On Seeing Yourself in a Painting
The first time I went to New York was when Chloe was 10 years old. Rob had been several times but I’d never been. I didn’t really know what to expect at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I knew I’d love it, but not how much. One of the many memorable things that happened was coming around the corner and seeing myself in a painting. It’s a funny thing, when that happens. It’s not like I really look(ed) like the person in the painting, but that I felt I was her. Something like that. You might not think I look anything like the woman depicted in the painting. But there was this electric connection that I felt right through my eyeballs and straight to my heart. Zap!
I think about her from time to time. Not so much Saint Catherine, but the woman who was the model.
I recently read an essay at On Being that got me thinking about this experience again, about imagining yourself in a painting. And then there’s this essay at LitHub about writing like a painter. And then there’s this one about photographs of people in front of paintings, looking like the paintings. And I’m sure there are things written about people who see themselves in paintings and the way that lingers in the memory, attaching it to the way you see yourself.
I think it probably seems really weird and strange for me to be posting photographs of myself in a crown, but I guess I’ve always wanted to have a photo of me wearing one. And really, what was I waiting for?
I’ve long been interested in self-representation, self-portraits, selfies. There was a period where I had Rob take photos of me on the regular, and when I was painting from them. Which was fairly short-lived because life intervened, other interests became prevalent. And then, also, it seemed kind of vain. And of course I knew that they would just stack up, because even famous artists have trouble selling their self-portraits. And that would be even more embarrassing, or so I thought at the time. I was interested in Picasso’s portraits of women at the time, and also in Alice Neel’s self-portraits and in Frida Kahlo’s, too, of course, but who isn’t interested in those.
I’m in my late twenties in the photos below.
The great thing about being 53, it turns out, is that I don’t embarrass so easily any more. I know that I don’t have to look like a super model to be worthy of being pictured.
And if I feel the urge to don all the crowns and tiaras, so be it.
Have you ever seen yourself in a painting? Or felt an affinity with someone in a painting? Would love to hear about your experiences.