Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Hanging in Geoffrey Farmer's studio is a painting of me when I was six-years-old.
The story of the painting goes like this: my father lent an artist friend some money, and the friend, realizing he could not repay my father before his "impending suicide," asked my father if he would like a painting instead, and my father said, "Okay, how about a portrait of my son?"
For the next six Tuesdays I met this short, sad and hairy man on the doorstep of my house at 3:30PM, then sat in the dining room bored while he painted me from the chest up. At the end of each session he covered the painting and took it with him.
A few weeks after his last visit my father received a call from the artist's landlord, who notified him that he could have the painting -- if he paid the artist's overdue rent.
The artist had a room in one of those decrepit big ass mansions on 15th, just east of Arbutus. I remember my sister and I sitting in the backseat as my father went into the house and, after what seemed like an eternity, emerged with the painting before him. The Mona Lisa could not have had a more ambiguous expression than the one my father gave that painting.
And then the reveal: my father slid behind the wheel and tilted the painting towards my mother. She gasped. I will never forget my father's finger as it tapped twice on my sweater. "I like the way he did the collar."
The story of how Geoffrey ended up with this painting is less clear, but he has had it for some time now and on Monday, while I was visiting his studio to see his model for his entry into the 2017 Venice Biennale, there it was -- to the left of the kitchen sink and above a cutting board.
"Why is it crooked?" I asked.
"Here, I'll fix it." Geoffrey tapped the bottom right side of the painting and it levelled off. "Better?"
The subject remained off-kilter. But other than that, it was.