In process: portrait of Mindy Grossberg

I am deeply moved by portraiture as a genre across media and across the centuries. I am focused on it, day after day, and I’m approaching it through a handful of threads joining my explorations into the labyrinth. One thread of them is about a desire to make a portrait that reaches back to the portraiture Whistler and Sargent, Cassatt and Degas–a kind of “straight” portrait where narrative is suggested, but only lightly, and where an attempt is made to navigate the public and private faces of a real person gently, respectfully. 

Another is the desire to make a portrait using pre-Enlightenment Christian iconography to suggest multi-layered and paradoxical narratives about the Four Evangelists. I am fascinated by this vocabulary, and have been making drawings as a way to learn and digest it for some time. I’ll publish these images in a later post. 

Lastly, I’m holding “Portraits of Albuquerque Actors” as an enclosing theme for a body of work, a idea to guide a series of portraits that would take me into the murky waters of portrait-as-masquerade.

Mindy is a friend. She and I had a conversation about virtue and vice and taboos before we made these photographs. We discussed the male gaze; the difficulties of collaboration, and the work of articulating and setting boundaries; the ways cultural group members can critique their own groups, while the same critiques spoken by out-group folks can be shockingly distasteful; judgment and aggression and beauty and silence. Mindy found some gestures.

I am excited to make one of them into a painting as a way of exploring all the threads above. So far I feel best about Mindy Rough Draft 4, above; I love her Alice Neel feet, large and skinny. I love the theater of the flat wall pressing her forward in the space while being quite bright and loud. I love the shirt–“you are beautiful”–which implies questions about gaze and inner practice. 

I welcome thoughts about all this material. Does a painted portrait make sense to you, here in the age of selfies? What use do you see in portraiture? What inspires you about it? How about portraits that make use of humor? Iconography? How much narrative do you enjoy in a portrait? 

Using Format