The 8-year old and his newly widowed mother lost their home in Edgewater and moved into a small apartment in Washington Heights.
"That night, I lost my dad, my home in New Jersey, and my innocence of the world around me. I watched
my mom cry herself to sleep for endless nights afterwards," Travieso said.The comic artist with a zest for color and off beat humor has been known "the hairy hand" artist, a reference to his own unique anatomy. The 43-year-old has been living with his wife of three years, Fran, in Secaucus. They met at FedEx where Travieso has been working for the last 19 years as a courier. Fran is a sales executive at the County Avenue facility. Travieso has exhibited for the last 10 years at galleries in New York and New Jersey. He recently showed his work at the Monroe Center for the Arts in Hoboken. He will exhibit at the residents art show at Secaucus Public Library on June 20 and at L.I.T.M. [Love Is The Message] lounge in Jersey City in August.
"The funny thing about that time was that, unlike today where kids are watched over by everyone from the local church to the social community, I never saw a therapist or social worker. We dealt with this loss all on our own," said Travieso. "A big part of surviving it was my art."
Travieso said he started out with simple 'doodling' in a sketchpad every day. The activity was like praying, he said. As time went on, the "hairy hand" artist developed his trademark skill and style. In 1985, Travieso graduated from Baruch College, the City University of New York, in Manhattan.
"I love making people laugh or smile through my art. Some of the work, however, shows the subtle hint of tragedy within the subject matter," he said.
The first art projects Tarvieso did were greeting cards for family and friends in the 1980s, which evolved into the "Hairy Hand Productions" company. Eventually, Travieso began to exhibit at shows where he learned the ropes from other artists. He said favorite cartoonist is Gary Larson. Other favorite artists are Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Fran, a home improvement extraordinaire and inspired interior designer, motivated Travieso to create his own 'home studio and gallery' at their Poplar Street house. The house is painted in bold colors with a rustic, Victorian attention to hand made furniture and wall art. Travieso has a small studio in an upstairs room overlooking a well-kept garden.
"When I draw the woes of the past leave me - it's almost like therapy. I feel better," said Travieso. "It took a long time before I became confident, but the many artists I met when showing my work really helped me out and taught me how."
New York school
Travieso works in pen and ink overlaid with colored gouache paint, a thick watercolor. Travieso primarily paints on paper but also decorates clocks, as well as his continuing line of greeting cards. His themes involve people in everyday dilemmas followed by absurd, camp creations like vampire bats and jazzy yellow dogs. He said he is a fan of Mad Magazine and the madcap social humor of that magazine is combined with the tight, broad stroke work of Haring and Basquiat.
As a counterpoint to the intensity of those two masters, Travieso's work is happy, boisterous and much more whimsical. The humor is direct and is a kind of coming attraction for something happening somewhere down the road. They are like movie posters to Tarvieso's psyche.
He has been notorious for not wanting to let his work go. Some pieces he won't part with. Other times, he tells the buyers to walk away with the artwork while his back is turned.
"They are a part of me, and some of them it is hard to let go," said Travieso. "I have such a great time making it; it's like a piece of me is going away too."