The Wife of Mr. Fix-it
14″ x 11″ x 3″. Copyright 2009 by Lynn Bridge
In looking back over my posts from last fall (2009), I was surprised to see that I had written nothing about one of my personal favorite mosaics I have made. This mosaic made of hardware from the garage, sprinkled with other odds-and-ends, is a portrait of my friend, Robin. Believe it or not, I was actually studying a snapshot of Robin as I was making this picture!
Her husband now has a second career of maintaining our 1926-era church building, which is a full-time job. (We all need extra maintenance when we get old and creaky.) Danny’s birthday was coming up and I, gazing around the spartan walls of his office, decided to make him a picture of his wife for his birthday present. You have family pictures on the walls of your work space, right? Are your pictures made of cement and hardware, too?
What are you looking for in a portrait, either one you make yourself, or one you commission an artist to make for you? Do you look for a good physical likeness? Do you hope that the artist captures the personality of the subject? In this portrait, I was hoping to capture basic physical features, such as face shape and the line of the hair. I had some small hope of portraying a bit of Robin’s personality by the tilt of her head. But, mostly, by using the materials of his everyday work life, I was capturing the personality of the portrait’s new owner.
There is some precedence for this in art history. Back in the day when European art patrons regularly commissioned paintings for their homes, churches, and public buildings, it was expected that the artist would imbue the art with a feel for the patron’s wealth, prestige, power, or piety. Even if the subject were historical, Biblical, or mythological, the artist would paint a portrait of his patron into the crowd scene. This preserved the fame of the patron for all to see.
By Renaissance art standards, my portrait is nothing less than grotesque and unrecognizable. Our age is more forgiving about what is expected of art, so I can hope that humor and personal meaning is quite enough.