We love to look at the face of someone we love. Even if we don’t really know this person. Maybe even more so, because then we search all aspects of their physical appearance until we’ve made up the character traits to go with it. The face is the face of our fantasy.
Take Mick Jagger. A lot of people love Mick Jagger while they don’t know him and he doesn’t know them even less. A step beyond just looking at a picture of his face it to also paint it, and make his face yours in that way. By recreating the face is yours. Mick is now your friend.
Mick Jagger hangs behind the window of a house on the Haarlemmermeerstraat where the inhabitant must live without daylight because all the windows are covered with paintings. Kanye West is held by his source of inspiration: real living Kanye. While Mick is painted by an anonymous painter, price unknown; Kanye is painted by Elizabeth Peyton, whose paintings start at 25.000 $.
Elizabeth Peyton paints portraits of famous people as well as her friends, making them an imaginary group of friends. They are smoking, lounging, looking melancholically in the distance, giving the impression of recovering from last nights’ concert in some ridiculously expensive hotel. With their clumsily painted skinny bodies, androgynous faces and unnaturally red little lips they seem distant relatives of each other. It is very clear Elizabeth Peyton loves them. Her fan art made her into a famous person herself, and she is now actually friends with famous people. For example with Marc Jacobs, who instead of photo’s of his famous friends, has paintings of them by Elizabeth Peyton in his house.
So you see: it pays to translate your adoration into art. Who knows what will come from it. Art is creation. Art makes reality.
But now that she’s famous Elizabeth Peyton also paints portraits of famous people that are deceased, and whose friendship she’ll never be able to win: Shakespeare, Byron, Frida Kahlo. It’s as if she likes to have a group of friends that consists for a large part of one-way relationships. Wherein love is not obstructed by clumsy interactions, boring stories and last-minute cancellations.
The conclusion of an experiment with ice-cold water was that looking at a picture of someone we love makes us more able to deal with pain. Research with CAT scans shows that our brain lights up with a content glow when we talk about ourselves. Painting someone we love from a distance is like combining the two: while we look very intensely at the other we say something about ourselves.
The picture of Kanye West I borrowed from Artruby