Portrait Artist Makes it Big By Upping the Subculture


Oh, the horror when I recently threw out a painting a downtowny friend had made for me some years ago, then found out his prices had been skyrocketing! And he’s not even dead! Now, I hold onto every little canvas—and thank God, I’ve not only kept the portrait Olan Montgomery made of me, it’s looming on my living room wall and lording over all the portraits. (Yes, in lieu of mirrors, I have wall-to-wall visions of a younger, lovelier me.) Olan starts by taking a photo of you while telling you how meaningful you are to society and/or how you have penetrating eyes. Then he does painty or digital things to the photo and emerges with a portrait that’s generally super colorful and very true. I’m hardly his only subject; he’s also done Boy George, Justin Bond, Rufus Wainwright, and even some straight people. At the Art Expo last week, he sold a bunch of those paintings and had even more for sale at the after party at, aptly, Kanvas. “My work is an effort to capture an essence,” says Olan, “and place it into a perpetual freeze frame. Why can’t a nanosecond last forever?” My Olan portrait will last forever, that’s for sure. I ain’t throwing it out!