March 31, 2004

The Last (Ever) Self-Portrait

While I am on the subject of students’ homework (yesterday’s entry), I should tell you about the self-portrait another student brought in. She said it was awful and she would never do another one. (It wasn't that bad, just not up to her usual exceptional accomplishments.) So I told them about my Last Self Portrait.

When I was in my junior year at Brown University, studying Literature, a friend suggested that we go down into the basement and paint. I said sure enough, so three of us took some supplies and headed into the inner workings of the dormitory. I took a very large sheet of cardboard and some oil paint (maybe it was someone else's because I don't remember painting in oils before that) and I must have had a mirror as well. I used my favorite colors: purples, yellows, pinks, oranges, you know, the colors you find in skin (if you look closely). This was actually a seminal piece for me. It was what gave me the desire to paint, to be an artist, to dedicate my life to serving art. To go to art school after graduation. To keep painting. The process of painting that portrait gave me a sense of joy that I had never known before. It transcended the “me” that was so ever present, that was always walking two steps ahead of me. It leapt over that self-consciousness and broadened the world.

When I brought this wonderful (to me) painting home at the end of the year, and took it out of the trunk of the car, the father of my next door neighbor (the girl I had always longed "to be", friendly and likeable, the original girl next door), her father said: “What’s that? The booby prize?”

And the best part of this is that it didn’t effect any part of the rest of my life. I still paint.

AND my students have challenged me to do another self portrait. We will see. Maybe........

Posted by leya at March 31, 2004 08:25 AM