I wish I had this painting for the Childhood in Decline exhibit at the now defunct Blank Canvas Gallery in New Hope, PA. But I needed to read the owner’s statement for the show to create this painting. She wrote of her difficult childhood, and I have been thinking of it on and off for over a month. I created this painting using her statement as inspiration, as well as the affecting photographs of poor children, Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner. A compilation of mug shots by Raynal Pellicer and An Illustrated History of Boxing by Nat Fleischer and Sam Andres, updated by Dan Rafael were also consulted.
I am working on another painting of Gregory now. But I need to give his sister Alicia most of the credit. She dressed him up and photographed him so these are her ideas.
I am leaving for California soon. I hope to see the paintings of the Bay Area artists at the John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco, and to visit some other galleries while there. I have begun a painting of my father, and will be adding a slightly menacing figure who will be measuring his head. I had the pleasure of cataloging some books on phrenology a short time ago, and wanted to use that quack science because it was later manipulated by racists to justify their ideas of a master race. Whenever one group of people decide they are better than another horrible things can happen and they certainly did during my father’s childhood. I really like the photograph of my father that I am working from, because he is caught in the middle of laughing; a seemingly true and robust laugh that I haven’t seen often enough.
I was watching The Yearling and had to stop to take pictures of Jody’s progression to adulthood. The color of the film is amazing and the actor’s face (Claude Jarman Jr.) is beautiful. I put together a slide show of my photos with lamp reflection in tact. The pictures depict Jody’s evolution into something else, moving into what his father announces later as no longer being a Yearling. The close-ups of Jarman’s face as he wrestles with the awful knowledge that he must kill his beautiful fawn are painful to witness, but they, along with the other close-ups in the slide show illustrate the universal journey into adulthood. They are the step-by-step progress to that point in time that is the culmination of the other moments which preceded it. Each is worthy of a painted portrait. Jarman shows pain, fear, reprehension, grief, acceptance, and once again, happiness as he dreams of being reunited with his precious deer.
What must it have felt like to be put on display at such a young age? ‘Used’ is the first word that comes to mind. But I wonder also about what the viewer felt, and feels when seeing a person on display for their amusement. Each time I paint Annie Jones, I think of Manet’s images of Spanish-themed portraits. So this painting has in it some of the colors that I think Manet might have used, as well as the flattening of volume. This is Annie Jones up close:
More about Ali here. This is my depiction of him as a child.