Portraiture

Tub Series #3

Lately I have been spending more time alone, and it’s driving me back towards self-portraiture.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these shots—they aren’t really something that has a home.  I’m trying to escape the idea of audience though, and not let the worry about where something belongs stop me from making it.  I find that watercolor collage work is too small and peaceful.  Frankly, I’m not in a peaceful place, and I do a drawing and I just want to give it away as fast as possible.  Self-portraits are different—there’s a sense of absurdity to it.  There has to be. First of all, the selfie. It’s ridiculous and narcissistic.  It is also steeped in history, from the self-portraits of Francesca Woodman to Cindy Sherman, from Man Ray to Frida Kahlo. I’m not saying I’m in any class of theirs, but maybe I’m somewhere near the same conversation. Secondly, there’s the process itself. I’ve worn masks that tip and snag on everything, I’ve caught myself blurry, I’ve wound up completely out of the frame, I’ve been in the most unflattering positions possible.

My most recent series was inspired by a portrait I found a while ago from Bex Finch of a woman floating in water.  I wanted to see what I could do, so I filled the tub, set up a tripod, and dripped my way through a series of strange floating images. Out of the night, maybe three of them worked.

As always, my collaborator and best friend Tim Shannon was all support and cheering squad when I sent him the results.  Last night I got home, and while Tim had said he was sending me another camera, I didn’t really realize the magnitude of his awesomeness. (In general, yes, because he’s my homie and I will always always love him. As far as the camera, I was blown away by his generosity.)

In addition to his camera, I have a grocery bag full of fabric from a yard sale this weekend, from potential backdrops to lace overlays. I’m not sure how to turn my apartment into a photo studio yet—I need to find better lighting and use what I remember from the Heroes photo shoot at Greg and Bond’s apartment to visualize what can move and what can be used. I’m not good at spatial reasoning, and I’m sort of feeling like I’m a tumbling disaster zone who’s just going to accidentally break a table by trying to stand on it, or be overwhelmed by the messiness in my life.  Photography pushes all of that to the edges though, and I think that’s what I need.

These portraits are for me—as I regain strength, as I figure out what my body is capable of.  As such, they aren’t really suitable for most audiences.  It’s foolish to think I can put a nude or semi-nude shot up somewhere and have it received as just art.  I don’t know how to dissolve the line between potentially sexual and just form… just ask anyone about Stone Nudes.  I have friends who see body as form, and friends who see body as sexualized, and that’s just the way it is. I might need to find an anonymous forum for these—remove it from self-identification and also from meandering across the screen of someone who wants to know me and not see more of me than they bargained for. A few will make it up on here, but I don’t know about the rest. And I’m not worried about it.

Body is a tricky thing. It’s both intimate and not intimate at all. A body is simply a body, a functional machine made of tissues, muscles, and blood.  And then, in a different light, it’s intimate and something to be carefully shared.  I vacillate between feeling the preciousness of intimacy and feeling the functionality of form.

Now I have lenses, and filters, and a whole new set of things to play with, thanks to Tim Shannon.  I am so lucky in my life, to be loved unconditionally. And so I’m going to explore the vacillation. I’m going to see what I can do.

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