My brother-in-law, Steve, recently purchased a spacious 6-bedroom family compound near the beaches on Long Island and wanted a painting over the fireplace to visually anchor the airy, vaulted two-story livingroom. Attracted to my “Hidden Worlds” series, he commissioned me to fill that space with a 6- by 4-foot work in that style.
Painting in this style reflects the reality for me and Steve that there’s always something hidden or deeper in what we see than first appearances. A hidden world painting should invite further inspection, create a desire to look closer, to see something mysterious beneath the surface.
The hidden world I chose to convert into an equivalent of a modern-day family portrait was Manhattan’s frolicking Madison Square Park, central to the apartments of his children and grandchildren. They often romped in the park and it quickly became their playground in the city.
As a starting point, I laid down an abstract impression of the park during late spring and early summer, when the riotous flowers bloomed and when people flocked to the greenery to celebrate the seasons. Also imbedded, in red, in the center of the painting is an outline of Manhattan.
However, this first impression was insufficient. Though the park offered up its own personality, where were the family references? How could I begin to personalize the painting? Systematically, I added individual names and symbols to painting, then scraped away some, added several, hid others and revealed still more. I continued this process until a grid of telltale colors, patterns and names emerged.
Above is the sequence of a few of the steps taken to fully exploit the motivations for the painting and to satisfy Steve’s desire to have a large painting that could be a focal point for the grand expanse of his livingroom.