Where The Heart IS
By Robert Beck
If you are going to acquire art, it should be something that puts your head in a place you want it to be. There isn’t just one image that will do that, but there are many, many that won’t. I did this painting for my friends, Richard and Barbara, and it needed to satisfy that requirement for all of us.
We discussed that and many other topics at their apartment on Riverside Drive. There is much to learn from the choices people make and the stories they tell. For me, it came down to their home, which has a wonderful sense of place. The books, the art, and the furniture bought during travels reflect their lives together. They have a lovely painting hanging in the den of both Richard and his brother as children. When there is foliage outside, the view is into Riverside Park, and across the river when there is not. It feels like a great place to live.
That part of the UWS figures in Richard’s story. When he came to New York as a young man, he found a place to live near Riverside Drive. When he told his father, he was surprised to learn that the older man once had an apartment on the same block. Now Richard is near that place again. All by chance. I love the serendipity of it. So does he.
Home isn’t one thing. Not only do we move from one to the next throughout our life, but our concept of it is recast as different issues come to matter to us. I wasn’t painting what their apartment looks like but what it means.
I take things as they unfold. The Universe has its plans, and what takes place while I’m working often becomes part of my subject. That’s where an artist finds a sense of moment, and I paint from life in anticipation that the stars will align and give me something special. I began the image thinking I would depict Richard and Barbara in the two chairs at the window, but while he sat in “his” place, she sat on the couch to read. The informality made sense, and a better narrative.
We talked almost the entire time. Richard was thrilled to see the painting emerge from nothing. It was difficult and very satisfying for me. Difficult because depicting an interior and exterior environment in one image can be tough (if there is a formula for that, I don’t know it), and satisfying because the stars did align, and I got the painting I wanted. So did they.
To contact Robert Beck or see more of his work, visit robertbeck.net
To read all of our Weekend Columns click here.