A near death experience can affect a person in several different ways. One person hides themselves away from the outside world at all costs, another runs into danger repeatedly just to feel that adrenaline rush again. For Anthony DiVastanzo, this is what inspires him to persevere and create the work that was dormant within him for too long.
In 2018, Anthony, along with his now fiancé Matt, boarded a plane that would get caught in a windstorm, threatening the lives of everyone on board.
“It was a terrifying experience. People were crying and calling their loved ones… I closed my eyes, thinking I would see my life flash before my eyes, but instead I saw all the things I hadn’t done,” Anthony said in an interview with Arts Help. In that moment he knew that if he made it off the plane alive, he would elevate his voice and bring those visions to life.
While attending Boston Conservatory, Anthony began acting in independent films around the city. It was during this time that he became very interested in filmmaking and started to conceptualize how he wanted to tell his own stories. Anthony graduated from Boston Conservatory in 2014, but the experiences would not only stick with him; they would continue to mold future ideas and projects.
In 2015, Anthony brought his first photography project to life as a coffee table book. The Gender Manifesto “explores the events of a single evening in which we see a fabulous costume party get a little out of hand” according to the synopsis. But the true depth of the book are the challenges it brings to the idea of gender binary.
The photos within The Gender Manifesto take the viewer on a journey through this increasingly wild party where this fictitious line of gender gets blurred. When asked by Arts Help what he hopes his art brings to the community, Anthony had this to say, “We lost a generation of queer voices to AIDS. I believe so deeply that it is up to our generation to work that much harder to tell our stories…”
Anthony continued saying, “…I want this work, these stories to be relatable. Human stories, regardless of how they identify themselves…I hope that by fine tuning the work, DiVastanzo LLC can create a production company and transcend and break into the mainstream, shift the narrative for the underground queer community. And in doing so, show the rest of the world that queer people are people.”
Anthony’s second photography book, entitled Sugar was released in 2017. The book not only explores but deconstructs gender roles that society pushes on its members and talks about a certain level of equality that needs to be implemented. Anthony’s entire body of work, including Sugar, is a strong representation of the Queer Community and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Reduced Inequalities.
When asked about what equality means for him, Anthony responded with, “Equality means having a seat at the table. You have the encouragement and the sponsorship to be empowered, to bring your full self to the table no matter where you are. You have the courage to say, ‘I am here, I am valid, and my ideas are valid.’”
During a photoshoot for his third photography book, Anthony came to the realization that “this was a film piece, not a photography piece.” Between this realization and his near-death experience, Anthony dove headfirst into creating all the work he had envisioned.
When Arts Help asked about his proudest piece so far, Anthony had this to say, “There is a moment I will never forget. I was going into my first table reading for my first film, Curious. There was a cocktail of emotions leading to that moment - it was wild. When we get into New York; we are at the hotel the night before getting ready and just trying to sleep…
…That night I didn’t know what to feel, I was proud, scared, excited etc. But being in that room that morning, being at the head of a table of 20 actors, warming them up with exercises and then sitting down to start the script reading…there is no greater high or euphoria than seeing what was in my mind come to life.”
Recently, Anthony’s film Curious won “Best First Time Screenwriter” at the New York Film Awards, ‘Best Drama Screenplay’ at the Los Angeles Film Awards and was awarded an ‘Honorable Mention: Drama Screenplay’ at the Festigious International Film Festival.
Another film being recognized in a big way is Anthony’s horror film, Postman, inspired by the song Please, Mr. Postman and set to the music of The Carpenters. This film is about Stephen, a funeral home director who keeps to himself. Though Stephen may seem lonely, the truth is that he harbors several embalmed corpses in his apartment for company, one being Thomas, his love. When Peter, a postman, is assigned a new route, he begins a friendship with Stephen. However, with many years of decay claiming Thomas’s body, Stephen must decide between holding onto what is no longer his or accept moving forward with the living.
Postman has also won several awards including ‘Best Screenplay Feature’ at the New York Film Awards, ‘Best First Time Screenwriter (Feature)’ at the Los Angeles Film Awards, and most recently ‘Best Horror Screenplay’ at the Festigious International Film Festival.
Though the film is horror, it plays a role in the queer community through representation much like the rest of DiVastanzo’s body of work. Arts Help asked Anthony what the community means to him, and he had this to say, “[The queer community means] Safety. A safe place to explore all of the things that make us individuals. It’s not about social norms, or the typical milestones, the white picket fence and the 2.5 children… it’s about everything you are. Becoming confident, having a community that celebrates those things.”
Anthony’s newest photography project is an exploration of the male form using photography and simple words that most wouldn’t associate with the human body. Each collection captures stunning organic forms using anatomy and simple items such as driftwood and citrus fruits that effortlessly move together within the photos. The collection Pith is made up of grayscale photos that spotlight close ups of the male form.
According to the DiVastanzo Instagram, “Pith is the white, almost spongy layer of skin underneath a citrus fruit’s peel. However, I see pith as a metaphor for the mask of masculinity in society – a protective shield that must be broken in order to truly reason one’s fullest potential.”
Chiaki is the second word and photography collection. “Chiaki is a Japanese name which loosely translates to ‘Shining Forever’. For me, this is a story of rebirth and discovering oneself told through the medium of the male form.”
Anthony’s collection, Chiaki, focuses more heavily on the male form as it stands alone and with the use of color. Finally, the collection Driftwood meets the intimacy of anatomy fused with stagnant yet beautifully formed pieces of driftwood. “Driftwood was once a living piece of nature. It has been shaped and formed by the sand and ocean. For me, it signifies rebirth – a chance for a new beginning.”
Arts Help asked Anthony where he sees his art going in the next 5 years, “Having my own gallery show, drawing in an audience. For films, I see big festivals, films getting picked up… Streaming has changed what everything looks like, in 5 years, beyond success, I hope I can evolve and be adaptable. As an artist, and as a human, we need to keep going.”
DiVastanzo’s website states that there is a third photography book as well as an arsenal of film projects coming soon. To keep up with Anthony and his growing body of work including photography and film, follow @divastanzo on every social media platform as well as checking out Anthony’s website.
Anthony is also currently being featured in a digital art gallery show Past, Present, Future: An International Exhibition at IncuArts which can be found here. This coming September, DiVastanzo will be presenting at the Superfine! Show in Manhattan.