Both. Put a smart phone and a Facebook account into the hands of the general public and all of a sudden many Americans look like self-absorbed, mindless twits. And if you haven’t caught on, I am shamelessly promoting this blog with a photo I took of myself here at Homestead National Monument in front of the Ephard-Palmer log cabin. I used an SLR digital camera, so that’s alright then. And yes, I am damned proud I can still fit into that prairie dress I made 30 years ago. That alone is worth documenting for posterity. That being said, the art of the self-portrait is an under-rated art form that has been around for thousands of years.
Some of the earliest cave drawings and indigenous art contain hand prints left by the artist, sort of as a way of saying, “Hey, look at me. Remember me.” As a figurative artist, I just love looking at self-portraits. Isn’t it wonderful to gaze into the eyes of say Georgia O’Keefe, Lucious Freud, Da Vinci and the like? In effect, the artist has now become the art.
A few years ago I was convinced by my friend and professional photographer, Rob, that I needed a portrait as a marketing tool to help promote my textile art. It was pure hell. It took two hours, 150 photographs and a few dirty jokes to even get me to smile. It was very intimidating to let another person into my inner sanctum so to speak. I was sure he was going to catch a glimpse of my 7 year old self. The image of that school photo taken in second grade is still burned into my mind. I was wearing an ugly brown plaid dress, a crooked smile, and a hunk of my 1″ bangs stood straight up in the air.
How had this happened? I started out life as a pretty cute kid with cornsilk blond hair tied with bows into tiny pigtails. Around the age of four my hair turned dark and was kept in two braids, still pretty cute. However, when my mother brushed and braided my hair I took to whining and complaining as she untangled the ever present snarls. In second grade my mother had had enough and had it cut off into what was then thought to be a stylish new do… The Pixie. Arrrgh.
Maybe I should start by explaining that my mother took me to her beautician, if you want to call her that, Iva Lou. She had hair the color of a bad spray on tan and a perpetual cigarette dangling from her lower lip. She catered to old ladies and little kids, neither of whom were wont to overly complain, mostly because they didn’t know any better. I am not sure why my mother went to her, but Mom assured me that the more Iva Lou talked the shorter the cut, and boy could those two talk. I usually left the beauty parlor, and I use that term loosely here, looking like a shorn sheep whose fleece had been removed with a lawn mower. At one point my bangs were 1″ long!
This went on until I was a senior in high school, (yes, I am a slow learner.) Every attempt to grow out my hair was an utter disaster; it hung shapeless while everyone else had perky flip hairdos. In frustration, this would ultimately result in a trip back to Iva for a new shearing. Thanks to my current, and very talented hairdresser, Kristi, I now know the secret to great hair is a great haircut.
So, these little foray’s into the self-portrait are just my way of banishing that 7 year old who sometimes still likes to sneak into my consciousness in an attempt at stealing my self confidence. It is also a way of reassuring myself that women can still look good as they age. Could that old adage, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better” really be true?” Perhaps if you have a good haircut and a better camera.