Thursday, November 4, 2010

a refuter

Again.  More of the same.  It's really just to get these odd bits out, so that one can go on with spilling, also known as writing.  I go on dispirited, but with the conviction that it makes more sense than many other possible conditions.  The psychic distortions, contortions, that go into my writing these days.  In fact it's taken a long time to achieve these painful states, so I won't wish them away.  I always am reading C.L.  and it seems even more so now, more deeply.  Which seems really odd I suppose.  To keep reading the same books for years and years.  Circling it, coming back, diving into different waves of the text as it swells and recedes.  Well, I've been thinking about obscurity, which is reasonable given the working title of my novel. (Above).

"Consider the infinite freedom of the individual who is without fame and unknown; this is the kind of freedom the philosopher must guard for himself: that every day he may be someone new, a refuter of himself."  (Rilke)

I don't mind being a refuter of myself.

Also. Have been thinking about how we see, always thinking about that.  How we see ourselves.  Thinking about blurriness.

About the length and breadth of shadows.

I was also going to talk about self-portraits, particularly those by women.  I'm trying to write a portrait, in my novel.  Apparently I scared some people with a self-portrait I posted on Flickr a while back.  A lack of make-up was mentioned, which I think is funny, because I don't much wear eye make-up.  Sensitive eyes and all that.  But there is a sort of nakedness involved in this sort of picture maybe.  It's not edited, not photoshopped.  Nothing against photoshop, but there is a point when it becomes silly.  Not real, even.  Yes, definitely not real.  Maybe I'm just saying that because I'm too lazy to learn how to use photoshop.  Anyway, after taking these photos of myself, I dug up some paintings I did in my 20s from the basement.  I painted a fair bit back then.  I also painted when I was writing my first book - it seemed to me to be fraudulent to write about paintings, without doing it myself.  The self-portraits I did actually amuse me quite a bit - but they're pretty scary to anyone else who has seen them.  All of these different sides of myself - some are pretty zen looking, and others are really full of anguish.  What I like about them is that they're pretty unadorned and raw.  They're pretty ugly I guess too.  It seems like I've been yelling this question out to the universe for a very long time - what the hell is beauty? truth?

Anyway, I've been looking at self-portraits on the web and in books.  Rosalba Carriera, Alice Neel, Paula Modersohn-Becker and many others.  Read somewhere in my wanderings (and now can't find it) the story of how Georgia O'Keefe was given a make-over by Elizabeth Arden and after went home to wash it off as quickly as possible.  I've linked before to Diane Wakoski's poem "I Had to Learn to Live with my Face."  There's something so totally shocking about the poem, and yet endearing and funny and kind of heartbreaking too.  Looking at certain self-portraits, there's a similar shock that I've felt.  A weird recognition thing maybe.  Seeing yourself exposed in someone else's self-portrait?

I'm drawn to the confessional, no matter how out of fashion it is.  Drawn to what is raw and strange and weird.  The off-kilter, the obscure.  As much as I love looking for beauty in the world, I'm terribly interested in what is ugly.  The many facets.  Clarice as she confronts the cockroach:  "For now, the first timid pleasure that I feel is being able to say that I have lost  my fear of the ugly.  And that loss is a very great good.  It is a delight."