Some people think a painting career is a Greek tragedy. The central character is Oedipus. In order to get ahead, father-killing is required.
I am the repainter. Does that mean I must be a serial father killer? Do I need to knock off all my Old Master Dads? Did I became the repainter to fulfill some gruesome destiny?
I loved my Dad, who died at 94 last August. Recently, I made a portrait of him for my show at James Graham & Sons. He was a loving husband and father, full of appetite, a much adored music teacher, a talented trumpeter. Early on, my Dad and Gene Fenby, his partner in the Fenby-Carr Quintet (“The Singing Schoolteachers”), decided not to go out to Hollywood to try to make it big. They chose instead to continue teaching in Detroit, while moonlighting with the band. When I got my first NEA grant, I called him, trembling, to ask what he thought of my quitting the locksmith business to become a full-time artist. I thought he’d be angry if I made such an “irresponsible” and risky choice.
I was in Paris painting, when I got him on the phone.
“Great,” he said. “Go for it!”
I didn’t kill my Dad by going to New York. His orchestra prospered in Detroit, became well-known local entertainers for many years. My father enjoyed the family life he and my mother created, and fifty years worth of grateful high-school students with whom he shared his love of music. Greek tragedy? More like Ozzie and Harriet. Not to say that there was no drama–my father could be mighty judgmental, and I had to learn to live with it.
So with the subject of artists and fathers in mind, here is a short, idiosyncratic, personal selection of works by artist friends, me, and a few others. I’ll update periodically with your suggestions if you pass them along.