Self Portrait #21 (after Klee)
Water, and fire above it
How I say to you the truth as I know it.
How I am lost in words.
Subtle gradations implications explanations.
Do they reveal tenderness or terror?
Do they echo feeling or imagine it?
How to adjust memory.
How to maintain and reflect.
Erasing magnifying refining touching failing.
Safety features are not built in.
Evidence is not self.
To delete is to open.
I wanted to do a final self-portrait inspired by Paul Klee. There are so many wonderful Klee works to choose from, but I chose this one because of its title: “Seventeen, Insane”. I didn’t put the geometrics in, instead choosing to try to replicate the feeling, with loose ink portraits of myself now and at 17. I think the feeling of being unable to understand what’s going on is an apt one, and Klee seems to me to be indicating that age doesn’t really clarify things at all. I agree.
For the poem, I took one from my early 20s and revised it, but only a bit. Mostly I redid the way I had the lines set up; rather than breaking up each thought into several lines, I made it into a single one. I eliminated two lines altogether and changed 3 or 4 words. And then I broke it up into stanzas. And yes, that’s my original title. And yes, also, I wrote that last line in the early 1970s, before “delete” and “open” had the meanings they hold in this digitized world. That’s pretty strange.
My notebooks from then contain notes from books I was reading (Otto Rank with this one–we were reading him in a class I was taking), and poems mixed together. From what I could tell, I started with a title, and had a complicated system of construction involving numbers, syllables, and first letters of each line. I have no idea how to replicate it, because I don’t remember where it came from, and it makes no sense to me now. “Insane” indeed. (but I still like to play with numbers of syllables and words, so…)
You can see the entire self-portrait series here. Above is the drawing I did before simplifying it for the painting. Somehow I managed to make the present “me” look much younger in the process as well…