I am lucky enough that my MFA classmates from the School of Visual Arts got themselves organized and put together a one-year-later show for all of us at the Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn last month. Thanks especially to Art Vidrine, Donna Cleary, and curator Melanie Kress for all of their hard work. There was only one caveat: we had to show work made SINCE GRADUATION. Well, I’ve done a lot of things since graduation, but making real work wasn’t one of them. So I decided to paint.
I decided to paint a self-portrait. Shocker. It’s not that I love the way I look. I don’t. But I like to paint faces and mine seems to be pretty handy. I wanted to make a painting that showed how distracted and fractured I was, between working and teaching and home repairs and family. Here’s the underpainting:
My mother thought only the chin looked like me, but I was satisfied with my beginning. I began to paint it in, but I had no idea what to do with the background. And if you’ve been to art school, you can still hear your teachers in your head telling you that the background is at least as important as the foreground, and must be worked at the same time. I was panicking a little, having only an idea about me and no idea at all about what was behind me.
But hey, nice wicked witch color scheme, right? I eventually went back to my original idea about fracture and distraction and thought I would try to “hide” my face among background shapes and colors, losing edges and making shallow space. I divided the canvas into weird diamond/squares (rhomboids? trapezoids? You tell me!) and painted them in. By this time I was facing a real deadline, not wanting to hang a wet painting in our early July show.
This is all by way of saying: do what I say, not what I do. But also: break the rules sometimes. I’m grateful for the pressure that made me paint. That’s one post-grad picture under my belt. Fingers crossed that the next one doesn’t take a year.
And apologies to my classmates, who made beautiful work that I didn’t show you here. Some days it’s all about me.