Selfie of the Day

A marvelous post I read yesterday by the amazing Joseph P. Kanski at his blog  Implied Spaces—illustrated with his simply spectacular images, each of them in its unique way a self-portrait—mused on the whole topic of self-portraiture and autobiography, considering what the artists and authors in question are choosing to reveal or conceal, to present or pretend. Every time we interact, or for that matter, fail to or choose not to interact, we are making statements. Some of us are constantly focused on, and perhaps occasionally obsessed with, the verity or clarity of what we present to the world.

People in hiding are not limited to refugees and criminals on the run. Many of us assure ourselves that we are being thoughtful, mindful, when we speak and act, yet there are so many more delicate and subtle bits of identity emanating from us at all times that it would be utterly impossible to control every iota of sensory information we convey, never mind how others in all of their complexity are receiving and interpreting the whole. Regardless of the natural intent most of us have to reinforce our own ideals and wishes, we tend to speak volumes in the myriad ways we present ourselves to the world. The challenge to be true to ourselves only increases with maturation and self-knowledge as we grow and age.

In the present culture of self-revelation, this is, as Mr. Kanski observes, a time when any and every image we present is widely and rather permanently available to be seen and interpreted by ever-increasing numbers, most of whom we will never come to know in any true sense. No time like the present, then, for reevaluating what those revelations are, can be, or should be, according to our own estimation. My hopes and fears inevitably become more visible or available for speculation in every self-image that I offer, so perhaps I shall just see how close I can get to telling my story the way I want to tell it.

My latest: Selfie, 2.0.

Digital illo: Selfie 2.0

The updated version—still Me, more Me, less Me? I’m sure it only depends on whom you ask.

Colorful Language

Photo: A Constellation of Mysteries

Color is just one of the infinite constellation of mysteries that make up my world, my life. What looks like nothing but the fabric of my black corduroy pants has a surprising amount of what looks like non-black color in it when I look very closely. A bit of digital exaggeration and enhancement to bring out the colors I see either heightens the illusion or tells me, once again, that color is far more than meets the eye!

I’ve been taught that color, or at least our perceptions of it, might be manageable. As an artist, I try my best to take advantage of that possibility. But I know my limitations. Even rather experienced and advanced color theorists in this day and age come up against problems with explaining and understanding precisely what color is and how it acts, despite knowing the differences between additive and subtractive mixing, knowing how the retina and brain perceive and communicate color ideas to us, or knowing how the environment and context of what we see affects our perceptions of color.

What does it really mean if I say that Black is a construct that represents the absence of color and White, one representing all colors combined? Or if I tell you that an orange is, well, orange, but in deep shadow it might appear brown or black, or light yellow? Or that humans have white or black or red skin! What gives a single one of these concepts any credence at all? Color, it seems to me, is a matter of faith as much as of science—like so many things we think of as immutable Fact in our little universe. What both science and faith seek to explain, it seems to me, is beyond the scope of human understanding no matter how brilliantly we study and how majestic and divine our inspiration would appear. What is all around us is supremely complex and beautiful and, to my mind, needs no understandable explanation to be so glorious.

No matter what color it is.

I Play One on Television

Digital illustration: Putting up a Serious Front

I can’t always put up a good front as a genius…

There was a long-ago commercial with an actor touting medication but beginning his spiel with the famously fatuous disclaimer, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on television.” The idea that reading scripts and declaiming lines to represent a character in the medical profession qualified him in any way to advise us on what was good medicine for anyone was laughable even to a child. But it’s amazing how often we supposed adults will readily impute to anyone the characteristics they project to us (intentionally or not) without questioning that confidence.

The obvious problem with this is in how we fall for con artists’ tricks. As entertainment in, say, a magic show or theatre performance where the act is benign, there’s no threat. Criminals of all sorts, however, are practiced at getting us to believe things that defy logic and rationality and often would shatter at the merest breath of challenge.

Digital illustration: I Play One on Television

…but I play one on television…

Less obvious is the problem of our easily made assumptions about others based on appearances alone or very little additional information. Not to mention the assumptions that others readily make about us in the same ways. Sometimes these assumptions can serve us well—they’re a little like shorthand, enabling us to navigate situations and interact and communicate with strangers and acquaintances without having to essentially study and get to know them thoroughly beforehand.

So I could say in this context that ‘I’m not an outgoing person, but I play one on television.’ Not a wealthy person, but I live like one. Not famous, but since I hang around with lots of musicians and other performers, I get plenty of access to what life might be like for famous folk, and even get recognized and treated like a better-known person because of the, well, better-known company I keep. And I’ve certainly never been a classy, high quality person, but I am spending as much time as I can in the company of far better people than me in hopes that proximity will lend itself to others seeing their glory reflected in me. Hey, if I’m really lucky, a little of that good stuff will rub off on me, too.

The Genie is Out of the Bottle

Digital illustration (BW): Grinning Genie 1It would be hard to imagine a person who is less the early adopter than I am. Newness frightens me even under the best of circumstances, and I am intimidated beyond words at the idea of trying to learn anything. Worst possible example for anyone’s edification when it comes to scholarship, growth, adventure, futurism, daring, and tireless commitment to progress of any sort. I’m the one you’ll find huddled somewhere in the shady corner as far back of the starting blocks as I can manage to be, while everyone else is already sprinting gleefully into the turn.

Chalk it up, pretty succinctly, to fear. My self-diagnosis, summing up my own observations and experiences with the insights of better educated therapist and doctor supporters over my lifespan, is that the recipe made by my own ingredients of personality, health, situation and resources tends to combine into a person who’s timid and easily defeated. Add a dollop of laziness to my already potent blend of anxiety, dyslexia and other perceptive and receptive oddities, and my lack of physical strength and grace, not to mention of any sort of courage, and you get an unwillingness, even a very stubborn one, to set foot into new territories, whether actual or metaphorical.

Still.

When I feel I can experiment safely and without anyone else observing me at work, I may occasionally delve into something new with a surprising (to me, at least) sense of play and eagerness. Though I’ve resisted the idea of learning to use any new forms of technology, at least until they’re far from new anymore on a general scale, even these can be both useful and entertaining if and when I finally get up the gumption to try them. So here I am, finally, fiddling around with the iPad as an artistic medium. On our recent week’s jaunt to Puerto Rico, the iPad provided a convenient way to reduce the weight and size of my baggage from the old laptop I have lugged around for the last five years, and while I found it slightly irksome to peck at the tiny integrated keypad on it to write posts, it did work for that, and as long as I used newly made images or ones in my stream of digitally stored photos, I could plug in illustrations as well. Photos taken on my iPad or iPhone do not impress me much, and I find both a bit awkward to use at this point. But with a new set of digital drawing/painting toys, I’m distracted from any such photographic and textual shortcomings by the process of teasing out the secrets of each art-related program.Digital illustration: Grinning Genie 2

Once introduced to this plaything, of course, I loosen up and lose my inhibitions gradually. Knowing that after years of such untutored play with various iterations of Photoshop, I still only use a hundredth of the possible functions and tools it offers—and those, probably, in wildly incorrect and inefficient ways—I can only imagine that there will be exponentially more things I can learn and do, as well as fail to learn and do, with these newer tools and toys. But at least I’ve managed to wiggle my recalcitrant self into trying them, for a start.Digital illustration: Grinning Genie 3

Shiny Objects & Flying Illusions

Beetling Brow

Inside my skull’s a fizzing insectarium

of mystic, magic, merry little things

so wildly pretty that my brain can’t carry ’em

without the power of all their tiny wings,

Abuzz with sparkling brilliance and their fleeting,

so speedy that they’ve utterly forgot

regard for gravity or need for beating,

become instead bright vestiges of thought.

Now, you may think I’m just a bugged-out entity

with not a thought for anything of sense,

but every person has his own bugs, hasn’t he,

and with their glittering gleam, the joy’s immense;

I never really cared that much for images

or what all others thought my problem was,

but just embraced my inner insects’ scrimmages,

and love the shiny ways they make me buzz.digital collage

Natural Affinities and Others

digital photoCats are nature’s hate-seeking missiles. If there’s a houseful of guests, only one of whom dislikes or is wildly allergic to felines, everybody knows that’s where the household cat will make a speedy beeline and glue itself to the ankles of whichever sufferer would rather the cat were somewhere about a thousand miles away. As it happens, when they choose to do so, cats can also sense affinity. Some are so quick to attach to the humans who will indulge their every whim that they must probably have a sense transcending the dimensions we with our merely mortal five senses perceive.

In both, I have seen parallels in human form. There are some who manage at every turn to recognize quickly and attach themselves instantly to others who will love and appreciate them and all their gifts—and some, conversely (or perversely) who have only the knack of finding and sinking their hooks into people who would rather they were about a thousand miles away.

You’re Not Afraid? You *will be*!

digital collage

The Jitters

Remember the years when we were young

And captive among our babysitters?

Sheer terror would reign with its horrid thrill,

The unspeakable chill we would call the Jitters.

Under the bed or under the house,

A mouse isn’t safe when the Jitters gleam

Reptilian fangs and rhinoceros horns;

O! The scorns we would risk to release a scream!

Anything dark and anywhere doored

Could harbor a horde of Jittery creeps;

They hide under blankets and lurk behind stones:

The wrack in the bones that never sleeps.

Do I hear the wind? Did you hear an owl?

Or was it the howl of the restless dead?

The moan of a sailor just as he drowned?

All around are the sounds of the things we dread.

That flickering light! The curtains a-moving,

And both of them proving that something is near:

We’d writhe in our agonies, plagued by deceptions

And all the perceptions of what we fear.

This, you remember, was life with the Unknown,

And all of the fun known as children was moot

Whenever night fell or a stranger came calling;

Appalling how it never stopped its pursuit.

Now deep in adulthood, responsible, sane,

We scoff at the pain of those gibbers and twitters,

Yet get us alone, in a vulnerable state,

And sooner or late, we succumb to the Jitters.digital collage + text

Endless Falling

A whisper in the gloaming just pre-dawn
A shiver or a prickling on the neck
A flutter of the eyelid, quick, then gone
And hope of any sleep is now a wreck

Above me in the dark are broken dreams
Above my brow an icicle of fear
Above the awful emptiness, the screams
In silent agony are all I hear

And under all this brittle disarray
And under skin and in the bone and soul
And under some enchantment, night and day
I know this wickedness will eat me whole

Against the dangers present in this fright
Against the door of Death I’ll knock tonight

All the Colors

 

When we speak of something having ‘all the colors of the rainbow’ I am certain we don’t quite understand the enormity of such a thing. My sisters and I used to criticize badly designed or tasteless clothing, interiors and the like as being so artificial and clumsy because they were of a ‘color not found in nature’–but then, too, our thinking was far too constrained. For nature, that queen of design, has more colors than can be perceived, let alone understood, by mere human eyes and minds.

She’s a trickster and a lavishly opulent over-doer, is Nature. We are much too small to comprehend the fulness of her range and beauty. What seems like one rather simple thing at first often morphs, as we look and imagine further, into something far different and most likely far more subtle and complex.

I was reminded of this last night when I sat down with a new set of children’s marking pens–the cheap permeable-tip markers that last for about five drawings but cost a tenth of what the ‘professional’ pens do–and began to sketch something leafy. As soon as I began I knew that one kind of green would not make a leaf; no, I knew that all four kinds of green supplied by the manufacturer of this little bag-of-pens couldn’t begin to be sufficient to convey the character of the simplest, plainest sort of leaf-like thing, let alone give a hint of the way light might play across it in different climes, at different times of day. Or how much its appearance must be affected by my own vision, my mood, my expectations.

Our abilities to envision, physical and metaphorical both, are fluid but can never quite keep up with the mysteries around us. And that, my friends, is a fine excuse for forging ahead into the puzzling and problematic and pearlescent thing that is the future . . . .

colored markers on paper

How It Works

In Haiku,

Reality takes

Sudden swerves