Since February 2015, I've been working on a project that's brought 250 Pittsburgh artists together—each one making a portrait of the same person: John Riegert. John's been my friend for over 20 years. He's an artist who was once one of the most engaging people I've ever known. 15 years ago, he started struggling with mental illness. It led to him losing his job, having his marriage break up and almost becoming homeless. It also led to a suicide attempt that put him in a coma for four days. It was heartbreaking to watch John lose his will to be around others and to give up on his art. I thought a project like this could be of great benefit to him and be something to keep him going. Plus being an artist himself, he would know how to relate to many different people and be sympathetic to what they might need him to do.
So I invited 400 artists and was shocked when 250 said "yes." They include Diane Samuels, Robert Qualters, Delanie Jenkins, Dee Briggs, John Carson, Ron Donoughe, Jon Rubin, Lenka Clayton, Dylan Vitone, Gavin Benjamin, Ryder Henry, Alisha B. Wormsley, Stephanie Armbruster and Mia Tarducci Henry. Work ranges from paintings to sculptures to conceptual pieces to performances to photographs to films and videos.
Some artists worked from a photo of John I sent with the invitation but many wanted to meet John. This has led to a journey through coffee shops, museums, parks, universities, riverbanks, a cemetery, and artists' homes and studios. Each of the artists has been so generous with their time and their talent.
In June, the portraits will be part of an exhibition at SPACE gallery. John will will present for the entire run and act as a “docent." So someone coming into the exhibition will be see hundreds of portraits of the same subject—each done by a different artist—and then realize that the person telling them about a particular portrait, answering their question or telling a story about his life, is the subject himself.
Funded by Pittsburgh, PA (July 2016)