Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Jesters Do Oft Prove Prophets"

Craig Ferguson, comedian, actor, and late, late night talk show host will be performing at Ruth Eckerd Hall on March 17, 2010. Coincidently, the artists of Studio 1212, an art group I belong to, have an exhibit hanging in the West Gallery at Ruth Eckerd Hall during the months of March, April & May.

I painted this portrait of Mr. Ferguson, dressed in his jester's finest, to hang as part of the Studio 1212 exhibit. It began as a 'fun' thing to do - to capture the likeness of a visiting celebrity and to hope that he might actually have an opportunity to see it. As I began to plan the painting, however, it's purpose evolved from whimsy to a chance to make a personal statement about a man I admire for more than his ability to make me laugh.

The decision to dress him in a jester's costume was an easy and obvious one - he is, after all, a comedian. Because he became an American citizen recently and is so tremendously proud of this fact, I decided to dress him in red, white and blue. How better to cloak him than in the American flag to which he has chosen to pledge his allegiance? He may have been born in Scotland and love his heritage, but he's ours now and I, for one, couldn't be more delighted.

As I further developed the painting, a line from Shakespeare's 'King Lear' kept running through my head: "Jesters do oft prove prophets" and I was reminded of the serious and sometimes poignant monologues Ferguson has delivered from his late night stage, and his gift for laying bare the truth. A prophet is 'a person regarded as an inspired teacher'. Anyone who has been privileged to witness one of these heartfelt monologues knows that this probably best describes the man. Whether he makes us laugh or makes us think, he teaches us to look at ourselves from a different perspective.

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