Self and Character portraits

The “pretty” self-portraits are not all vanity. The “characters” probably are not self-portraits. But they are portraits, so here they are.

They came at the end of a difficult period and questioning how did I get here the way you do when you want to grow but you’re just so fricken mad. But I don’t think being angry is always what you think it is. I mean, why were you in the situation in the first place? I had tolerated things I should never have tolerated. But why?

I thought it was because of all sorts of reasons, many of them very good reasons, I kept asking myself, but why? But why? But why? I had actually thought I was questioning a relationship gone wrong when I found out, it was my whole life.

It eventually became clear to me that for various reasons I had a pattern of hiding, hiding who I was, what I wanted, what I thought. I mean to some degree we all do this. Sacrifice the me for the us. This is what we think we are supposed to do, for the greater good. And sometimes you get so good at it, you’re not even quite sure what it is you want. And you don’t even know that. You just think you don’t know.

I realized that in order to do the work that I think I am meant to do in this world, I need to come out of hiding. And to do that I would have to address the reasons I had hidden in the first place. I won’t go into all the navel-gazing details, except to say the self-portraits that are portraits are self-work in a way. They are both about self-acceptance as well as getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My first shots (which you will not see) were very dismaying. I had this idea I would try my hand at something like Brooke Shaden’s work, who does these lovely fantasy-esque self-shots. Instead, I saw I had this droopy, angry-looking face, that would never inspire the heroine role. Women would not project themselves upon my blank face and see themselves. They would see me. Other. I cannot represent womanhood. I no longer have a blank face. I’m too old.

So with an about-face (oh, I couldn’t resist), I decided what I really needed to do was accept who I was. Make the best of who I am for the moment I am in. Because there is no question that I will look back on these droopy angry faces in twenty years and marvel over how young I actually was and berate myself for my discontent.

There is still some vanity here, of course. You don’t just wake up one day and are cured of that. I did choose flattering light and the best shots. There’s one there, maybe. One I felt the need to get real about. But even that one is not the worst. I save my worst for people in real life.

There is certainly a desensitizing effect at continually looking at your face in it’s worst poses. It’s really an ok face. It does what it’s supposed to even if it looks unhappier than it actually is sometimes and it insists on looking more or less its age. In fact, the uglier I look the happier some people will be. So there’s that. You’re welcome.

But the self-portraits were also a stand-in for the work that would follow. I knew I wanted to use myself as an actor somehow, because hey, it was the pandemic, who else was I going to get anyway? If anything, after my failure as “leading lady” in my own show early on I felt more strongly that my aging face should star in its own role. I just wasn’t sure yet what that was going to be.

But you got to start somewhere and sometimes you need to get some things out of the way. Pretty shots are tiresome, and they make me a touch anxious because I don’t think they’re true. But I am interested in doing more of the character portraits, maybe. But for now these evolved into the Hollywood (working title – work in progress) series.