Duncan, “Who are the people Chris painted?”
Roger, “First, Chris did not talk about this. He evaded the inquiry so anything said now is based upon a consensus of those who knew him and his art making ways plus some inferences made based upon his life experience.
My take? Chris met and worked as a young artist with Fellini in Rome. Fellini was a master of casting and it was his eye for face and character type plus his sense of narrative that had to have had an effect on Chris’s sensibilities.
Fellini cast Chris’s Italian American girlfriend, Susan Manca in two parts in his film Roma. In one her face completely fills the screen.
Chris made a portrait of Fellini which he traded to him in return for a VW bug that took him to England and Spain.
For the most part Chris worked from memory and imagination. Only rarely did he execute specific portraits. In addition to the one of Fellini there are a few others, made upon request, that I am aware of – Eric Avery, artist and doctor and Athalie Haile, stepmother.
Those who populate Chris’s art have personae that evoke another place and time. There is a baseline that often supplants Anglo-Saxon hegemony. Living in NYC, traveling to Mexico, the South Pacific and China certainly helped to broaden his vocabulary.
During his lifetime, it was a source of great entertainment for friends to offer their thoughts about who might be the source of a particular image. This was Chris’s game – to create enigmatic art and keep his mouth shut or if he did say something, it would only serve to complicate the mystery. He loved narrative. More to the point, he loved how an image could generate a range of narrative responses. For me this is the core of his intention, the essence of his gift and the power of his art. Chris was a gentle soul but absolutely fierce in his beliefs about art. Explanation was anathema to him. Engagement of the imagination everything.”