Collaborative Portrait of Retiring Director Judy O'Toole Unveiled at The Westmoreland
GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania (June 8, 2018) – The Westmoreland Museum of American Art unveiled a portrait of Richard M. Scaife Director/CEO Judy O’Toole at a May 30 public reception honoring her 25 years of leadership and upcoming retirement. The Museum commissioned photographer Mark Perrott and painter Robert Qualters to collaborate on the portrait, which is temporarily on display in the Museum’s Post-1950’s Gallery.
Portrait of Judy is a composite of photographs shot by Perrott, which was then painted over by Qualters. The work is surrounded by a five-inch frame assembled by Perrott using salvaged pieces of broken ornate frames and painted by Qualters.
The process of creating the portrait began with both artists interviewing O’Toole about her life, things that interested her and objects that she kept close to her. Perrott then photographed her in various locations within the Museum, with Qualters making sketches along the way.
Several weeks later, the two artists invited O’Toole to Perrott’s studio to select the photograph that would be the basis of the portrait. As she recalls, “Scattered on a long table were 49 different photographs that they had culled from those taken that day at the Museum. However, to the right of those images was a photograph that Qualters had already started painting on, making it clear to me that they had already chosen the photograph they hoped to use. I happily conceded to their choice.”
In the completed portrait, O’Toole’s image is surrounded by those of family including her parents, Chadwick and Betty Hansen; husband, Kevin, and daughters, Sarah and Rachel; and friend and Chief Curator of the Museum, Barbara Jones, pictured at the time that she donated a kidney to O’Toole. Other elements of the portrait relate to O’Toole’s early upbringing in museums, personal interests, management style and an admired quotation from Edith Wharton.
Perrott and Qualters, both Pittsburgh artists, worked together in a similar fashion for an exhibition titled Points of View: Shared Vision at the Museum in 2003. The artists also each have work in The Westmoreland’s permanent collection.
Mark Perrott has been photographing the citizens, industrial landscapes, steel mills and abandoned penitentiaries of Pittsburgh for the past 50 years. In the early eighties, he focused his attention on the life and death struggle of “steel” in the Mon Valley, featuring Jones and Laughlin steel mill and its blast furnace department, known as Eliza. Photographs from this project were used in his book Eliza: Remembering a Pittsburgh Steel Mill, published in 1989 by Howell Press. In 1999 he published Hope Abandoned, illustrating the rawness and decay of Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia. In 2013, he published his third book, E Block, an extended photo essay of Western Penitentiary.
Perrott’s photographs are in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For more information about Perrott, visit markperrott.com.
Bob Qualters is a painter who has had more than 30 solo exhibitions in numerous museums and galleries. Since settling in Pittsburgh in 1968, he has completed more than two dozen public murals and site-specific installations around the city, in addition to several murals created with high school students.
In 1975, Qualters was named Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year, and he received the Governor’s Award as Pennsylvania Artist of the Year in 2014, the same year he was the subject of a biography, documentary film and a 40-year retrospective. He has taught at multiple universities in the region, including the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and West Virginia University, and served as an Artist-in-Residence at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School. For more information about Qualters, visit qualtersart.com.
Image: Mark Perrott (b. 1946) and Robert Qualters (b. 1934), Portrait of Judy, 2018, Acrylic on inkjet print mounted on Dibond with assemblage frame, 46.25 x 46.25 inches, Museum purchase through the William W. Jamison II Art Acquisition Fund, Thomas Lynch Fund with additional funds from staff members of The Westmoreland, T2018.20