This was my most ambitious art recreation yet and it proved to be the most challenging. There were many times during these last two months that it took me to compose it that I wanted to abandon this piece altogether. When I set out to find all the props I needed to create this photo composite tribute to Magritte’s “The Son of Man” painting, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find all of them.
I already owned the bowler hat – a perennial Halloween costume fave. I had the perfect model with an elegant wardrobe – Tom! Southern California skies are always blue. Check! Green apples are always in season. Check! Or so I thought… Apples might be “always” in season, but to find apple leaves in Los Angeles was practically impossible. I started out at local grocery stores. The produce vendors just laughed at me when I asked for apples with leaves. Who in the world wants leaves these days? I trolled the local Farmers Markets next. Asked farmers to bring me leaves when they pick the apples. Offered them cash for a single branch with leaves. They promised they would and I returned again and again to find that they had forgotten all about me. Finally, one farmer did bring me an apple branch, but it was dried and crumpled. He then offered me orange branches instead. “These look just like apple leaves”, he said. I nearly gave up at that point.
And then I had a revelation! Last year I volunteered at the Tree People Foundation in the nursery grafting and replanting fruit trees for local neighborhoods. Could there be some apple trees there? Clinging to this last hope, I emailed the nursery supervisor. He was a great help. It turned out there were indeed six baby apple trees waiting be replanted at the Grant High School in Valley Village. I was overjoyed! I finally had my last prop.
Tom shot the four images I needed for my photo composite separately in the next few days – a self-portrait in a bowler hat and red tie against a white background, a blue sky with wispy clouds, a perfect Grannysmith apple, and the oh-so-coveted branch with apple leaves. And then via the magic that is Photoshop I masked, layered and color balanced to create my homage to René Magritte, an artist who has been my idol for many years. Similar to my own path, his was to first design posters for print advertising. He then brought that creative sensibility to his Surrealist masterpieces.
For many years I had designed movie posters. A successful print advertising campaign entices the audience to want to see the film by telling only a part of the story in the key art. What is hidden is often more important than what’s visible. And so thought Magritte when creating his art. To quote him on “The Son of Man” painting, pictured below: “There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”