The Ties That Bind
Artists’ friendship spans half a century
John Jordon and Ed Giobbi share a handshake, a smile, and a fifty-year friendship.
photo by Deborah Hayn
At first, it’s easy to only notice the differences. One man is small of stature and somewhat spry, the other tall and lumbering with a cane supporting his slow walk. One has excellent diction, while the other’s voice is raspy and requires extra attention from the listener. One is white, the other black. But their hands tell another story. They are wrinkled and callused and, in one case, missing a few digits from years of hard labor. They are the hands of life-long friends and local artisans Ed Giobbi and John Jordan, men who share a combined 183 years on this planet and over 100 living in this area.
It was the early 1960s, before Metro-North and before 684. Giobbi had moved to a 100-year-old farmhouse with a ramshackle barn in Katonah with his wife and three children. He was firmly on his ascent as an influential artist with exhibitions at the Whitney and the Corcoran in DC. Jordan, who had grown up in nearby Stamford where he took a trolley to the beach, was looking for a place he could afford to raise his family of ten kids. A kind benefactor loaned him money to buy his house in Bedford Hills. An artist at heart, Jordan made his living waxing floors, a job reminiscent of when he shined shoes as a boy for ten cents a pair. It’s also one that brought him to the Giobbis’ door. And when the two got together, the conversation flowed.
Giobbi remembers, “It was very intimate. He would come to work, and I would bring him up to my studio. He had his life, and I had mine, but we had this interest in art that we both took seriously.”
They both came by that interest early. Giobbi, originally from Waterbury, had a traditional fine arts education that led him to live and study all over the world, including several years in Florence. There he honed his technique and zeroed in on his preference for large-scale oil paintings. His canvases have been included in collections all over the country and in his beloved Italy. Jordan gravitated toward art classes at public school in Stamford, but after one year at college down south, he headed back to this area to start a family and make a living. Jordan’s side business dealing in junk provided ample opportunity and materials to explore sculpture, mosaic, and more. Even with a top-tier artist’s training, Giobbi expresses his admiration for Jordan’s creative process.
He says, “As an artist, you want to be clean. You want to produce work that isn’t influenced by your education. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I have trouble breaking away completely. John laughs it off, but he makes art that Picasso would admire.”
Art may be the primary touchstone, but there’s more the men share. Just four years apart in age, they lived through the Great Depression and World War II, with both men serving in the military. Giobbi went overseas and fought in Austria, Belgium, and elsewhere. His battalion was even involved in the liberation of a German concentration camp. John tried to enlist, but at the age of 19 was turned away due to the color of his skin. He was later drafted and remained stateside during the war.
But reducing fifty years of friendship to a list of common interests isn’t telling the whole story. Their easy rapport and obvious connection takes them quickly from topic to topic and from serious conversation to doubled-over laughter. They are really just two very special souls.
As Giobbi says about his friend, “He’s got a positive attitude you won’t find in most young people. He hasn’t changed a bit.”