Saturday, February 02, 2008

Immigrant Portraits

I have been painting Latino immigrants for a few months now. Sometimes they bring each other, or I hire them from the neighborhood. They pick their clothes and the pose. I pay them by the hour. At the end of the day I take a photograph print it, sign it, and give it to them. They sign a release and take a copy home. Once they leave, I might finish the background, but I don't tend to work on their image much more. Each painting takes 1-2 sittings, and a total of 5-10 hrs.

I do it in part because they are underrepresented in formal portraiture. I have always done portraits of people of color in oil. But until I saw the portraits of African Americans that Beverly McIver was showing at a show in Sacramento, I did not understand what exactly was it that I was looking for. I wanted to give the sitters exactly the same choices someone with more means might have had had they commissioned a portrait from me, but I also wanted to have more emotional involvement in those portraits. I also wanted to give them the experience of sitting for a portrait in which they would not be treated as the exotic other.

This oil is the latest of seven I have completed so far, measuring 24 x 36". The 12 x 16" charcoal drawing was done as part of a figure drawing session, and not as a study for the painting.

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