"The Gilmores" Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
So why would I do a family portrait not for a commission, and not of my own family?
1) I've already done a couple family portraits of my own family (though with an ever-growing family, that task is never complete. And 2) Because I was between commissions and with the approaching "revival" of the Gilmore Girls story and cast on November 25, tomorrow, and with me attempting to draw more traffic and attention for my online media, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to ride the hype of a fandom I was already a part of.
I watched "Gilmore Girls" when it first released, and identified immediately with more than one character for multiple reasons. Buried beneath the pop-culture references and pre-hipster era attitudes, the heart of the show was mothers and daughters. While my relationship with my own mother was no where near as bad as the caricatures in the show, I saw myself at times as Lorelai to Emily (her mother), and as Lane to her mother, Mrs. Kim, and at the most basic level, I felt growing up, that I was Rory. Good grades, goodie-two-shoes, meek, didn't date much. Of course as the story progressed and I came into my own adulthood while Rory went off to college, I realized she, and the other characters I saw myself in, where an alternate universe to me, like friend in high school who as adults have now grown widely apart. Rory was overtly liberal, while I'm a Catholic conservative. Rory dated guys I would never see in my social circle, meanwhile I found my own (tamer) version of Jess, and like Jess, my husband grew into a wonderfully stable man, which is why I'll always root for Jess, and the potential he showed, despite his hippie-vagabond storyline. Side note, my husband also enjoys the show, and I count myself blessed we get to enjoy it together, shouting at the characters for their idiocy and pride, while also praising them for their shining moments. We are both artists/writers, and "Gilmore Girls" is a wonderful trip into minute literary-analysis in a television show. It has plenty of dramatic and classic irony, usually in the form of characters (the protagonists themselves) too prideful and narrow to their goals to see the bigger picture, and to allow life and other people to steer them where those opportunities are present.
About the second time around watching the series, a couple years ago I realized my favorite characters were the grandparents of Rory, Lorelai's parents: Richard and Emily. I loved them so that I would choke up during the opening theme when scenes of them traipsed across the screen, as the words, "Where you lead I will follow," sang over the appearance of the actors' names. They were the history, the stability of the show. I had a similar reaction to "Harry Potter," and more than the actual storyline, loved the flashbacks to the protagonists' parents' lives. The grandparents bent the most, they gave the most, they sacrificed the most for their daughter and granddaughter. They were not without their faults, but their constant stability, that only occasionally faltered, gave foundation to the rest of the plot. Often regarded as a nuisance, as we grown children tend to do with our own parents, they were the basis for everything of integrity. When chaos on the show ensued, the characters came home to the Gilmore household whether they wanted to or not.
Finally, because the show jokes about fine portraiture: both when Emily commissions an artist to paint a live painting of Rory, and in the Revival when Emily has an enormous portrait of her now deceased husband, Richard painted, and Lorelai and Rory tease her about it. The Gilmore grandparents would have commissioned a family portrait of themselves and their daughter and granddaughter. Perhaps it never fit into the storyline, or we viewers are to assume the younger generations didn't want to cooperate. Regardless, it fits the character type of Richard and Emily to have this painting. The accent color of blue plays off the eye color of 3 of these 4 portraits, and the family's history with Yale.
So here is my painting of the would-be family portrait, the epitome of classic family portraiture (other than being in acrylic instead of oil, which Emily would have never stood for, I know), titled, "The Gilmores." The process of painting this over the past week has been documented on my Instagram page #soniajsummers
Sonia Jackson Summers