The first part of A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks is a painful reminder that tragic pasts often create bars that circumscribe lives. As a child, my father took my sister and me to my grandmother’s one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn which she shared with her youngest son. I tried not to stare at my uncle as he shook back and forth, listening delightedly, and sometimes frustratedly, to his radio. He heard almost every Mets game on that radio, I think. Born in Leipzig, Germany, when just a baby, my uncle, as part of the kinder-transport to rescue Jewish children, was put on a train to England. There, he lived with a family who fell in love with him, and he with them. Years later, he was taken from this family, the only one he remembered, and brought to the United States to be reunited with his biological family. It was told to me that he never quite got over this, and spent most of his adult life as I remembered him during those visits to Brooklyn. I have begun this portrait of my Uncle Simon from photos and from memory:
Recent tragedies have me thinking about those halcyon days when bad men killed other bad men. In The Public Enemy, James Cagney’s character takes matters into his own hands, and pays for it in the end as a parcel on his mother’s doorstep. Like him, Salvatore Lucania was not so lucky in the end.
Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière includes the photographs of women in various stages of hysteria, including after such episodes. Julie Mellby’s blog discusses the photographs. I first read about this volume in Medical Muses by Asti Hustvedt. I photographed the images from the copy at Princeton University months ago, but only now feel the need to create paintings from them. This is my first attempt, and I chose this woman’s face because of the pleading look in her eyes.
My site was down for some time today, but my admin is golden, and so is this fighter. He fairly glows. I was going to begin a portrait of Amy Bock next but I have been reading about her and find that I am less than sympathetic. This is the problem with learning more about the people you paint.