A Conversation Piece:
Merriam Webster dictionary defines a “conversation piece” in art as, “a painting of a group of persons in their customary surroundings”. In art history, it was a style of group portraiture that became popular in the 18th Century, alongside Grand Manner portraiture. With this painting I combined a bit of both approaches in honoring Phil and Lisa Dubois.
A plaque hanging on the wall to the left of the portrait includes the following description of the painting:
Phil and Lisa Dubois are a couple surrounded by their history, accomplishments, and numerous interests – both in life and in their portrait. They asked Walker to create a painting within a painting, including a portrait of a baby boy that hung in the home of Lisa’s mother at the time that Phil and Lisa began dating in 1972. While first visiting her family, Phil had studied the portrait and inquired, “Who is Horace?” He had observed that the blocks at the child’s feet spelled out the name “Horace.” Lisa’s family had not noticed this before, as the painting was not of a family relation. Phil had made his mark as an observant and bright young man and the rest was history!
When Lisa’s mother moved into a smaller home, Lisa and Phil received the painting and hung it in the family room of the Chancellor’s official residence on the UNC Charlotte campus, Bissell House, which also was chosen as the setting for their portrait. It remains a charming reminder of their story together.
Lisa is depicted in the beaded evening gown that she wore at Phil’s installation gala as the University’s fourth Chancellor in February 2006. She is seen seated in an antique chair that her late father had always used at his office desk. The blue and gold textile throw hanging over the top of the chair was from the couple’s first European trip together.
On the table to the right is a seashell used as an element in the decorations at the Dubois’ wedding reception in 1976. It also acknowledges their love of the North Carolina coast, especially Bald Head Island. Phil’s hand is resting on the long handle of a golf club, speaking of his love (but not mastery) of the game. Phil’s tie represents the green and white of the school colors and the design of the UNC Charlotte logo.
On the table to the left is a bronze sculpture of a man panning for gold. It references the UNC Charlotte nickname, “The 49ers.” The full scale version of “The Niner,” sculpted by Lorenzo Ghiglieri, sits on campus near the Barnhardt Student Activities Center.
UNC Charlotte Center City was the first building constructed during the Dubois’ tenure. The Board of Trustees named the building in their honor in recognition of their fifteen years of distinguished service. The building was officially dedicated as “Dubois Center” in 2020 with the portrait publically on display on the first floor.
The Dubois Center in Uptown Charlotte, NC