so many paintings, so little time


In Uncategorized on April 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Some people think a painting career is a Greek tragedy. The central character is Oedipus. In order to get ahead, father-killing is required.

I am the repainter. Does that mean I must be a serial father killer? Do I need to knock off all my Old Master Dads? Did I became the repainter to fulfill some gruesome destiny?

Milton Aptekar, 1915-2010

I loved my Dad, who died at 94 last August. Recently, I made a portrait of him for my show at James Graham & Sons. He was a loving husband and father, full of appetite, a much adored music teacher, a talented trumpeter. Early on, my Dad and Gene Fenby, his partner in the Fenby-Carr Quintet (“The Singing Schoolteachers”), decided not to go out to Hollywood to try to make it big. They chose instead to continue teaching  in Detroit, while moonlighting with the band. When I got my first NEA grant, I called him, trembling, to ask what he thought of my quitting the locksmith business to become a full-time artist. I  thought he’d be angry if I made such an “irresponsible” and risky choice.

Fenby Carr Quintet, "The Singing Schoolteachers"

I was in Paris painting, when I got him on the phone.

“Great,” he said. “Go for it!”

I didn’t kill my Dad by going to New York. His orchestra prospered in Detroit, became well-known local entertainers for many years. My father enjoyed the family life he and my mother created, and fifty years worth of grateful high-school students with whom he shared his love of music. Greek tragedy? More like Ozzie and Harriet. Not to say that there was no drama–my father could be mighty judgmental, and I had to learn to live with it.

So with the subject of artists and fathers in mind, here is a short, idiosyncratic, personal selection of works by artist friends, me, and a few others. I’ll update periodically with your suggestions if you pass them along.

ROBIN TEWES, Father and Son, 2001, oil on birch, 20" x 20"

RON MUECK, Dead Dad, 1996-97, installation view, Brooklyn Museum

DAVID HUMPHREY, Dad, (text reads "I'm") 1987, oil on canvas, 70" x 80" (installation view)

PAULA REGO, The Family, 1988, acrylic on canvas-backed paper, 213 cm x 213 cm

KEN APTEKAR, Milt Ken Paris, 1987, oil on wood, 30" x 90" triptych

DENNIS KARDON, Roughhousing (with the Inner Child), 1997, oil on canvas, 45" x 54"

  1. Dads….can’t live without them.

    Thanks for the collection. As a father, I wonder what sort of paintings my kids would produce with me as a subject.

  2. Very heartwarming words and images. Family and destiny.

  3. I like your text as much as your sickly green face from eating too many pieces of Barton’s candy.

  4. Always thought a lot of your Dad ! Worked with him at Cooley H.S. 1958-70. I was Audio-Visual Stage Technician !

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