Portrait of a Journey
Polar Shift, pastel
In the beginning I didn’t know I was illustrating a journey, or that I would end up with a shift in perspective, realizing a new balance between inner and outer worlds. The following nine pictures in oil and watercolor are a representative sample of work done in the 1980s, which led eventually to the writing of my memoir. What began with portraits and self-portraits, expanded to looking at my interior life, showing myself what I knew or felt subconsciously. Yet though I could see I was painting a narrative, I didn’t know what the story was.
This portrait was one of my earliest works. Though not my intention at the time, it perfectly represents the idea of turning away from the external mirror to face oneself. The unfinished quality adds to the sense of one not fully developed until this look within, at the inner life.
I did this from a photograph I liked, because it showed me a side of myself I wanted to explore, give credence to.
Here I was looking in the mirror, seeing myself in the new role I had cast myself in. I had the long hair, the long earrings, the long Indian dress. My palette, all laid out with paint, is tilted towards the viewer, or in this case, the mirror. For now the mirror has become the Looking Glass, through which it is possible to see into the inner world.
As a former actress it took time to get over the compulsion to see myself in the outer world. But I began to paint models listening to their intuition or dreams, and the culmination was this more impressionist version of what it felt like to be tuned in to the inner self. To hear a voice from within. To hear the soul calling.
This is indicative of my “drowning” pictures. They began by chance when a model didn’t show up for his next sitting and I finished it without him, covering the background with cerulean blue. The effect was startling; he looked as if he was sitting at the bottom of the sea. It was thrilling on some deep level, and inspired many more such paintings. Pictures I thought of at the time as a visual representation of delving into the subconscious.
I didn’t know where these next three paintings came from. They were part of a larger series of watercolors on paper 22″ x 30″ done over a short period in a feverish state of exhilaration. And then stashed away for twenty years until I completed the memoir and asked myself, what if…
What if my psyche was somehow recalling a past death? The memory of burning.
Of being on fire. Of falling into the sea?
Girl Underwater, oil
Deep in the sea life of dream life
Lies a merger with death again and again.
She was the end of the journey. She was what it was all for. Whether she was my lost childhood, my mute self, my lost soul, or the memory of something more incredible, reaching back into a past life, she now was “found.”
My inner voice told me I didn’t have to paint anymore, I’d done enough. It was time now to write about how I got here.
So she represents the end of one journey and the beginning of the next. I didn’t know why I had given her a sprig of leaves to hold in her hand. But later, I began to think of them as laurel leaves. Laurel, for victory. Even before I had any idea of what she might represent, I knew that for me, she was some kind of victory.