Who am I and why do artists feel the need to render self-portraits of themselves? I really don’t know. This process terrifies me, yet its results are therapeutic if I put enough thought into my compositions. The grandfather I was closest to passed away about two years ago… we had the type of relationship where he would call me almost every single day and want to know everything about what was going on in my life: how my classes were going, how my kids were doing, how my husband was doing and, most importantly ;), what all did I eat at every meal that day. He was that type of Grandaddy to all his grandchildren and I’ll never forget the love and care he had for each of us. The first time I returned to his beach house at Fripp Island, after he and my grandmother had both passed away, it hurt to be there. But I also loved being there because I loved the memories attached to that house. Two years later and it still hurts to be there, but the hurt grows less and less every time I return. Now, there is little evidence of his existence left in this house, beyond photographs, lamps, furniture, and other permanent beach house buys… but his clothes, shoes, hats, boxers (the same ones he had been wearing for probably 40 years), and other personal items have all been gathered and given or tossed away. I grew up going to this house year after year since the age of three. I am now twenty-eight and finding myself playing the role of a responsible adult and parent to two children. I was an adult that needed her Grandaddy to help her through adolescence as a rebellious youth, who was a lost kid for a couple of years. I don’t really know why I began writing in third person but it sounded nice… but I’ll revert back. Anyways, I’ll try to stay focused on what is in these photographs… but they are attached to memories… so I’ll do my best 🙂
My grandfather was a good ole Southern gentleman that was a peanut farmer, and owner of a peanut company in Statesboro, Georgia. He loved to fish and crab and ride in boats… and play golf… but basically, he loved everything the land and oceans of this island had to offer. It is a private island, beautiful yet isolate from major man-made commercialism… although there is some of that there also… but it is minimum in comparison to Destin, Florida and other beaches I’ve traveled to. Fripp is not a tourist trap. Deer eat out of your hands there. Anyways, these photographs were taken in the room that my grandparents would always stay in… the master bedroom, if you will. For 26 years I watched my grandmother, Momma Polly, put on make up. And the last time I saw her put on makeup, broke my heart. For she would get out her little mirror and ritualistically apply lipstick in an obsessive manner; smearing that red lipstick around and around those lips until it looked fully applied… then she would blot with a tissue… and if it didn’t look up to her satisfaction of pretty, she would smear that lipstick around and around and around again… this usually took awhile. Momma Polly was always slow to get ready. I am a lot like her and, yet nothing like her also. I hate wearing makeup, but I do it because I know it makes me look better. Observing my grandmother in her elderest of elder years, never ceased to fill my head with thoughts about femininity and identity.
And so, I turned to Cindy Sherman for inspiration because her self-portraits cannot escape my thought process going into a self-portrait. I think she is brilliant and I want to think like her, but I know I am me and, therefore, wish to be me in these photographs. These are not studies of film, but studies of Sherman’s work and how it has influenced my life and my thoughts. I always gather something conceptual from her work that can be applied to our society… and it is scary how her work still speaks to women and feminine identity in our contemporary society… although the compositions would have to be revised and formally updated… but there is still a glimmer of the same timeless male-gaze and ideas of femininity that can be appropriated to the present time. SO… the point of all this Sherman talk is that her work is forever influencing my thoughts surrounding my position in life and in the world and in society and at home, etc. I feel as if I play multiple roles as a female of today… and I’m sure many feel the same, male or female. My anxiety towards the future state of our country continues to increase, as every time I turn on the news I feel myself becoming more paranoid… weaker… confused… terrified… hopeful… yet anxious. It might pass. But this anxiety pulls me to stare at myself in the mirror… I used to be terrified of myself and what I would see in myself if I stared too long into the mirror. I am a mother now and a college graduate and I finally feel STRENGTH… and these self-portraits help me to understand myself better. If that makes any sense at all?. Ha. Moving on…
Anyways, I had just gotten out of the shower when I glanced over at the lit, hollywood-esque dressing room vanity from the 1940s… only laminate (1940s style… it was probably built in the late 70s or early 80s… can’t remember). But, whatever, it’s still pretty cool vanity to sit and get ready at. Like I said before, I hate wearing makeup and, unless I’m going somewhere where I’m to be stared at by others in makeup, I don’t wear it. Nor do I blow-dry my hair… maybe I’m just lazy. But sometimes, I just don’t give a darn toot about looking beautiful. Too much effort. But I still do it and so do most women. Not a criticism, just an observation… maybe I am the only lazy female out there… but I don’t care. Maybe this is why I loved going to an all girls school… I never felt forced to look my best… and perhaps, I scared people, but it was nice to not feel pressure for once in my life. This isn’t meant to be a rant or hate on makeup wearers, but more like a statement about the observations I’ve made over the years that I had my grandmother and grandfather in relation to my life and my contemporary lifestyle; two completely different generations. But I am in awe of the practicality and sense of community that existed in their generation. Not to mention, respect. Ok… so… I put on a hat of my grandfather’s and also an apron of his… my selection was limited and I’m not even positive these still or ever were ever my grandfather’s, but they reminded me of him and his fisherman-barbequing ways. I took theses photographs before applying makeup to go out on the island-town. I combed my wet hair and dressed in costume and grabbed my camera.
I felt pretty stupid, to tell you the truth; taking pictures of myself. I guess other artists, like Sherman, are used to it by now. But I wanted to laugh… I was alone and I knew that if one of my friends walked in the room, they’d probably think I looked like a freak. But I was alone with my thoughts and my process and my thought process… so I proceeded with a sense of humor. I used to ask my grandmother if she would go without blow-drying and curling her hair for a day… she laughed and looked at me like I was crazy… like I said, different generation. Anyways, in these photographs I wanted to preserve this nostalgic moment, and memories of this house, while thinking about my identity in regards to the past, present, and future; mainly my own, but perhaps some can relate. The mirrors helped me achieve this. I am a poet at heart and perhaps one of these days, I’ll post a poem for all you blog readin’ friends of mine. But for now, I was filled with an unexpected urge to produce a set of self-portraits and I think it had something to do with the photographs I was taking for my previous blog post. I think I needed to get it out of my system. Welp, I did and here you go and now you’ve seen… a little personal glimpse into the sensitive photographic side to me. I know I’m strange to some and most of these photographs may not be understood by everyone, nor liked by everyone, but they are me and my thoughts and my product evolved in and based upon a room… that I didn’t touch (so excuse the mess in the background… only joking… I left it a mess for a reason… my grandfather was a tad OCD and everything always had to be put away and the house was always completely spotless… I have grown to be the opposite… I clean but am FAR from obsessive… my grandfather would probably roll over in his grave if he knew his bedroom looked like this. He wouldn’t be able to handle it. But he never lost a thing!). So, unkempt and un-makeuped and all… I hope you enjoyed my self-portraity post.
… and don’t worry, in case you were worried, cause you shouldn’t be worried, but in case you were… I fell off this countertop right as I took this photograph in my grandparents’ bathroom… like a child… Ka POW plOP!!!! Luckily, I was a dancer for 15 years and have a tad bit of grace in my soul… although, I received many bruises as my reward for trying to capture an image without clearing the countertops off first… pretty, stupid move. I know. That is the child in me. This was the best shot I could get… my husband made me promise to not climb on the countertops again to take pictures. I could have broken something and, not to mention, broken my camera!! Why can’t I ever just be SMOOTH? Sheesh. Anyways, it was too humous to leave out. What was I thinking… or why wasn’t I thinking?! 🙂
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