I have quite a collection of old self portraits. Some are drawn from photographs, others by “posing” in front of a mirror. I’m thinking of doing some more. At one time in my life I thought I’d chronicle my life that way, as Kathe Kollwitz and Frida Kahlo did, with self portraits drawn or painted throughout their lives. It’s kind of scary. Though I love the strength and fragility revealed in Kollwitz’s portraits of her old age, I mostly admire her ability to be objective. I’m afraid my tendency would be to omit wrinkles.
I also have a pretty good collection of drawings others have done of me. I love the very flattering sketch by my friend, Huey Chu, and the drawing by my daughter, Kate, done when we were both much younger. Less flattering, but fun, is the classroom drawing by Jenny Martin. I have a cartoon portrait done by my friend Linda, complete with pig-nose and uni-brow, holding up my hand in the peace sign. Another, by Irwin Belfy, is a frowning face; I think he was trying to tell me to change my attitude.
My favorites, though, are two portraits done one week apart by my daughter Jen, when she was eight years old.
In the first one, my smiling face is surrounded by flowing curls and topped with a tiara. I have a long dress. High heels poke out the bottom. “My Mom” written across the bottom dispels any doubt about who she was drawing.
In the second one – drawn exactly one week later, I have the same smiling face. On it, every pimple is colored in red crayon. My hair is short, flat and crooked. I am wearing a green top with red trim, and red shorts with green trim (that was an actual outfit that I owned, and wore). One leg is longer than the other, but that might just be perspective. My skinny legs are finished off with wide, bare feet. No high heels, no tiara, no long, flowing curls, no gown. Again, across the bottom, she has written, “My Mom.”
Unfortunately, I can’t show them here as those drawing both ended up in Jen’s baby book…along with my question, “What happened, in one week, to turn you into such a realist?”