Thursday, January 31, 2013

Daaa dum! Daaa dum! Dum dum dum dum dum dum!

Yup. It's a wind up tub toy. And yup, it's in my bathtub.
Long hot baths are one of my favorite pastimes. Usually I take Kindleezza, my Kindle, into the tub (safely dry in her Zip Lok scuba suit). But today I decided to mix it up a little bit and swim with the sharks.
He looks like he could bite someone's face off.

Wind up shark 1-31-13

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The me in the moon

I'm a Cancerian, which means I am ruled by the moon. Sometimes I wax. Sometimes I wane. Sometimes I feel full and luminous. And other times I feel only half there, or barely there at all -- the thinnest, sharpest sliver of my full self.

Self portrait 1-30-13

Cancer is a perplexing sign to abide by with its constant tidelike tug and pull against my moods and emotions. It definitely keeps it interesting, if not always easy.

I've seen my fair share of the moon lately.  We keep company late at night when we're both wide awake -- Moon snuggled in his blanket of stars and cloud pillows, his face beaming, and me on my makeshift blow-up air bed in self-imposed "insomnia camp," where I can toss and turn the sleepless nights away without bothering the sound slumbering log sawyers upstairs.

Goodnight, Moon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It'll stay that way

It's one of those days when I just want to squish it all up, scramble it, and hope it snaps back different. But what if everybody's mother was right? What if I keep doing this to my face? Someday will it really stay that way?

Self portrait 1-29-13

Monday, January 28, 2013

Nothing with a face?

Fish face!
(With apologies to all the vegans.)

Fish face 1-28-13
This guy was dinner, but not until I made him and his buddies submit to a (humane) photo shoot. They are rainbow trout, caught (not by me) this summer in the spring-fed river that runs through the Rockwell Springs Trout Club in Clyde, Ohio
I guess if I had to classify what kind of eater I am, I'd say primarily (but not rigidly) Pescetarian. Pescetarianism is like vegetarianism, except it includes fish and other seafood, but not the flesh of other animals. (Pescetarianism is not like Presbyterianism, however. Presbyterianism is a Calvinistic branch of Protestant Christianity, and I don't know what they eat.)

Anyway, with a couple of avid fishermen living in my house, I am lucky enough to get some of the freshest, tastiest fish around. And these guys were definitely tasty fresh.

Fish faces 1-28-13

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Primal scream

I am having trouble finding words today. So I'll just scream this.

Wood mannequin 1-26-13

Friday, January 25, 2013

Face time

 This face makes me think of phrases like "Rise and shine!" and "Bright and early!" and "Let's get crackin'!" It reminds me of morning, and sunshine streaming through the kitchen window, and good breakfasts, and my grandma, who lived to be 102, and having nothing more pressing to do than watch time slip through a narrow glass passage, one grain at a time. Over and over and over.

Egg timer 1-25-13
Egg timer 2, 1-25-13
 I used to play with this hourglass (if it only lasts 1 minute is it still an hourglass?) at my grandma's house. It's an egg timer, I think, and it must have come from Florida, a souvenir from one of her many winters spent there. I'm pretty certain the wooden, hand-painted faces are meant to be oranges. I have tested this old-school timer's accuracy against a digital stopwatch, and I'll be darned if the white sandy granules don't peter out at exactly 60 seconds. Every time. And it's so much cuter than a digital stopwatch. Sure, a watch has a "face," but can a digital stopwatch shrug it's shoulders and look this adorably rascally? I don't think so.

P.S. Soft boiled eggs. Yum.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keep an eye out

Nightlight 1-24-13
I did not grow up in a religious home and I don't know who gave me this little praying nightlight figurine. Maybe the same person who gave me the Holly Hobbie faux scroll that hung above the bureau on my childhood bedroom wall, the one with the menacing prayer of doom: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."  If I should die before I wake? As in, DIE? In my sleep?

It's no wonder I have battled insomnia since I was a little kid. It's no wonder I still feel the need to keep an eye out. You never know what might be lurking in the shadows waiting to snatch your soul while you sleep.

This eternally praying face is usually so serene and placid, with her long lashed, hand-painted eyes resting gently shut. But wearing these knowing, grown-up eyes with their sideways glance, she has a decidedly different psychology. She seems wary. Suspicious. Watchful. Distrustful. A little bit skeptical. Like she's seen a thing or two and she might be up all night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's her face

Google eye Barbie 1-21-13

This face is actually a Barbie. A Batgirl Barbie, to be precise, sans bat-mask. I photographed her wearing a pair of plastic jiggle eyes, and then just kept manipulating the images and experimenting with effects until eventually I got these. Days like this are often practice sessions that yield something else further down the line. Taking time to free-form without a specific agenda or end product in mind is very satisfying, creatively. No rules. No lines. No voices allowed telling me what's wrong or right. Just the dizzy freedom of riding the wave as long as it lasts.

Google eyed Barbie 2, 1-21-13

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Face your fear

Monsters under the bed. Bogeymen in the closet. Nightmares. My most frightening memories.
Real or imagined, day or night, fear comes calling.
I started making self portraits as art therapy, specifically as a tool to manage anxiety. Rather than let anxiety paralyze me with fear of the unknown (or the all-too-well-known) I made pictures of it. If a particular "monster" was too scary to talk about, I could always make a picture that said all the things that left me so tongue-tied.
Bad things happen. Bad things have happened. Life can get awfully, awfully scary.
When the monsters start creeping up and I've nowhere to run, it helps to point the camera at them and make them say "cheese."

Worst nightmare 1-20-13

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Is he or isn't she?


It's the murky middle ground between masculinity and femininity -- not completely one or the other, and with strong flavors of both. I am no psychologist, but I do believe that most of us, whether our birth certificate says female or male, have a lot more of the "other" mixed into our personal gender cocktail than we care to admit. Personally, I believe the fullness of my personality is a mashup of a vast multiplicity of selves: hims, hers, boys, girls, chicks, dudes. Practicing self portrait has helped me capture images of the separate, distinctly male and female personas that are so intricately mingled inside my self. They emerge on their own terms and timetables, and I never know for sure when one of them might show up. Some are repeat customers. Some come out only once and I never see them again. Looking back over my hundreds of self portraits is a lot like looking into a family album in a way.

I got mistaken for a boy a lot when I was a growing up. I pretended that it bothered me, but honestly, I secretly liked it and wished people would quit making such a big deal about it. Self portraits like this one help me imagine how I might look had I been born male, or had a twin brother. It is remarkable how simple it is to nudge the dial from "girl" to "boy." False eyelashes are all it takes. Put them on the eyelids and wham! It's a girl. Stick one under the lower lip and you get this guy.

Self portrait 1-19-13

Friday, January 18, 2013

Know thyself

I like cloning myself and then playing with multiple images of me to see how they interact with each other. It is very compelling and highly addictive. Sometimes I go all elaborate with sets/costumes and alter egos. Today's image is a very simple assemblage of me times two. I'm not a super social person, and I spend a lot of time with just myselves for companionship. Self portraits of multiple me(s) are one way I doggedly try to get to know me better.

The ancient Greek saying γνῶθι σεαυτόν means "know thyself." It has a couple of interpretations, but my favorite is that it's a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude. The multitude may be of the opinion that taking pictures of myself day in and day out is a less-than valid use of my time. The judgmental multitude can think whatever it wants to. But the judgmental multitude has no idea. And the judgmental multitude may kiss my ass.

Self portrait 1-18-13
If you have the time and want to learn more about the psychology of self portraits (and other portraiture), I highly recommend an extremely thorough and insightful website called Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche written and photographed by psychology professor John Suler. Go to: to see his masterful use of "clones" to illustrate psychological concepts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Keep your fingers crossed

I made this portrait of these "faces" as a birthday gift for my very lovely and super amazing friend Jill. Jill lives far away right now, so I couldn't give her a real birthday hug. I sent her this virtual one instead. Jill is one of (if not the) smartest, funniest women I know. She writes books. She travels the world. She drinks $3 Wal Mart wine out of a Harry Potter butterbeer mug. Jill is the kind of friend adventurous enough to ride on the back of my motorcycle when no one else will. I hope that Jill is my friend forever and ever. I have my fingers crossed.

Birthday hug 1-17-13

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An original?

Something about this self portrait kept feeling familiar ... like I'd seen it someplace before, but I couldn't quite home in on where. Then I realized it kind of channels the original Francis Cugat cover art for The Great Gatsby. (One of my favorite book covers, ever.)

Self portrait 1-16-13

I wasn't consciously trying to mimic that artwork when I made this portrait. Any similarities didn't dawn on me until well after the fact. They just kind of worked their way in through an open window, I guess. How does that quote go? "There are no original ideas. There are only original people." I hope that's not completely true. I am not jaded enough yet to give up all hope for original ideas. And a copycat is the last thing I want to be, unless it is intentional copycat-ism meant as homage, or a tip o' the hat, or a wink and a nudge to something specific. (Two years ago I made a self portrait of me as "Madame X" from the John Singer Sargent painting. I meant it.) So, with apologies to Mr. Cugat and in spite of the accidental mimicry here, I sincerely hope The Great Gatsby flavor doesn't diminish the uniqueness of my work. Because if I strive to be anything in this life, I definitely strive to be one of life's "original people."

The Great Gatsby original cover art


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monkey face!

If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a monkey.
Haven't you always wanted a monkey?

Wind up monkey 1-15-13

Monday, January 14, 2013


Insomnia bandits hijack my sleep on an all-too regular basis. I hate the insomnia bandits. Hate. Them. So. Much. So even though today's face isn't mine, I guess it is still kind of a self portrait in a way. Aren't they all?

Awake 1-14-13

Sunday, January 13, 2013

This little light of mine

This face is a hand-painted ceramic nightlight from my childhood. As far back as I can remember, she has always knelt somewhere in my bedroom, eternally calm and sweetly earnest in her unceasing posture of prayer. It is captivating little face, I think. There used to be an electrical cord with a bulb that lit her from the inside so that she glowed warm and soft all through the night. But somewhere along the way, her light got lost. Now she is just a hollow shell with no power over the darkness.
Nightlight 1-13-13

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Face value

Why faces?
Why not a puppy a day? Or a toaster a day? Or a banana a day?
Why a face a day?
Why my own face?
Like Hedwig said about her Angry Inch, "It's what I have to work with."

Self portrait 1-12-13

Friday, January 11, 2013

Left behind

As much as I enjoy digital and other forms of photography, sometimes my artistic appetite craves something a little chewier. Digital photographs are immediate. There is instant gratification. If I don't want the image I just captured, I can easily shoot another, and another, and another -- until there are literally hundreds to choose  from. Today's face is from a linoleum block print that I carved of my face. Carving a linoleum block takes time (this block took me about 3 hours), and therefore patience. You can't rush it. But you can absolutely get lost in the satisfying sort of violence of meticulously gouging away each individual curled bit of unnecessary material until the printing surface is cleanly released. Block prints are all about what is taken away. The printed image is made from what gets left behind. There is only one shot at getting the image right. And be prepared to bleed. I cut myself twice carving the block for this print. It was totally worth it.

Lino block self portrait 1-11-13

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sometimes I wonder

Is it art? Does anybody else care? If I do it, does it make a difference? What if I don't do it?
Is it like that tree in the woods that falls with nobody there to hear it? Does it make a sound or doesn't it? Does anybody feel the solid thud, like a body blow to the solar plexus, from the impact of it colliding with the Earth?
I don't know much, but I know for sure that making art is something I care about. And it makes a difference to me. I also know that if I don't do it, it makes the wrong kind of difference. And when someone I trust says my images made her "feel the things I'm afraid to feel," I know I will keep going.
If this blog is the metaphorical woods, I hope there are others who hike through from time to time and survey the fallen trees and feel things and think things because they took the time to stop and see.

Self portrait 1-10-13

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Express yourself

When words fail, screaming helps.
So does art.
Whatever your art, it can be the most precious and effective tool you have to "say" what you otherwise cannot. Artistic expression facilitates and accommodates the visceral side of self that is often too messy, dark and tangled for words. I have found that the messy, dark, tangled stuff is where art gets really interesting. Whatever medium you use, go ahead an let it out. Scream into the void and make something.

Thrift store doll face 1-9-13

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Man of a thousand faces?

If anyone is tired of Joe's face, I'm sorry. But it's my blog and I'll post what I want to. Practicing self portrait continually teaches me how a face can change from day to day, and even moment to moment, to a point where separate portraits of the same face can look convincingly like portraits of different people. I think really honest portraiture teases out the multiple selves that dwell inside us all, selves that show themselves, if fleetingly, on the surface of our faces. Joe's face does not change. It is inanimate. It is fixed. Or so I thought. It turns out that even a static, molded plastic face has a capacity for expression and a changeability of personality. It is elusive, and that fascinates me. And if something is elusive and it fascinates me, I will continue trying to capture it in images. Bear with me.

Joe 1-8-13

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hello Gorgeous

A few scraps cutout from magazine photos animated this blank wooden mannequin's face with a surprisingly interesting expression. Something tells me we'll be seeing more of her. Or maybe him. Hmmm.

Wood mannequin 1-7-13

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Face to face

I'm not afraid to admit that I still like playing with dolls. Although Joe looks kind of perplexed about the whole thing.
Joe 1-6-13

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

I feel pretty ...

I don't trust self-portrait artists who only go in front of the camera on "good" days. Good hair, good skin, good attitude. Truly getting at the self in self-portraits means the whole self in all its dark corners. The good. The bad. The ugly. Once in a blue moon I do feel pretty in the literal sense of the word. Other times I feel pretty more along the lines of pretty angry, pretty exhausted, pretty confused, pretty frustrated, pretty sad, pretty ugly, pretty pissed, pretty happy, pretty excited, pretty curious, pretty desperate, pretty crazy, pretty clever, pretty lonely. The list goes on. So if you're coming along with me for this 365 day ride, just know that it ain't always gonna be pretty.
Self portrait 1-4-13

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Don't face it alone

Tenderness 1-3-13

Life is hard. Too hard to face alone. Everybody needs a little tenderness. Even Joe.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Joe 1-2-13
Meet Joe. This is his face. Joe models for me sometimes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 A Face A Day

A Face A Day

Hello 2013!
For the past several years I have dedicated each new year to a 365 days creative project. This is the first project I've opened to an audience wider than my family and a very select circle of friends. But it's time. Artistically speaking, if the art doesn't have a place of expression -- a recipient for what's given -- it never really lives. Like Madeleine L'Engle says, "Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work has been stillborn." (Walking on Water, pg. 30)

This year's project is titled "A Face A Day: 365 self portraits and others." I am a devoted practitioner of self portrait (photography and other media), and wanted a project that could accommodate self portrait without limiting me solely to my own face as subject matter.
I will, to the best of my ability, post an image a day for the next 365 days.
So here goes.
Self portrait 1-1-13