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dreaming of the coast of yor


Dreaming of the Coast of Yor, 1996

I seem to have painted quite a few self-portraits. This was the first one. I painted it at a time when my life was really miserable. Back then, I would close my eyes and pretend I was far away, in an imaginary country that I loved. (I still love that imaginary country, but luckily, my life is no longer miserable.) I used a photograph of myself that made me very happy because it had been taken by my brother John at a happy time, when we travelled together to the Arctic.

young girl transfigured

Young Girl Transfigured, 1998

Two years later, I was in a different city, starting a whole new thing, and for the first time, I started to feel like things would be all right. I named this picture after a line from a story I really love, "A Room with a View". I felt as though, just like that story's heroine, I had narrowly escaped joining "the vast armies of the benighted!"

Interesting, though, that I still chose an image of myself with my eyes closed. Maybe I still wasn't quite ready to face what was out there.

the haircut mozart

The Haircut, 2000; Mozart, 2000

Next, I painted two portraits of myself aged 11 and 10 (respectively). I think that at this time, I was just trying to learn how to paint portraits, and so I just chose two images. The first one was a picture of myself after my mom took me, on the last day of school, to get all my long hair chopped off... without telling me ahead of time. The next was of a Hallowe'en costume that I really liked, especially the brooch!

self-portrait #5

Self-Portrait #5, 2000

This originally-titled work was kind of my first serious attempt to paint myself. It, along with the previous two paintings, was part of a portrait show at Calgary's Auburn Saloon, which can be seen here. I think it's strange that I chose to paint myself without glasses, since, as everybody knows, I always, always wore (and still wear) glasses. As a result, it doesn't really look like me.

all experience is an arch...

All experience is an arch wherethro' gleams that untravelled world..., 2001

This painting's title was taken from a poem by Tennyson called Ulysses.

It says, "I am a part of all that I have met/ Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' gleams that untravelled world/ Whose margin fades forever and forever when I move."

I liked the idea that the figure in the painting made an arch, and that the "untravelled world" gleamed tantalizingly at the viewer, all the while being something that could never be reached.

Nuda, 2001 (detail)

Too bad I couldn't find a photograph of the whole painting, but this will do!

There was a movie called "Il Postino" in which a scandalized Italian grandmother found a passionate love poem written by a postman to his love, and it was all she could do to repeat the first word out loud: "Nuda..."

I had to name this scandalous painting after that horrified lady's shocked utterance. I even painted the word "nuda" in there somewhere, hard to see except under the right light.

...the fact is i'm turning to clay...

The fact is I'm turning to gold, turning to gold.
It's a long process, they say,
it happens in stages.
This is to inform you that I've already turned to clay. - 2001

This painting's title comes from a poem by Leonard Cohen called "The Cuckold's Song". That's how I was feeling at that time. I used the same image as I had in "Self-Portrait #5", just to underline the idea that you could be a living, breathing person one moment, and then feel as though you had turned to clay, the next.

self with jade plant bei doan

Self-Portrait with Jade Plant, about 1999 (?)

Bei Doan, about 2002 (?)

These were painted at different times, but it struck me later that they seemed quite similar. (Later I learned that no matter where I live, I always end up painting all my walls red, yellow, or blue, so it wasn't really that strange for these backgrounds to be so similar.)

The second one is called "Bei Doan", which means "At Doan's" because it was from a photograph of me taken while I was visiting my friend Doan in New York City. We were talking in German, so the title ended up being in German, too.

lost highway

Lost Highway, 2002

I took some photographs of myself with the timer on my camera, at a time when I was really stressed out. Taking pictures seemed like something that would loosen me up and get me to relax. It was fun, but since I was standing in front of the camera, I couldn't see what was being captured. A lot of the pictures turned out being cropped in funny ways. This was one of them, but I liked the way the figure hovered on the edge.

I decided to try painting it, but while I worked, I turned on a David Lynch movie called "Lost Highway". I was all alone in my cold, dark apartment, in the middle of the night, and the movie got more and more creepy. It must have affected the painting, since the photograph was not nearly as creepy as the painting became. When I see it, all I can think of is that scary night, which is why I had to name the painting after it.

Self-Portrait #12, 2002

At last, I painted a portrait that looked like myself. Quite a few people told me that it looks older than I looked (but perhaps my looks have caught up with it by now).

Somehow or other this portrait was selected as a "Top Finalist" at the Portrait Society of Canada's annual international competition held in Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario. I went out there because I thought it would be fun to say I had had a painting displayed at the AGO. It was quite an interesting experience.

self-portrait #12
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