Portraits give realistic views of ‘self’Humans can’t see their own faces, yet spend a lifetime trying to do the impossible: maintain an imagined point of youth and beauty that they can’t even see without the help of others.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
Humans can’t see their own faces, yet spend a lifetime trying to do the impossible: maintain an imagined point of youth and beauty that they can’t even see without the help of others.
The importance of art portraits and photographs, to the sitter, is to answer the question we ask ourselves all our lives: how do I look to other people? We all know how our reflection looks to us staring back in the mirror, but knowing how we look to others, how we really look, requires an effort beyond our own means: camera or another person’s viewpoint.
The mirror reverses our image, so without that “other” help, we always see ourselves backwards. It’s why children starting school become almost obsessive with their first class identification pictures that in 10 years they hide and hope nobody ever sees.
Celebrities depend on specially-staged photographs that have expertly lit and altered images creating thin midsections, more cleavage, defined six-packs, more junk in trunk bodies and always sans wrinkles and bags on the face.
In reality, they are unrealistic, or cartoonish versions of themselves, and they select the most idealized, sterile, unrealistic version to show the world. And we believe those people look like their caricatures.
Advertisers of weight-loss products or body-building equipment, or even plastic surgery procedures, bombard our daily lives with “look how beautiful you could be if you spend your money on our product/service.” We are obsessed with how we look yet in truth cannot even see ourselves as others see us. We are dependent on something or someone else to know how we look.
Artists have played a major role in recording or creating the images of winners and losers from day one to the present. Until the film industry mastered sound and moving images for cinema, people imagined or assumed how a distant ruler/person looked. Film ended the careers for some actors because their voices didn’t “match” their images. Likewise, film ended the vocal careers of some unphotogenic singers when music videos took over MTV.
Beauty attracts, and idealized beauty sells products. We tend to compare ourselves to others, but in reality, without a photo or painting, we have no way to know how we appear to others.
The late Lucian Freud capitalized on realism in his depiction of human faces/bodies, interaction and emotions. Few liked his work. He did not paint beauty. Like his grandfather Sigmund Freud, he sought not beauty, but truth about the human condition. When he died last year at 89, his work became widely recognized for its psychological significance as opposed to its commercial “beauty.”
Nobody wants to look like a Lucian Freud painting, they just enjoy collecting the artist’s wild paintings, no matter how graphic.
Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and artists since the Renaissance cashed in on faces/bodies of lovely ladies and bigger-than-life men.
Not many who paint ugliness earn a living doing that at the canvas. Freud’s paintings were criticized while he lived. Because of his skill with the brush, and an insight linked to his grandfather, he did sell his work.
Even Queen Elizabeth sat for a portrait. She didn’t buy it from him however. Not many people want an unflattering photo or portrait of themselves looking back at them every day. That’s why the holiday photo is so popular and valued. But perfection is not the bottom line. In 10 years, instead of looking at the photo and saying “eeuuu,” that photo will be a treasure. And the gift of photos or a camera is always an appreciated gift.
And as a reminder, please join the guests at 7 p.m. today in Level 2 at Jamestown College for an enjoyable and educational look into China. Light refreshments will be served and there will be fun events for all the family. This will be one of those gifts given to yourself, and a beautiful one at that.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.