Man Ray did not have Photoshop, so he constructed his images in the darkroom. Amazing! My Ray-inspired self portrait was produced in digital layers (then printed and stitched), something I did back in the day with frequency, but hardly ever now. I enjoy it, and given time, would do more.
Although first I drew the components. My daughter was luckily home and agreed to take some photos for me to work from.
I think if I were doing this piece again, I would structure it differently, doing an abstract ground of greys first, instead of adding the solid areas later. But it’s digital! so I can always go back and revisit the layers. Also I would cut the hands and faces out before I scanned them, so I didn’t have to deal with “selecting” the part of the images I wanted.
I’m also not sure it’s done…I had thought to do stitching for the dark stripe at the bottom, but I’m undecided. I could layer in a stripe, but I like the texture of the stitching. I do think it needs the balance of dark in that area. What do you think?
So I’m also not sure it’s still selfie day…Teresa? But the 25th is always a good deadline for me to complete the next in my series of 100 self portraits (you can see the ones I’ve done so far here). I could keep going forever with Man Ray, but I think it’s time for a new artistic inspiration, plus I’m itching to do some painted portraits and compare them with my first attempts.
What kind of alive am I?
Each morning, nothing new:
I drink coffee, I drift into the usual black.
Can I change into colorful costumes? Can I?
Today a gypsy, perhaps a fortune teller too,
surprise myself and try something new,
an animal, a vegetable, an entire zoo:
I could become the old lady who
doesn’t care what other people think or do.
I could ignore them and be free
of any laughter or unkind words that come my way.
Can I sing and dance too?
Be the mask and have the mask be true?
Words have feelings,
and feelings have words:
but both need to sing
and both to begin
without self-censorship or fear.
Innocent joy: I want to
find that lost
forgotten what to do.
I’m not sure how
to make this change of black to red or blue.
Yet it’s false, not right
to pretend I couldn’t choose
if I wanted to.
I could give out rainbows;
I could create a few.
Today is selfie day, and not only have I channeled my inner Man Ray once again for self-portrait #14 in my 100 Self-Portraits series, I’ve channeled my inner Delmore Schwartz for a riff on his poem “I am Cherry Alive“. When I found the print out above from a long ago Illustrator class that used Schwartz’s work as a source , I knew where this selfie-with-poem was going.
Anyone who knows me is aware that 90% of my wardrobe is black. It wasn’t always that way though…
In this portrait I tried to give myself a little color, while also honoring the way I might have actually dressed back in the day. No, I don’t think I have the nerve now, but it’s a nice thought!
Delmore Schwartz, supposedly the model for Humboldt in Saul Bellow’s novel “Humboldt’s Gift”, was a gifted New York writer of short stories, poems, and essays, an editor, and also a witty conversationalist. He had early success, but like so many before and after, abused drugs and alcohol and suffered from mental illness in later life. You can read more about him, and read more of his poems, here.
can you see?
lost in the web of
white, a black
the surface, just a shimmer
of a lock and key
Once again Man Ray’s work is a photograph; the web is superimposed over the face. I stitched my web over a drawing, and I think perhaps I should have used either thread or one strand of embroidery floss instead of two. On the other hand, two strands makes it harder to see the drawing–the web becomes more like a mask than a veil, an effect which I also like.
At first I tried to create this self portrait by contorting myself in front of the bathroom mirror. Luckily, my daughter was home and agreed to taking some photos of me in a similar pose to Ray’s photograph, and that worked much better.
The poem was inspired by Weekly Writing Prompt #29 from The Secret Keeper. The words fit perfectly into my stitched drawing.
It’s been well over a month since Self Portrait #11. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do exactly with this one, or at least to make the image in my mind into some kind of actual thing.
You may remember I posted a drawing the end of January on Selfie Day. That was from the first incarnation of this self portrait. I realized right away that an ink drawing was neither bold enough to go with the mask, nor close enough to Ray’s photographic image for what I wanted to do.
Ray, of course, means the photographed face and mask to echo each other. The first mask I chose to collage was actually inspired by a tiny photo I had of a ceramic mask; I didn’t know its origin but it was certainly made by a contemporary artist. Although I liked the mask, in the end I decided it wasn’t quite right; I would look for a mask from an anonymous artist from a traditional culture, as Ray had done. I did like watercolor for the actual portrait though.
I had cut the mask out from the first attempt and glued it onto to the second painting. For my third attempt I decided to do the painting and leave a blank space; I could do a separate mask, and “try it on” to see how I liked it. After looking at a lot of masks, I chose to use Hopi Kachinas as inspiration. Not that they look like me, but I felt an affiliation somehow. I made the mask, cut around the hand I had painted, and inserted it.
But what a great idea! I decided not to glue it down; I can make more masks as inspiration shows up, and keep changing this self portrait to reflect my current state of mind. So I guess Self Portrait #12 will never actually be “finished”.
And a few words about Man Ray. As he is so closely associated with Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement, it seems appropriate to reference his work in the 100th year celebration of the beginning of Dada in Zurich. Born in Philadelphia, and raised in Brooklyn, Man Ray moved to Paris in 1921, and except for leaving Europe during WWII, lived there most of his life. He is primarily known as a photographer, having been introduced to the medium by Alfred Stieglitz. But he also drew and painted, worked in film, and created sculpture, collage, and assemblage, all with a strong sense of the absurd. This group of self-portraits will definitely be fun.
“The tricks of today are the truths of tomorrow”
You can see all the self portraits in this series here.