As the online media keeps trumpeting the imminent death of print media and newspapers in particular; reading the New York Times obituaries becomes more compelling. It may in fact be an obsession. If the Times dies where will these death notices go? They are truly fame’s final frontier. Where else do serial killers, war heroes and B-movie actresses mix so intriguingly? Are these grainy photos and smudged paragraphs truly the only afterlife?
I’ve very mixed feelings when I discover an obit of someone I know. I was shocked and saddened when I read that Robert Isabel, the society party-planner had suddenly dropped dead at 57...but on the other-hand, for a shy boy from Duluth.....“Way to Go Robert!”.
GREATNESS: I began this series of portraits of artists not really sure where it would lead. I started with Picasso because, for me, he is the master. Always inventive, accomplished in every medium. I also thought he was the most extreme narcissist since Nero. My research proved all of this true. I discovered that he thought that in order to be a good artist, a real artist, one has to believe he is the GREATEST ARTIST. I think he was right on that point, and he had the balls to shout it. The second portrait I began was Andy Warhol. I knew Andy, so I used a personal story to illustrate the portrait. The awe inspiring thing about Andy was the entirely unique way he thought. The other thing was that he worked so hard. I don’t think you can achieve greatness without hard work. He didn’t think so either.
DISCOVERIES: As I got deeper into this series I began to unconsciously mimic stylistic traits, color palettes even the choice of ancillary subject matter in the paintings. For instance; I show Mary Cassatt with a dog in her lap. My intention was to parody the Madonna and child portraits of religious art. What I discovered was that female artists of the impressionist period were restricted to this sort of, sometimes saccharin, imagery. They almost never painted outdoors with the men, and in fact, almost never featured men in their paintings. Puppies, kittens, flowers and babies were the required subjects.
IDOLATRY: This series is all about my idols, and at the time I began these paintings Pope Benedict gave a sermon about the over-abundance of false idols dominating the media. I think he meant Paris Hilton and the Jonas Brothers. Frankly, I was surprised he took the time to worry about the tabloids. Shouldn’t he be more concerned about war, hunger and racial and religious persecution? I think we all have the right to choose our own idols, even when it’s Paris Hilton.
DOORS: Doors have a history in art and religion. European cathedrals often feature highly embellished gilded doors depicting saints and demons. The Hindu religion has doors to heaven and doors to hell. At Episcopalian churches red doors signify sanctuary. I also like doors as objects. They are not passive. By resting them on the floor and leaning them against a wall they subtly invade a space.
QUOTES: My favorite is Toulouse Lautrec’s “I paint things as they are. I don’t comment.” Total bullshit.