Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Portraits: the Life behind the Face

Andy, 1980

O N  W O O D  — I find portraits fascinating in the same way I find biographies fascinating. I'd rather spend time reading about an actual person's life than read a novel. I'd rather look at art that features a human being in it, than a pretty landscape. Not that there is anything wrong with landscapes, lol, I just find myself drawn to the people in the images and what I could possibly say about them that's not obvious. I have a 'leg up' on most of the images I use, I only use personal negatives/prints/slides that I've inherited, so I tend to know something about the people in them. In some cases, especially the antique negatives from the early 1900s -1940s, I may not know the faces, but I can guess the setting etc. I always try to bring something of these people's thoughts and lives into the piece, filtered through the way I see things of course!

In this case, Andy, 1980, I not only shot the photo, I was specifically taking a portrait of my best friend. This image was taken around 1980 (honestly who can remember their past in specific years, lol), on a road trip from LA to San Francisco—for the trivia nuts, we rented a gray Corolla btw, which was an upgrade from their usual subcompacts. We stopped in Ojai for brunch one morning, and this is where the photo was shot, over coffee and a crossword puzzle. I knew Andy for more than 20 years. At times we were roommates, at times we lived on different coasts. When we both found ourselves in NYC, he living and working, and me commuting and working, we hung together outside of the office all the time. I'd crash on his couch, or we'd stay out all night in the clubs trying not to get into too much trouble. The NYTimes crossword puzzle became our inside pursuit. Learning the city through subway rides all over, became one of our hobbies. Back in our 'office' days, each of us always found the Watts line as soon as we found our desks, so we could talk to each other daily. I've always called Andy the brother I should have had. He died shortly after my Mom died, about a decade ago and nothing's ever been quite the same.

With this portrait, which hangs in Andy's Mom's house now, I painted and pasted our friendship through a geometric series of squares such as those used in crossword puzzle patterns and the older new york city subway systems' tiled walls. 

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