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grill An Artist’s Portrait Martin Kreloff shares the inspiration behind his recent painting of Stephen Sondheim. show him photos of his namesake that my partner Tim and I had taken when he turned 13 replete in his Bar Mitzvah regalia. Sondheim loved the pictures and asked to keep one! I was of course ecstatic!

DAVID: Did you ever encounter Mr. Sondheim again? KRELOFF: Well…turns out Mr. Sondheim put our cat photo on his refrigerator! Our mutual friend, music composer John Bucchino, spotted the photo while at Sondheim’s home and the story rekindled! He sent me the dearest note and I in turn sent him one of my prints created for the Miami Film Festival. DAVID: How exactly have Sondheim’s lyrics and music influenced your art?

Two weeks ago Martin Kreloff had a dream. He was painting a portrait of musical theatre’s best known and perhaps greatest lyricist, Stephen Sondheim. Not one to waste the inspirational moment,he prepared a fresh canvas for paint. He hopes to present the finished work to his subject on July 14th when he appears at The Smith Center. Born in New York City and painting since the age of 12, Kreloff is no stranger to renown himself. His hard edge style paintings enjoy international recognition, hanging in public collections and museums, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art. DAVID: The question begs…what’s the deal with the dream?

KRELOFF: I first became aware of Sondheim when I was 13. It was 1957 and I saw West Side Story on Broadway. I was enamored! Next I saw Gypsy.....this time my world was changed forever. Those amazing lyrics…I must have listened to the cast album hundreds of times. They became an inextricable part of my life…actually defined my life and my art, to this day. I went to every Sondheim musical thereafter, each time influenced by his brilliance. I even named my large, chubby white cat Sondheim.

KRELOFF: Stephen Sondheim’s body of work reflects the soundtrack of my life. His music and lyrics have informed so many of my life and art decisions. In 1980 I began a series of paintings on an East Meets West theme. The first painting in the series featured a Geisha coupled with Disney’s Huey, Dewey and Louie in hot pink swim tubes. It’s titled Pacific Overtures. Now my worlds begin to collide. The next image I paint is a Geisha with the Disney ostrich from Fantasia as a hat. The title is Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat? from Company. There was a story in New York Magazine in 1994, entitled Is Stephen Sondheim GOD? Well, in terms of my life, his influence cannot be overstated. DAVID:How does it feel to have captured your hero on canvas? KRELOFF: I’m thrilled to have captured the iconic Stephen Sondheim, and especially pleased to feature the piece for DAVID Magazine. While I painted I wore my ear buds and listened to those magical musicals for at least eight hours a day. The pure rapture of A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Passion, alongside the raucous fun of A Funny Thing Happened is truly inspiring. Creatively I feel like I’ve always known him. As for the dream…I had the feeling that I was being channeled to paint this definitive portrait of my hero, The Great Stephen Sondheim. An honor to be sure!

DAVID: That’s profound. Did you ever get the chance to meet Mr. Sondheim? KRELOFF: YES! In 1993! It was thrilling! My pal, the great Broadway producer Barry Brown, invited me to an AIDS benefit at The Long Beach Civic Light Opera and introduced me to Mr. Sondheim. We talked, and as the conversation ensued I shared that I named my cat after him, which he thankfully found amusing. I then proceeded to 58 DAVID TAMMUZ/AV 5772

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Lynn Wexler - David Magazine July 2012 Issue  

Lynn Wexler's article on David Magazine, July 2012 Issue