For Joseph Cicio And His Famous (And Not-So-Famous) Friends, Life's A Gift

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For Joseph Cicio, the act of gift-giving — and receiving — is filled with meaning and memory.

It’s also an art and Cicio is a master who has turned this particular talent — one could call it a gift — into a stunning, picture-and-story-filled book, “FRIENDS* *Bearing Gifts” (Pointed Leaf Press).

Enter his Warren home — which is the star of the just-published coffee table-sized book — and you will see a life on display. You will be visually drawn in not only by his sense of taste, balance and comfortable elegance, but be also engrossed by the specificity of detail.

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Each painting, photograph, sculpture, figurine — many of them gifts highlighted in the book — suggests a story to tell, a secret to be revealed, even a sadness to be shared. These presents evoke the past and, like Proust’s madeleines, unlocks a flood of memories.

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“I remember what my mentor Cici Blum Kempner once told me,” says Cicio, taking down off a shelf a black-and-white photograph of the ’60s-stylish Lord & Taylor buyer — “when buyers were legends” — to gaze upon as he continues. “‘When traveling,’ she said, ‘Buy one beautiful thing and someday when you’re as old as I am, you’re going to have a beautiful home filled with beautiful things. But remember, it’s not the things that are important. It’s what they represent in your life, who you were with, who gave it to you, where you were. You will look at it and it will all come rushing back to you.’”

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The gifts — and the memories — surround Cicio everywhere he looks in his sprawling Litchfield County home and garden where he has lived for 18 years. These presents are by designers, actors, comedians, wine experts and the just-folks down the street. They include American society’s royalty (Lady Nancy “Slim” Keith, Brooke Hayward Duchin) as well as the real thing: a prince (as in Charles) and a princess (as in Grace).