I have often said that in the Delabano household, we had family paintings like a lot of people have family photographs around the house. My father the painter primarily painted paintings of our family, extended family, friends, as well as paintings of still-lifes and landscapes.
To the left here is a very early painting of me at the age of about 3. I am sucking my thumb and holding my blanket that I lovingly referred to as my “friend”. Before getting married, my mother gave me what was left of that blanket in a mason jar. I turned around and used that threadbare piece of cloth in my piece “Family Portrait:1963“.
Growing up in the Delabano household meant that during my father’s vacation time, if you were still at the breakfast table when dad got up, there was a good chance that you might become a model that day. That was an incentive to get up early, eat and get out the door as soon as possible so as to not be held captive, modeling hours at a time for dear ole dad.
In the past when my students have seen some of these painting they ask why I always look so mad. I hated being a model. I didn’t want to be standing still for hours at a time having to listen to my father constantly saying, “Be still and quit fidgeting”. I was so thankful for the invention of the “polaroid camera”. My father would snap a picture of my pose after he finally got tired of my being such a poor model.
In this painting of my brother Taylor and myself, I am staring directly at my father and my brother looks off into the distance and he seems to have a far away look in his eyes. You see this over and over in my father’s paintings of my brother. In my father’s interview with Miss Aunspaugh that I published recently, she describes that same look in a Renaissance painting of the Christ child as being the knowing look of his own fate. This painting was done the year before my brother’s passing way from Cystic Fibrosis. My father would have said that I was reading too much into the image, but I don’t think so. My father being the astute art historian he was, was very aware about this artful convention.
I always get asked about the Japanese kites my father used in his paintings. They came from Pier One when it a really cool place to shop back in the 60’s. The Japanese kites got a lot of use as props.
My father the painter and my father I called Dad
I know that these paintings were painted from a view-point of my father’s love for us, but later in life when I asked my father what he loved about painting, I was fully expecting him to say that he loved to paint paintings of his family. But instead he told me of his love for the act of painting. He went on to explain whether the artist was painting an abstract painting or a representational painting, it was just a structure that allowed you to push paint around in. In a sense we were used like props like the Japanese kites were. That was the painter in my father, but I know the dad part of my father was very proud of his family and he took great pride in painting and using us in his paintings.
Here I am staring again at my father. I felt a certain indignity in having to pose bare-chested. I remember being embarrassed when my friends came over and saw this one hanging on the wall. Oh the things we get embarrassed about in our youth. This painting still hangs in my mother’s home and now I see if as being this beautiful painting despite that unhappy young man who stands there all alone holding a bird’s nest of all things. I remember having a happy childhood but it wasn’t just the paintings of me looking so disdainfully, there is obviously some photographs that attest to my being a twerp as well.
Maybe my father got tired of my giving him the evil eye and decided to pose me where he didn’t have to see my sourpuss face. I’ve noticed that my father’s paintings done of me during high school pretty much all had me looking away from my him.
Here is another from later in high school after I started letting my “freak flag fly”. I love the serpentine locks flowing and the scruffy little mustache. Oh I so thought I knew everything back then…….the arrogance of youth. Never appreciated these paintings and all the other paintings that I spent countless hours posing for until much later in life.
In this day when you can instantly take a picture and post it to the world, I so am so grateful for the paintings my father painted and his insistence that I “be still and quit fidgeting”.
After I first posted this earlier today, my cousin Hope sent me the following message, “I remember having my portrait done by your dad. My brother did as well. I believe we were both told to quit fidgeting!”
You can find out more about my father, Barney Delabano and see more of his art work here.