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Alice Neel painted a couple of her friends in Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian, and the experience is not something the subjects were quick to write home about.

As Hendricks tells it, they weren't allowed to move or talk until Neel decided to take a break! Talking about sitting stiff. But Neel was just so focused on her painting that there wouldn’t be any chit chat as she worked. The sitting, however, brought the three artists closer together, and they would form an everlasting friendship.

Neel was a people person, completely engaged with individuals, painting portraits when it wasn’t the fashionable thing to do. Forget photography, let’s just paint it the old fashion way. Neel was politically savvy, and refrained from exploiting her subjects. In a time where queerness was exploited for political use, Neel stands alone in her empathy. 

Sitting beside Geoffrey Hendricks is Brian Buczak, his partner, whom he met in 1976. Hendricks and Buczak both practiced art. Buczak’s work went against convention as he dealt with queerness and sexual identity. Geoffrey Hendricks was a notable member of the Fluxus Movement. Hendrick’s divorce from his wife, the artist Nye Ffarrabas, was depicted in a performance piece which also doubled as his coming-out. Hendricks and Buczak remained spouses until Buczak’s death in 1987. They cofounded the publishing initiative Money for Food Press. It was rightly so that Neel’s portrait could depict nothing other than a happy couple.

Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian was painted in 1978 in Neel’s kitchen. Geoff and Brian were invited to sit via Neel’s daughter-in-law. There was only one request: to wear the same clothes as the previous night, when they met at Rutgers, where Neel gave a lecture. Neel must’ve loved the company of the couple, because later that night, Neel invited them back for a coffee, where they sat in the kitchen, drank and chatted all night.