Young Gregory Peck, 2005 Oil on Linen 20 × 24 inches
Young Gregory Peck, 2005
Oil on Linen 20 × 24 inches

Gregory Peck has always been a hero of mine, and I created this work for a show called Heroes, that was in Brussels around the time of my 40th birthday, where I wanted to assemble the heroes of primarily American culture to show the world at large what was great about these people gathered together to serve as models. I grew up with Peck on TV in the many heroic roles he played, obviously and especially that of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Even though, with the recent release of the Harper Lee "sequel" reveals the character to be perhaps less than stellar, the Atticus of the film that Peck inhabited was the bastion of integrity in his small town of Maycomb Alabama, defending a black man in a very racist 1930’s, and to treat people fairly, turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. Certainly watching this film when it was repeated on television growing up had a huge affect on me, and seeing Peck in roles like in the Yearling and more gave me models, beyond those of my own great father and family and community, what it was like to be a "gentleman" and a positive idea of masculinity in the world. I was particularly attracted, to, to this particular image, as it seems that Peck is wearing a flannel shirt, in an environment that synaesthetically reminded me of the Colorado I grew up in—you could almost smell the fresh clean mountain air that was crisp enough to make you wear the humble and warm flannel shirt. I’m a big believer in Joseph Campbell, who, to paraphrase, mentioned that "an artist’s job is to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order for that culture to progress" and Peck chose roles throughout his career, beyond Atticus, in particular because he thought they were proper role models in great material—of course he played some "baddies" too for range, but he is a consummate performer and man—outspoken against the blacklisting that happened in Hollywood during the McCarthy era, against the Vietnam war, and used his power of integrity to back the Democratic and liberal issues of his and our time fearlessly. He was a great artist because of all this, perhaps putting his work in his life and his life in his work made his acting even better and our world better as much as an artist can be of some influence. And he was always handsome!