I rarely use text in my paintings, but it’s something I may get into. With resistance a prevalent theme, I’ve been considering how to make my portraits more overtly political. Text is probably the easiest way to get a point across.
Last summer, I was asked to paint actress and singer Francoise Hardy, so I found a photo I found of her outside the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I tend to use photos as starting points, and not necessarily to paint a likeness. This wasn’t a commission, so I felt free to paint the subject the way I normally do. Without slavishly representing her features.
I noticed that putting the subject in front of a hotel sign suggested certain things about the women I painted. I wasn’t convinced that everyone would know it was the Chelsea Hotel where artists, musicians and other creative types lived and congregated, so I changed the iconic hotel sign to a pizza sign — and suddenly it felt like the subject had moved from the hotel to the pizza parlor. Or perhaps there were different women outside both locations.
Because I post my work immediately after I paint it, there is a kind of sequential element built into it. I noticed that added text suggested a possible narrative — at least it did to me.
I’d already painted a few baboons without text when I decided to paint one with the pizza sign. The baboon reminded me of King Kong — perhaps because the Chelsea Hotel sign placed the action in New York. Now, instead of being concerned that the women might be regarded as sex workers, I was worried King Kong was going to grab one of them and carry her up the Empire State Building.
I painted the last one in the series to indicate that the baboon did not harm the subject(s). I’m pretty sure I was the only person caught up in my halting narrative, but adding text to my otherwise language-free portraits was a surprisingly power experience.
“No Hat #104” SOLD
“No Hat #105”
“No Hat #106”
“No Hat #107”
“Baboon #3” SOLD
“No Hat #109”