If you want to see great artwork, you should check out the Art Institute. Or you could always head over to the West Loop gallery district and explore. But if you’ve already been to those places, may I suggest an alternative? Head to the Macy’s at Randolph and State Street for a real special treat.
Take the elevators to the 8th floor, go past the furniture - straight to the tiny portrait studio in the back corner. There are several paintings on display, mostly of families and children of no particular importance. But in the center, there is one painting that catches the eyed. It looks…well, it looks familiar. The portrait resembles that of Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers. Lounging.
Is it really an oil painting of Seth Meyers? And if it is, did he pose for that portrait? Or did the artist paint something off the internet? Seth spent his formative years in Chicago, performing at IO and other city comedy clubs. I know Seth from back in those days and I had an old e-mail address. I explained my discovery and he responded with this story:
“5/6 years ago I went to Chicago for a charity event. There was a giftbag that included a sitting at a portrait gallery. I was DEFINITELY the only person there who went up and did the sitting. The nicest dude on earth was running the place and took the photos. I explained to him that my goal was to get a giant oil painting of myself for my brother. He understood that I was posing ironically. I got the proofs but paying for the portrait was prohibitively expensive. I seriously considered it but it seemed wasteful to drop that kind of money for something my brother might hate.”
The nice dude in question is Don Sayles, who runs Classic Portrait Source. The 72 year old artist has been in the oil painting business for over 50 years. He will take your picture, then create an oil painting from the proofs. Sayles says it takes about one month to finish a painting. Sayles added, “There isn’t much of an industry for oil paintings here. As a matter of fact, I am one of the last oil painting studios in the midwest.”
How much is the photo worth? Sayles says the Meyers’ painting in question is 40x40 and worth $5500. “It’s funny you called today, I was out getting a frame for Seth’s painting. We’re going to mount it in a more prominent place, against the wall on Wabash,” said Sayles. Don also said he’s done portraits for other stars, including Dennis DeYoung and Lauren Holly.
So how does Seth feel about an ironic oil painting on display next to dining sets and sleeper sofas in a department store?
“I feel bad for the dining sets and sleeper sofas. They deserve a more dignified portrait.”
Maybe I’ve done Seth a favor. He can send this blog post to his brother instead of dropping mad cash for an oil painting that might end up in the alley. Or maybe he can fly him in and they can see the portrait live and in person (and hit the food court for Marcus Samuelson burgers).
Go see it for yourself. On display on the 8th floor, mounted on the wall facing Wabash near the more contemporary items. Maybe if you’re lucky, Don will throw it in extra if you spring for a couple stools and a sectional.
***photos of portraits taken by Julie Coe