Reinventing the Silhouette Portrait
Where does any good idea start? For me it was in 1993. Back then I was obsessed with all the trashy daytime talk shows on network television. Less for the antics of the ridiculous guests but more for the written captions, technically known as a "chyrons," that appeared under the guest's image.
"America's Most Wanted-Will", Gouache, pencil on paper, 1993
I chose silhouettes as the best method to quickly capture the TV subject's likeness. To modernize the traditional black silhouette, I painted my subjects loosely and in bold colors. I then added my own version of a "chyron" like caption, making my brand of silhouettes portraits vibrant and fresh.
"America's Most Wanted", Installation view, Oberlin College, Ohio, 1993
Soon I began exhibiting my silhouette and text portraits in galleries but it wasn't until a car crash that my portraits really took off. The driver who caused the accident was insured by Progressive Auto insurance. Not my agency but I was so impressed with their service that my wife, Anna, suggested writing a letter to the president and CEO of Progressive, Peter Lewis.
Progressive Auto Insurance Annual Report, 1994
In response to my letter, Mr. Lewis personally phoned me. He purchased several works for his corporate art collection and commissioned over fifty new portraits for his company's annual report which won many awards. This was the beginning of my silhouette and text portraits becoming mainstream.
Handicap Bathroom, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1997
In the mid-nineties I was awarded a residency at the prestigious John Michael Kohler Arts & Industry program in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. While there I was commissioned to design and make a bathroom for the Kohler Arts Center. A fellow artist in the program suggested I send my images to Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barney's New York because I was told that, “He has a great sense of humor and would totally get your work".
"Patch Work", Installation View, Barney's New York, Chelsea location, 1998
Simon did indeed like my work and asked me to create an installation of portraits in the Barney's Madison Ave store windows. This caused a minor uproar with the conservative uptown clientele. Barney’s brass told me to take down certain portraits but Simon kept telling me to put them back up. The controversy however was a good thing and I would go on to do the windows for the original Chelsea location and later to brand Barney's CO-OP stores’ fitting rooms nationwide with my work.
"Gentleman Please!", Marquetry, Barney's New York, Chicago, 2010
"We are Woman," Acrylic on Canvas, Barney's New York, Chicago, 2010
"Betsy Ross", Custom Carpet, Barney's New York, Philadelphia, PA, 2008
In 2000 through Simon, I was introduced to the potter, designer, and author, Jonathan Adler. Simon suggested I take commissions to make personalized portraits of people, their pets and their families. I immediately started selling my custom commissioned portrait service in his stores nationwide and I continue to do so to this very day in addition to this website.
Portrait Installation view, Jonathan Adler, Soho Store, NYC, 2005
My work has been placed on products, book jackets, electronic applications, promotions and featured in newspapers, magazines, television and online. I’m most proud of my collaboration with O.R.E., an all woman run company in California. Together we produced a line of bath and pet accessories that were sold in all the major retail stores in America.
Live portrait event for AOL/Patch, Chicago, 2010
If you would like a personal experience with me, I can be hired for portrait events from private parties to promotional and corporate events. Contact me to find out how I can immortalize your friends, family, pets and guests!
Amalgamated Inc. Commission for Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada, 2018 (photo taken in artists studio)