David Hockney: 1937. The British artist was born with synesthesia — he brain “sees” colors whenever he hears music. The colors that he sees guides him when he designs stage sets for operatic and ballet productions. In addition to set design, he is a renowned painter, print maker and photographer. While still a student at the Royal College of Art, Hockney’s exhibition Young Contemporariesin 1961, signalled the arrival of British Pop Art. Later that year, he sold two of his prints to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That same year, he also read the poems of Walt Whitman, which inspired Hockney to paint several paintings on the themes of love and homosexuality, including “We Two Boys Together Clinging,” where the title and some of the text in the painting are lines from the Whitman’s poem of the same name. By the mid 1960s, Hockney moved to Los Angeles, where he made an entire series of paintings of swimming pools rendered in vibrant colors.
In more recent years, Hockney has been exploring the limits of scale. His “A Bigger Grand Canyon” (1998) is actually a series of 60 paintings which, when combined together, produce one enormous painting of 6 3/4 feet by 24 feet. That painting was bought by the National Gallery of Australia for $4.6 million.In 2007, he produced “Bigger Trees Near Warter,” a series of fifty separate canvases which combine to form a 15 feet by forty feet painting. He donated those canvases to the Tate Gallery in London. “I thought if I’m going to give something to the Tate I want to give them something really good. It’s going to be here for a while.” He described it as a “duty” of successful artists to donate some of their work. He had turned down several requests to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, explaining politely that he was too busy painting her country. But he relented last year while watching the Thames River pageant for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on television and donated a printed copy of a digital painting he produced on his iPad to the Royal Collection.
Kelly McGillis: 1957. When the other star of Top Gun came out of the closet in 2009, she said that coming to terms with her sexual orientation had been a long, ongoing process since she was twelve, when she was convinced that God was punishing her. She now says that it’s much easier to become spiritual now that she knows that “God is okay with you being gay.” She graduated from Julliard’s Drama School in 1983 and began landing acting roles right away. Her breakout role was as an Amish mother in 1985′s Witness with Harrison Ford, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe award. In 1986, she was the flight instructor, Charlie, in Top Gun with Tom Cruse and Val Kilmer. She continued acting in films and television throughout the 1990s before taking a break in 2001. She resumed acting in 2004, and in 2008 she guest starred on Showtime’s “The L Word,” where she played a closeted Army colonel. In 2010, McGilllis entered into a civl union with her partner, and they make their home in Collingswood, New Jersey where McGillis works full-time at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. “I think one of the gifts that comes with age, if we survive ourselves, is what we created,” she explained.
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