|Click on pictures below for detail view.
My Calling of St. Matthew is inspired
by a work of the same name by Caravaggio (see link).
Caravaggio's painting shows Matthew, a collector of taxes, in a Roman Tavern.
At the right, Christ, almost covered by Peter, extends his hand toward the future apostle.
The scene captures the decisive moment of Matthew's life: his choice between material riches
and spiritual wealth.
I painted Matthew as a self-portrait for several reasons. There is a long tradition of
concealed self-portraiture among Renaissance and Baroque artists; Caravaggio painted himself as both
the young David and the beheaded Goliath, in just one example. But beyond this tradition,
I was interested in the questions that faced Matthew, and what they meant for me as a painter.
At the time, I wondered whether I painted because I enjoyed it, or rather because I enjoyed
other hearing people tell me I was good at it.Was I developing my skill simply to impress
people with it? The opposing motives of worldly prestige and painting for its own sake
seemed analogous to St. Matthew's choice. In the course of my thesis, I was finally
able to paint simply for the enjoyment of it, rather than the anticipated pleasure
of other people's approval. I still struggle with the temptation to work for
my own glorification, rather than the greater good of my own enjoyment,
and the enjoyment of my audience. This painting is a reminder
to myself to question my priorities and my motives.
The figure sitting to my left is a portrait
of one of my oldest friends, Kendall. Originally, the figure's face was much less distinct;
but as the painting developed,
I began to wonder--who was that person sitting next to me at the coffee shop? This
became the central question of the painting for me; I couldn't think about anything else
when I looked at it, which was not my intention. When I made the sitter look distinctly
like Kendall, I felt relieved, and free to concentrate on other matters of meaning
in the painting.