Sunshine Smile / by Jonathan Centeno

Sunshine Smile 56” x 46” Acrylic on wood panel (Private Collection)

Sunshine Smile 56” x 46” Acrylic on wood panel (Private Collection)

Icons have become somewhat of a tradition in today's art.  I came to them quite by accident.  In doing so, I summoned memories of having grown up in the sixties, and of having felt the "real" presence of some of these larger-than-life stars.  For some people, there is always a positive, happy vibe associated with that time, and with some of those icons, despite the tragic nature of some of their fates.  

For me, the Icon series has always been about the nostalgia.  I recall, as a young boy, growing up in the Christie Pits area of Toronto, passing by the Gibson Broom Company on my way to Essex Street Public School.  As a young kid, I was always interested in things that were drawn or painted.  In those days, sign painting, and advertising by signage were prevalent, and perhaps more important as an ad medium than they are today.

In evoking the image of an icon today, does the artist then forego the notion that the Icon is the subject?  Does the true subject, considering all of the interpretations in today's flooded art supermarket, now become the artist's take on the icon?

Some faces have been rendered so often, and by so many, that they have been left as soulless.  

I'll admit that in depicting Marylin, I wanted to know as much about her life as possible prior to paying homage, and, as such, throwing my hat into the ring.  I did my research, and I am satisfied that I have continued to treat the subject with respect.

We are borrowing the image, as artists: so that we can express what we want to say, very often with little regard for the "essence" of the icon.  Their images have become a commodity.  

My Icon series is centered on the signage.  The fact that these pieces are made in an old-school manner, and that the imperfections are celebrated rather than polished and hidden is actually part of the subject.  Those old signs, painted and re-painted, exposed to the elements were gems.  I can still see them in my mind's eye.  Colours seeping through, rivets, rust, running paint, layer upon layer.  The passage of time recorded for the world to behold.  It all depended on how you looked at it.  Perhaps the passage of the years has softened everything and made it tolerable, less acidic.  Ours was a truly pre-graffiti era, and so I have rendered my pieces in that spirit.