I am challenging myself to create group portraits. It is a continuation of expressing the notion that that those who are prisoners, whether criminals or victims are connected to us and we to them. I did some drawings of groups when I was exploring images of my father as a child during World War II. These drawings led me back to the whole painting surface, as I am using negative and positive space to bring the picture into harmony. This was influenced by a talk I gave at the George School, when I spoke of how I was breaking the rule I learned in school of covering the whole canvas with paint. I rejected this in my series of fighters; now I am returning to it. My reading of the finely researched and brilliantly written David Park: a painter’s life by Nancy Boas also contributed to my thoughts about this painting. Park is my role model because of his ability to convey the universality of people. He did it with amazing technique, energy and integrity.
Children watching bombs fall from the sky. A combination of two children, one being my father, the other a Hitler Youth who went on to be a soldier in the German army, and a photo of English children hiding in a trench while watching fighter planes in the sky.
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:
As I anticipate Irene, I see this painting as an illustration of the quiet before the storm, as children and animals are often the victims of atrocities. What dangers await them, in their vulnerability?
Been working on the other side of Life during wartime. I have been painting this while listening to The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, and the dramatic and sometimes harrowing story have influenced this work. Not finished yet.
I began with the idea of painting a portrait of my family, but decided instead to focus on my sister and myself. However, I wanted to relate our family to the larger world. With the war now, and the ramifications war has had on families throughout the centuries, I wondered how we, as children, would survive during wartime. This was not idle curiosity, as my Father went to England during World War II, as part of the Kindertransport. Growing up with almost no supervision or parenting, I am not sure if I could have been as responsible as he had to be at such a young age.
I believe I am almost finished with the “Wrestlers” painting but want to add some more careful linear elements to define the figures. The painting I am working on now is “Family Portrait” which combines images of my father as a child with images taken from Library of Congress photographs of other sentient beings worthy of compassion. I am beginning to blend both of my styles, the more realistic with the expressive, in one work. So far, I am happy with the results.