Self-Portrait with Squash

Gregory Gillespie (19362000)
Mixed media on panel, 1986

Private collection

Gregory Gillespie came of age as a painter during the height of abstract expressionism but found himself drawn to figurative painting, particularly self-portraiture. When asked why he painted himself so often, he cited the availability of the subject and the freedom to take dramatic license.

Gillespie called many of his paintings “shrine pieces” because of their affinity with Northern Renaissance altarpieces.

In Self-Portrait with Squash, Gillespie, who was brought up a Catholic, stands in the center of the composition like a medieval saint, holding his paintbrush as a symbol of his martyrdom; he is framed by faintly drawn lines that suggest a niche often seen in chapels holding sculptures of religious figures.

The items surrounding him amplify the narrative of his life: to him, ripened fruit symbolized impending death and the bowl of turpentine, holy water. The visor, along with the bare chest and the paint-spattered pants, were part of his uniform as an artist.