Keanu Dreaming, 2003 Oil on Linen 30 × 22 inches
Keanu Dreaming, 2003
Oil on Linen 30 × 22 inches

This painting of Keanu stayed with me for years, as a sort of golden protector and talisman of good energy, and I felt it appropriate to put next to his deceased friend River Phoenix as a sort of angel on a wall that involved so much tragedy. As I have written elsewhere, Keanu has always been a "scope" for me, and an avatar of sorts that I have "employed" in my "star system" to stand in for so many characters. Here he was one of the Hamlets in my series Hamlet 1999, the predecessor to My American Dream but such an important work that I wanted to bring him in to be with River in a sort of heaven that the "angels" of this wall could coincide with the more religious pictures to give a sense of balance and good energy. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have always thought of Keanu as a "good actor" and someone who has maintained a career in the now decades that he has been working with some of the great directors of our time, and has created now iconic films such as the Matrix that have had such an influence. Important to me is that he represents a different kind of masculinity not seen in films much before, especially when he first began appearing in the eighties, but even now. He is not a John Wayne, shoot-em-up sort of patriarch. Up until the Matrix, he was mostly submissive, not the seducer but the one seduced, not the instigator of action, but the one who caught the bomb that Dennis Hopper, and stopping the bus and saving the people. He is a Gen X model of masculinity, one who can get the job done and take care of things, but also not afraid to touch on his more "feminine" side—something that I think threatens a lot of people, especially straight men, who are confused by this super strong person who doesn’t quite fit into the traditional "dad" role of patriarchal codes. He is also of part Hawaiian heritage, and not exactly white, and has a general post-slacker, post-modern knowing ease in his stiffness, and works hard with integrity in projects he believes in and is able to elevate the material with his talent and smart passion. He has always been someone that, at the least in their persona, is great to have around in a painting, and I’m hoping here, coping with his own abjection by culture—not to the degree of Frankenstein—but surviving past his friend River Phoenix, that he earns his place as an angel on this wall.