My first attempt at portraiture was a painting of a good friend for her wedding, which later evolved (several times) into the American Woman Triptych (most recent revision finished Jan 2012). But before I jumped in too far, I tried a self-portrait (The Administrator, 1999), just to see if I could do it. Again, in Oaxaca, surrounded by extraordinary folk, fine and historical art, when I finally picked up my own paint brush, I dipped my toe in at the same spot (Yo en Oaxaca–La Pintora Gringa, 2002).
Since then, I’ve found that self-portraits often launch a change in direction or an experiment with a new method or perspective. I’m the only one consistently around and willing to sit for hours while I work out the latest trauma, insight, transition, loss–or just a visual theme–so it’s often where I begin.
Occasionally, however, I have a story I need to articulate–as in the first row of paintings below, Bone Women: The Taunting Embrace of Life as an Artist, or their predecessors, the Mother’s Milk paintings in the second row. Or I want to capture a moment, as in Sleep, Roadkill, Sleep, in the third row. Or I feel in myself some part of the universal female experience.
Or, once again, I just need to paint. And I start, again, with myself.