Artist, Alice Neel painted portraits of people, pets, strangers.
Portrait of feminist Kate Millet
Portrait of Alice Neel, painted by Phyllis Johnson
Many know me by this “famous” photo taken by this incredibly talented artist and friend. I thought I would give you a little history behind the photo. I tear pictures out of magazines of things I want ranging from good hair cuts to pyrex bowls. In the rag trade, we would refer to them as “tear” sheets and they would provide the inspiration for collections, perched precariously on what was called “mood” boards.
My tear sheet was an elegant lady, standing in a room, looking at easy in a long gown as if she were waiting to be picked up by some chap in a chariot. I immediately thought to myself, that is it, I need to have some sort of photo that captures the way I feel when I am at ease or at the easel. Did you know that the origin of the word is dutch from the 16th century “ezel” which translates to “ass” – in German, “donkey” which an easel is somewhat like a horse or donkey in it’s design providing support for the canvas.
Early that morning, I gathered my garments and hopped in my car for a road trip to my friend’s home and as soon as I arrived, we got down to business. She has arranged the set up according to my image and we had such fun. I did my best to keep the photographer entertained with silly quips as I imagined my children hollering at me, wanting to know what was for dinner or where was that pesky physics book? Somehow, falling into the role of an artist, quickly made me forget all about the demands of mother-hood and at ease with who I really was first (B.C)
I love my family, and I adore my children but when I am at the easel, I find myself intensely at ease. Mind you, it is work and is one part love and the other labor. My Father always told me to “do what you love and it will love you back.” I want to make a collection of images so that when I am old and gray and my fingers are curled from arthritis, my children will ask me, when, why and how did I look so at ease in the midst of motherhood which is what I say about my very own Mother.
Now, I am on a mission to paint my self-portrait. I feel at ease now to paint an intense portrait.
Inspired by Alice Neel and her vanguard ways. Any vanguards inspiring you lately?