faces: Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman
in the studio with the artist
Inside the second floor studio in the childhood home of Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman, a single box fan gently flutters the sketches and inspiration pieces clipped on two easels and stacked everywhere in the crowded room.
And what inspiration. These are the happy things that Zimmerman likes to surround himself with. Carefully placed collections of miniature buildings. Glassy, egg-like snowglobes. A tiny bristly plastic Christmas tree. Grinning plastic ‘50s era Santa faces. Fat sketchbooks—his version of a diary—with decorated covers. A special photo in a metal frame. And, of course, Zimmerman’s paintings themselves.
Just a few years ago, Zimmerman was just like many of us. Working as a graphic designer in Atlanta, he was focused on success and making money, lots of it. But the death of his longtime partner, Brian Malone, in 2006 changed all that. “Death puts a lot of things into perspective,” he says.
So he started painting as a way to express his grief. First, baseball players and wrestlers, then an iconic moment—a painting of two robots hugging, created as part of the Westobou Festival’s Art 45. He called it “In the Middle of the Night I Hold On To You So Tight, So Both of Us Can Feel Protected” (he’s a fan of long titles) and signed it on the side with a flourish, Porkchop, the name Brian always called him.
Since then, the name Porkchop has become synonymous with Zimmerman’s quirkily charming, heartfelt and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny depictions of robots in any number of situations, from triumphantly waving a crumpled map while driving lost to touching heads while watching bright fireworks. “Robots can be anybody,” says Zimmerman, who like his paintings can move quickly from laughter to tears. “They can also talk about the heavy stuff and they don’t feel heavy at all.”
His current show, Love Stories, has been his most fun project to date—“because I’m painting stuff that cracks me up. I woke up from a nap yesterday and looked at [one of my paintings] and just started laughing.
“If you don’t have the sad, you don’t know how happy your happy is,” he says.
Take a quick glance into how the wonderful photo of Porkchop was produced below!
Want more Porkchop? Check out his exhibit, Love Stories, which depicts sweet and silly relationship stories through painting and collage, at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art through October 19; and watch for his “Find Your Happiness” campaign in downtown Augusta, a free art giveaway.