This is a portrait in process of George Zupeck from his 1944 Seaman passport photograph. I have begun to build up the surface of the canvas using tea leaves.
Written by O’Connor when she was barely in her twenties, A Prayer Journal was published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book includes a facsimile of the original so you can see the author’s “very innocent” spelling. I loved The Habit of Being because of O’Connor’s ability to laugh at herself and others, despite her often debilitating illness. She did not lose her faith in spite of so many difficulties. This is excerpted from A Prayer Journal, edited by W.A. Sessions:
I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship … It will be a life struggle with no consummation. When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle. All our lives are consumed in possessing struggle but only when the struggle is cherished & directed to a final consummation outside of this life is it of any value. I want to be the best artist it is possible for me to be, under God.
I was listening to the old radio show The Green Hornet. He had a vehicle he called the black beauty. This is mine; using so much black paint is challenging and provides mystery to the final product. Last night I heard Joyce Carol Oates speak at Labyrinth Books and she said being an artist or writer is stressful because it is difficult and if it isn’t stressful then it is not worth doing. I paraphrase, but that is how I heard it, and I couldn’t agree more.
I am beginning to call the San Francisco area fighters the Olympic Club fighters because the name is more concise, as the photograph album images I am working from contain fighters from that athletic club. An observation I made while painting was I am using paint like I am building a body from clay: pushing parts together with force. Though I often paint that way, the surface being naturally colored linen (a beige color) makes the painting of the face that much more difficult. I have to make the colors more vibrant to compete with the surface, and this pushes me to be more forceful with the paint application itself, not just the colors I use.
The past in the present. The present seen more powerfully and clearly through the past. Archives have long been controlled by the anointed few, and used by scholars who had the inclination to view their contents. With the advent of digitization, many archives have been opened to anyone with a computer and access to the internet. Personal pictorial archives can also be found on blogs, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, among other sites. In my series of painted portraits of Olympic Club fighters, taken from a photo album found in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of Princeton University, I began the exploration of a particular photographic archive of mostly anonymous athletes. Their faces are a vocabulary I read and interpreted through the application of paint on canvas. To communicate emotions, I roughly built up the surface of the paint, and created color combinations that were jarring to the eye. I used dripping and rapid brushwork to create movement. Through these painterly procedures I was symbolically bridging the gap between past and present. With my recent portraits painted from photographs from public and private collections I am continuing my desire to connect the present to the past while adding my imagery to the flourishing archives of today.