A self-described sports nut, Cedarhurst resident Adam Port has combined his love for athletics with his passion for art to create paintings of athletes and entertainers in a photographic-realism style.
Port, 32, will be selling more than 40 original pieces of his acrylic paint and colored pencil artwork at a fundraiser next week for the Manhattan-based Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home-away-from-home for families visiting children who are hospitalized with cancer.
The event will feature paintings of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jay Z, Eminem and others. Titled An Evening Celebrating the Art of Adam Port: Benefiting Ronald McDonald House New York, it will take place on Oct. 6 at Openhouse Gallery at 201 Mulberry St. in Manhattan from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
“One of the causes that is very important to me is cancer research,” said Port, who has family members who have cancer and others who are cancer survivors. “A friend of mine mentioned that he knew someone who works with Ronald McDonald House. I was fortunate enough to set up a meeting, and thankfully they liked my ideas for a fundraising event.”
Originally from Valley Stream, Port graduated from Hewlett High School and was named Athlete of the Year in 1996. His wife, Lauren (nee Thun), is also a Hewlett grad.
Port’s interests in sports and art intersected in high school and college. He attended Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, where he not only earned a degree, but attracted the attention of the National Basketball Association. A friend of Port’s took his painting of Jordan, a class project, to a Knicks-Bulls game at Madison Square Garden, hoping that Jordan would see it and sign it. Though that didn’t happen, a sideline photographer was impressed by the work and gave Port’s friend his business card, which led to a meeting with the NBA.
“I was given a license agreement, which allowed me to sell my basketball paintings,” Port said. “Having this license agreement really propelled my career because it allowed me to get involved with events like the NBA All-Star weekend, where I was able to network with a lot of athletes and entertainers.”
Port, whose paintings are for sale in the Manhattan NBA store, was first inspired by architecture, he said, because of the discipline’s combination of artistry and mathematics, and then was exposed to illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker and fine artist Chuck Close.
Port eventually focused on what he called “photorealism.” That realism was what struck Ronald McDonald House spokeswoman Natalie Greaves about the artwork. “Personally, it is something so vivid, so stunning, whether it be a sports figure or an entertainment figure,” said Greaves, adding that a typical observer thinks a work by Port is a photograph, then realizes that it isn’t. “He is bringing the work to life.”
Hewlett High teacher Nick Lacetera spurred Port’s artistic creativity in high school, and at Syracuse, Professor Murray Tinkleman was one of his mentors. He draws on many sources for inspiration, and works on projects nonstop from day one to completion, unless interrupted by previous deadlines and the unexpected, he said.
“I’m cursed with being a perfectionist, so when I look at my finished paintings, I’m always looking at something that I want to tweak,” said Port, who revels in the reactions people have to his work. “Thankfully, most of the time they end up framed behind glass, so I can’t.”
Ronald McDonald House has provided support to families since 1978, and the facility in Manhattan, temporary home to up to 84 families, is filled to capacity every night, Greaves said. “We remember they’re kids first,” she said.