Stephen F. Verona, American
Stephen Verona is that rare 20th Century artist. Born in Illinois and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and traveled about the world, his art and films reflect his astute observations.
Some critics have said he is between Hockney and Hopper. His paintings with light, color and faces are unique and original. He has been painting since he was two, when he put his fingers in shoe polish and rubbed it on the wall.
While in High School, he attended the Brooklyn Museum school, which he credits along with The School of Visual Arts for changing him from his rebellious black leather to artistic corduroy. He painted, sculpted, photographed and made films.
One of his photographs was given the Edward Steichen award from the Museum of Modern Art. Five of his films have been accepted there and in the Library of Congress.
He began his career in advertising as an art director and producer. Eventually he became a co-creative director of Ogilvy & Mather. He left there to direct commercials. It was on location in England for Ford that he met John Lennon. Lennon gave him the rights to the Beatle tune “I Feel Fine”, which Verona animated. He and Lennon and sat coloring in the drawings. When the film was finished John took Verona up to Columbia Records where he was offered anyone on the label to work with. He chose Barbra Streisand.
He began doing the film of “My Coloring Book” when Columbia announced that they didn’t know how much control they had over her and cancelled the film. But Verona went on to complete it anyway and it has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Animation Festival and the Library of Congress.
These two shorts were considered by many as the first music videos. He went on from there to work with The Lovin Spoonfull, Boy George, Mick Fleetwood, Natalie Cole, Chicago, Streisand again, Simon & Garfunkel, and many more.
During this period Verona became intrigued with stories, both still and moving, and became Lee Strasberg’s directing protege in the Actor’s Studio. They did not get along, and after two years Verona left. He made a 17 minute film about his experience there. Three years later, “The Rehearsal” was nominated for an Academy Award. Lee Strasberg was the 3rd person to call and congratulate him.
Verona told Strasberg that he had written a movie that Strasberg would be great in. Strasberg read the script and accepted the role. It took Verona 7 years to raise the money to make his film “Boardwalk.”
Between 1970-1972, before there was such a thing as music videos, Verona was the exclusive provider of musical promotional films for Columbia, and Epic records. He also did videos for Atlantic, UA, and Buddah records, all the while painting and harboring that secret desire to make a movie.
One day he looked in his refrigerator and saw thousands of feet of 16 millimeter film. He had his own camera and sat down and wrote his first feature film, "The Lords of Flatbush."
It was the launching of Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Armand Assante, Perry King, and Richard Gere who was later replaced.
He later went on to direct his directing teacher and mentor Lee Strasberg. He wrote and directed Strasberg, Ruth Gordon and Janet Leigh in the highly acclaimed but little seen film “Boardwalk.” The distributor sadly went under. But his film career was launched.
All the while he painted, telling stories on canvas or the silver screen. When finishing a day of film meetings and lunches Verona would lock himself inside his Bel Air home studio and paint at night. It was his release from the outside world.
He began selling from the house. Important and noted film people would come by and see his work and ask if he would sell them. He finally did. And has never looked back. He used to drop his paintbrush for a movie, now he’d rather paint.
Mr. Verona was named Chairman of the UCLA Medical Arts Sculpture Committee, where he will oversee the donations and installations of all sculpture in the new UCLA hospital being designed by the great architect I. M. Pei.
Mr. Verona was recently honored by being one of three living artists invited to attend and exhibit at the Fine Art Dealers Association of America’s annual exhibition.
Verona has won over 100 awards for his prolific art and films. He is in outstanding
collections throughout the world. He continues to live in Bel Air California and the south of France.