Self Portraits

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When I make self portraits- it comes from somewhere deep in my soul. I honestly don’t understand it, but the end result is always a visual representation of this marriage between the way I look physically, and this disgorge of feelings and inner life. It just happens when I draw, whether I intend it or not.

In class, people often ask me why in my drawings I look so scared, and I used to tend to evasively shrug it off as a stylistic choice. But honestly, the reason I so often looked scared in my self portraits was that inside, I was very scared.

I was a freshman in college, an introvert alone in a city that was new to me. I was struggling with an onset of debilitating health problems from undiagnosed Hashimoto’s Disease- alone, away from my home and family I was going into hypothermia from just being in air conditioned rooms, accumulating infections and sores all over my body, constantly fending off and dealing with dizzy spells and nausea– and I had absolutely no idea why. I was struggling with the OCD that had been my bane since grade school, and, thanks to hypothyroidism, significant depression.

This was never more exemplified until I sent a friend of mine a picture of one particular self portrait I had just finished- I will let you guess which one- and asked him what he thought of it. As per my usual, I gave him no context whatsoever. His response was startling-

“To me it looks like the person hasn’t been sleeping much, or if they have that they haven’t been sleeping well. There’s a slight hint of harshness that looks magnified by the glint of light in the iris, but when combined with the deep inset sockets and the shallow throat it looks more like a determination to not fall. When mixed with the different lines pushing away from the head at a different angle it looks like the person has sort of withdrawn deeper into them self, as if just trying to hold the world at bay, and they don’t look like they have too much fight left in them. But, I could be completely wrong.”

From his side of things, I had sent him a picture I had drawn of a some woman, which he interpreted, in no way considering that this piece might have been a self portrait.

To me, it seamed to pin me down at that moment right to the core, so exactly that he had to have known that it was a self portrait, and was using it as an excuse to make a point at me in a calculated way. I felt violated, defensive, furious. I was angered that he would, as it seemed to me, use my art and a facade to confront me about things he had seen in me in personal encounters, and I was exceedingly violated that somehow he could see into me as if through a clear window, so well.

Crying, I scrawled into a journal my feelings-

“What do you think gives you the right to look into my eyes like that?

Who the fuck do you think you are,

digging around in my mind

pulling things out of places you weren’t meant to reach

ripping up secrets meant left hidden

fuck off.

Stop fucking around in my mind.

You are an asshole.

Stay out.

Stay away.

The next day we talked about what had happened, and reconciled. And, from the experience, I learned chiefly two things: one, that my friend was much better at interpreting art than he previously thought, and second, that when I draw I put much more of myself into my art than I had previously thought.

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