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Face Your Face

Recently I listened to a "The Great Women Artists" podcast by Katy Hessle in which she interviewed bestselling author and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki . I had not heard of Ruth Ozeki before and was really pleased to learn more about her and her writing. If you are interested you can listen to the podcast here:

One of the books they discussed stood out to me. Its title is "The Face, A Timecode". Part-memoir, part-experiment Ruth spent 3 hours looking at her face in a mirror recording her observations and thoughts. Afterwards she wrote about it.

My face is and isn’t me. It’s a nice face. It has lots of people in it. My parents, my grandparents, and their grandparents, all the way back through time and countless generations to my earliest ancestors—all those iterations are here in my face, along with all the people who’ve ever looked at me. And the light and shadows are here, too, the joys, anxieties, griefs, vanities, and laughter. The sun, the rain, the wind, the broom poles, and the iron fences that have distressed my face with lines and scars and creases—all here. Say hi to your face, face. Say hi to the world.

Dear reader, my first thought was, "that's cool!"

And my second thought was "light weight!"

When I'm painting a portrait I spend hours, days, and weeks looking at a model's face learning every shadow, every highlight, every scar, and every detail. As I paint I reflect on the stories they tell me about their lives while they model. By the end I feel like I know them intimately and can practically feel their lives through their faces.

I love it!!!

However, sometimes my "Rattlesnake" models are less than pleased to be seen at that level of detail and familiarity.

As one model said, "I think none of us wants to see ourselves the way other people see us. We like, or are comfortable with, the image we have our ourselves in our heads".

I know what she means. Personally I know that I'm not totally comfortable being seen in great detail. In fact, most of the time I dress to hide while being in plain sight.

Some of that stems from wanting to avoid unwanted attention from men. However that may be in vain as last weekend, while filling up gas in Albuquerque, a man approached me and said, "You look so nice...could I have your number?"

(insert eye roll)

And sometimes I don't want to be seen because I know I don't look the way I did in my younger years.

Ah yes, aging.

It is both a privilege and a challenge.

If I'm totally honest I wouldn't want to go back to being a young woman. I like the hard earned wisdom I now carry in my 50s. But sometimes it is hard to look in the mirror because my eyes immediately go to those areas of my face that show my age.

SO dear reader, I'm considering ending my portrait series with a self portrait done in the same style and to the same level of detail that I've devoted to my models.

Turn about is fair play after all!




I'll end up falling in love with my face the way I've fallen in love with the faces of my models.


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