Last Sunday, David Garibaldi and his four-man crew, spattered with paint from the soles of their sneakers to their temples, went to work on their next act.
For three hours they transformed a former Elk Grove body shop into a whirlwind of flying paint, freestyle hip-hop and hard-driving rock as they fine-tuned what they hope will get them into the finals of NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Like martial artists armed with paint and attitude, they juked, spun, jabbed and danced over to giant canvases, attacking them with sponge brushes and marking them with black scrawls.
Garibaldi twirled a microphone in one hand and a paint gun in the other. Clad in a linen shirt with the words "Paint With Passion and Purpose," he seemingly obliterated his crew's work with a blast of black paint.
They smashed the canvases together, and then the magic happened. Suddenly an image appeared one they hope will bring them closer to the $1 million prize and a Las Vegas show.
They will perform Tuesday on NBC's top-rated show, which airs in Sacramento at 8 p.m. on Channel 3. They are among 12 acts vying for one of three remaining slots in the finals. So far, "David Garibaldi and his CMYKs" with its controlled chaos and "rhythm and hues" has been a hit with 33 million viewers and the show's panel of celebrity judges.
Over the years, Garibaldi, 29, has conjured up Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Jay-Z, Ronald Reagan, Jesus Christ and nearly 100 other icons in his performance art shows. The group's frenetic 90-second performance pieces for the TV show so far have featured paintings of Beethoven, Elvis and Mick Jagger.
Howard Stern, who as judge has tongue-lashed many hapless contestants, said during the group's audition that he thought Garibaldi was painting him until the image of Beethoven was revealed. Stern declared his love for Garibaldi, saying, "If you were a woman I'd marry you."
Garibaldi is already spoken for. He lives in Elk Grove with his wife and business manager, Joy Garibaldi, and their 2-year-old son, Cristiano Peace, known as Crispy.
Joy Garibaldi, a photographer for a nightlife website, said she was captivated by Garibaldi's dance moves and action paintings of musicians at midtown clubs. After she helped him launch his career, he began to call her.
"He pursued and pursued, and I consistently said, 'No, my time is precious; you need to ask me at least a week in advance,' " she said. "He got the point. We went on our first date July 31, 2003, and have been together since."
Garibaldi's been blessed with looks, charisma and the ability to create things and make money, said his mother, Margie Albanese, a Mexican American hair stylist.
He's also the great-great-great grandson of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who unified Italy in the 19th century.
"Giuseppe Garibaldi came to work with Abraham Lincoln on military strategies, spent some time as a candlemaker on Long Island," said Garibaldi's father, Vince. "He went back to unify Italy, but his son, a former priest, stayed here and fathered 14 children."
Since age 4, David Garibaldi could draw figures and landscapes with interesting shadows, his dad recalled. His mom said, "Whenever we were bored, we said 'David, come up with something,' and he always did."
As a teenager at Sheldon High, Garibaldi became a graffiti artist, emblazoning his name in bold colors across Sacramento. He credits his transformation from aerosol artist to international performance artist to his animation teacher, Shawn Sullivan.
"I told him, 'You will pay for doing that, or you can stop doing the illegal stuff and get paid to do it,' " Sullivan said.
He got Garibaldi to showcase his work on the Internet and nurtured his multimedia muse. His assignments included caricatures and painting upside-down and on plastic sheets.
"I call him a painting magician," Sullivan said. "He tricks people into thinking he's destroyed his painting, and all of a sudden it appears."
Garibaldi dropped out of high school and worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in Arden Fair mall to finance his budding career, painting in his dad's garage.
"David was always very charismatic and resourceful," his mom recalled. "He was going to get kicked out of his first apartment when he traded three months' rent for a seascape mural. Then he traded for $500 worth of food from Ink restaurant in exchange for a mural."
Garibaldi and high school buddy Ryan Rivac practiced break dancing, hip-hop and freestyling in Rivac's garage. They joined the Boogie Monstarz dance troupe, which connected them with Dan Juris, Dane San Pedro and Eric Templo, the rest of the CMYKs.
The group was named after the four colors that Garibaldi said, once mixed, "can create any image."
Cyan, light blue, is represented by Juris, a Rio Americano graduate who calls himself "the cool one." Magenta is played by Laguna Creek High grad San Pedro, who describes himself as "the more flamboyant character" and works as a magician when not dancing.
Yellow is embodied by Rivac, a French chef who's "the jokester, the clown." Key, for black, is played by Templo, "the rebel of the group," he said. A Florin High grad, Templo works for 24 Hour Fitness.
Garibaldi added the CMYKs about a year ago. They usually perform their "symphony of distraction" for an hour. Having to cram it into 90 seconds for "America's Got Talent" is a challenge.
In rehearsal last week, they ran through their routine a dozen times, changing up their choreography. Juris explained the rhythm to David: "It's boom, spin, spin, up, up, boom!"
They went through 50 yards of paper and 10 gallons of latex paint before they pounded their fists.
Garibaldi had just flown in from a solo show in Flagstaff, Ariz., preceded by a gig in Canada. Garibaldi, who does over 100 shows a year, said he has raised more than $1 million for charities ranging from the Special Olympics to the Crocker Art Museum by auctioning off his paintings. He painted Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion, he said, and sold it for $25,000.
If the group wins, Garibaldi said, "we want to build a bigger show and give art to the world."
He mentors students in Sullivan's animation class and gives motivational speeches. His catchphrase is "inspire others." The speech he wrote when he first started out still hangs in his Elk Grove studio:
"DAVID, don't forget what you were made for, you were made to take on the WORLD. Whatever is to come is because of a little luck and whole lot of hard work. Staying focused will distract you from the distractions. And remember, despite the success, the money, the failures and losses, just keep it real and have fun!"