Monday, June 30, 2008

Self Portraits

I love to look at pictures of myself and of people with whom I can "find myself". Mostly, I think its because I never agree with them. Ever since I can remember I have been totally self absorbed. I'm sure my family and friends can vouch for it. Not in a "Mine" sort of way... More in a "OK, get to the story with me in it," sort of way.
Now, I also used to draw myself on many occasions and my favorite artwork (of my own) that is currently sitting in my living room waiting to be hung on a freshly painted "Venice Blue" wall is a form of a self portrait.
When I began taking painting and drawing classes at Pella, Central College, I used to scoff at this one guy who did NOTHING but self portraits. They were always the same.... Shoulders up... same blank stare... same grunge flannel shirt... same long limp hair and attractive face. In the time I spent at Central he must have done twenty of them. I thought he was so unoriginal.
Until I started taking life drawing classes and had to draw a moving body or even a still body that couldn't help but sway a little here or a little there and after a break you just couldn't get back into the right spot you were drawing in and that arm isn't quite right! Then I thought, "OK, I get it." Portable life drawing model that you have full control over. But what's with the the mug shot. Everywhere I looked very intelligent students resorting to this same head shot with eyes staring themselves down.
Then I took Bikram Yoga. Everyday you did a variation of the same 12 poses. I feel like I could still be doing those same poses today and not have them just the way I could best do them (had I stuck with Bikram Yoga and was still working for the guy who owned the studio so I could get half price hot house yoga). So then it came to me a bit more...
If I could I would have total control over all the images of myself that are floating out there in the world. I would delete and retake all the ones I didn't like. Maybe that's the artist in me. Or the insecurity in me...
Michelangelo and Da Vinci didn't indulge in very many self portraits that are "Known" self portraits. I can think of the one of Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel where he portrays himself as the Saint who flays himself. Michelangelo's portrait is not the saint who is holding the skin... He is the skin he holds. Not too confident, Michelangelo. Basically saying that he is the base sin and shit of humanity.
There is a drawing that everyone calls Da Vinci's self portrait but it isn't confirmed. Some say the Mona Lisa is a self Portrait of Da Vinci because the features line up with the aforementioned self portrait of Da Vinci. Some say both portraits show a certain sadness, longing, and maybe even a little anger.
Are self portraits cocky of insecure?
As for those drawings I'm about to hang in my living room. They are not portraits of my face but of my body at a time in my life when I was jumping from the frying pan. I was ready and eager. I'm happy to have them in my life. I was talking to a friend... and I wonder would my other Mommy friends agree?... I feel like I have shed a skin that day I gave birth to Lucia. I don't recognize myself. This is an exciting and scary time. And as exciting and scary Italy was in a "global-consciousness" sort of way this new place is much more crucial and complicated. I tread slower and more deliberately on this new path. The pace is almost painstaking. I had the first pang to make a new self portrait today but didn't know what to do. In Italy I didn't even know I had started before I created the "twins". Perhaps I have started creating already but haven't recognized it yet. Lucia is the obvious indication but my reflection is hard to discern from her.
We had our portraits taken at JCPennys last Saturday. There is one of my holding her up by my face and we are both smiling. She embraces the toothy, mouth wide open smiles of her Mommy. She hands them out all the time to anyone who will look her way. I love that about her. She brightens peoples faces like sunshine. I see it all the time when I carry her around. They come closer with curiosity to see a little baby and she blasts them one of her grins and "POW!"- I get to see the happiest face from a perfect stranger. It's a freaking miracle. I'm sure other mommies out there know what I'm talking about.
My baby is part of my new portrait like a Frida Kahlo portrait with her sitting neatly and formally in a chair with a bloody vein reaching out and attaching her to me. The marks of childbirth discreetly tucked behind my carefully chosen middle class second hand clothes with words hovering over me. Words like Welfare, Career, and Housewife. This paints far too literal a picture but you get my train of though, no? Plus, I would hate to rip off the lovely and amazing Frida. Frida was great because she wasn't afraid. I identify a lot with her. She liked to play different roles in life and didn't let people put her in a box. She stands out obviously for her dense collections of self portraits. I also liked her because there is always something gruesome and painful about her self portraits. Its well know that Frida knew pain but it resonates for us "common folk" because we all feel a bit of that pain of living. Life can be very painful at times. Other times its the best feeling in the world but there are times it is downright gory. Recovering from childbirth is a serious example of that.
I haven't found my artist-self in many years no matter how many museums I visit, or Joni Mitchell CDs I listen to or smart people I talk to. Art can be encouraged by those things but it has to be authentic to be good. It has to resonate. It has to be recognized. And unfortunately for me there is always a sublimation process that I have to be so ready for I practically have to train for it. And again, unfortunately for me, I'm still not ready.


Sarah L. said...

i like it when you paint, katy o. maybe you should paint some pictures of that babe of yours.

Anonymous said...

Provocative post - I like looking back too...I kind of think that about a particular tat that I have, but in retrospect it was something that was important too me...anyway, I hear what your saying, and it's sometimes nice to just get those things off your me, i think all of us feel this way about a lot of things...sure puts our parents into perspective.