The Shoemaker, 2023
Oil on Canvas Paper
Queens is the most diverse borough in New York City and over half of its population is in the working or service class.1 Among them is a father who works in construction, an elementary school student who helps her mother sell candy on the train, and a shoemaker who offers his skills as services – each of them has a story. Yet, they are often overlooked and cast aside for what they do, reaching the edge of transience. With The Shoemaker, a multi-media artwork created with oil paint and string, I want to honor and represent these common but vital faces in my neighborhood that go unnoticed, such as the shoemaker.
In the portrait, the shoemaker is depicted against a dark background that obscures any hint of his surroundings. He looks down at his hand as he works on, what seems to be, a black shoe. It is this ambiguity that makes it difficult to determine that he is a shoemaker without knowing the title of the painting first. The viewer can tell that he is a person, but who is he? What is he doing? Thus, his craft is ignored, and in turn, he is too. Similarly, working and service class workers are continuously overlooked by society because of their occupation or trade, despite being essential to the function of our city. Nevertheless, they continue.
The shoemaker continues to weave and craft. Customers come and go until soon enough, numerous people in the community are wearing shoes that have been adjusted by his hands. He unknowingly weaves and mends his community together, with the very materials he stores in his food and medicine containers. So, the string that is threaded throughout the portrait serves as a symbol of his craft, himself, and the community he has helped unite.
Overall, though I greatly struggle to paint portraits and render form, I am thankful to have painted The Shoemaker, as it depicts an inspiring figure within my neighborhood.