Tribute to Rob

Tribute to Rob © 2005 Ann James Massey
18in x 24in | 45.7cm x 61cm
Oil on mahogany board
Estate of Bob and Rose Ann Hoy
Tribute to Rob © 2005 Ann James Massey

18in x 24in | 45.7cm x 61cm
Oil on mahogany board
Estate of Bob and Rose Ann Hoy

Behind the painting

After the death of my father, I painted the miniature, In Memoriam (based upon flowers received in sympathy for his passing), as a tribute to his love and support. I had postcards made of the piece and sent them with my newsletter mailing that year. Soon after, I received a phone call from a prominent El Pasoan asking if I would do a memorial piece for his son. Not really being a floral artist, the commission did not interest me until he explained the circumstances. His son had died of AIDS. When Rob told his parents that he was gay, they initially had a difficult time accepting it. But time and love brought them back together and his untimely death devastated them. Now the father, Bob Hoy, was asking me to do a painting of Rob’s favorite flower (a ginger flower) that he could give to his wife, Rose Ann in honor of their son. My throat closed, the tip of my nose stung, and tears welled. Yes, I would be honored.

Having other commitments at the time, I also explained that it could be up to three years before I could finish the piece. He in turn accepted.

Thinking at length about the composition, I decided to add personal elements. I later inquired if his son had a favorite book and/or a special vase belonging to him or the family. Bob could not recall a particular book that meant something to Rob, but he knew his son loved his alma mater, Tulane University. Would the yearbook do? It would. And yes, Rob owned a stunning black crystal Baccarat vase that was now on their mantlepiece. Since the painting was to be a surprise, I could only take photos of it, so that Rose Ann would not notice its absence. That gave me the shape of the vase, but not it’s properties. This proved to be a challenge because I could not see how black crystal would reflect the red leaves. Back in Paris, I haunted the brocante markets and antique stores looking for dark Baccarat vases but finding nothing. In the end, I purchased a modern one directly from Baccarat. I did not admire that design as much, but it did have a black crystal insert in the body that allowed to me see how the red was mirrored. When the painting was almost completed and presented to Rose Ann, I was then able to borrow the original vase to be able to put the finishing touches from the actual piece.

Phases of the Ginger Flower (Alpinia purpurata) and reflections in black crystal.  
Photos © Ann James Massey
Phases of the Ginger Flower (Alpinia purpurata) and reflections in black crystal.  
Photos © Ann James Massey
Phases of the Ginger Flower (Alpinia purpurata) and reflections in black crystal.  
Photos © Ann James Massey
Phases of the Ginger Flower (Alpinia purpurata) and reflections in black crystal.  
Photos © Ann James Massey

Phases of the Ginger Flower (Alpinia purpurata) and reflections in black crystal.
Photos © Ann James Massey

The ginger flower is an amazing plant with floral bracts (actually colored leaves) created the conelike “bloom,” one to a stalk, large and translucent. How could I create a memorial painting in a meaningful manner rather than just filling the board with just a huge ginger flower? Thus began my three-year journey living with them, observing their beauty and their changes as they matured and died. The plant first stands tall with the bracts compact, but as the days pass, the leaves start separate and the cone to bend allowing the light to illuminate the small leaves glorious transparent red color.

That gave me the idea to use the flowers to symbolize the family. The one in the middle is Steve, their other son; the one on the left represents Bob showing his maturity; the one on the right is Rose Ann bending down to the flower on the table; which is Rob reaching up to his mother.