I asked 252 Pittsburgh artists to each make a portrait of the same person: John Riegert. John was my friend for 20 years. He was an artist who began struggling with mental illness several years ago. He lost his job and his marriage. A suicide attempt put him in a coma for four days. I chose him as the subject to give him something to look forward to and because I knew he would relate well to the participating artists. Plus, I thought it would reintroduce him to the art community that he was once a part of. More than half met with him in person—in coffee shops, parks, museums, universities, riverbanks, cemeteries, their studios and homes, and John’s own home. The rest worked off a photo I sent with the invitation to participate. During the run of the exhibition at SPACE gallery, John acted as a docent—so when a visitor walked in, they saw hundreds of portraits of the same person and then got to meet the subject himself. John told stories of each artist and their work, as well as stories of his own.
A Tumblr of the project with hundreds of images: johnriegert.tumblr.com
A 700-page book on the project is here.
And Julie Sokolow made a short documentary about it.
Very special thanks to Eric Lidji, Donna Penoyer, Ryan Loew, Murray Horne and John Riegert.