What the Eyes Cannot See
What the Eyes Cannot See
A young Cassius Clay rose to prominence as much for his bravado and hype, as he did for the heaviness of his punches and speed of his feet. He was a master tactician in the ring, outlasting Frazier, Norton, and Homes but equally adept at the art of cutting through the clutter to ensure the world's eyes are focused on him come fight night. While we all have heard his chant of, "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," what is more interesting, and less well known, is the end of his phrase: "that hands can not hit what the eyes cannot see." For me, while the "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," mantra speaks to All's prowess in the ring, it is the, "what you can not see," that is what makes Ali so special and intriguing.
When my father was a young boy, he had a "chance" meeting with Ali. His family drove by Ali's car on Christmas day and rolled down the window and asked to meet with him. Ali graciously accepted and the meeting ended up being a 20 minute conversation about the relationship between Canada and the US. This personal connection to Ali and his graciousness sparked my interest in this icon, but learning about his commitment to civil rights and his conviction to stand up for his beliefs is what drove me to create this portrait.
I chose to paint Ali in his black suit as opposed to his boxing trunks to highlight the dual nature of the man. A ferocious pugilist, in a finely tailored suit, depicts his time, when the Elija Mohammed influenced him. I have also chosen to show Ali's wide-eye stare that defined his time in the ring, but instead of the hands being raised to trick his prey with the "rope-a-dope," they are delicately holding both a butterfly and a bee. The depiction is a nod to Ali's deep self-reflection as he transitioned from the ring bee to the butterfly that he was free to be in later life. Over Ali's right shoulder is gold foil meant to represent the cocoon left behind in this transition.
I have emphasized his shadow to highlight the concept of moving beyond the "snapshot" version of a person. Is it someone chasing him in the ring? Or a former version of Ali that he wants to escape? With this we are forced to ask ourselves not always to accept the 60 second version that we see of someone on IG, but to look deeper and understand why the person is who they are and why they have made the choices they have made. And only by focusing on the shadow, can we understand
What the Eyes Cannot See.