Painting My Father
The first time I painted by father was in 1982. I had just begun a series of paintings called Subterraneans, depicting people in the subways. I wanted a generic businessman as a model, and asked my father to pose on the 28th Street IRT platform. My father had taken the subway almost everyday of his life and seemed like as good a model as anyone. The painting came out great, and then I did another one of him, and another, and then began using him regularly.
Gradually, as I painted him more, he became iconic within my body of work...People familiar with my work often think that anyone roughly my father's age in my paintings must be him. And to some degree they are right; they are extensions of him. At my gallery openings, people often delighted in seeing "the man in the paintings." It was always one of my great vicarious thrills to show my father a new painting of him. In retirement, with more time on his hands, he returned to an old hobby: painting. He even did a portrait of me. I told him it was fine with me if he painted, as long as he did not change his name to "Max."
Many of the scenes I have painted are now gone. The Times Square building in which my dad shared an office with his father-in-law has, too, like so much of the City, evaporated.
The year before he died, I became the father of a son, Daniel. Who knows, perhaps he will paint me some day. In the mean time, I continue to paint my daddy.
Excerpts from the artist's essay, "Painting My Father"