I can't say with certainty why I was drawn to this pic it's just one of those gut feelings. It's a photo of Taiwanese rapper Nick The Real. I just kept thinking about it. Obviously there's that amazing composition. The black and the white. But there's more than that.
"Nick" 20 x 20 oil and cold wax on wood (© Jenny Berry artist)
I think it has something to do with that vulnerability that we all feel we have to cover up with that hardness on the surface or life kicks our ass. Nowhere do you see that more than with men in rap and hip hop culture.
BUT THEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY AND YOU CAN SEE THE VULNERABILITY, THE HINT OF THE CORONA VIRUS MASK HOPING TO PROTECT HIM FROM THE DISEASE THAT'S BEEN PLAGUING HIS COUNTRY. AND NOW IT'S INFILTRATING OURS - SPREADING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. EVERYONE IS WORRIED ABOUT IT. WE'RE ALL VULNERABLE BUT WE TRY TO STAY TOUGH ON THE OUTSIDE. MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAY.
I saw someone wearing a mask in the supermarket the other day and everyone was looking, wondering if they should be too. Some people I know have the masks at home but won't wear them out yet. And here Nick's wearing this mask in black trying to make it cool - which somehow he manages to do. This shot just resonated with me on so many levels. It seemed so of our times right now.
He's boarding an airplane here too so the fluorescent lighting is cooling his skin tones and that added a challenge to the color palette. That also attracted me to the photo. I just kept thinking about it for months as other projects came and went and finally one day I just pulled it out and painted it in two quick sittings. The second one I worked mostly with the background texture and his jacket and how it gets lost in the seat behind him.
This is one of the first times I worked with cold wax and I fell in love with the medium. I've hardly put it down since this painting was completed. I now work with it much more directly and in a much higher percentage right into faces than I did here. It's awkward and it makes it very difficult to get too fussy and I like that about working with wax.
Nick was very generous and wrote me a short note saying he loved the final portrait. That made my day. It means a lot to me when subjects like my interpretation of them.
The original painting won first place in a group show competition I entered. I was so happy that it sold before the show even opened.
[Artist Kim Anderson (above left - I'm on the right) judged the show with sculptor Ryan Buyssens at Art Center Sarasota]