‘Sous Rature’

In Norman Rockwell’s eerie triple self-portrait, the mirror image, the painting in the painting and the ‘real’ Norman line up, i.e. seem to be from the same source. But  Norman is not painting what he sees. Mr. Egotist wears no glasses in the Picture-In-Picture, Then there’s the tilt of the pipe it’s more erect is the idealized PIP. But some times a pipe is just a pipe, yes?

To make a painting of a mirror look real you have to make the reflection, the object in the mirror look as one would expect it if it were a real mirror. Luckily we don’t notice what should be there carefully and close is good enough. Likewise to make to shadow on the empty canvas. It has to look as though it were cast from the object. But in my homage there is no object, so to what do the reflection and the shadow refer to?

How can they hang on to an object that’s not there? How can there be a signifier without a signified? The referring object –the signified– is there, see the pen on the stool? But its not where or what we expect given the reflection and shadow –the signifiers. The disconnect is unnerving, if we notice the inadequate but necessary pen at all.

The shadow and the reflection don’t converge on the little pen, they converge where the artist should be. They converge where he is in the Rockwell. I put an artist in most of my drawings, but in this one I leave him out. Both the shadow and the reflection want him there, infer he’s there, yet I leave him out. My drawing is eerier then the Rockwell for this. In mine there is both structure (the objects we see,) and experience (an artist arting). And they don’t line up. How can this be? Is the absent artist a Derridian trace, a “mark of the absence of a presence, an always-already absent present?” Is my drawing an homage to Derrida as much as to Rockwell?  Do we have a post-modern erasure on a romantic irony, here? Is it a true/not true stamp on the possibility of an image of the artist in his art?

Funny, too that as art terms “trace” and “erase” are almost opposite of one another, the former adding,  the latter taking away.  In philosophy, a trace is what’s left after something has left and erase actual adds a layer of meaning. The philosophical meanings are opposite of the art ones, I think. Clever drawing, yes? No, it’s more a sad self-serving repetition of a worn-out theme, it’s art as a last-ditch means to be worth something to somebody. And failing at that.

But here’s the weird part. The reflection and the shadow may not be a reflection and a shadow, you only have my word the they are that, they could just as well be a drawing of a couple of paintings. Or they could be symbols; the reflection of a Freudian projection and the shadow of a Jungian one.

It’s a drawing of images of multiple selves; reflections, shadows, tools even. tools we use and perhaps become. all compositions of what we do, what we sense, imagine, and remember too; also what we sense, imagine, remember other people sense, imagine, remember of us. compositions of compositions all the way down. Reductio ad infinitum. In a sense, being who we think someone else thinks us to be is as real as being who we think we are.

As they are all only part of the truth, each held separately is an illusion,  but for the most part persistent. Persistent and frustrating. There’s a lack of cohesion between the my selves. persistent selves who refuse to line up, get in focus for yet another self to see clearly. And who the hell is that, I ask? Who’s trying to see an in-focus me, only another me. cogito, cogito, cogito. . .ergo sum.

Hence the 3 disconnected, inconsistent things, things that are signifiers without a signified. images in the drawing, like my selves, that don’t feel right, the necessary multiple images don’t align for me as well as they seem to for others or as well as they used to. Hence, the feeling I’m always lying about something, no matter how much truth there is in what I do, say, or think. I tread lightly in the world, these days.

Why don’t I really like this drawing, this text? Is it too true or too false? Inadequate but necessary: Sous rature.