PORTRAIT OF NICK
The story of this portrait is probably most unusual and has more depth for me than anyone else. Our story started officially on June 3d. But it began a year before that. I have no intention of boring you with details of how I met Nick – but the truth is it was an accidental unexpected stroke of simple destiny. The suddenness, the beauty and the poetry of it – will stay with me forever. Instant bond. He had this inexplicable capacity to bring the best in people. Our connection ignited into a wonderful exchange of moments where we would literally finish each other’s thoughts.
On our first trip on Roamer III – he invited me for lunch. Lunch was an hour away by water from Marina Del Rey to Redondo Beach. In a warm California day in June, there is no better place to be than on water off the coast. The ocean at this time of the year is dark blue with playful ripples as far as the eyes can see. The coolness of the water, maintaining the steady 64 degrees Farenheit offsets the summer heat. This extravagant gesture was meant to impress me – and that it did ! Magnificent ocean views aside – on a purely intellectual level, I always had a fascination of Motor Yachts as well – their compact design, the aerodynamic grace, with which they are seeming gliding on the surface, while reaching depths to preserve balance. The inherent wisdom of their utility, where nothing must be in excess, except quality – the fine balance between necessities and luxuries. The lack of space was complimented by high quality of craftsmanship and ingenuous design. Like a giant jewelry box – everything in Roamer III was well maintained, despite the fact that she was ready to be retired.
I was very new at Yachting – and fascinated immensely – being at awe of the ocean to begin with. Roamer III was a lady. What a brave adventurer she was – a wanderer. She could be tosses left and right – but always maintained balance. (I believe it has a lot to do with technology on board.) Roamer and I were quickly became best friends. I loved the way the engine hummed away – while gliding through the surface of the water making its way towards the breakers. I had to learn the terminology – ‘top deck’ ‘starboard’ and ‘port’ – and at some point I even graduated to navigating it for an hour in open ocean and was able to dock Roamer back into her slot, without wrecking it !
That particular day – it was a beautiful day in June 9th in early 2000 – on top deck , on our way to Redondo Beach – I observed him very carefully . It was sheer joy to see Nick navigate or dock his 75 foot ‘Princess’, with focused and precise movements, that came so naturally to him. His profile was so distinctively British and hansome with the unruly long hair and bronzed skin. There was a remarkable unity between the color of his Celtic blue eyes and the color of the Pacific ocean at that moment. I marveled the moment – while he watched me be enthralled with the school of dolphins, that were racing the yacht. I wanted to remember this moment forever. He looked incredibly content in his reserved quiet kind of way – given away only by the glimmer in his blue eyes! I took some photos. This moment – the ocean, with all its blue power , the joy of dancing dolphins, Nick with his boundless passion for yachting and me – all in one place – will stay with me until my last day .
In the summer of 2005, I was getting ready for an art show and I wanted to make a sculpture portrait of Nick as a surprise. The thought stayed with me for a long time. It always takes me a while before I make a decision to sculpt or paint someone close. In spring 2005 I finally started. I decided to use water based clay, because it allowed me to work faster and achieve a more spontaneous effects. His long unruly hair was a challenge – but it worked out well. Nick was a passionate Contemporary Art Collector with rather avant-guarde taste and the portrait needed to reflect his persona and his visionary temperament. There was something inspirational about him, that does not lend itself to defining in words. I finished the piece on time and was able to cast it on time for the show. As the show approached – I was hoping Nick will come. He was out of town – in Cleveland, where he maintained a permanent residence – a place he loved very, very much and where he spent a great deal of time.
The Art reception and opening were on July 9, 2005. Attendance was fantastic – Tony Michaels piano virtuoso and Carol Chaikin on trumpet – filled the air with exquisite jazz improvisations; everyone had a wonderful time. The next two days brought great sales too. Reception was at the Balboa Bay Club, in Newport Beach. Nick did not come. He could not make it – he sent someone else instead as an act of grace. He always used to do this. His impeccable blue blood manners were his signature. After the show we talked a lot. A couple of weeks after the show we were planing to have dinner as soon as he returns from his short trip to London and Bordeaux, France. That was the last time we spoke.
He never went to France. Nor to London that month. He never even saw his portrait . Things developed with lightning speed. On August 19 – I received a call. Nick had undergone a six hour emergency operation, from which he did not wake up. It had happened the day before.
But the portrait, remained as a pure embodiment of that beautiful June afternoon, when the stars were aligned and the world was happy – Nick was happy – and I was extatic. He literally changed my perception of life. He brought out the best in me. That moment – I try to capture in his subtle smile. His head is tilted, looking down at the rotor handling with absolute precision the docking of Roamer III. We were on our way to Redondo Beach. It was the most beautiful summer of my life.
The portrait of Nick was executed to reflect his refined and yet very adventurous nature and boundless generosity of his spirit. I used the photos for reference – but mostly by memory. His image even then has an immense impact on me. I remember every single feature to the greatest detail. I hope, everyone who loved him is able to see him as he was. If this portrait brings memories – then my mission is completed. Nick brought so much joy in so many people’s lives – I would like to think this portrait would do the same. See Video of Nick’s bronze sculpture.
for Art Chronicle