Yearning for Wonderland
Self-portraits have a long and storied history in art. (Attention: Art Nerd alert)
Artists sometimes used self-portraits to show their status and their political connections, such as this self-portrait by the Spanish painter Diego Velasquez.
This portrait is part of a larger masterwork, Las Meninas, which shows him painting the Infanta.
Sometimes the artist is also an actor, dressed in costumes, to appear a particular way or reference artists who have come before. Rembrandt was famous for this in his youth.
Later on, he was far more interested in recording his authentic self, even when it was less flattering.
There are no real rules for self-portraits and those that did exist were spoofed centuries ago by artists defying those who came before and expressing themselves as they liked. Generally, the artist engages with the viewer, making eye contact.
The above self-portrait by Gustave Courbet is a little more playful, depicting the artist as a desperate creative in his smock.
Artists will also use symbolism, often with encoded meanings that are personal to themselves, such as most of Frieda Kahlo’s self-portraits.
Sometimes an artist does many self-portraits in their career and you can see their faces and moods evolve. This is especially true of the self-portraits of Van Gogh.
As photography evolved, it became a way to set up self-portraits in a far more elaborate setting, such as the work of Cindy Sherman. In much of her work, the line between artist and actor disappears and she creates a persona that deliberate challenges our notions of identity.
And, of course, today the self-portrait has evolved into digital selfies. Through Instagram, we can all be artists and select the kind of face we want to show the world. While selfies get a bad rap as the refuge of the egotistical and self-absorbed, I really enjoyed looking back through my self-portraits. When I was very little, my father used to hold me up so we could make faces in the bathroom mirror – now I can capture them!
As an actress, it’s fascinating to me because my face is one aspect of my instrument and controlling your face and your image is part of the talent. For me, it’s not so much to show off a haircut or an outfit as it is to capture a moment, a fleeting face of yourself. Many times it’s not even a particularly flattering face, but I remember how I felt and so it’s like a postcard mailed to yourself from the past.
In order to share two years worth of selfies in a short space, I created a Flipagram, which is a free app that allows you to set a slideshow to music. It’s only 30 seconds so I encourage you to watch it and enjoy.
When do you take selfies? And why? Do you see them as a way to express yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
I am so excited because I got to choose this week’s Five Sentence Fiction inspiration word at Lillie McFerrin Writes.
So I picked Yearning. If you weren’t aware, it’s one of my very favorite words and the constant inspiration for this blog. Of course I had to enter!
Despite the fact that I am short on sleep, I scribbled my entry on a tiny square of paper at work, folded it up and smuggled it home to share with you. Be sure to go read the other ‘Yearning’ entries and maybe enter yourself!
The room was strangely still — even the dove loose in the rafters was hushed — and white muslin curtains flapped loose in the breeze. A thick rope was knotted tight round the carved mahogany bedpost; his eye traced it across the floor and over the edge of the window sill.
Her pillow, plumped up on her neatly made bed, had a note pinned to the satin coverlet: ‘I couldn’t wait any more.’
Far below, he heard departing hoof beats and watched as she rode his horse away.
“Fair Rosamund” (detail) by John William Waterhouse
Phew. I was nominated a short while ago for the Versatile Blogger Award by the talented Emmie Mears. Of course, the holidays made it next to impossible for me to adequately respond, but now that it is officially 2012 and – ACK – work is in an hour, it seems a fortuitous moment.
Here are the rules as they stand, for the Versatile Blogger Award:
1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.
Okay. Fifteen amazing bloggers whom I admire, along with their Twitter handles. Here we go:
1) Surly Muse: He’s only half-surly, really, but has some great guest bloggers and can turn a phrase with the best of them. @surlymuse
2) A Yankee’s Southern Exposure: Gordon McCleary is a Yankee trapped in the South, but his posts are good-natured, humorous observations on the peculiarities of both sides of the country. @asouthernyankee
3) Alisa Libby: Historical fiction author of “The Blood Confession” and “The King’s Rose”. She muses on writing, history and more in her blog.
4) Lia Keyes: I have dubbed her the Queen of Steam. If you enjoy steampunk as a genre, she posts great original content and has some of the best links around. @liakeyes
5) Cara Michaels: On her blog, Cara is running #WIP500, which is a fabulous writing marathon that runs 366 days this year (you heard me). All you need is 500 words a day; she does it all for the love of the writing community – go Cara! @caramichaels
6) Out of the Past: a Classic Film Blog: this classic film blog is run by @quellelove and a true must-visit for any who love iconic films and their stars.
7) Indie Jane: Devoted to Jane Austen and matters Regency, this blog is run by @_jessmelendez and it’s fun, informative -and- engaging.
8) Finding Wonderland: the YA Writing Weblog: One of the first blogs I started reading regularly. Offers some amazing YA lit recommendations, as well as wry comics by the talented @aquafortis, co-author.
9) Lupus in Flight: Whether writing prose or her lovely poetry, Shaista’s writing always sings and is well worth a regular visit. @lupusinflight
10) Marian Call’s Official Blog: This Alaskan singer-songwriter was one of my fantastic discoveries of 2011. Her song “Good Morning Moon” is one of my favorites of the year and she’s a geek girl too! @mariancall
11) Bullish Ink: Every post I have read on this blog is chock-full of writerly wisdom and that’s saying a great deal. An invaluable resource for those who write. @bullishink
12) Write Me Happy: One of the friendliest writers that I have met through Twitter, this blog documents Angie’s journey through the perilous straits of writerdom. @write_me_happy
13) The Insatiable Booksluts: Other than the pure awesomeness of their name, this site has thought-provoking analysis and will make you laugh at the same time. Really, can you ask for more than that?
14) Dead White Guys: Much in the same vein of IB, DWG excels at snark, yet includes a streak of charming erudition. @deadwhiteguys
15) Dasia Has a Blog: This is the blog of @awkwardoptimist, who does a rockin’ air guitar and is another of my favorite snarkers on Twitter. Not only is she a good fiction writer, but reading her blog always cheers me up.
So you should visit all these amazing blogs, subscribe and (of course) follow them on Twitter.
Okay, seven random pieces of information about me:
1) I grew up in a theatre, in a most literal sense. I had the most magical childhood, in that I was underfoot backstage and in the costume shop and in the orchestra pit. It gave me a very musical theatre way of looking at the world, which leads us to point 2…
|The view of my childhood|
2) Wherein I confess that I burst into song randomly. People say musical theatre isn’t realistic, isn’t very real life. It’s -my- real life. Periodically in our household, we would burst into refrains from Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance or Showboat. No fake, Jake. Extra-funny from my 6 feet tall brothers.
|Me as Edith in Pirates of Penzance. “Too late! – ha ha! – Too late! – ho ho!”|
3) I am a voracious reader. That’s true of most bloggers and writers, but I take it to a point where it annoys people. I usually need to read when I eat. I read the back of airline tickets and cereal boxes and anything I can get my hands on, really. My brain gets panicky if I can’t read, though luckily it is okay to listen to public radio in the car.
4) I have extremely high standards of expectations for myself, maybe because I’m an oldest child. Whenever I feel bad about what I have accomplished thus far, I remind myself that I have had two original full-length plays and two literary adaptations produced. And a short story published in an anthology. And starred in a goth opera, Veil & Subdue. And created a t-shirt brand, Super Secret Spy Girl. And made this blog, which you are reading. I am happy to meet you and hope you will comment and come visit us often.
5) I have big feet and a turned-up nose with freckles.
6) I studied Art History & English in college, two degrees guaranteed to require the learning of the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” Yet I have always managed to avoid working fast food, no matter how poor I get.
|Vermeer’s Muse Clio will -not- serve fries with that|
7) I consider 7 a lucky number, though I’m not terribly superstitious. And I actually like red-penning my own work when I edit. There’s something about marking up all those pages that gives me a sense of accomplishment.
There you are, gentle reader. Please visit all those bloggers; they are all deeply deserving and add to the loveliness of the blogosphere – read them today!
Tonight, I think of my Muse.
When I first saw her in the gallery, I was startled; she was so…throat-catchingly beautiful. I had seen photographs, but nothing had prepared me for the sight. It was like being struck. I was walking and I had to stop. I felt a tear slip down my cheek. She was me and yet not me. She was the me I wanted to be – serene, graceful, and entirely still…poised for the next moment.
I told myself for weeks that I couldn’t have her and grew more and more miserable as she continued to sell, moved to grace the homes and lives of others. So few and slipping away. I looked at the massive price on her and thought it a bargain, knew I would pay twice that (I, who could not afford once that).
Still, I didn’t allow myself even to hope. Every time I passed her in the gallery, I stroked a cool bronze cheek, traced the fine grooves of her hair. It became a running joke how I would hug her as I walked by. It was irresistible; I couldn’t help it. I was in love. I was Pygmalion, with a Galatea that did not have to become real to be loved, but who would very shortly not even be within sight.
And then only two weeks later, in Paris of all places (because all beautiful and solemn events happen in Paris), I am walking down the Boulevard de Picpus with my father on a sunny late June morning. We walk aimlessly, stroll past the boulangerie, the patisserie, fish and croissants and fruit so lush and gorgeous that you want to stop and take a picture of it. I spoke effusively of my Muse, for I already thought of her as “my” sculpture…for twenty minutes. When I finally paused to take a breath, my father turned to me and said, “Well, then I think you should get it.”
Words are words, but my father is good for his word. He did not buy it for me, nor would I have wanted him to do so. Instead, he helped me get the financing, allowed me to acquire her for my own. My parents have always encouraged me to believe in the impossible, to find ways to accomplish that which I never would think I could do.
Already, she inspires me. I think of her and become radiant.
– Frederick Hart
Article first published as Book Review: (S)mythology by Jeremy Tarr, Illustrated by Katy Smail on Blogcritics.
(S)mythology bills itself as a contemporary fairy tale and that it is: a very whimsical, very adult fairy tale. This dark, yet touching tale stars Sophie, a dreamer and innocent naïf who searches for her ideal love. (S)mythology features a quirky cast of characters who both help and hinder Sophie in her classic Hero’s Quest, including Poseidon, a Guru, mermaids and all manner of fish and fowl, both fair and foul.
Many of the ideals of love are up-ended here. Sophie looks for love in the archetypal, bump-into-a-stranger on the street style and that is exactly how she meets Smyth, in a fateful rickshaw accident. They fall in love and wish to live happily ever after, except…Sophie is cursed. Anyone who loves her and looks upon her is turned to stone. She craves love and stability and a family, but she ends up with a collection of statues instead.
Like Orpheus, she goes into the Underworld to rescue Smyth. She fools Death once, but Death can only be fooled once. Without ruining anything I will tell you that people die and bad things happen to good people, as they do in real life (and in fairy tales). There are some sequences that are squeamish and not for the faint-of-heart, but the redemption of the story is worth enduring the dark bits.
One common theme in the book is eyes, and sight or seeing/not-seeing. Often, the blind characters see far more clearly than the seeing ones do. Sophie allows her ideals of love to get in the way of seeing the true love she actually possesses. But all ends up as it should, with lessons learned and an ending that is both delicate and sweet, like the last bit of summer’s ice cream melting away.
The stylized and whimsical artwork by Katy Smail deserves its own special mention. This is a new breed of illustrated book, a novel with lots of pictures (64 illustrations in total). The illustrations capture the ups and downs of Sophie’s quest and blend with the story perfectly; it is a magnificent synergy of art and writing, one in which the one almost could not exist without the other.
I highly recommend (S)mythology for those who love the work of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and those with fairy tale sensibilities, those who know that when life intervenes to prevent the ideal, it sometimes offers a happy ending anyway.
Published by The Big Head.