To describe him as an artist is insufficient. Michael Pensatore has cast his net wide with impressive and growing results in the fields of music, art and technology.
"Most kids wanted to be sports stars, movie stars or rap stars; My heroes were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo," he says. A lifelong student of the Italian Renaissance, Pensatore finds inspiration in the parallels between their past and our present. "An explosion of information, commerce and intellectual diversity fueled the Renaissance 500 years ago. The Internet, personal computers, global networks and open platforms are fueling a second one today."
Though always artistically inclined, Pensatore chose early not to restrict himself to visual arts alone. And so, at 18, the kid from rural New Jersey decided to teach himself the art of DJing. While he never fully embraced DJ culture, the craft itself became an obsession.
He took the train to New York to buy records even before he knew what to do with them. In time, he figured out how to scratch, beat match and remix on his own, immersing himself into every aspect of music and tapping a solid work ethic and open-mindedness to yield a diverse skill set that would prove invaluable over the years.
In 2001, Pensatore was accepted into the BFA Animation program at the School of Visual Arts. Soon thereafter he got his foot in the door at a major nightclub, Webster Hall. At start, he accepted a meager spot in the hallway to play his music. Pay was scant, yet the gig held opportunity, placing him at the nexus of New York nightlife and eventually landing him a room of his own: "It was the rejected stone of the club. No one wanted to spin there," he recalls. In time, Pensatore turned it into the club's #1 room.
He would eventually take his sound to the mega-club's main floor - the biggest in New York. By 2003, he was one of the busiest DJ's in the city, headlining the first of three national tours, playing three or four nights a week, and even mixing parties for the likes of Ryan Seacrest, Lil Jon, Good Charlotte, Best Buy and AOL.
Pensatore's love for music has not diminished: He still spins regularly throughout the city, keeping his schedule updated on his website, PoparazziNYC.com. "DJing has always been like a live, aural collage to me - piecing together disconnected elements to create a greater harmony. It's a very strategic performance art. I try to take people on a journey with my music."
In 2005, Pensatore graduated from SVA, freeing up time to sharpen his focus on fine artwork.
Embracing the theme of universality, he works in two styles: A classically inspired approach derived from the Italian Renaissance, and "Lemurian," a self-devised, symbolistic style that portrays the Eastern concept of harmony through vivid colors and engaging imagery. Though stylistically juxtaposed, the two are united in theme: "My work challenges the viewer to look beyond the image to see the message...The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon."
Major concepts of Catholicism, Greek mythology and Eastern thought frequently intermingle in Pensatore's exacting-yet-subtle works. In St. Francis, the patron saint ponders the Tao in a Japanese-Pop setting; in The Knowledge Of This & That, Adam and Eve's apple reveals a yin-yang symbol, expressing the duality of human consciousness. "My art focuses on oneness, harmony and universal ideas. I try to take timeless ideas and make them relevant to today."
Also, like the Renaissance masters that inspire him, a major focus of Pensatore's work is human anatomy, a long-held fascination: "The human form is beautiful, but it is also complex. It's an elegant structure, an intelligent, harmonious system."
"That same union of design and structure parallels application programming." As with all of his artistic endeavors, Pensatore's recent plunge into web programming and applications grew organically, albeit with nourishment from the bookstore. Because programming was so foreign to him, he read tome after tome on the topic until he was able to grasp the concepts. The initial inspiration was to build a globally accessible radio station; he would learn four web languages to make it a reality.
"Like many, I wanted the ability to connect with people around the world and saw the Internet as the way to do it."
Though he never intended to go into programming, Pensatore's radio station yielded him an impressive presentation, and he was soon landing jobs with production houses and advertising firms. Today, his portfolio boasts some of the most recognizable brands in the world: Saks Fifth Avenue, MTV, American Express, Citibank, Victoria's Secret, MAC and Neiman Marcus to name a few.
Always seeking new challenges and creative outlets, Pensatore recently began learning Cocoa Touch, the programming language for the iPhone. His first App, Anatomy For Artists, is a fusion of his art and tech backgrounds, with hand-drawn anatomical diagrams to illustrate the proportions of the body. It is styled to be reminiscent of the anatomical drawings of Da Vinci.
"I've always wanted something like this for myself; I just didn't have a way to create it until now. Books were always too bulky and, since studios are always so cramped, I couldn't rest reference materials around me. With Anatomy For Artists, I can hold the entire human form in my hand and put it back in my pocket when I'm done. I'm quite happy with it."
Pushing boundaries, taking risks and challenging himself to develop in diverse mediums have been constants throughout Michael Pensatore's life. Like his Renaissance inspiration, Da Vinci, whose impossibly curious mind led him from art to science and well beyond, Pensatore's skill set is as wide as his knowledge base. Look for much more creativity to come.