Artist Statement

Domestic Picasso

When I read Picasso’s own words about his work, they either read like bad poetry or they state the obvious. Let the work speak and if it doesn’t, no amount of explaining by the artist is going to enliven it.

Art critics are performers of another kind. Often the things they see, the energy they feel, the connections they make enhance the viewer’s appreciation. But critics are writers not painters. Painters should paint.

So what would the critics say about this project. I imagine something like this:

“The artist has given us a delicately balanced dichotomy, a dialectic, a push that pulls. He’s in a love-hate relationship with a father figure he is powerless to destroy and he acts out his frustration in this petulant display of mockery and attention-seeking.”

“The painter has appropriated the voice of the feminist artist attacking a symbol of patriarchy—the misogynist bastion of twentieth-century art. By this appropriation he has undermined the power and legitimacy of the feminist project.”

“By attacking a giant in the pantheon of art greats, the painter exposes a feeble attempt at self-aggrandizement. This puny dabbler ought to be sentenced to a life of house painting, an occupation more in keeping with his talents.”

“When you think of Picasso’s incredible output, it is remarkably that he still had dinner on the table every night. No matter how late he worked in the studio, he was up bright and early to get the kids off to school. And he kept the house spotless: you could have eaten off the floor, though he would have insisted you sit at the table. Picasso was a real man.”

On the most obvious level, “Domestic Picasso” is a joke. But like all jokes there is an element of truth in it. So what is that truth? Picasso did none of the things I have portrayed him doing. All these meaningless chores are performed by less important human beings in order to provide creature comfort for the more deserving. Historically women have been the care takers. Picasso, as a genius and a commercially successful one at that, was waited on hand and foot. You might say, so what, he really was deserving, look at what we might have lost if he’d done the laundry. And that is true. So why does the idea resonate so strongly for me? This is where autobiography enters and I confess that, unlike Picasso, I have done all these chores. But, once begun, the idea took on a life of its own. If I was going to do portraits of Picasso in his various styles, I had to study those styles. The other side of the joke has been the way it pushed me into the serious study of the work of the master.

I start where I began: Picasso is a genius.