"Leaves of Grass"(Homage to Walt
and acrylic on canvas, 24" x 30", 2005
Not available for sale
I received this
commission last year for the portrait of American poet Walt Whitman
(1819-1892) for the sesquicentennial celebration of his first publication of
Leaves of Grass.
Two elements were
requested by the patron Ed Centeno; that the painting portray a young Whitman and the
depiction of "the book" Leaves of Grass. My research started with getting
reacquainted with his poetry and prose and the reading of several
biographies. Phase two proved even more difficult; the finding of an image
to draw inspiration from. After viewing commercial images from the
patron's personal Whitman collection, surfing the net and several
biographies; something click! I was inspired by the 35-year-old "Christ
likeness" circa 1854 daguerreotype (Bayley-Whitman Collection, Ohio Wesleyan
University) image of Walt.
interpretation for the painting was to have an imposing young image of Walt
emanate from a manuscript written by him. I found a photograph of an
original letter that Whitman sent to William Sloan Kennedy (his close friend
and fellow author) discussing introduction to his first book. I made a
silkscreen out of the photograph and incorporating it into the
The pair of young hands represent a generation having been inspired and
influenced by the vastness of his literary contribution throughout his
lifetime. I am flabbergasted by the countless biographies and the
commercialization of his name and image on so many products. Dozens of
countries have translated his work, music score, structures name after him
and even postage stamps commemorating him. The blade of grass symbolizes all
seven revised editions of his greatest contribution to America Poetry:
Leaves of Grass.
I am sure that anyone who has read Leaves of Grass perhaps has looked at a
batch of grass and been reminded of Whitman's poetry.
Copyright © by Miguel Tió