Self-Portrait

The photo in the piece of art above was taken of me at age nineteen, during my junior year in college. I had a boyfriend at the time who was into photography, especially black and white, and I still have several of the photos he took of me.  I think I find them striking because at the time I was struggling with my self-image and yet I remember feeling beautiful while those photos were being taken.

For this creation I began with a piece of canvas paper and had painted it with some blue and silver acrylic similarly to yesterday’s stamp carvings.  Then I scanned this photo and printed it on a transparency.  I painted the edges (this is the only part I don’t quite like) and then after that dried I used a couple of the stamps I have been creating to make a frame around the image.

In InterPlay there is a form called “I could talk about. . .” and you go back and forth with a partner listing all the things you could talk about and tell a story, however simple.  As I was contemplating this image, I was reminded of that exercise and what came to mind was “Entering into this image I could write about. . .” as a way of opening up the layers captured in a moment in time.

I could write about. . .

  • having just returned from Paris for a semester where I felt incredibly lonely, despite having had a great experience in many ways.
  • living with a roommate who I think had borderline personality disorder but I didn’t have a name for it at the time.
  • coming back from Paris and discovering that my boyfriend had fallen for another young woman despite his frequent letters while I was away assuring me he was waiting.
  • being nineteen and filled with doubt about myself.
  • believing at the time that most men were completely self-serving like my father.

As you can see, an image can open up many possibilities for stories and I have revealed an awful lot about my angst-filled late adolescence without saying much at all.  It was a painful time in my life for a number of reasons, but there’s something moving to me about this young woman who let herself just breathe in beauty for a moment. I plan to work with more of these images along the way, as they stirred up a lot of possibilities for reflection.  I think there is enormous potential for sacred work here and entering back into my story with tremendous compassion for who I was and for my ancestors.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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