Pen and ink, 11 x 6 inches, 1998 Collection of James Crawford & Judith Dean
No, that's not a rabbi. The sitter in this portrait is actually a bearded
woman of indeterminate religious affiliation.
The idea for this piece — which is based on one of my favorite paintings,
Jan Vermeer's The Lacemaker — came to me while reading an account
of various bearded ladies of the Victorian era. In what I can only imagine
was an effort to emphasize these ladies' femininity, promoters frequently
referred to the hirsute performers' marvelous facility for embroidery and
other needlecraft. On the other hand, their whiskers seemingly endowed them
with manly strength enough to swing an ax and produce enormous quantities
of firewood. Some may have seen this as combining the best of both worlds.