Translation: self portrait.
After examining the self-portrait that I posted here recently, guest author Narayan sent me the following e-mail. The gist of his message is somewhat along the lines of Robert Burns' O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. Or may be not. You decide. (published with permission)
I did see your self portrait and only then did I wonder how you look today. It is occasionally frustrating to communicate or blog without any visual acquaintanceship with the correspondent. Even a photograph, let alone a painting, may not alleviate this; there is no alternative to an encounter in the flesh.
There is the problem of self-image versus portraits. I am partial to a snapshot of me holding a neighbor’s baby, and I use it as a desktop background. In it I see the ‘me’ I like - a baby-philic bachelor - despite an unkempt beard and tobacco stained teeth. But I wouldn’t think of offering it to someone who wants to know what I look like. Mirrors are of limited help too - there are those that flatter, and those that one quickly turns away from. I know the parts of my body I can see, and know what I like and don’t. I don’t know my back and wonder if it is pleasing to see or to the touch. Would I avert my eyes quickly if I were to see it?
Above all, I don’t know my voice. Compared to most people, I am telephone-phobic. I used to explain this to others by saying that I grew up without a telephone in the house. To be sure, that explanation, while mostly true, probably has a more sinister dimension than I care to dwell upon. But lately I have come to realize that I don’t really know what I sound like, and that this may be a problem of self image too. When I hear myself speak, or sing, or hum, I like what I hear with my ears, my mouth, my nose, my sinuses, my jaw and my skull. But if a recording of my speech is any indication of how I sound to others, I despair of the gulf between euphony and ‘you phony’! The occasional flattering remark on the quality of my speaking voice haven’t reassured me. Age has further damaged this part of my self image since I can no longer hit the right notes, or negotiate melodies nimbly when singing along to myself with familiar songs.
I will hazard a guess that my relationship to art is as yours to music. I cannot say anything meaningful and honestly felt about your portrait. Subconsciously however, it did trigger a reflection on self image - mine at first, and upon receiving your e-mail, yours. You must really like how you present yourself, and represent yourself, in your ‘auto-retrato’ to have put it up on your blog. Good for you! The few photos of myself that are flattering enough to show to others were taken in the early eighties, snapshots of carefree times. The time and setting of your painting must have been magical too - the eighties, besides.