The Art of the Lone Man

By Tanisia Morris

When Ralph Mindicino lost his right leg to bone cancer at the age of 14, his life changed drastically. He felt alienated from friends and he struggled to navigate the city. Mindicino, 53, found solace in art, a passion that he developed as a child. A graduate of the State University of New York at Fredonia and at Stony Brook, Mindicino has worked in bronze and steel sculpture, pottery and oil painting. He lives in Astoria, Queens with his wife Maria Bernardo.
Over the last decade he has worked exclusively with acrylic plexiglass to create abstract and figurative works that are rich in color and explore the theme of the lone man. The series features an isolated character with color-drenched cityscapes. In this interview, he talks about how his experience living with a disability has inspired his art. He describes the challenges of creating works on plexiglass and how the meticulous engraving process has helped to distract him from the day-to-day struggles as an amputee.


I kind of always felt that when I go out on the street and I’m in my crutches, I feel like fireworks are coming up out of my pockets because it feels like ‘You can’t possibly miss this guy. He’s so obviously different than everybody else.’

I have an artificial leg.

It’s going to always be on my mind, but I think what art does is it gives me a tremendous outlet for something, I can feel good about. The amputation itself radically changed my life so I think I needed things to take the place of what I had lost in many ways.

As a kid, I just knew instinctively that my friends were going to move on — that I couldn’t follow them. I was left behind even in school at that point, so when you’re left behind like that, you’re basically on your own.

For some reason, I have incorporated the lone man in a lot of my figurative paintings. That has been something that has gone back to the ‘80s with my paintings, so it’s always been there, so it must be part of me. I think I like the graphic image of the lone man and it was fitting to me. I think it made some sort of sense.  And I found that the glass paintings made it easier to create these sort of vibrant cityscape looks.

I have an engraving process that I use with the paintings that is very time consuming, so depending on how many engravings I am doing or the type of engraving, it can take forever sometimes.

Certainly when you’re painting, it’s similar to an altered state of consciousness in a certain way that I think is inevitable. It’s part of the creative process when you delve into it, and you’re part of it, and you’re working diligently on something. You just zoom in on it, and I think also, because the work that I do is so detailed, you have to be concentrated. You have to really get into the piece in order to work through the problems because the process I have is kind of unforgiving. I can’t afford to make too many mistakes. I can’t even fix mistakes, generally, so I have to really be in tune to what I’m doing.

I think other artists can create a painting in a few days, while it takes me a month to finish a painting. I’ve been trying to spend less time on a painting and try to move them forward, because I think that’s the hardest part of it.