Saturday, February 14, 2009

Portrait Painting of John Henderson

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I signed my portrait of John Henderson today. I wrote about starting this portrait earlier on this blog and wanted to share with you something of my subject.

Via Don Elliott at the Franklin Barry Gallery, art collectors John and Sara Campbell sent me two small photos they took of their friend “Big John” Henderson during events at the Highland Golf and Country Club in Indianapolis. John C. wrote me this in early February:

John Henderson (or "Big John") as everyone calls him, has worked 13 years as the dining room manager at the club. He is one of our most beloved employees. He is from St. Louis and has one sister, Darlene. He has gone back to St. Louis and his sister is caring for him. He probably has only a few days left. The cancer hit him very quickly. He worked right up until before Christmas. He is about 6'4, maybe 220-30lbs. A very big, strong man. Big hands, yet long fingers with a sort of delicacy; long, muscular arms.

He worked out a lot, kept a Bible in his podium and regularly attended Church. While he was wild one in his youth, he settled down, found Jesus and was very happy with that. He never had a cross word about anyone and always looked for the best in people. He worked constantly. Had two other jobs a few years back, but cut back to just the club and one other later. Children loved him. He was always taking care of them, getting them ice cream and sodas. He loved being around them, probably because he didn't have any.

There was always a big closed mouth smile on his face. His voice was deep and so was his love of people. WE were his family. We went to see him last Monday in St. Louis. He'd lost about 30 lbs was curled up in bed and only came around slightly for a few minutes. It was a very hard visit for us.

Just to give you an idea how much he was thought of: even though he has insurance, several of the members got together and in a week and a half, raised over $60,000 to make sure he had the best of care. He always wore a black vest, black bow tie and short sleeve white shirt (even in winter). We are renaming the dining room in his honor and they wanted a portrait of him to hang in there so he'd always be with us.”

“Big John” Henderson died on Tuesday morning, February 10, 2009. He was 52 years old.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Santa Croce Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

There are becoming too many moments now in which I desperately wished to have a good camera with me. Tonight was splendid and I lost a magnificent opportunity to create better images. The moon was full over Basilica di Santa Croce here in Florence, Italy.

Even though I had a bike basket full of groceries for the next week, I think I spent twenty minutes either just standing alone in the piazza looking up or taking shots such as this one. I was surprised that at 9 p.m. Piazza Santa Croce was empty, save for a few American tourists and the waiting taxi drivers nearby. But then, it was dinner hour(s) in Italia.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Italian Politics Florence

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Saturday night I went to two art exhibits and then a couple of my friends and I met up with others in Piazza della Repubblica here in Florence, Italy. We were on our way to a concert featuring Il Genio (“The Genius”) at the Flog Auditorium.

However, we discovered another of Florence’s manifestazione under way. This one had fire and smoke and police in a line of defense. Naturally, I ran towards the action, even though I truly hate my now very unreliable (increasingly failing focus and light metering) digital camera, but it was all I had.

My Italian friends were vague about the reasons for this public demonstration. One shrugged this off as just another Communist demonstration, while another said that the Fascist party was protesting a new Muslim church appearing in Florence.

The van you see here had a loud speaker on it and a man with a megaphone was airing the protest. I was too caught up in the visuals to hear the speech. After he was done, the excitement dropped dramatically as the van drove off and the entire parade just dissolved. The row of polizia was totally unnecessary. But who knows if their presence actually prevented anything. Most people just want the opportunity to be heard.

Afterwards, my friends and I took two cars up to the Flog. Il Genio was fun, however, their engineer should have done a better job. The lead singer’s voice is so soft that it is easily lost in a live setting. I wanted to see this band after hearing some of their CD. The music reminded me of 1960s Paris and also the movie “Funny Face” in which Audrey Hepburn does a funky dance in a Parisian bar while wearing form-fitting black and white. Classically cool.

My friends and I agreed that the lead singer has a beautiful mixture of sensuality and innocence and a face that joins Italy and Japan. She is lovely to watch. The other singer has a very sexy deep voice and he compliments her well.