PORTRAIT COMMISSION OF MAYOR ALICE WOLF
State Representative and Former Cambridge Ma. Mayor Alice Wolf,
Commissioned by the City of Cambridge for the City Council Sullivan Chambers.
Oil and wax on Baltic birch 36 x 48 inches.
The balance that I sought in portraying Alice Wolf was similar to the somewhat divergent characteristics that I observed about Harvard Dean Jerome T. Murphy.
Alice Wolf is a women politician and community activist who is courageous, dignified and determined while possessing empathy for those less fortunate, especially children.
She wanted to be portrayed as a woman of action, not a woman at her desk, sitting on a couch, or standing still posed for the camera.
From an artistic point of view I wanted to move away from some of what has gone before in portraiture. In this case it means that rather than representing the individual as a likeness surrounded by the trappings of her office, I endeavored to set up a psychological tension in the image that reflects divergent qualities I mentioned at the start.
Achieving the goals
As in all my portraits, technically I set up a tension on the two dimensional picture plane through the use of color and arrangement of the image in the rectangle. While it is the only horizontal portrait in the City Hall Chambers. it is the same square inches as the others
The grey background and the crowding of the image on the rectangle allow Wolf to stand in her own human space. The warmth of the grey creates perspective because of the coolness in the color of the black suit.
Unlike some of the other portraiture in the room, these colors are not intended to match the beige and red wall paper but rather to allow the image to stand alone.
The subject connects with the viewer by making eye contact and gesturing as she often did at the end of a phrase.
The danger of the hands visually distracting from the face is dealt with by the use of color in the scarf. The design and folds of the scarf serve to keep them from dominating the portrait.