A portrait of self, masked, and coloured over. Then, the color stripped back and wiped down. What remains? Something in the eyes. Sarah complimented me on this picture, but I told her I couldn’t take any credit. I said these pictures are not my face. Just lots and lots and lots of layers of makeup done by someone else for hours. She said, it’s your face – you get to take all the credit. I will take credit for the eyes. These eyes are mine.
“This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am.”
– A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
I only read it once, a long time ago. I was too enamoured with Ulysses, which I am proud to say I read twice, and The Dubliners, which I only read once but fell in love with. I skirted through A Portrait of the Artist.. and I wish I had read it better. Something makes me want to read it again. Is that something you could find for me? I could probably find it online somewhere, actually, but I haven’t looked yet.
Anyway, here’s one more for the evening:
A bit softer, a bit brighter. When I finished with the photo shoot (for fun, let me just confirm that. This was totally a frivolity for the day), I ran over to St. Giles to practice for Sunday. I felt a bit mortified walking into a cathedral like this, but what is so terrifying is that the general population of Edinburgh sees this much makeup slathered onto most females as a daily occurrence. Only those who knew me knew enough to confirm that it was unusual.
It was an interesting experience, this afternoon. I almost modelled once, a long time ago. I say almost, because I was 14, and only did two shoots, one meeting with an agent, some sample shots. I was young and wirey and scared and impressionable. I also lived in the US, but I got scouted at a Peace Rally in London. Somewhere, I might have photos my dad took from that rally. I looked at them, after the agent “discovered” me off the side of the street. Funny to think that was the day things changed – or could have changed – or did change, and then changed again. Today was a window into an alternate reality, a kind of experience with a parallel life-trajectory. I can see how I might have enjoyed it. There is a certain pleasure at leaving yourself at the door, turning your very presence in the room into a performance.
I told Andrew over the phone (he’s down in London for work, so he unfortunately can’t see the product of all of this caking and masking) that the more layers of foreign mixtures they applied to my face, the more I felt like it was stripping away at who I was. Not in the sense of repression, not in the sense of losing myself. But of letting myself go, somehow. Is it strange, I asked him, to have found a Buddhist center in the middle of a very materialistic and aesthetic focus? I definitely don’t want to model; I’m glad my life has moved along a different path. But I would like to take away and refine the ability to step in and out of myself. To choose – instead of muting or losing who I am – to amplify the otherness, the else, the nothing, to allow myself to become a blank slate on top of which to paint a life and a character and an artist. I would really like to take that into my acting. I wonder if I have ever been believable before, when I didn’t fully understand this – the phenomenology of stripping the self to what is the same in all of us, to be able to build up the image of another, and then strip the image back down again later.
My grandfather on my mother’s side died last year, but I have been thinking of him a lot recently. Gran, as we called him, came to visit us in New Jersey once and asked me something in the car after picking me up from school: “Tell me,” he said, “Three things you have learned today. And one question you still have.”
For years, I used to keep a journal that way. Three learnings, or reflections, or notes. One question. More, if they came.
- I love how it is necessary to make your lips dance when speaking Italian. No wonder the language sounds musical, as though it is sung. I watched this closely when 25 Italian school kids got onto my bus today. I wanted to consume the mannerisms of how they performed their language.
- Despite having survived our past selves, there is so much to be mined from our personal development before the evolution. Pre-healed, back when parts were still broken. An example: I performed, but my performances were also still always tied to my self. If I can remember the sense of performance, the feeling and flair of drama, but be able to detach it from the personal, my personal, my self, how will the nature of the performance change?
- I perform so much better when I know I can already do it. Whether or not that knowing is accurate, it creates its own validity.
The idea of embracing no-self, or life beyond pure ego — how can this be done without disappearing? Should it?
Kirsten Kaschock has an amazing concept in her new book Sleight called “wicking”:
“Sleightists “wick”—they disappear at the apex of their performances. The ultimate experience of sleight is the witnessing of absence. Hitchcock reminded me that, wherever it is found and whatever we choose to call it, the invisible has a hold on us.”
– Kirsten Kaschock
Genius. I think I’m beginning to understand why I loved the concept so much when I read it.