Notes from the Field: About Faces

July 30, 2012

By Cheryl Katz

I met Donald Florence almost thirty years ago when he hired me as a stylist for one of the many fashion photo shoots he was art directing in New York. I had just struck out on my own with very little pedigree, save for a mad love of clothes, a decent eye for detail and an enormous desire for urban life. To say that he took a chance on me would be an understatement. But Donald is a man who’s not afraid to take chances.

Donald is über stylish. A hip urbanite with a great wardrobe and an appetite for sneakers, who–I would learn a few months after we met–was actually a California transplant with a taste for jelly dogs (a hot dog bun slathered with Welch’s Grape), Junior Mints, celebrities and convertibles. If this description implies a shallow disposition, it should not. Donald is quiet, sensitive and highly observant.

Donald not only helped me navigate the vagaries of the fashion world, but also introduced me to a new way of seeing. We discussed the way a bow was tied, a belt was looped, a beret was cocked. But, more importantly, we conferred on the tilt of a head, the sincerity of a smile, the frankness behind an expression. In a world sometimes short on substance and long on artifice, Donald strove to capture a true and honest spirit.

Mid-career, when most would rest on our laurels–or, at best, not take on yet another full time proposition–Donald returned to his art school roots and, after a twenty-five year hiatus, began to draw again. The hallmarks of this work–bold color and surety of line–are evident. But what is remarkable about his recent portraits is that the viewer begins to realize, as I did so many years ago, that Donald has revealed much more. Uncovering a heart, a mind, a soul, he reminds us that things are not always as they appear.

About Florence’s Heads of States Series, the artist says, “Originally I planned to paint all the American presidents, but some of them were jut too boring so I switched to other political leaders…Stalin and Mao.â€Â Here, two of the Georges–Bush and Washington, 12†x 9†oil pastel on paper.

Photos courtesy of Donald Florence

From Florence’s series of 100 portraits of famous gay men and women, a portrait of the satirist David Sedaris, 17†x 14â€, oil pastel on paper.

From the Fashlandia series, an homage to both Florence’s thirty years in the fashion world and the “magnificent†Diana Vreeland. 24†x 18â€, oil on canvas.

For more information on the artist Donald Florence and his work, contact him directly at  [email protected]