Sometimes a painting can mean so much it's hard to know where to start, how to explain it. And maybe that's the point. How much do I need to paint if words do the trick? On the other hand, the words afterward can make sense of the process I've just been through. And this was a long process!
This one took months, not just weeks. And I had to stop and start, more than once. The portrait is taken from an old family photo on my father's side. The young man in uniform, standing in the middle, is my grandfather, or Opa, as I know him. The photo is from somewhere between 1915 and 1920. Opa is still a very young man, single, childless and in the Austrian army. I recognize his youngest sister, because I met her many years ago when she was already in her 70s. The rest of the family, including my Opa, I never met. Though others of his family saw what was coming in the mid-30s and left Austria, Opa realized too late and died in the Holocaust.
Family history is a theme that comes back to me again and again. But this is only the second time I've addressed any of it in painting. I think this is so because the story is so visceral, and the painting process is very confrontational and immediate. It's one thing to have these things in the back of my mind. Quite another to face it head on.
So even now, I want to say very little. This painting is not an attempt to make sense of any of this history. I've long since stopped trying to do that. I want this painting instead to stand as homage to family gone before, those who survived and those who didn't. Without any of them I would not be who I am. They live with me and inside me. Their fragments are sparks. They form me. Even though we have never met, Opa has met me time and time again. In some very profound ways he lights the way. And my canvas is changed, the one I paint on, the one I walk on, the one I live on....