Tag Archives: torture

The Inevitable Self-Portrait

Valentina Cervi as Artemisia Gentileschi in "Artemisia" 1997

I cannot stop thinking about the myth of the artist. A teacher of mine from college brought this notion to my attention. Infact, her exact words were “living the myth” and I was struck dumb. Of course! I thought to myself. I was in college at that time and it was many years (many, many years) ago. Everything struck me dumb. But this was a revelation of sorts. It gave words to something that I had inarticulately tried to understand for a while. The myth did not bother me at all. I was exposed to a lot of popular culture that made the myth seem very desirable. I could love myself passionately if I lived the myth.

That brings me to the idea of the “self portrait” – the performance of the self on canvas (or any other surface/in any other space). In a way, the myth of the artist demands a self portrait. Where else do you begin? It’s ridiculous romance is hard to resist.

And so begins my half-assed rant. The painter is condemned please. Bataille, here we go again. You bite me, you do.

He (the other, watching me) uses words like succinct and reductionist and I’m watching his mouth. I watch mouths and I watch myself. I wonder how they see me. A friend recently told me that they (the proverbial them) only see ugliness in the difference. But again, that is just pop culture. The inevitable self-portrait of the artist. I see them as they see me and I see them. We all watch each other, watch ourselves. And there goes coherence, down the drain. Down, boy! Down it goes.

As a visual artist, I am condemned. This notion is fast turning into a belief. I could write pages of coherent rubbish disclaiming and claiming it. I could support all my bullshit with references. But here I am, writing about the self-portrait, fighting temptation – fighting the myth.

Fragment – consider revising. Ah yes. That old spiel.

What do you see? Do you see me? When I draw myself (when I draw myself out) do I see what you see? If I see you watching me, can I see what you see? I think I’ve tired myself of the pornographic form vs. content debate. I think I’ve tired myself of all the debates. My practice suffers from delays. And then I see such beauty and I am humbled. I am humbled by their mouths and their glances. I am humbled by the gaze. And yet, I draw myself over and over, hoping to see what they see as I watch them. I like to watch.

The self-portrait can be torture. Bataille, you bite me. In my metaphorical ass.