As if this blog, I have done 4 of what I am calling “Homeric portraits”. My plan is to make 10-12. All gay men, Hispanic, and Black, from different times in my life.
I know the stories of these me (some of these stories I am a part of—I’ve lived through—some of them I survived through).
The portraits themselves seem to go quickly: they are pretty much three shades of orange with white and black. I have thoroughly researched Greek pottery and so have an abundance of symbology to choose from (satyrs for sex, winged-warriors for death, sirens for madness).
What I’m finding is the the most important element—to me—was what, when I conceived of the idea, the least important: that is the text that curves around the figures.
I am finding that I am jotting down something to write around the figure and then I discover that what I have written is too personal: I have written something that that person has done specifically to me; such personal accounts are not doing what I want for a Homeric portrait which is telling the tale of the person because I want these portraits to be about stories like the stories that are depicted on Greek urns and plates.
So I am finding myself waking up in the middle of the night and going to my phone (where I’ve typed out the intended text for each portrait I have planned) and rewriting, rewording, rephrasing what I had planned in order to be sure I am telling the story of the subject and not the feelings or experiences I had with them (though sometimes those feelings cannot be avoided).
The project is play. I feel playful doing them. They have a playful aspect because of the cartoonish look of the Greek images. But they are also cathartic for me personally. The portrait of Kent is of a friend who died of AIDS and harbored ill-feelings for us,his group of friends, for not getting sick too. The portrait of Tito is of someone who used to physically and mentally abuse me. These are not easy. After both portraits I had trouble sleeping.