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Paint Fox Portraits (Read 2910 times)
Apr 4th, 2004 at 10:46am

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Makawao,  Maui, USA, HI

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Blair and our friend Odile have been painting portraits recently.  So when the "MOI" show opened at the Senate Museum in the Luxembourg Gardens, we had to go.

Paris is a city of mirrors. Wherever you go there are mirrors -- to reflect the light, but more to allow people to preen in front of them.  A Catholic school alumni, I was raised on the premise Vanity was a sin (one of the seven deadly sins, in fact, up there with Envy and Sloth).  I have never been one to spend much time at the mirror, as my self portrait might indicate.

The self-portrait show was nearly empty at 11:00 AM this morning.  We sashayed easily around the likes of Degas (his being the classic pastel portrait -- magnificent), Sam Francis and Henry Moore.  The poster was a surprise:  Norman Rockwell's painting of himself, looking at himself in a mirror, and painting his image on a canvas.

All of the portraits were from the 20th century.  There is a distinct shift from the first half to the second half of the century.  The closer we get to the present the more sexual the self-portraits become.  Blair says it sells paintings; I say people are maladjusted.  Some of the works were downright base and perverse.  I can hardly imagine these "artists" coming to grips with who they are before they die.  There was a healthy presence of skulls in the 100 years of self-portraits shown.

My favorites were a portrait of Derain in his studio, and another by Vlaminck. Vlaminck's piercing blue eyes stand out from the small canvas; Derain is at ease with himself, white shirt sleeves rolled up.  Derain painted himself again, as a face only, the year before he died.   There were several early/late portraits by the same artist.  Schjerbeck painted herself at age 22 and again at 82.  She seemed to disappear -- losing her "self".

Parisiens are their own "works of art".  A big nose, a prominent chin are always emphasized as a positive, distinguishing feature.  People from all walks of life might have stepped from the pages of a fashion magazine -- a young girl with green stockings passes us on her way to class.  I saw a woman sleeping on a bench in the metro with her fuzzy pink slippers arranged neatly by her side.

The self portrait drawings were great:  Dubuffet stands beside himself, like Dupond and Dupont; Klee gives himself striped lips -- were they chapped?  Haring's large green metal self was executed in steel.

Painting one's self is an awkward event.  I am never sure I know who I really am -- and when I finally understand it, I have changed.  Like Popeye, I hope one day to say, "I yam what I yam!"


Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER
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