Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The other guy

Steve Rogers: Dr. Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry.
Bruce Banner: That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry.
(he transforms into the Hulk and smashes the giant worm-like ship to bits)

Self portrait 3-19-13
We watched The Avengers recently, and I must still be subliminally channeling the Hulk, because I made this Hulk-flavored self portrait. Honest, I wasn't even trying to look like the Hulk. It just kind of turned out that way.

Hulk is the emotional and impulsive alter ego of  mild-mannered physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. Banner's transformation into the Hulk is always triggered by strong emotions -- anger, yes, but also fear and terror and grief. Despite his outward appearance as a simple, over-muscled, out-of-control wrecking machine, Hulk is a surprisingly complex character, both emotionally and psychologically.

Dr. Banner calls his emotionally charged Hulk-self "the other guy," as if Hulk is a completely separate person, or being, with his own inner and outer life. Hulk is so "other" from Banner, that whenever Banner wakes up from being Hulk, he doesn't remember what he did as Hulk -- it's as if Hulk functions completely independently, as if Banner isn't there at all.

I feel a kind of kinship with my angry green brother.

Because I get angry a lot. I get angry a lot because sometimes life just plain hurts a lot. It feels mean and unfair. And when it does, it gets real hard not to transform into my Hulk-self and rampage around growling and gnashing my teeth and smashing stuff. I also understand the desire to somehow separate my selves -- to categorize, and sort, and compartmentalize my selves -- to have "others" who seem to act of their own accord. If an "other" did it, then I can blame it on him.

I am not one of those serene, reflective types. I can't meditate myself calm. Counting to ten just pisses me off. Counting to thirty just pisses me off for twenty more seconds. I like a more visceral approach. When I feel the anger rising, I try to diffuse it through strenuous physical exercise. I ride my bike, or run, or lift weights. Whatever works, just as long as I can feel it. I exercise a lot. Physical exhaustion settles me, for a while at least. It's how I "smash."

Self portrait 3-19-13
Art settles me, too.  Especially honest, visceral art.

I can often diffuse my anger by taking pictures of it. Taking a self-portrait when I'm feeling not so incredible, when I'm feeling my angriest and ugliest, is not something I enjoy doing. But it is something I need to do from time to time, so that I can look into the ugly
and really see it.

I've said before on this blog that I don't trust self-portrait photographers who only go in front of the camera when they look their best. I still stand by that, because I'm trying to capture images that comprise a whole self that includes all of my "other guys." Not just the pretty bits. Not just my good side. The whole Chimichanga. And like Bruce Banner, even though I don't really want anybody else to see me when I get like this, the plain and simple fact is: I get like this.

If this 365 days project is going to function effectively for me as art therapy, then there is nothing to be gained from denying what's real at any given moment. If it is nothing else, this project will at the very least be bone-honest. It's a promise I made to myself at the outset, and it is a promise I have no intentions of backing out on. And that feels pretty incredible.

And now, back to our movie:

[Banner now in his human form, wakes up naked in a pile of rubble in an abandoned building]
Security Guard: You fell out of the sky.
Bruce Banner: Did I hurt anybody?
Security Guard: There's nobody around here to get hurt. You did scare the hell out of some pigeons though.