Sunday, March 15, 2015

Becoming a Pinup

I'm Back... 

It hasn’t been a joyous interlude since my last posting, which means here I am back on Blogger back in the same dilemma that made me take a break from Blogger, only to seek and reach my breaking point with Facebook, two breaks from which I am now taking a break. 

 Triumphant Moments

Truth is, I wonder whether life was ever a sunlit parade of triumphant moments worth documenting. Perhaps ignorance is bliss and news and evidence of other parades going on in other lives just makes standing alone under a raincloud feel that much more miserable, a misery I was perfectly content to occupy, with brief periods of rest and mild amusement, and the occasional nod from a sympathetic soul with their own lifelong companion cloud, until social media put the peer pressure on me to have something spectacular to report.

Apparently Meant to Be 

Because even though my aversion to – um, lying – leaves me no choice but to use my social media space for hard truth confessions and naked lamentation, most people use it as a way to confirm, enhance or downright fabricate the kind of life they want or hope to be living. Relationships that are established by status posts and dual selfies before anyone in the people’s lives has actually met this new person who was apparently meant to be. But hey, they’re snuggling in bed on Facebook so it must be true love. I too have occasionally indulged in lesser shameless desperate proofs of happy times. Recently I was so devastated by yet another idiotic romantic misfortune, I didn’t leave the house and only slept and ate one day’s worth in 6 days. But along the way I posted a photo in which my cat and I were grinning for the camera, so for all intents and purposes, I was fine. And I am not quite sure whether I did it for me or for my friends, to inspire myself to be that happy person, or if not, at least convince everyone else I was, which should not be, but felt at the time to be, equally, if not more important. 

Keeping Up Appearances 

Thoughts about keeping up appearances, and creating a purposeful and carefully presented reality that uses up more energy in its upkeep than gets spent on being who you actually are were much on my mind as I prepared to do this month’s installment of the self portrait project, inspired by classic pinups. In this project I have been examining images of women created by men for men, purportedly as celebrations of their beauty but ultimately a kind of eavesdropping, appropriation and manipulation of their forms and emotions for their own purposes. Pinups are about as stylized and carefully presented a form as it gets. Women dressed as sexy cowboys, mermaids, or in nothing but high heels and a hair bow are not creatures of reality, and have very little to do with unique female spirit and essence. 

  Pure and Simple

It’s cheesecake pure and simple, and it's meant to make you feel good and smile, because it is literally flat and fake and has nothing to do with reality. It’s a fantasy, it’s an ideal, but one look and you know it isn’t really desirable, available or attainable. These women aren’t going to go out and have a beer with you. They are supposed to wink over their shoulders at you from a poster and make whatever grim misery you occupy feel a little brighter and make you think – wow, so beautiful, so happy, one day maybe I will be/have that. Please note that I will not even dignify as a related art form the omnipresent mirror selfies that girls take in which they appear in near pinup poses and think this is a good way to present themselves online. It doesn’t say here I am don’t you just love me and want me? It says I spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror. Waiting for a guy to agree to fill up the other half of the frame. 

  Who I Am

At this juncture, I have only my cat to join me in the happy dual selfies I post on Facebook. And honestly, I am a firm believer that the true sign of a good relationship is no sign of it on Facebook. Remember the days when the first flush of romantic enthusiasm felt just a little bit scary and fragile and magical and the last thing you would want to do is go public because you were too busy going at it in private?  Fortunately for every shallow fool that declares relationships on Facebook the way most people announce they are dyeing their hair pink this week, there are those who keep it on the down low where it belongs. Who don’t force their partners into their profile pictures as if to say – here is a representation of who I am, a person who must be fabulous because I have a partner. Unfortunately it always seems to be the guys who have recently rejected me who end up in those bed selfies and shared profile pictures. This may give you a clue as to why I just finished a weeklong weepy hunger strike and self house arrest, and why there is a certain defiant, okay, maybe even bitter, tone to this writing.

New Kind of Pinup Girl 

Me, even if one day - let’s make it soon Universe okay? - I have the most amazing man in my life loving me up one side and down the other, I still think my profile picture has room for just one person, because I can fill it with my own fabulousness to the brim and overflowing, thank you very much. Because I am a new kind of pinup girl who can take her own photographs of her own highly objectified and carefully presented body wearing nothing but a bow and heels and a soupcon of irony. And I can then go and get it tattooed on me, because no one can wear me as an accessory better than I can. And if no one ever sees this tattoo, on Facebook or Blogger or anywhere else but a private moment shared off camera, that doesn’t mean it never happened, that doesn’t mean I never happened, and it will definitely be in the picture a lot longer than my ex lover's new girlfriend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Breaking Point

Could be Worse 

Yesterday I broke up with Facebook. It wasn’t the first time I have had a parting of ways with a social media platform. Anyone who has been following me for a few years and is somehow reading this will remember my breaking up with Blogger a while back for similar reasons. The posts may be shorter, but the troubling trend of content towards sad self pep talks was unmistakable. Basically if I had to witness myself writing the words “at least” or “it could be worse” one more time, searching for and focusing on the bright side with the desperate fervor of a deranged treasure hunter in a wasteland, I was going to have to break up with myself. So instead I simply deactivated my profile.


And I didn’t die. The way I didn’t die the last few times I extricated myself from a toxic relationship and transitioned from speaking my truth to someone not really listening to acknowledging myself as my own first last and best audience for nearly everything I feel compelled to express. It helps that I have been talking to myself for decades and gotten quite good at it. Occasionally when it comes out in the written form of a poem or essay, or the visual form of a photograph, a select few will overhear and enjoy, even benefit, from what is essentially eavesdropping on my private dialogue with me. For which I am grateful. Being useful to others is just as important to me as being true to myself.

 Public Service

And speaking of public benefit. Blogger recently announced that certain content in this space may be, in a few weeks, subject to removal, or rendered essentially inaccessible, which will bring my sense that I am really only posting for myself from paranoid speculation to harsh reality so fast it will make my psyche spin. I guess I picked the wrong time to move my self portrait project from Facebook where it was risking censorship to Blogger where it will now be subject to a similarily mysterious and unpredictable standard of acceptability. Blogger says that artistic content deemed of “public benefit” will be spared. It remains to be seen whether my tush passes that test. Just the same, I thought it might be a good time to push the large image of my tush from the Marilyn shoot down one screen and not have it be the very first thing the Blogger Patrol sees when considering my viability as a creative public benefactor. Oh what the heck. I think my tush qualifies as a public service.

 Falling Unheard

Because so much Facebook activity is essentially people talking to and looking at themselves you would think I would be at home in its comfort zone of self-absorbed self-examination and self-documentation. Every post is a kind of silent appeal. I’m here. Look at me. Love me. As if without a certain number of “likes” and affirming comments, one’s identity might begin to weaken and fade, the way old gods in fantasy novels vanish over time for lack of worship, the way truth and beauty deteriorate if no one values them. Facebook is nothing more than a huge forest of trees falling in hope that someone will be there to hear them – or it will turn out they never made a sound, never existed at all. I’ve been an unheard falling tree for more of my life than I care to contemplate. The times I have had to pick myself up and say “Right then! Nothing for it but to get back up, bury my roots back into the ground, leave the broken branches behind and get back to growing” far outnumber the times someone happened to be passing to witness, acknowledge, ease or undo my fall. Maybe that’s why my Facebook posts have been so stunningly honest and detailed regarding my inner life. It’s easy to be bravely self-revealing when you are unconvinced there is anyone paying attention.  Judging my offering of myself in thorough detail to be proof I’m an exhibitionist or extrovert misses the point. I don’t close my blinds, and it’s not so the passing cars on Main Street can get an eyeful. I sing and talk to myself at home, and when I am out walking the neighborhood, and I am covered in tattoos I don’t bother to conceal in warm weather. And I do all of it not to be noticed, but because I am pretty sure I won’t be. But it can get both wearisome and worrisome when you are more often than not proven absolutely right in your belief in your own invisibility.

 Hide in Plain Sight

I once wrote a short story called “Hide in Plain Sight.” It was about a woman living alone in a small apartment with books and cats and art on the walls and a single bed and a single existence occasionally interrupted by the seeking of company. She was by no means a recluse, or socially awkward or avoidant, and not altogether sad. But she was more real to herself in her inner life than in her involvement in the world outside, her fearlessness there based on a fundamental disbelief that anything mattered or lasted outside of her sense of self.  That woman was myself fifteen years ago. I have arrived, after a long hard journey on a rough winding road, in a different apartment in a different city, and my tears fall on the furry shoulders of a different feline roommate, but I find myself in much the same circumstances these days, both comforting and alarming in their familiarity. I re-read my own story the other day and it struck me how timeless it was. It was written by me and for me but still emerged as as a kind of appeal. Look at this woman. Love this woman. Prove her wrong.

 Nothing Changes

Still waiting.  Long before Facebook and Blogger, I wrote and took photographs by and for myself. It never even occurred to me, until someone made me feel bad about not doing it, that something needed to be done with my work to make it real, make it worthwhile as a pursuit. For me it has never been what I do, but what I am. It can’t not be done, as long as I still am. And I myself am plenty real, definitely worthwhile and not done yet. Not even a day after deactivating my Facebook profile, leaving many to wonder whether I am dead in a ditch somewhere, I find myself back here, giving Blogger a second chance, and will probably return, mixed feelings and all, to Facebook too when the time is right. Meantime, this reclaimed space will not be about pep talks, airings of grievances, countings of blessings, grimly defiant celebrations of the simple joys, or declarations of faith and hope that things are going to get better. True, nothing changes.  Not my fervor, both for continuing my possibly misguided and futile search for the bright side, not my desperate need, likely mostly unwitnessed and unappreciated and certainly rarely rewarded, to continue uprooting myself and falling and making as big a noise doing it as I can. But anything is possible, too, so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Self Portrait Project

A few months ago I embarked on a little exercise in self esteem reconstruction that turned into a creative project that continues to challenge and redefine both my sense of myself as a photographer and as a woman. Never one to do things by halves, I decided to reanimate my recently uninspired photography pursuits by not only attempting human portraiture, traditionally my least favorite subject, but using myself as a model, yet another decidedly non-preferred activity, and then render my ejection from my comfort zone complete by doing nude self portraits in which I occupied the place of some of the most iconic female subjects in art. I don’t mess around, people. My last inspiration was the notorious 1949 Marilyn Monroe “red velvet” series.

after Toulouse Lautrec

As if that weren’t enough, I have been posting the results on Facebook for all my friends to see. Because projects like this tend to create their own momentum, constantly establishing limits only to push past them, each new installment in this photographic documentary of one woman’s self exploration through art finds me questioning the elusive borderline between a sexual and an erotic image, self-revelation and self-indulgence, courage and vanity.  

after Hopper

With every shoot, I have been compelled to confront my motives, my aesthetics and my ability to be objective about my unclothed body as subject matter. It’s been a fascinating experience to play the role of both model and artist, jumping between camera and frame and capturing an image that is both natural and intentional. An unexpected discovery has been that when artist and model are the same person, there is far more control in how the nude is presented, an interesting shift considering that the artists behind my source material have so far all been male. 

after Hopper  

I am finding that a female take on a female nude is somewhat different, especially a female take on her own nude self, and the resulting work with essentially the same composition as the original, is not simply an impersonation or tribute but its own creation due to all sorts of subtle choices. I like to think of these images as what those original works would have looked like if the model were given the chisel, brush or camera. 

after Picasso

I expect my choice of source material to inspire future shoots will be even more challenging and quite possibly more revealing. For this reason, I am setting up a PAGE here on my blog to collect the final images from each shoot, but also, from now on, to create a special post documenting the experience and including any good images that did not make the final cut and may not be appropriate for social media. Because face it, not everyone wants to see my tush in their timeline.

Monday, December 22, 2014


A recent comment on my last post - from August! - has reminded me that I have been absent from this space for far too long and that I do still have followers here who aren't following me on Facebook and are maybe wondering what's up, which is just as well because the news isn't all that great and I'd hate to be a downer during a season that has its challenges in that direction. Life doesn't entirely suck either, but rather than review the past few months I thought I would share a poem that happened, oh a few minutes ago. I have lately been posting photos based on weekly theme prompts on a wonderful site known as Luminous Traces Collective. This week's theme is "Rise." Seeking inspiration, I found an online dictionary with multiple definitions and illustrative examples. It didn't take long for the poet in me to shove aside the photographer and recognize the poem waiting to happen in the seemingly random selection of these phrases. So here is the first poem I have written in even longer than I have posted on Blogger. It will give you some insight into my state of mind and mood. Happy Holidays all, and I promise to be a better blogger in 2015.

Rise:  a Found Poem

The sound of their voices rose and fell.
The hair rose on the cat's neck.
Old fears rose to haunt her.

The tower rose above the hill.
The moon rose an hour after sunset
bitterness that rose from hard experience.

She rose to the occasion
rose from the dead
the rise of a new talent.

Rise is an intransitive verb.
If something rises it moves upwards.
The river rises every spring.

Thick columns of smoke rise from the chimneys.
New buildings are rising in the city.
He will rise in the world.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Claims Department

The Rise and Fall of Fortune

I confess. It has been 6 months since my last blog post. And what a six months. The fortunes of my heart have been rising and falling with equal vertigo inducement as my financial and creative affairs and at the same time I am full to bursting with gratitude, contentment and a sense of belonging I have not felt in a place and among people in far too long. So the good news is Vermont, even under less than ideal circumstances, was, is and ever shall be home. The really good news is that you have been spared six months of posts following the arc of my hopes and disappointments in just about everything I am doing here.

In every aspect of life, limbo is hell to me.  If I were to die and find myself in limbo I will know I was a really really bad person worthy of merciless eternal torment. Bring on the active conflict and challenge, the messier and scarier the better. Give me an opening, an opportunity, a prospect, something to argue, defend, work with, around or through to a happy outcome, to any outcome, just let me roll up my mental and emotional sleeves and have at it. Silence, endless waiting and passive speculation in the void are not my comfort zone. But I have been in that zone more often than not, and way more than I care to be this year. 

You do the Math

I won’t even mention money and artmaking. Today it’s about love. One of the themes as I look back on a particularly nasty sequence of false start or outright failed love affairs that has dominated this year was that I was neither being claimed nor rejected by the man in question.  The trouble is, some men clam up recede or vanish simply because they are busy and clueless and some because they have already rejected you in their mind and just forgot or are too cowardly to share this information with you, or if they do, do it in an indirect “you do the math” kinda way.  As I discovered last year, sometimes the only way to find out your relationship has ended is when your maybe ex, or maybe never was, changes his Facebook status.

 Gone for the Day

I suppose the one benefit to being romantically limboed is that at a certain point you stop waiting for your heart to be claimed, like a lost bag in an airport terminal, and you claim the bag yourself.  So, here I am as the end of summer approaches, having put up the “gone for the day” sign and slipped out the back door of the claims department to see what exactly is in this heart that no one has any interest in taking home but myself.


First thing I noticed was how easy my heart is to open. It doesn’t even have a lock on it, no complicated closures, and while it looks really well traveled and often repaired, on the whole still strong and flexible. Like you could drop it from a great height and it would bounce back upright, knock it around and it would keep its shape.  It looks to have once been dark in color but has lightened up over the years, due to hours sitting in the sun. Some areas are transparent, so you can see exactly what it contains. There are no secret compartments. It is packed neatly with many essential and unique things of neither grand nor negligible value, but there is still room to hold more in some expandable places that have not seen much use but are still functional.  As full as it is, it's not heavy at all. Not much to look at, easily overlooked in fact, hence it's being so long stranded in the lost and found, but this heart has gone places, and still has places to go, in the right hands.

So I am bringing it back to the claims department.  Because, who knows?

The Trio is Complete

Thanks for reading, whoever is still out there in Blogland. Stay tuned for a new post in sooner than 6 months that deals with some things I actually have reclaimed for myself – my photography and fiber projects! And hey, I guess I am writing again, so the creative trio is complete. And now you can try to figure out which goat is words, which one is images and which one alpaca accessories! Til next time, be well, be kind, be happy.