Portrait of Leslie M.

“Tikkum Olam (Portrait of Leslie Morgenthal)”, oil on birchwood veneer board, 12″ x 16, April, 20011.

Last summer I kept spying this woman at the farmer’s market–there was something about her energy, her purposefullness…..Even while she was paying for food her eyes vibrated and ….well…..there was just something.  I knew I wanted to paint her.  She graciously agreed and our schedules finally aligned.  As I learned about her and all the ways she uses her life to fix this beautiful– but terribly broken– world, I knew what it was about her energy that I’d been so attracted to painting.  While she’s modeling she’s watching documentaries, and her hands and eyes constantly feel ready to get moving, ready to DO something about these problems.  Before she gets to me she’s making pottery and afterwards she’s gardening.  While she’s modeling she makes calls to work out meetings about the bio-mass plant and some fund raisers for organizations.   She organizes our local art cinema. Frankly, I lost track of all her work.  These hands sit in a meditative posture, but not passively—these hands do a lot.  This woman does a lot.  It was my privilege to paint her and to get to know her.

I’m always talking about the uncertainty principle (We are changed by seeing and by being seen) and how it seems so obvious and deeply relevant in the experience of painting.   Having someone watch me paint changes my painting, my looking intently at them affects their own vision of themselves, and in the end we have some kind of portrait of us both and the time we spent together.

I’d have liked more time to “finish” this portrait,,,fine tune things—-artists always want more time.  But you can’t ask your model to sit forever. As it was, I had stolen I don’t know how many mornings. It was hard to call this one done…but done it is, and it lives, which is the one and only requirement of any artwork.

Leslie sitting in my studio, April 29, 2001.

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viola moriarty

(American, b. 1958)
Modern Expressionist Painter
2012-13 Recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

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