The Village News Columns: Gianni Cerri


GianniGiovanni Cerri, Gianni, or better yet “Johnny” to his friends, moved permanently to Bellport about three years ago from his home in Milan, Italy. Now at 84 years young, and in Gianni’s case we do mean young, he is an artist, musician, and avid tennis player.

We met Gianni one evening about two years ago when he appeared with his accordion at the Acoustic Jam held in the Bellport Village Community Center. The sum total of Gianni’s English at that time was, “I can not speak English” so communicating verbally was a little difficult, but speaking “music” was no problem at all. We just pointed at Gianni when it was his turn to take the lead and off he went. He really is a wonderful musician.

It seems that as a very young boy in Milan, Italy, he had learned to play the piano. When his family left Milan to escape the war and fled to the mountains, taking a piano along was out of the question so Gianni took up the accordion and he’s been playing the piano and accordion ever since.

In addition to being a wonderful musician (Gianni’s partial to Country Music), he’s also a great artist. He enjoys copying “The Masters” as well as creating paintings in his own, thought provoking, style.

When we first visited Gianni’s home, We were taken by his unique architectural pieces which depict places he has known both in Italy and here in the United States. These large pieces, some three or more feet in height, demonstrate Gianni’s skill as an artist and at the same time his sense of whimsy. DON’T RUSH THROUGH THE IMAGES OF GIANNI’S PIECES! Take your time... Zoom way in... I mean WAY in and slowly scroll around the images. Can you find the Budweiser Beer can that’s only about ½” long? How about the Chiquita Banana sign that’s hanging on the inside of a window in a shop’s door so that it appears reversed from your point of view. How about the Girlie Calendars or the bank robbery in progress? There is just so much amazing detail to be taken in. Where’s Waldo has nothing on Gianni!!!

We asked Gianni’s daughter, Manuela, if there was anything she would like to tell us about her Dad’s artwork. Here is what she had to say:

"Giovanni Cerri was born in Milan, Italy on December 13th, 1929. As a teen during World War II, he attended art school for two years in the town of Thiene near Vicenza, where he had relocated with his family to avoid bombings in Milan.

When back in the city, he studied to become a surveyor and a town planner and as a result, he began to appreciate various architectural styles. His love for art lead him to often paint with watercolors and acrylics. His skills at woodworking become evident in his "bas relief" art which featured the construction of old style houses near the Navigli canals in Milan. He was also inspired by the old tenement buildings he saw in the city when he was young and that were still standing and being renovated in the city.

As he started to travel to New York to visit his family, Giovanni was also inspired by the townhouses and brownstones he saw in the Big Apple. He used those as well for inspiration for his complex facade reconstructions. His painstaking detail and sometimes humorous renditions of his old Milanese tenement houses, and the ones of the New York townhouses, are a tale of his life and his love for art and architecture told in many hours of work and great attention to detail.

Now a U.S. resident and a retired businessman, Giovanni Cerri has chosen Bellport, where he lives with his wife Ester, as his residence and a place to display his work. He has also enjoyed several exhibits of his works in SoHo and in Easthampton N.Y."