I decided to start painting seriously about five years ago, when my father died. I thought that if he could die, then I had better start doing things I really wanted to do now, at age 54, before I died. I wanted to paint people who showed great depth of experience and something with a powerful social message. Since I live near the beach and was confronted with the homeless on a daily basis I thought I would turn something upsetting into something that was an adventure. I wanted to do something that combined two of my loves, painting and psychoanalysis. I'm a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in West Los Angeles.
I found that these people that I tried hard to avoid and wished would go away were some of the most interesting people I've ever met in my life; many loving, kind, accomplished people who had experienced deep traumas and misfortunes. It made me want to find ways to reach out and help them and give them a hand on the way back. Their life stories, which I have collected as I have painted their portraits on location at Venice Beach, are compelling and profound. I had truly been judging the book by its cover. There are homeless who want to be without responsibility and have chosen to live this lifestyle, but I believe they are a small minority.
I hope by telling these people’s stories, both by painting them and by collecting their histories, poems and art, that others can see how valuable these human beings are who we as a society are throwing away. I have painted 60 portraits (oil on canvas 18 x 24"). I hope after seeing my exhibition that you will never look at a homeless person the same way again.
Many times, when I go home at night after painting, I feel like crying and feel guilty because I leave behind some people who have become dear friends of mine. They remain in their lives of desperation and I go back to my beautiful home, wife and children, with a refrigerator filled to the brim. So many of these peoples’ stories have touched my heart. Something that has stood out to me is how many veterans and former foster care children are part of the homeless. A group that touched me deeply is a number of men whose beloved wives died. These men just walked away from their children and middle-class successful lives and careers because they could not go on without the love of their life. They literally walked onto the beach and have been living there since, self-medicating their pain with drugs and alcohol. I feel that psychotherapy and/or support groups could have helped these men avoid giving up their lives and souls to despair.
It was very exciting to have my paintings exhibited at the Home for Good conference at the downtown Marriott in February.
The exhibition is available to be shown upon request. Please contact Wendy Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stuart’s portraits were featured at this year’s Home For Good Summit. For pictures of the day’s events, click here.
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