty compelled me to listen, look deeper, and eventually to study Aesthetic Realism with Eli Siegel. In the years I studied we explored history, art, science, philosophy, religion, poetry, and the relation of these to the questions held in common by humanity.
Eli Siegel’s knowledge and respect for the variety of philosophers, artists, shapers of history and thought who preceded him and who were contemporary with him was unbounded. His desire to be just to them was at one with his desire to be just to every person. For example, his lectures on William Shakespeare are extensive. His insight into the plays and sonnets reveal aspects of these classics unseen before. In discussions of artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, Mr. Siegel, through the opposites, would reveal the essence of the works of these artists and shed new light on why they have been cherished through the years.
This same attention and knowledge was brought to my own life in the years I studied with him. Mr. Siegel talked to me of the way dark and light were in me, and in the work of artists like Goya and Rembrandt. My deepest questions were dignified, related to the wide world, and related back to me with a clarity that I believe is unique in the history of thought. The knowing of Aesthetic Realism will bring this clarity to all people, and this has been demonstrated by teachers using the Aesthetic Realism teaching method in the field of public education.
I have not been formally studying Aesthetic Realism since 1982, and presently live on the West Coast. However, the good effect of Aesthetic Realism was never extinguished in me; to this day it has continued to have a good effect on my life. I have deep regret about the fact that I did not honor that good effect, but unfortunately, like some persons of the press and media, wanted to annihilate it. I regret that I did not cherish and defend the truth and beauty that graced my life in knowing Aesthetic Realism and Mr. Siegel.
Since I stopped studying Aesthetic Realism I have never been pursued or spoken of in any disparaging way by people who study it, and contrary to what certain people say about Aesthetic Realism interfering with relations between family members, I have been in constant contact with my son, who is studying to teach Aesthetic Realism and has studied it since childhood. My son, Matthew D’Amico, is a political coordinator for a union representing workers in New York City. He has a master’s degree in public administration.
Ellen Reiss, poet, scholar, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, has also been slandered by those who have created the website I have referred to. I met Ellen Reiss when I began my own study of Aesthetic Realism. I witnessed in her, deep, lively, wide scholarship. Her opinion of Aesthetic Realism was forged from years of critical, scientific observation and comparative study.
The individuals fueling that website of misinformation have been recipients of Eli Siegel’s kindness, have benefited from the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism, and from persons who have protected that knowledge. To put it in somewhat legal terms, they should cease and desist.