Special thanks to Kathe Conlon and Roy Bond of the St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston NJ. who trusted the " spirit of my intentions" and helped give this project its beginning.
My initial inspiration for this series happened 30 years ago when I encountered a thirteen year old burn survivor. Her facial burns were so severe that she lacked discernable features such as a nose, lips and ears. Although aware that a sensitive human being was peering through her facial disfigurement, her visual facts caught me off guard. I stared at her face in shock and disbelief. As she turned and walked away, I realized I must have been one of many that perceived her that way. It was the first time I saw a burned person. I felt saddened for her tragedy, and later embarrassed in my reaction.
I remembered the encounter for many years.
In 2002, I presented the idea of painting portraits of burn survivors to the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston New Jersey. They agreed to participate in the project by enrolling the burn survivors. The young people that have volunteered for this series have all endured physical pain and personal tragedy. They have developed a strong sense of 'self ' at an early age in order to survive public alienation due to their appearance. Many of them lost family members in the fires that they survived. My motivation to paint them is rooted in the desire to explore the parameters of beauty in our society. These paintings document their visual facts while interpreting the less tangible aspects of inner beauty and personal character.
As a visual artist, I have always been interested in the human face and our primal response to it. As infants we are hard wired to respond to faces in their simplest form. Dolls, puppets, and robots will ellicit a response in us as if these objects are 'living' or 'real.' Within the features of a face there is a 'symmetry' or 'lack of ' that humans respond to in positive or negative ways.
Science has determined that what we call 'beauty,' is determined by angles, measurements and symmetry of features. However, non physical 'human' traits such as personality, inner strength, confidence, and character can redefine our perception of who we find to be beautiful.