Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Of Miles and Penn

Miles x Twelve

This Series of paintings beginning with “The Rose Miles” and ended with a mini-series; “Lament”, could very well be sub-titled “The Birth and Death of Miles”.  It began or was born when I went into a record shop looking to see what was being released one week in 1986. At that time albums were recorded on vinyl and displayed like works of art. Record shops were mini-galleries that I went into often just to look at covers. On that certain day I found myself walking directly into what was a portrait of Miles Davis by the emanate fashion and portrait photographer Irving Penn. 
I was shocked, amazed and thrilled by it’s starkness and directness. This incredible black and white image with no text, lettering or logo was mesmerizing. A single face filling the entire 12” by 12” span of surface was both dynamic and bold.  Without question I knew this packaging contained a great collection of music. The album was named “Tutu” for the Arch Bishop and it was in many ways Miles’ greatest feat. It is certainly as taken from within his canon among any top three list of his very best. You can choose any other personal two. “Tutu” will be there among them completing the three.

Mixed Medium Miles

I began to use this master work (Tutu) music and photography as inspiration for many of my own works to come. I started with a mono-chrome piece in what was essentially and simply rose colored. It is to date the only painting I have completed in a single day. I was starting with perfection (the Penn photo) in which everything was already there, the color and scale were my only variations. I have used my take on the Penn portrait in mixed-medium, computer graphics, animations and other paintings. Warhol had his Marilyns, Johns his flags, Rothenberg her horses. I had Miles.
There was a point in time where I felt I needed to move on to other subjects and other sources of inspiration. Picasso had painted many works featuring the character “Harlequin” during his “Rose” period. He was beginning to experiment with what would evolve into cubism and he needed to move on from the circus performers that had been so vital and healing for him. He painted an unusual work showing harlequin on his death bed watched over by family members or perhaps angels. The work was titled “The Death of Harlequin”. The last painting in my series of six black and whites titled lament loosely based on the portrait of Miles but not exactly Miles ends with a sort of death mask.


A few years ago I was exhibiting “The Rose Miles” along with a number of other works out doors. I was taking part in “The Henry Street Heritage Festival” in Roanoke Va. There were many exhibitors and vendors lining Henry Street that day; other painters, sculptors, craftsman, book sellers all showing and selling their wares. At one point a strong gust of wind began to blow. The potential for complete chaos was certainly possible. Among the multitude of objects that could have been blown from their places only my portrait of Miles was blow to the ground. It landed smack hard on the pavement with the back facing up. I walked over and picked it up hoping it hadn’t been ruined; it had not, but it was strange and even a little embarrassing. I could only question why.

The Rose Miles

This occurrence was odd and the date was September 28, 1991. Listening to the car radio on the drive home I heard; sadly, that Miles Davis had died. I don’t know but perhaps even within the same hour or even the moment of his passing my tribute had landed face down on the pavement.

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