Oil Portraits of Current World Leaders From Their Childhood Photographs
In recent years, many seemingly unrelated experiences have raised similar, recurring thoughts:
- Wonder and confusion at the polarized global and national responses to September 11th, 2001… and the ease with which key figures were demonized and idolized… the increased perception of only two existing views (“us” and “them,” “the West” and “The East,” “we’ll hear from someone on both sides of the issue,” “hero/defender” and “enemy/aggressor”).
- Travels between California and the Southern U.S.,and exposure to good people in both places, with radical & radically different political perspectives.
- A television documentary about Saddam Hussein’s tragic and violent childhood. Where is the invisible line balancing personal responsibility with the effects of circumstance in a person’s life?
- A shop in Northern California selling yoga supplies, alternative magazines about peace and justice, & organic hemp clothing – with a poster on the wall of George Bush’s face aggressively defaced… taking joy in hostility and divisiveness. What does it mean to hate someone for hating?
Public figures become icons of ideologies, loved by some and loathed by others. Their names and faces become synonyms for entire systems of beliefs and values. Traveling around the United States, and certainly throughout the world, it is amazing to see how differently the same leaders are regarded. Shown in one community, certain of these portraits will elicit glowing admiration and others will elicit hatred and disgust. Meanwhile, in a different community, those very same portraits could evoke the opposite responses.
Each of these leaders was born as a blank slate. As children, their expressions range from joy to confusion, from sadness to wonder. Through a combination of innate qualities, personal choices, and circumstances beyond their control, they have become their present-day selves. These portraits present an opportunity to see the subjects as people again, and to reconsider them as complex individuals with an array of complex influences and motivations.
Technical Note: These paintings are all based on actual childhood photographs of the subjects. The images used as sources were found in books, on the internet, and in magazine articles. Finding childhood photographs from which to work has been a challenging part of this project. I welcome suggestions and sources of images for future portraits.
Please contact me directly for information on purchasing or exhibiting these works.