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Sometimes Life Gets in the Way – Story behind a Corporate Portrait

1366837619_1343990274_corporate04It has been since December of 2010 that I have written on My Blog but sometimes Life does get in the way.

For all those out there that have elderly parents I hope this touches home.

My Father has Alzheimer’s and is currently in a Nursing Home.  He is very moody and very normal or what we call a normal day activity like going to the bathroom, pulling up his pants or just standing up takes a huge toll on him.  While the nurses are wonderful no one can be with him every minute.  My Mother, my Son and I lovingly spend as much time each week as possible to care for him.  It certainly takes a toll on all of us.

Fortunately, I have my Art to take me away from some of this heartbreak.  Last August I was commissioned by Tod Aronovitz to create a corporate portrait of his Father, Federal Judge Sidney M. Aronovitz that  now can be viewed on my Website under Corporate Portraits.

This commission was very difficult since Judge Aronovitz passed on about 15 years ago.  The family gave me a few photographs of him ranging from a young man of thirty to about 70.  One photograph in particular was the family favorite.  It was a black and white head and shoulder pose.

It just so happens that one other photograph had a very small image of Judge Aronovitz standing within a group of people where I could discern his approximate height, weight and size of his head and shoulders compared to his contemporaries.  From there I actually measured Tod’s head, shoulders, hands, wrists, height for comparison.  This information gave me general measurements for Judge Aronovitz in real life size.

In between visiting my Father and settling him into rehabilitation after a fall, I started to pull together the ideas for creating this three-quarter length life-size portrait of a man I never saw, met or spoke too.  Tod Aronovitz was very giving with information about his Father.  He really  answered my questions with detail where I could start to imagine his Father’s, characteristics, intellect, his body language, and daily routine.

Fortunately Tod and his Sister Elaine each had attributes that I could see were reminiscent of their Father.  I remember Elaine to me the detail of their Fathers fingers and hands.  I also requested that Tod allow me to take some photographs of him in his Father’s Robe as studies for folds and poses.  I gathered measurements from my notes and started to draw.  The sketch took me one month to complete.

The pencil sketch to scale was a life-size portrait of  Judge Aronovitz dating back to about thirty-five years ago when he was in his prime around the age 58 to 60.  He was a very conservative elegant man.  I created a relaxed pose of him holding a Federal Book in one hand and his glasses in the other.  Judge Aronovitz looks directly at you with the strength and wisdom of the greatness life had bestowed him.  He possessed a “Mona Lisa” smile of kindness giving a sense of the many thoughts and judgments to come.  Tod was teary eyed when he viewed and remarked that the sketch looked just like his Father and his pose reminded him of the way he looked going to court, holding a book in one hand and his glasses in the other.  This brought me great joy.

During this time my Father was still recovering in rehabilitation in the Nursing Home.  Still very weak with the excercise, the therapists and nurses little by little he was starting to walk longer distances with his walker.   The staff was very kind to him all during his stay at the Nursing Home.   In between our visits I was creating this Masterpiece  Portrait.

I started to reconstruct the portrait again only this time adding colors.  I create my portraits by hand from the sketch to the painting.  I paint with pastel chalk on acid free Water Color Paper that is archivally mounted.  I can use 15 to 20 layers or more of chalk for a portrait.  Layer upon layer is placed very carefully to build the richness of color and the look I want to achieve for the Masterpiece.

All the edges of this Memorial Portrait have a soft outline.  I wanted Judge Aronovitz to look as though he was coming out of a haze of color, a soft grey blue cloud giving him a distinguished look of the Great and “Devoted American” that he was.

The portrait took me seven months to finish.  During those seven months my Mother had serious eye surgery, my Dad was in and out of rehab, someone close to our family passed on and we moved into a new house.  So for about 3 weeks I was not physically working on the portrait.  But, it’s a funny thing about Art, you really work every minute of the day thinking of combinations of colors, lighting, proportions and anatomy especially when you have to imagine and then create a person’s stature.  Having my Art to think about during these hard times was a blessing.

Once I set up my new studio I invited Tod and his Sister Elaine to view the portrait.   Now that I started to actually paint they could see their Father’s face and body coming to life.  Even Mrs. Aronovitz visited my studio and was just wonderful.  Everyone was emotional and everyone  was very happy with the results.  I met again with Tod to choose a frame for the piece that would measure 39.5” X 54”.

Judge Aronovitz was born in Key West.  On February 22, 2010 the Key West U.S. Courthouse circa 1948 was renamed the Sidney M. Aronovitz United States Courthouse.  This Masterpiece Portrait of Judge Aronovitz will be placed in the lobby of this Courthouse on Permanent Display for the public.

Judge Aronovitz had great affection for his home town.  This Memorial corporate Portrait has within it many personal qualities that Judge Aronovitz would have enjoyed.  For instance, the cloud like background is reminiscent of the enormous open sky that surrounds the beautiful water of Key West.  The wood frame has an outside edging with a red stain that enhances the flesh tones and important law-book detail.  The ropelike carving around the inside of the frame with the natural wood characteristics of the charcoal black grey frame are in keeping with the outdoor feeling of fishing, boating and docks.  The extended inside matching frame added an elegant gold/silver detail edge that surrounds the portrait of Judge Aronovitz.

The Honorable Sidney M. Aronovitz was a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida for over 20 years and was born in Key West, Florida, on June 20, 1920.  He Graduated from Key West High School as Senior Class President and Valedictorian.  After Graduating from the University of Florida with High Honors, he served as Captain in the United States Army in Europe from 1943 to 1946, earning the Bronze Star.  Following his military service, Sidney Aronovitz practiced law in Miami Florida, for over 30 years.  In 1976 President Gerald R. Ford appointed Aronovitz to the Federal Bench, where he served with distinction for the remainder of his life.

The accomplishments of the Honorable Sidney M. Aronovitz was much more far-reaching and exciting than one paragraph can express.  This man was such a Devoted Person.  Devoted to his Country and his Family.

In 1980 after the “Freedom Flotilla”, there were over 2000 Key West Vessels seized by the Federal Government.  These vessels helped Cuban refugees get to the United States under President Jimmy Carters “Open Arms” policy.  Judge Aronovitz ordered these vessels released and the cancellation of over 4 million in fines that were assessed against the boat owners.

Judge Aronovitz was also selected by the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve on the original United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from 1988 to 1992.

Judge Aronovitz bravely defended the United States Constitution by protecting the rights of the homeless, women, Cuban refugees and other minorities.  Federal Judge Aronovitz was awarded the prestigious Gold Medallion Award by the National Council of Christians and Jews.  The Council bestowed their highest honor to Federal Judge Aronovitz for his dedication to the administration of the rule of law without consideration of race, creed or national origin.

Judge Aronovitz gave hours of pro bono legal work and served as a Founder, Incorporator, and Member of the Original Board of Directors of the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami.  The Honorable Sidney M. Aronovitz was inducted into the University of Florida College of Law Heritage of Leadership Recognitions Society and the Judge Sidney M. Aronovitz Memorial Scholarship was established in his honor to help minority students.

These highlights were taken from Biography printed for the day of the Ceremonial Naming of his Courthouse.  I have read his Biography many times and each time is like the first.  It is a list of  great accomplishments not only as an American who loved his country and his home town but also as the loving Husband, Father and Grand Father and Great Grand Father.  He was married over 50 years!

From the beginning sketch of this corporate portrait painting I felt a spiritual alliance to Judge Aronovitz which allowed me to imagine how to portray this great man for all to see the beautiful guiding light he truly was.

I love my Dad and even though his accomplishments were different they still are very important to me.  Just sitting in service with him in the Nursing Home holding hands was a great moment for us.  When you meet him the first thing he will say to you is Hi! I am a WW2 Vet.  I am 83 years old and he will shake your hand.

We must keep the good thoughts of people in our hearts where they will forever stay alive and then pass these thoughts to others.  If you are lucky enough to have someone and something you enjoy in life you will get though the bad and Goodness will prevail.

I will be starting a new painting very shortly so check back!

L.A. Cline