**click artwork to enlarge**
(collage and oil painting on cardboard, 12X16, 2009)
"Portrait of the Silent Era movie star Viola Dana"
One night I was looking at some photos of silent movie stars and I came upon a photo of a young woman whose gaze I found quite mesmerizing. I slowly examined her features. She was hardly beautiful. Her nose too big, her lips too small (by modern full-lips-are-sexy standards), and yet I found her so beautiful that I couldn't stop staring into her eyes. I've heard her name before - Viola Dana. I knew nothing of her life.
After a bit of research I found out that her husband died of pneumonia and the next man she found love with (an aviator) died in a plane crush right in front of her eyes. This information made me understand why I was so drawn to her photo. On some intuitive subconscious level I felt that there was something that connected us. It's the 'pain of knowing' that a person usually acquires after going through a tragedy. It's a feeling that many people secretly carry with them. It's almost invisible to the rest of the world, but the ones who are familiar with it can identify it in others.
I knew right away that I wanted to paint Ms. Dana's portrait. I did. It was very easy. I knew her stare all too well, since I've seen it so many times in my own mirror.
"If you have it [love], you don't need to have anything else, and if you don't have it, it doesn't matter much what else you have."
"I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself."