I’m still painting portraits of women writers on paper plates for The Lower East Side Girls Club (who are having their walk-a-thon in NYC next weekend, see here).
I made her skinnier and more raw than she really is in life, see here:
Though I didn’t read Push, I loved Precious, a movie on the horrors of social class in America. The movie shows how useless the good intentions of people with privilege can be, and how indelibly damaging abuse is. It shows the gap formed by inequalities in education and social services.
Sapphire is a master storyteller who brings these ideas home with emotional force. And when I’m moved by the person I’m painting, I sometimes use extra caution about overworking the image. I leave the portrait at the blurry spot—thinking the energy of the subject can be bigger than my interpretation of it. That is, I know I too often do over-paint, meddling and controlling things. In certain cases—when I feel the right giddy respect for the subject—I stop a bit earlier, feeling that the form can bounce powerfully when I’m not doing so much explaining.
This difference which I know in painting—between over- and under-doing my part in what’s expressed—has its analogy in conversation. I think. That is, when I’m speaking with someone I don’t quite relate to or trust, I sometimes tend to overdo my side of the talking; I try to guide what we’re saying. But when I’m in conversation with someone I trust, I sometimes let suggestions themselves do more of the work; I don’t cut the other woman off as much; I have less need to “fill stuff in” because I know she’s going to do a lot of the meaning-making.
Ilana Simons is a therapist, literature professor, and author of A Life of One's Own: A Guide to Better Living through the Work and Wisdom of Virginia Woolf. Visit her website here.
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