Monday, November 26, 2018

Family Portrait

This is a detail from a family portrait that I have been working on for well over a year. It is not even close to the entirety of the work, and things have changed a bit since even this recent photo was taken. I wish I had taken pictures of the process, because my face has been completely redone over three times, as well as my hands. This is one of those works that if it were ever X-rayed, would probably have quite the mass of previous work layered underneath.

Since this photo was taken,Dave now has a grey sweater on, along with his priest's collar, a color that softens things up a bit. I am at the point in the work that the entire canvas has been covered and worked on multiple I am refining strokes, working on color balance and sweating over details. This is the time where I have said what I have to say, and now I am working to make it all come together and 'sing'. 

The painting is huge, and not just in size. It is huge because it is a work based on pure catharsis, a painting that is attempting to lovingly portray a disconnected family, with truth, sadness, and yet with as much beauty as I can muster. It is such a personal painting, and if you know me, you know that I usually plunge fearlessly and head first into self-exploration on canvas. 

This piece goes beyond even that. It is probably the first work I have ever made where making it public really makes me nervous, probably because it reveals so much about us and also leaves so many questions unanswered. It also is a bold statement of truth that makes me flinch, and I think will make loved ones, as well, if they ever care to look. The work began in rage and frustration, like many a tell-all book, and yet has softened into an image that is not really about 'exposing' or 'revenge' but simply the ache of dealing with reality, and at the same time, letting go.

The work has demanded so much energy that often simply looking at it makes me tired, and I wonder how in the world I will ever finish it. 

And yet, at the same time, I know I will.  John Steinbeck said in the foreword of my all-time favorite book, 'East of Eden', 

Dear Pat,
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”
“What for?”
“To put things in.”
“What kind of things?”
“Whatever you have,” you said.
Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.

 I don't know if I've reached the lofty goals that Steinbeck indeed did with his book, but this painting does feel like a box, filled with so much, and yet, still the box is not full. I suppose families are like that.

When I finish it, I will let you know...I think.

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