Before and AFTER: Heart Transplant
Five years ago, when I was first starting out, I thought that my conceptual shows (like Apple Pie for example) served primarily to promote me as an artist so that I might get more commission work. But after putting up just two thematic shows, I understood that my commission work was actually supporting a growing conceptual habit…!
Now, when I step back from my oeuvre and from the everyday of being a working artist, I see that both the commission and the conceptual sides of my work are important to me. I love to know that my paintings are part of the fabric of people’s daily lives, and putting a face on questions which I can’t seem to answer by any other means certainly is satisfying.
Last year, these two forms of my work were combined by a patron. Having read, an article about Swollen, Jim’s wife decided to commission two portraits of him, one before his heart transplant and another after the transformative surgery occured—if it did at all.
I created the “before” portrait without knowing for certain if there would be an “after” one, so the 2007 portrait was a kind of memorial for Jim even though he was still alive. A few months ago, when I found out that Jim was doing very well a year after his surgery, I was thrilled at the prospect of doing a portrait which would be more for Jim than for his family and friends.
What follows is the making of the 2008 portrait of Jim.
From the very beginning, I knew that there would be a letter in Jim’s breast pocket.
I also knew that I wanted to suggest the beach with the background.
After all, where the ocean meets the land is the transitional space par excellence...
...and that is part of what made it so fitting for this transitional portrait of Jim.
However, wanting to represent beach and actually doing so are two very different things!
My first attempt at the water was maybe a little vertical.
By this point in the process, I’d stalled. There was something missing, and I didn’t know what it was…
...until I got the 2007 portrait back in the studio! I was borrowing the first painting for a show that’s up right now at the Littman Gallery, and, once I had it in proximity to the second one, the time-based diptych came together.
I was reminded of the importance of circles in the 2007 painting: I brought them into the 2008 one.
Trying to figure out the water.
Still working on the water, among other things.
A whole new take on the crashing waves.
Building depth into the dunes and turning my attention back to the letter in his breast pocket.
It’s always a pleasure to get a second chance at a same face, but especially so when the subject has seen significant changes between the making of the two likeness.
A seal combining the symbolic heart with a representation of the bodily one.