New York City Artist Sam Adoquei was commissioned by the prestigious Columbia University to paint
the portrait of their storied Alumnus from the Class of ‘46, Judge Constance Baker Motley (19212005).
When I first saw the completed image I was shocked by how Modern this portrait is. It took me a few
minutes to fully grasp the scope of the work. In this portrait Sam has reached a mature stage of painting
and shows the complete range of his power. Like the subject of this work, Sam has always been
committed to perfection and painstaking preparation. He also understands the importance of being in
command of his arena, and both Artist and Subject are known to perform in a quiet, elegant manner that is
unbeatable. New Yorkers love talent and have snapped up the work of Sam Adoquei since his arrival
here over 25 years ago. He truly lives by the hairs of his brush, and his talent is what makes him the
brightest star on the Faculty at The National Academy on New York’s Upper East Side.
Upon first glance of this marvel of modernity, the viewer is drawn to the face of the subject. This is the
enlightened face of an angel, full of intelligence and promise. This is the face of the quiet Super Hero that
will become the voice of a decade of change in America. This face appears to be saying “I know I can, I
know I will.” The slight confident smile disarms the viewer and you suddenly realize that the encounter
has become intimate, its as if the subject is real, yet here you are standing in front of an inanimate object.
That’s the power of an Adoquei. Even though the subject appears full of youth, Sam has carefully placed
a few gray hairs throughout the hair to denote her wisdom and stature. There are few things that rival the
severity of the Black Judicial Robe. The Robe embodies the omnipotent power of the bench and upholds
a tradition dating back to 1801. Although Sam uses the Robe to exhibit the power of the position, he also
paints it in a manner that exhibits the divine power of the female form. It’s very subtle, yet potent.
Judge Constance Baker Motley was appointed to the Federal Judiciary in 1966 by President Lyndon
Baines Johnson. Her accomplishments are legendary. For millions of Americans she was the Voice of
Reason during some of our Nations most trying times. Sam Adoquei has answered the call of Columbia
with an heroic effort that will enlighten viewers for centuries to come.
Although the likeness is based on a small photo, Sam hired a studio model to pose for this portrait. He
purchased Law Books to use as props. Starting at the upper left of the canvas, the viewer takes in the
soft blues that travel across the painting to the deeper blue of the law books. The eye next travels down
the bookcase to discover a well thought out stilllife of a pen, paper and a book. On top of the book rests
the hand of the model. I am sure that Sam spent days considering the exact pose of the hand, which
catches the eye and leads it back to that captivating face of Justice. Off to the left of center an abstract
rectangle of color catches the viewer’s attention which is led back to the face of the subject. Sam is a
master at balancing the canvas with color. He enlivens and unifies the composition with abstracted
shapes that establish symmetry, the placement of which is so vital to Sam. This fabulous portrait is the
painted equivalence of Sam’s commitment to excellence. There is no single unmoving part. It is a