Medicine on the Midway - Spring 2018

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Artist Stephen Flemister, right, works with model Patric McCoy, AB’69, MA, a retired environmental scientist serving as the photographic model for the portrait of E.E. Just.


being a scientist,” Palmer said. “The story is not always this perfect arc of a hero.” Graduate student Victoria Flores, also in evolutionary biology, emphasized the personal relevance and power of including Just’s image among the historical portraits and photographs of prominent — and mostly white male — University scientists and scholars. “Just is one of those people who could provide that image,” added Sophia Carryl, SM’17, a graduate student in evolutionary biology, “that figure where you can say, ‘Look, there’s someone like me, and if he could do it, I can do it as well.’” The working group, in collaboration with the Multicultural Graduate Community, commissioned artist Stephen Flemister to create the portrait. Flemister recently served as artist-in-residence with the University’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, and now teaches in the Department of Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute, where he earned his master of fine arts degree. Flemister’s artwork has been exhibited at the Hyde Park Art Center, Columbia College Chicago, South Side


Community Art Center and the University’s Arts Incubator, with public installations and performances throughout Chicago. While he is known for incorporating multimedia and technology into his works, as well as for his innovative use of more traditional media, Flemister said he is taking a more conventional approach in his depiction of Just. In order to capture variations in postures and form for the portrait, he took a series of photographs of the model, Patric McCoy, AB’69, MA, to use as he makes digital alterations, drawings and sketches to find parallels between the model and Just. For the final work, he will be producing an acrylic and oil painting in the likeness of Just. The students said that they were impressed with Flemister’s signature use of color to convey depth and emotion in his portraits. Palmer also appreciated his academic interests in art, along with “his ideas about how to represent a person fully.” “The portrait had to fit in but also stand out, and Steve’s work has this stand-out character that can bring the project to life,” she said. Flemister, whose master’s thesis addressed the “shared public image in memory and the problems of representation,” is exploring beyond the visual aspects of the project to unearth aspects of icons, memory and recognition within the subject. In addition to researching general portrait styles and postures from the National Portrait Gallery’s Regency collection, Flemister studied Just’s history and legacy. He read the Manning biography and also interviewed McCoy to gain a better appreciation for the experience of a contemporary African American scientist. Like the students who commissioned him, Flemister hopes that the portrait will stimulate interest in Just’s story and operate as a tool of representation. He is documenting his work on the project through photographs and blog posts highlighting his research. “I’m looking at how far we can push certain ideas past this figurative, realistic painting,” he said, “and ask, ‘Can we generate questions that introduce a new conversation?’”

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