This show project has turned into a kind of Selfie Pilgrimage for me.  I must say, my initial resistance has been a challenge to overcome – I DO so resist, especially when reading articles like this one by James Franco (The Meanings of the Selfie, New York Times, December 2013)  who rationalizes his recently acquired selfie habit thus,

a well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention.  …hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.

Maybe for James Franco it’s power, but I truly don’t think that’s at the core of our collective behaviour.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel.  Sure enough, even when I'm the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible.  Not squirming, I think.
I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel. Sure enough, even when I’m the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible. Not squirming, I think.

So I dig and write and paint, and read.  This morning I woke to a kind of epiphany about what could be at the root of Selfie on social media.  Here’s a journal excerpt, which will likely end up in the show booklet in some form,

Selfies have steadily been on the increase since the first use of the term (Australia) in 2002 & became universal in 2012.  Oxford English Dictionary made the term it’s “word of the year” in 2013.  Could this be a barometer for the increasing divide between people because of a kind of culturally cultivated distrust of intimacy?  We are also experiencing the increasing dissolution of traditional forms of relationship and partnership – both personally and with the institutions we once trusted (govt, banks, corporations), which may have created a vaccuum at the personal level.  Maybe these cultural shifts have also changed the questions we’re asking ourselves on a personal level…

The question ‘who am I’, has traditionally been answered in the past by describing how you are related to something or someone, “Peter’s wife; Katie’s Mother; Richard’s Teacher; Jim’s Daughter; Sarah’s Boss; Paul’s Friend”, or even by what you do professionally, which is a different form of relationship “A cellist; an artist; a bus driver; an author; a councillor; a conductor, a mechanic; a carpenter”.

It’s a different question in social media circles.

“I got ‘Unicorn’!, which mythical  creature are you?”

Round one.  Always an indication of how the fight will go.  I need to make it to twenty....
Round one. Always an indication of how the fight will go. I need to make it to twenty….

This answers a question for me about why I’m painting my own hands in interaction.  I think #Selfie behavior could be an examination of our relationship with ourselves.

Each time a selfie is posted it tells a truth, shows a piece of soul, offers a clue, and a question:  “who am I?”  or with chronic selfie posters, “who am I, now?” But what does that question actually mean?  How can we Be separate and distinct from our interactions  – with partners, kids, colleagues, parents, friends, job?

So, for me, my hands.  They are my job, my form of expression, an amplification of my speech, a means of articulation.  They represent two sides of my engagement with the world and my work – my dominant right hand is skilled, trained in the finely tuned crafts of drawing and using a cello bow.  I can write with it – it knows letters and words.  It’s often TOO skilled, too trained for a task I want to complete – a drawing that is direct and raw; the ability to touch an object and feel it’s shape and texture without interference from what is ‘known’.  My left hand is more honest, therefore, and I rely upon it to take me places that can change my mind and my perspective.

Together they are erotic, aggressive, tender, bewildered, compassionate, protected, open or closed to experience.  I see them and work with them much much more than I see and work with my face.  Here’s what Larry Jensen wrote in response to the first hand selfie I posted.  I so love this, L:

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons...
blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons…

And so the 12-week journey begins, with James Franco, the Oxford English, a Unicorn, Larry Jensen, and some squirming.

yep, squirming.  eyes open means you can see me.  Here we go....
Yep, squirming. eyes open means you can see me. Here we go….

I’m home, sick today.

It’s a full-stop ‘flu, and I’m bundled in triple layers of clothing – including my dad’s old navy turtleneck & the big red sweater my mom knit for me in 1982.  I am on my third bowl of the excellent chicken soup made for me by incredible friend and husband Grant, who has given up a much anticipated road trip to be here with me.  Big book, big box of kleenex, big blanket, blazing woodfire.  2 knitting projects, in case I feel like thinking.

<sorry no pics – the ones I wanted of the fire in the woodstove are at my studio, where I’m not going today.  I’ll put them in when I’m back at work>

If happiness is a deep, warm, sunlit lake in the heart of the mountains, far away from schedules, tasks and emergency response systems, utterly safe and peaceful, then I am a huge old magical fish swimming there, utterly content.

I’m thinking about “the Rise of the Guardians”.  William Joyce, author of the books and co-director of the movie has got something right, and the studio, writers, actors, animators who made the film figured it out and stuck with him.  I’d recommend this movie to anyone, with the proviso that you go with your simplest self, take with you a young person (of whatever age) & don’t make it complicated.

After you do that, find a way to take a day off and love yourself.  It’s good to be a big fish in a warm lake – or whatever your fancy…

A black squirrel just yelled at me for 3 straight minutes while hanging upside-down on the trunk of a downtown spruce tree.

Was that because I was reading a book about Jungian psychology while sitting in a red car and wearing a red sweater?  It can’t have been for no reason whatsoever, so it must have been the book and the car and the sweater – unless…

Perhaps the squirrel was responding to the residual weird and murky energy roiling around the event that had occurred just before – while reading in my red car and my red sweater I was parked temporarily halfway on the curb, with my hazard lights flashing.  A young mom and dad passed by pushing a stroller, and he said, forcefully, “GOOD BOOK?”  then repeated the same thing over his left shoulder as they walked on (he was striding deliberately – his back decidedly ‘Up’).  I nodded, slightly bewildered, then realized he actually meant what he said next, “why don’t you leave some room for people like us to walk on the sidewalk next time?”  – this accompanied by a look intending to wound and intimidate.  Mom of kid smiled nervously at him, as if to witness his strength in the face of such a red, immovable object as I.  I believe I could hear her thinking, though I could be wrong – “I should like him for this?”.

I responded to his request by moving my car into a driveway, wonderingly.  Then the squirrel started in….

So in retrospect, I don’t think it was the Jungian Psychology book, although the dad did call attention to ‘book’.  Maybe the squirrel objected to Jung – alas, I fear I will never know.

I think it was the colour red.  And the fact that the person I was providing a ride for was 13 minutes late, which I was aware of, even though said person had requested the ride with some urgency.

So perhaps the red was actually glowing warm in the sky above the car [though I don’t think I was that frustrated], and the dad’s Red saw and recognized my Red, so we engaged in a Red conversation?

Red calls to Red?  Is this the way wars and feuds are seeded  – so innocently –  a warm spot that accidentally ignites some hot repressed rage that needed only the smallest thing to ignite?

hmmm.  I am so NOT interested in fighting anyone.  Especially squirrels.

So, all ended well.  Angry dad’s ire was diffused (though I think he’d rather have fought me) when I parked my car, and the squirrel stopped yelling and ran up his tree when my passenger arrived and got in.

I drove said ride-ee to destination, and then came back to my studio, wonderingly.


Moral, so far:  Be careful with Red.  No pointing.

Happy Wednesday all.  I recommend Blue.