Reviving and redefining a tradition
Last year, I started painting likenesses directly on handmade canvas totes, making the bags to match their owners. At the time, a certain someone advised me regarding my portable portraits. She expressed her opinion with a charmingly condescending preface: “if I was your art mommy, I would tell you that the bags cheapen the rest of your oeuvre.” I shudder to think of this woman as my mommy in any capacity, and especially in art, but she did force me to come to terms with what might be one response to the You Bag.
Far from devaluing my work, the portrait purses that I make are on the front lines of my crusade to redeem all of painted portraiture—a genre too often lost in awkward poses and misshapen babies’ heads. The way I see it, portraits used to be a thing to have. In old Europe, only kings and their company had their portraits painted. As merchants gained more wealth and power, they strove to have their authority taken seriously in a society which prized lineage over affluence. Commissioning a portrait became a way for the new bourgeois class to make a social claim.
Today, a painted portrait is maybe more distinguished than a photographic one, but it isn’t the status symbol it once was. These days, the designer handbag has replaced the portrait in announcing an individual’s standing and priorities. Which leads me to wonder: why are those priorities so pathetically cookie-cutter?
I am instituting the portraitist handbag. I mean to restore to painted portraiture some of its past glory as well as give the victims of fashion’s wicked It trends a break. After all, this is one bag that can’t go out of style until you yourself do.
Or, in this case, until your daughter does. The portrait tote in question actually belongs to the subject’s mom, Wendy.
A few photos from my interview with Sara.
The photo which was my primary source in creating the portrait.
The process of painting the portrait, from first color to the place where the painting actually began for me.
But Sara isn’t Wendy’s only child. This portrait purse packs a double punch! To be continued…