Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portrait of I.I. Rabi
36 x 30 Oil on Linen

Shortly after we were married Elizabeth's grandfather asked me to paint his portrait. I. I. Rabi was a champion of science, a great physicist, chair of Columbia University's physics department and an advisor to presidents. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on nuclear magnetic resonance. Rabi had a beautiful mind and we had marvelous conversations as he sat for me. There were two moments that have stayed with me and helped shape my artistic philosophy. One came as we were discussing beauty, not only in art but also in mathematics, philosophy and science. When he was solving a problem, he said, it was not good enough to simply come up with a correct answer. The problem was not resolved until it had an elegant solution. The second came as we talked about teaching. His students would often approach him with ideas for a doctoral thesis and ask if it was an appropriate subject. He would answer with a question of his own, "Does it bring you closer to God?"*.....

*I don't want to misrepresent Professor Rabi here, he was not a particularly religious man. Unlocking the mysteries of the universe was his way of being closer to God. No matter how you define God, Rabi's remark is a profoundly beautiful way to approach one's endeavors.