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Self Portrait as Starving Artist – 1998

This self portrait was painted during a very poor time when I did not have a job and was extremely short on cash. I was hungry! I thought life had dealt me a bad hand and made me an artist. I felt sorry for myself so I painted this satirical picture of a gaunt nude artist holding his paintbrush with one hand and asking for a handout with the other. The head is wrapped in bandages probably from some self-induced lobotomy or other type of injury.

When I started this piece, I used carefully controlled brushstrokes, working and overworking the body and limbs, but near the end, the head gave me trouble. After a few hours, I became more and more frustrated! I angrily painted with a wild technique using thick paint and crazy swift motions, It worked! I felt as if I succeeded in depicting “craziness” as well as the “starving artist” aspect. It was sort of a breakthrough for me, being able to work fast and loose, yet still delineate the subject.

My friend, Paul Benton, wrote a poem for this painting:

Self-Portrait As A Starving Artist for Jeff Weispfenning
There are the dark walls the scars
and adjustments and where
the night lingers
around the edges
our eyes trail off in search
of rumor and myth all
those secrets we wish were
opened wide
give them to us or we
take them here and now
beneath the world's
weight this room
that leans into
itself nothing to
eat a growl comes from
the pit sound from void
from space between
two possibilities
looking into that space
mutation is the belief
the road-side attraction
laughs from its mouth of
brittle teeth here it
is on this stage
midnight cigarette
smoke all hope
abandoned to illusion
smudged onto flat white
step up enjoy this
crazy this mad out
it comes an awful sight
to behold

Paul Benton
  • Dimensions
    31" x 54"
  • Style
    oil on canvas

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