"I had to allow myself to break from the usual and the historic boundaries of portraiture and utilize today's technology to redefine what a portrait can be," Weingarten said. "I wanted to know if you could transcend time, place, and subject."
The spectacular results of Weingarten's efforts are now on display in the exhibit Pushing Boundaries: Robert Weingarten at the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center. The exhibit features 16 of Weingarten's metaphorical collage portraits, which he calls translucent composites.
Probably the most unsual aspect of the work is that none of the portraits include a visual likeness of its subject. Instead, Weingarten lets the subject's interests speak for him or her.
The artist began with a group of recognizable subjects such as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, author Joyce Carol Oates, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. "I asked myself would I know who (these people) are in 50 years? Would I know what they did or understand that what they did was important?"
Weingarten then asked each of his subjects to send him a list of things that were important to them and made them who they are. For example, baseball great Hank Aaron responded with a list of 4 items:
- the city of Atlanta
- the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation
"Although the person is not physically seen, I wanted the work to be a summing up of personal and public life experiences," Weingarten said.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
- the motorcycle from "Easy Rider"
- golf clubs
- director's chair
- his photography
- his painting
- a camera
- an Andy Warhol painting with the bullet holes Hopper made in a drug-induced frenzy