Burton Philip Silverman
Oil painting portrait depicting an older man holding a paintbrush and camera with no shirt and jean shorts

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Collection of Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia

This painting is just the latest in a series of self-portraits I’ve done over the last 25 years. All of them have recorded the progression of “self” as it experienced both physical and psychological changes, some of them subtle and therefore, perhaps, unnoticed to any other observer. But the self-portrait is an act of objectifying the self and in that regard is a unique form of portraiture. This portrait was executed within a few years of my heart attack, in the aftermath of which I experienced a new sense of myself as a survivor. With this heightened awareness came a special need to strip to the waist in painting myself as if my essential selfhood was now more than just head and shoulders. This painting perhaps also “celebrates” my survival, both as a human being and as an artist. The tools of my lifelong career are represented by the brushes in my right hand and the camera in the other. Both are employed selectively. The reflection of trees and sky in the glass slider of my country studio fuses the world outside with objects inside the studio and was used, perhaps too self-consciously, to reinforce the notion of the subjective/objective duality of the self-portrait.