Family Portrait: 1963

Family Portrait 1963 Date: 2001, 72 x 96 x 48 in., Mixed media Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Lorine and David H. Gibson, and Sonny Burt and Bob Butler

This piece has been on view at the Dallas Museum of Art for some time and I have visited it quiet often.  I keep expecting to show up and finding it gone…….back into storage.   Just like in my last blog where I posted a video that Texas A&M’s J. Wayne Stark Galleries produced about my piece “Walking Man,” most artwork in museums collections are stored away until they are displayed.

This piece was so important in so many ways to me as an artist.  Most obvious is that it is a piece about my family. The piece offers up a little slice of what the Delabano household was like in 1963. It was the year before my brother’s death.  I have always held the deepest respect for my parents. Despite knowing that my brother would soon pass away from the Cystic fibrosis that was taking it’s toll on his body, they carried on in a digified way,  We continued to do what we had done as a family for as long as I can remember.

imageIn this piece my brother is to my mother’s left.  It has three frames attached to a red board.  The body is broken up the three frames to represent his broken body.  In his hands he has a sketchbook and he is drawing a picture of J.F.K..  I photocopied an actual drawing my brother had done from a sketchbook.

Early photo of “Big Tex” at the State Fair of Texas.

I’m the little guy at my mother’s feet.  I am holding a piece of my original blanket, my “Friend” and holding a stance of “Big Tex”. Also represented in the piece, Cracker our dachshund.  My image and the image of Cracker came from a drawing of mine I did as a small boy.

My mother is the model this time around.  I often tell people that the Delabano’s had family paintings like a lot of families have family photographs.  My mother was the real rock during this time and after my brother’s death.

imageMy father is shown here with a cigarette in one hand and a brush in the other hand and is starting the under painting as he always did.  It is based on a early photo of him working in his studio.


The piece has been installed in the “Creative Connections” gallery at the DMA and they have used it extensively in talking about families in the arts.  On the DMA’s blog: “DMA CANVAS” they used it to blog about objects that artist use and in particular the “Chair” my mother is seated in.  They compare it to the “Chair” my father used in his “Portrait of Papa,” which is also in the DMA’s collection.    It’s a wonderful read… is that link.  DMA CANVAS

This piece was a watershed piece for me and am so thankful to Eleanor Harvey, the DMA’s curator of American art at the time, who sheparded the piece into the collection.  The three couples who bought the piece for the collection were all wonderful early supporters of mine.  Unfortunately, Sonny Burt, Bob Butler, Lorene Gibson and Nancy Hanley are no longer with us.

So I imagine that soon the piece will go back into storage and it won’t see the light of day until another museum ask to borrow it or until it goes back on display.  Until it does however, I so enjoy going by and paying my respects to my father.

5 thoughts on “Family Portrait: 1963

  1. Wow. That is incredible Martin and I’m so glad you shared the history for those of us who did not know. Love your piece of art! I hope it can be shared with many more!!!

    Brad Ellis


  2. Thanks for sharing your process and inspiration for this piece, Martin. I have enjoyed visiting it at the DMA this year. I lost a brother too. It is a hard thing to experience, no matter what one’s age is, or the circumstances. I did a tribute painting to my brother, a couple of years after he died. It helped me to process so many emotions. Aren’t we fortunate, to have access to this way of knowing. Keep up the blog posts. I look forward to reading more.


  3. Martin- I was watching channel 5 news and they did a piece on a Dr. Bob who did a lot of work with CF patients in the 60’s. It moved me to do a search of Taylor. I remember the day my mom told me that Taylor had passed. I was the same age as Taylor and that experience is still fairly clear in my mind. Kids are fairly resilient and I don’t remember going through a grieving process. I do remember my mom telling me and Steve that after a few days had passed you asked your mom and dad if it would be ok if you could have Taylor’s collection of Beatles cards. I think they came in packages of gum or candy. I still think of that and it brings a smile to my face. Like I said, kids are fairly resilient.
    Having lost my sister, I can identify with your comments. I try to remember the good times and not dwell on the morning I got that call from my dad. I’m not sure if the grieving process is ever really over, it just gets easier.
    On a lighter note, I still proudly hang the picture of me on my rocking horse that your dad painted when I was about 2 years old. It was included in an exhibition in Fort Worth in 1957.


    1. Hello David, My newest piece, “My dear brother Taylor……that was so long ago” is about that fateful day. Sat down with my Mom to finally talk about it after all these years. Thank you for the memories.


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