Make A Wish
I’m a birthday person. I’ve always been. When I was a child, my family made a big deal out of birthdays, and when I blew out my birthday candles, they’d always tell me to make a wish and touch something blue to make my wish come true. So when I thought about painting Make a Wish, the third time I’ve used smoke as my subject, and blew out my birthday candle, I knew I had to paint it on a blue backdrop. But I won’t tell you what I wished for…
Shh..Don’t Tell Anyone
I do love a painting class. There’s usually a teacher or two there, someone to engage you in a dialogue about what you’re doing, what you want your painting to be and how to get there. And when you step back from your own painting, as you must do and often, you are surrounded by other artists and the myriad of subjects that they’re painting. You learn so much from other people’s work! Sometimes it influences you; sometimes you might even steal something.
Almost a year and a half ago, I stopped by the Acorn Gallery during the Marblehead Arts Festival and saw Lexi Baliotis (getting married next week, she’ll be known as Alexis Kereakaglow) working on a painting of a girl on a beach. I was completely enchanted by it—a back and side view that featured the girl’s ear in close up detail. You could have reached out to touch that ear or at the very least whispered a secret! So this year, I painted Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone with the image of Lexi’s ear in my mind’s eye. I’d call that inspiration.
I haven’t smoked cigarettes since the Surgeon General declared smoking a hazard to health, but I must admit to inhaling every now and then since. And because a friend went into a business associated with vaping, I’ve been able to try vaping “juice,” not with nicotine, but with herbals like menthol, eucalyptus and lavender. I might be exhaling steam, but it behaves like smoke, making it perfect for me to study the patterns and understand what smoke does as it drifts through the air…and to blow smoke rings. When I was sixteen, I must have thought it was the height of sophistication to be able to blow a perfect smoke ring; now, I think it would make a good painting.
I’m a great fan of dancing of all kinds, but I especially love to paint tango dancers. The tango is such a sensuous dance that the figures on the canvas, caught in a moment of time, still seem to be moving. I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out where each leg needs to be and which shoe goes in front of which shoe, especially since they’re so often black on black on black.
Close Encounter found its way to Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year, and the lovely couple who own it commissioned a companion piece, Too Close for Comfort, so they could hang the two 30” X 40” paintings together on a large wall going up their stairs: two couples destined to dance near each other but never meet or even bump into one another on the dance floor.
Too Close for Comfort
Madison & 33rd | circa 1952
As a rule, I don’t do architectural paintings. I painted “Madison & 33rd | circa 1952” as a birthday gift for my sister. She’s eight years older than I am, and each of us has described ourselves growing up as Mollie and Harry’s two only children. She was married by the time I was twelve, so I painted Lomar, our family’s restaurant, to celebrate that brief period of family history that we had shared, after I could hold up my end of a conversation and before she was married. I flew down to Virginia to give it to her, and we had a good cry for times gone by and parents missed. When I was painting Lomar for the second time (30” X 40” instead of 16” X 20”) at the insistence of my daughter, planning to hang it in my dining room in Florida, my painting teacher had me study the photorealistic paintings of Richard Estes to see how a master paints reflections in windows. It was helpful for that painting, but I had no interest in trying to become the next Richard Estes.
I exhibited the larger “Madison & 33rd | circa 1952” in the BallenIsles Art Expo in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, several years ago and came home from dinner one night soon after to a message on my answering machine from a neighbor in my community who had seen the painting. He wanted to know how I had come to paint it, because the owner of that restaurant had been his father’s best friend. Imagine his surprise to learn that I was that owner’s daughter! I hadn’t seen him for well over forty years, and he didn’t really remember me at all, a little girl twelve years younger than he, but I certainly remembered him, his brother and his parents, whom I had called Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe.
So I haven’t painted anything architectural since. Until now. My daughter-in-law came to me last spring with a photograph of RumBa, the bar in Boston where she met my son, and asked me to paint it for them. They happened to be sitting on those two stools, right next to each other, on December 31, 2007, each with their own friends. She asked him to take a picture for her, and now they’ve been married for two years, we have a bull mastiff grandpuppy, and a baby is on the way! As always for me, I saw the painting that I came to call “Kismet” as a portrait of those two stools. It took me six months to paint–now I could use a drink!
Conventional portraits are tricky. No matter how well an artist has reproduced a likeness, the subject is likely to be disappointed. I hardly know a woman who is satisfied with a photograph of herself, much less with an artist’s vision of how she looks. And I don’t mean to let men off the hook–they have their vanity, too. But pop portraits extract the barest information to form an image–if they were photos, they’d have been airbrushed. Who wouldn’t like that?
The first pop portrait I painted, Anticipation, was inspired by an ad in a catalog for skin and beauty products. Even though the image is cropped to show only noses, mouths and chins, I thought the couple vaguely resembled my husband and me–he’s got a beard and is always tan, certainly darker than pale me–so I painted it to have it hang over our bed in Florida. No matter how old we are, we’ll always look sexy on that wall!
Soon after, I came across an old sepia print of a movie still for “Cafe Metropole,” starring Tyrone Power and Loretta Young. A little creative cropping ensued, and I painted Fantasy. I’ve never heard of nor seen that movie, but I like to think that my painting is ambiguous enough so that you don’t know if she’s his fantasy or he’s hers.
Almost all of my pop portraits of women are painted from photos of models, some well known and some anonymous. When I can, I like to hang them like photo booth prints.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Brunettes and Redheads
I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. No matter that I haven’t lived there for almost 40 years, when I’m in New York, I’m home. So imagine my thrill at having a solo exhibition of my paintings in New York City. 150 people mingled, enjoyed the hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided by Five Senses Catering and viewed the art. Awesome.
Madison & 33rd | circa 1952
I grew up in the restaurant business. My parents owned & ran a place in Manhattan for 31 years that was very New York: a restaurant that catered to business people in Murray Hill, which meant that the breakfast and lunch hours were mobbed with customers who appreciated the huge menu and delicious food. I painted it from a black and white photograph, taken by my father, an amateur photographer, whose reflection, in his overcoat and fedora, is barely visible in the glass door.
Add that to the fact that I married a man who, for most of his life, lived to eat, and it’s no wonder that I paint so much food. Plenty of pears, apples and oranges, tomatoes and other salad veggies, cake and candy, even some beverages have inspired me. A couple of years ago, I painted a hot pastrami sandwich for my husband for his birthday, in lieu of the real thing. It got such a good reception that I followed it up with a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut.