I have been recuperating from dental surgery and used my time to binge watch “Mad Men”.
After completing season one, I think I have discovered a phenomenon:
The Draper Self Portrait. (follow the link to tweet)
I referenced Mad Men in my last post . Don Draper is fictional member of a culture where image and not truth, is king. In a scene from season one Don is exposed as being a fraud to the owner of the ad agency.
The owner responds to the information by saying:
“The Japanese have a saying: a man is whatever room he is in, and right now Donald Draper is in this room.”
In short the owner could care less what the facts were about Mr. Draper. The ad agency embraced the image of Don. The truth of his story was irrelevant.
Don Draper created an image of himself, just like an artist paints a portrait.
Van Gogh painted a series of self portraits that were emotionally honest. Some portraits showed him at work at the easel, in a large sun hat, or smoking a pipe. A portrait of Van Gogh with a bandage around his head from a self inflicted injury is an image of the man and a portrait of his inner struggles.
Many artists have used themselves as models. Picasso, Rembrandt, Frieda Kahlo and Salvador Dali, to name a few. The self portrait is a common lesson in the art studio and possibly the most dreaded. Most artists have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror and reproducing an accurate image.
Alice Neal is my queen of the self portrait. She was a born in 1900, a descendant of a signature of the declaration of independence, was figurative painter who began her career in the 20’s, left the comfort of her home to work in Cuban artist colony, had a rich love life, raised a son, settled Spanish Harlem in 40’s and she continued working relentlessly on painting honest portraits of anyone who would sit for her.
She didn’t gain international fame until the 60’s and died in 1984. Her self portrait depicts a women totally comfortable with herself and paying little attention to what the world perceives: The Anti Don Draper.
There aren’t many Alice Neel’s in this world. This week in the news there was a Don Draper gone bad.
Rachel Dolezal was a leader of a local chapter of the NAACP. She also taught an African American studies course at a local college and served on a citizen’s review board as a representative of the African American community.
Up until last week most people thought she was black. As it turns out Rachel is caucasian. Her parents outed her and now she has to explain her own Draper Portrait.
“I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,” she said. “That was how I was portraying myself.”
Like all people who reinvent themselves and use a misleading or fraudulent information about their lives there is a reason; a back story. Rachel was raised in a family that adopted four black kids when she was in her teens. Having two adopted kids, I know from experience that adopted children bring baggage even in the best of circumstances. This affects family dynamics at every stage of development and into adulthood.
Another part of the back story is that Rachel married a black man and had a son. She became the sole parent and has expressed that her need to be an adequate mother to a black child as another factor in her choosing to identify as a black person.
I am sure the story is much deeper, but the tragic nature of Rachel Dolezal’s “Draper Portrait” is that she seems unable to accept, let alone embrace her true self.
Art can play a role in self awareness. Making the effort to craft an authentic message and bravely putting it out to the world is at the heart of the creative process.
Street photographer Vivian Maier was accidently discovered by the art world after her death. During her life she spent her time taking care of kids as nanny and dragging her charges around Chicago as she photographed compulsively. What Vivian could not do was share her work with world and in my opinion prevented, her own healing by hiding her gift.
A by product of the creative process is self awareness and self acceptance.
I am so grateful to be in my studio creating.
Until next time……