The formal qualities of a found photo are the source material for my recent paintings. I mine flea markets and antique stores for old photographs of forgotten family members. These black and white photographs can range from the late 1800s through the 1960s. Sifting through a stack of a hundred photos, there is often only one that jumps out and says "Paint me, remember me, immortalize me." It may be thick bushy eyebrows, dramatic shadows on the face, or an uncomfortable smile that draws me to that particular person. There is usually something especially odd-looking about the person, whether it is the dress, hairstyle, or expression. While painting them, I try to envision who they were. What their lives were like? Did they have families, husbands, wives and how did their photograph end up at a flea market in Sandwich, Illinois or Pasadena, California? The thrill of the hunt for new source material, the finding a treasure in a box of thrown-away photos is as much a part of the process as putting paint to canvas. Rescuing these images from limbo and bringing them to people's attention is my main goal.
The oil paintings range in size from 14 by 14 inches to 36 by 48 inches. While keeping a realistic style, I juxtapose bright colors to some of them so that a man may end up wearing a purple or lime green jacket, while others are more sedately dressed. The style of the clothing and hair date the painting, but the choice of color will initially mislead the viewer.
A young man, awkward and stiff in his ill-fitting suit, sits for a formal photograph in a Chicago studio in 1898. He lives his life, the photograph makes its way to my hand randomly. Now a second portrait emerges, his eyes now green, his suit a lush lavender. To each new viewer’s eye he becomes someone new, his one life now a hundred. My pleasure derives from the journey to each person’s newfound resurrection; the viewer’s comes from the question, “Who were you?”