Title: Oaklahoma!: portrait of Oscar Hammerstein
Material: Oil on canvas
It must be understood that the musician is just as much an author as the man who writes the words. He expresses the story in his medium just as the librettist expresses the story in his. – Oscar Hammerstein
Here is a creative talent who handled both lyrics and libretto deftly and memorably. He made the inessential into the indispensable and recreated American musical theater, which was no small pond. I allowed the subject to drift into its being a minor character in his own portrait. Here you can barely see his face – he could be mistaken for Drew Carey here were it not for the costumes from four of his own musicals. Why 4 or these 4? I don’t know, but you can see he’s drawn the first 4 strokes of a Star of David. Another 4. The figures emerge from the black & Bourke-White photographic gloom of mid-century America. This painting is deliberately disoriented, meaning there is no correct way to hang it.