This summer you may remember that I took part in a fundraising art show in collaboration with Quiznos, for San Diego Comic Con.
They came to me with a theme of Superheros, gave me a Quiznos wrapper mounted on a board, and gave me a deadline. The theme made me think of the usual superheros I grew up with; Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Greatest American Hero, Powdered Toast Man, etc. As tempting as it was to bring one of these characters back from the grave, it just didn’t feel right to use the creative mojo from someone else’s creation.
I let the project sit on the back burners of my mind for about a month, until I the day realized the deadline was only a week away. Motivated by the lack of time, I turned to my most current obsession of the moment, family photographs. My mother is an avid, experienced genealogist, and had sent me some burned DVDs of family photos from both my mother’s and father’s sides. I have several of these photos printed out on my inspiration board, mostly as a cheerleading squad of old, dead people whom I’ve never met. They still cheer me on with their vaguely familiar facial features, their lives lived in a manner that is completely unknown and mysterious to me, and the eery feeling that the evolution of our family bloodline from hundreds of years of struggle and emotional sleepwalking, has all come to a breaking point with me, sitting here with my modern technology, an unexplainable connection to past, and an unnerving empathy of the world around me.
Out of all of this, one photo stood out. An older lady, solid and unfazed by being infront of a camera, stood awkwardly unapologetic with two little girls (one of whom would become my mother). Mabel was her name and she was born in 1881, grew up in Kansas on a farm, had 8 children (one of whom would become my grandfather), and moved to California during the depression when her sons came here for work. My mother remembers her vaguely as being old and frail, and she died a few years after this photo was taken.
The only thing she was missing was a super hero cape and mask. In just a few days I had finished the painting, added a polyurethane sealant on top, and shipped it to the gallery curator, to be seen on the fundraiser night.
The Quiznos Qanvas Fundraiser was a success, and raised over $10,000 for local artists and non-profits. Mabel now lives with someone else in San Diego, but I hear she is doing well, and has a very comfortable spot on the wall.