How my portrait of Alberto Giacometti became the thread connecting this gay, vegan French-Canadian artist to a gun-collecting American conservative.
A year ago, I went to see the Alberto Giacometti exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum in Quebec City.
It had put me in the state that great art puts you in: electrified, hypnotized, overwhelmed, turned on, all at the same time. I fell in love with Diego and Annette, Alberto’s brother and wife who posed as models for him on so many occasions throughout his life.
There was so much reality condensed in Diego’s droopy eyelids, so much dignity in Annette’s high forehead. It was ordinary life transfigured on the pharaonic level. I’ve been squinting my eyes ever since when watching passersby, looking at the elongated and fuzzy silhouettes created by my eyelashes as if they were walking Giacometti sculptures.
I realized also that the impasto of my paintings was not just a technical means. As I was watching a video of Giacometti working and punching clay in and out of a face with his thumbs, it struck me as a revelation: texture is the exact topography of desire, its unique imprint, texture “is” desire.
I tried to instill some of these sensations into my portrait of Giacometti. His gaze seems to be drifting away, carried by a relentless will to seize reality at its core through vision. The muted colors speak of the inherent humility of such a life-long undertaking. And the swirling movement of the dripping accounts for the wilderness Giacometti so masterfully unearthed inside the ordinary.
A few weeks ago, I sold my portrait of Giacometti to Chris, an avid collector from Atlanta.
Chris was so eager to know more about me that he took a flight from Atlanta just to come spend a day with me in Montreal. We chatted, we looked at a few of the hundreds of earlier paintings stacked in my basement, we went out to eat bagels and walk along the river. It’s great how art can build bridges between people who otherwise wouldn’t get to know each other.
Chris is religious, owns guns and voted for Trump. I’m a gay, vegan French-Canadian that paints his toenails sometimes — that’s not true, I do it all the time! But these differences didn’t seem to matter. Despite the cultural shock, there was an artistic communion.
Art shattered the obstacles. Chris even told me he had sold a collector gun to buy my Giacometti portrait! How more eloquent can it be? So many slogans popped in my head when he told me this. “Make art, not war” “Pacifying America, one Painting at the Time”. I was just so thrilled of being an antidote.
What a wonderful price to pay for a painting!
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