Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Nose is the Spine of the Face

When you set out to draw a figure, it's often useful to choose some kind of coat rack structure. This is the structure you sketch in first. You get it right, and then you hang all your other parts off of it like so many hats, coats, and umbrellas. With that first structure done correctly, everything else tends to fall into its right place.

This is one of many methods. Others include:

1. The general swipe, in a line or two, of an "arc of power" that defines the overall figure, and then building up structure and detail from there.

2. The reduction of the figure to a series of boxes, spheres, or egg-like things, and building and refining them toward specificity.

3. measuring out the proportions of the major structures and marking them with dots or a series of simplified straight lines, before developing subregions.

Those are all legitimate techniques, but I've never used any of them because they don't really correlate with how I think.

Apart from the coat rack procedure, my other major technique works only because of my peculiar visual processing: I will often draw the edge of any bit that particularly interests me, like the curve of the hip into the waist, and then spread out to adjacent structures, and eventually - ta da - the figure emerges. This is a variant of the "for the love of god don't do that" method they teach you not to do in drawing class - starting with the details and working up to the generalities.

Be that as it may, I'd like to talk about the coat rack procedure a little bit here. I use this a lot, particularly in views of the back. For instance, the wonderful Claudia was modeling at Spring Street last night. She was really inspired too. So here's a drawing from one of her 10-minute poses:

I think this is a fairly decent drawing for a 10-minute pose. Here's how I did it: I particularly liked her right hip in this pose, so I drew that first. Then I saw what size I had made it, moved my pencil over the correct relative width to her spine, and drew its curve. I made sure I got the spine right. From there, I was able to complete her right edge, put in her left edge, figure out where her butt and feet were, and I was done with the graphite part of the drawing. That took about 90 seconds. The other 8:30 of the pose I spent building up form with my white pencil. 8:30 is 510 seconds - a world of time.

This drawing depends primarily on the coat rack procedure, using the spine as the coat rack. The spine is an excellent coat rack. It's pretty obvious where it is. Its position defines the position of the body. As any solvent chiropractor will tell you, everything in the back is related to the spine one way or another. If you can get its length and curvature right, then you're a good way to getting the ribcage and pelvis in the right sizes and places, and the rest of the shooting match is just muscles, fat, and skin. A monkey could do the last bit, if that monkey had spent a few years really applying itself in life drawing workshops.

Well, sayeth you, what about the face?

That, my friend, is a very good question. As we've likely discussed somewhere, a different part of the brain is responsible for processing faces. This is most of the reason why some people who are great at faces suck at bodies, and vice versa. Depicting faces involves completely different processes from depicting all other objects, unless you violently suppress your facial-recognition center and treat the face like a non-face object. Some artists actually do this on purpose. Others, like Chuck Close, suffer from prosopagnosia, a condition which interferes with facial recognition:


Let's assume that you're not going to choose, or be forced, to go the Oliver Sacks route, and that you're going to depict the face using your brain's functional facial-recognition apparatus.

Well, it's tough - you need to practice drawing portraits. A lot. It is as hard as fucking hell to capture not only structure (likeness), but mood, and not only mood, but character, and not only character, but soul - Mystery.

Thinking it over now, I realize I first devised that four-step ladder while trying, and failing, to draw faces when I was fifteen: structure, mood, character, soul.

Aaaaaanyway, just because you're using a different brain center to integrate and represent what you're seeing doesn't mean the same techniques don't apply. Despite the technique absolutely not working for me, I sometimes instinctively catch myself trying to use the egg-like-thing technique on faces:

I did not draw this.

It never works. Generally speaking, I use the coat rack procedure, depending on the nose to play the role the spine plays in the back. This isn't a bad choice, because the nose is in the middle of the face and if you can get it right, you can put the eyes, cheekbones, and mouth in the right places around it.

Or not. I get really mixed results. The face is a maze.

So this week, either I was on fire or I made one of those satisfying little jumps of progress. What happened was, on Monday, Vanessa was posing at Spring Street. I've tried to do portraits of Vanessa before, and it has never gone so well. Apart from that, I've been dissatisfied lately with the lack of specificity in the eyes in my portraits. So I was looking at a 40-minute pose from Vanessa with a good angle on her face, and I thought, "What the hell, I'll start with her eyes."

This is how it turned out:

Let me tell you something about this portrait. This portrait lacks certain qualities, but it looks exactly like Vanessa. Sometimes you get a likeness wrong, sometimes you get it right-enough, and sometimes you get it just so. This is a just-so case.

I didn't think anything of the starting with the eyes bit at the time. Never suffering from a shortage of self-regard, I figured I was just in the zone.

Then Claudia was at Spring Street on Tuesday, and I got another chance to do a portrait from a 40-minute pose. And I thought, "Well, starting with the eyes worked yesterday, I'll just try that again."

A fair proportion of the five readers of this blog actually know Claudia - this is pretty decent, right? It's not a perfect resemblance, but it's really not bad.

I refuse to believe I was in the zone for two days in a row. Neither Vanessa nor Claudia has an easy face to draw. (Is there such a thing as an easy face? Why yes there is.) I think this sudden increase in proficiency with faces is linked to starting with the eyes. For me at least, it looks like the eyes are a good coat rack.

Here are a couple reasons I think that:

1. There are two major keys to properly representing perspective in an upright face - the relative heights of the eyes, and the angle of the line where the lips meet, relative to the horizontal. In Vanessa's case, for instance, the eyes were at nearly the same height - the near one was a little higher, because her head was above mine:

Having gotten that right, the eyes dragged the rest of the face into proper perspective.

And for the record, the mouth is a crappy coat rack. Just look at any De Kooning painting.

2. There is a mistake I often make, which I think nearly everyone makes. This occurs in low-angle three-quarters views of the face, and it is this: the lower eyelid of the far eye tends to meet the nose way farther down the nose than you would think. Consider Claudia:

The eyelid hits the nose slightly below the bridge of the nose. Ordinarily, I would have crowded her eye upward, but because I was doing her eye first, I wasn't already invested in the length of the nose. So I got the eye right, and then I naturally got her nose length right. The reverse doesn't happen - at least not for me.

So that's the wildly esoteric thought process I wanted to share with you today. Why isn't this post called "Is the Nose the Spine of the Face?" or "The Eyes are the Spine of the Face"? Because those don't sound as cool, like maybe they could be the title of a Fassbinder film or something.

P.S. I know I have some comments to respond to from the last post. I haven't forgotten and I'm not ignoring you - those comments raise some really good points, and I haven't had a chance yet to write the serious response they merit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

White Canvas

Bear with me for a moment while I criticize myself.

Here's some context: people sometimes see my paintings before they're finished. At this stage, the paintings will tend to have large areas of unpainted white canvas. These people I mention, seeing my paintings in this state, will often say, "Oh, it's done, stop there!"

Usually, I ignore them.

Sometimes, however, I have stopped a painting. This is my second serious painting, from 2005:

Melayn 1, 24"x18," oil on canvas, 2005

My plan was to paint in a restaurant, with other people at the table, and sconces on far walls. However, I hesitated, because I knew I didn't have the skill to do all that at the time. Years passed. I decided I liked the painting the way it was. Or, if you will, I chickened out. So I left it there.

Here's a painting from 2009:

Winter, 40"x30," oil on canvas, 2009

I emailed the painting in this state to my friend Stephen Wright, one of my favorite living painters, with an explanation of the snowy landscape I was planning for the background. Steve wrote back, virtually tearing out his hair, telling me to stop where I was. I usually listen to Steve, so I stopped where I was.

Now, this repeated experience led me to thinking about how to actually intend to leave some of the canvas white. I recently designed my first painting with this compositional element in mind in advance. There's a whole big story to do with this painting, but the white part of the canvas is the part that's apropos:

Self Portrait as Hockney with Piera as Peter in David Hockney's "Model with Unfinished Self Portrait," 1977, 48"x36," oil on canvas, 2011

Well, I guess the title gives away part of the story - this painting was inspired by David Hockney's painting - one of the first painters I studied as a child was David Hockney, and I remain a huge fan of his work:

Model with Unfinished Self Portrait, David Hockney, 1977

The point being, I actually designed my painting to have a lot of white canvas in it, using Hockney's compositional syntax as a kind of learning guide.

Does it work? Meh. I think it's OK. Not my best, not my worst. I like some stuff about it, but it doesn't, to me, have the unexpected excitement of Winter.

What's the moral of the story? It is this - white canvas is, for me at least, something that sneaks up on you. I don't think I can plan to rock the white canvas. I think the white canvas has to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Here I am." So the key to the white canvas isn't to seek it, but to notice it when it seeks you.

This is a very difficult thing, perhaps the most difficult: to remain perpetually awake - never to let your plan induce a mechanical or automatic state in your execution, but rather to be willing to abandon your plan at a moment's notice when a different path opens up. Who can countenance it? We are all creatures of laziness despite our most vigorous exertions. But it won't do; the plan has got to go.

I think this mode of successfully deploying the white canvas is innately linked to the quality the white canvas itself brings to the painting. The white canvas actually appears to be chaotic, to be nihilistic - it is the point where intention dissolves, where imposed meaning goes away. It is shocking in its blankness. A blank canvas alone is absurd, but a painting which has been abandoned is traumatic. The trauma cracks apart assumptions about the painting that was coming-to-be, it allows a synthesis between the intended component and the overwhelming of intention by events. The white does not work as part of a plan because its quality is apart-from-plan-ness. It is the testimony of continuing consciousness. It works only at war with the plan; to have a plan, and yet to embrace the white, is a quality I think of as rock and roll.

I have been thinking about this problem for a little while, and I have a few painters I'd like to discuss with you soon who have embraced the rock and roll in their own ways in representational painting. As Synamore notes, "rock and roll" will be a mathematically acceptable term if it is forthrightly and clearly defined. I'll do that when I get to talking about these painters.

In the meantime, please remember that my propositions are all provisional. I will likely disagree with myself later on, and you should salt me heavily as well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mystery and Enigma

Do you remember what Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty had to say to Alice about using words?

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

I try not to unduly indulge in linguistic Humpty Dumpty-ism (whatever Jim in Alaska has to say), but I've got a case for you where I hope you'll forgive me for it. I'd like to take over the words mystery and enigma.

Here's what happened. I've had in mind for a long time the peculiar instance of Giorgione, a Renaissance painter who actually hung out with Da Vinci one time.

Giorgione's paintings are, to me, mysterious. Consider his Laura of 1506:

I don't know what she's doing. Is she opening her shirt? Closing it? Who is she looking at? What does she think of them? Is she looking at anyone at all? What is she thinking?

Look up the analysis of this painting if you like - nobody knows. It's a very perplexing painting.

Or take a gander at his painting The Tempest (1505):

What do we have here? A city in the background, wilderness and ruins in the foreground. There's a dandy with a big pole on the bottom left, standing near a fairly phallic couple of columns. The sky is covered in stormclouds, in the depths of which a weirdly semen-like or sperm-like bolt of lightning is, shall we say, squirming. Oh, and there's a nursing mother, who seems to have felt compelled to take off all of her clothes except a little white cloak. She is looking at us with a kind of a knowing look.


"Oh," sayeth you, "it's all sexual." Ya think? Really? I didn't catch that. Perhaps you'll allow me to ask you a question then. Here's my question: Granted that it's all sexual, in what universe does this configuration of sexual imagery make sense?

That's what I thought.

So here's a second completely indecipherable painting by our friend Giorgione. If you look this one up, I think you'll find that rather than admitting they have no clue, as in the case of the Laura, the wise men simply dance around the core problem of this painting by talking about other stuff.

Let me propose a third bizarre Giorgione painting:

This one is called, helpfully, Old Woman (1508). I've never seen another old woman painting like this one. This is not a portrait, it's a reverse-shot in a cinematic conversation. This old woman is mid-conversation. She's making a point. She's kind of not all there - you can virtually hear her croaking a semi-coherent comment. Separated from its natural sequence of filmed shots, the still frame is disconcerting, a study in the grasping disquiet of decrepitude.

So much for Giorgione. Let's jump to 1594, to the work of "unknown painter," who completed a painting called Portrait Presumed to be of Gabrielle d'Estrées and her sister the Duchess of Villars:

Sure, sure. Looks just like every other pair of sisters I've ever run into. You can see the family resemblance.

Now, the analysts offer us some commentary on how the one on the right - I forget if that's Gabrielle or the Duchess - is pregnant, so the ring symbolizes her marriage, and the purple nurple symbolizes lactation. Or something like that. Some sort of an explanation that completely settles the totally bizarre, inappropriate, and weird nature of every single thing about this painting. The spread-legged dude in the painting on the wall, the red woman doing some sort of embroidery in the background, the fraternal-twin-like naked sisters with their identical earrings and alien looks of calm and knowledge, the exaggeratedly refined daintiness of the arrangements of fingers, and, of course, the aforementioned nurpling.

So what am I getting at here? These four paintings, the three Giorgiones and the parable offered by Unknown, have a quality that I call mystery.

Mystery won't make so much sense until I cover enigma. Let's talk about some other paintings:

This is The Great Tower, a 1913 painting by Giorgio de Chirico. The great tower's more sociable little brother, the almost-as-great tower, puts in an appearance in his Italian Plaza from the same period:

De Chirico had a long career and painted many other sorts of paintings, but his cityscapes of the period between 1910 and 1920 are the paintings one mostly thinks of when de Chirico comes to mind. Because they're his best and most original work. They have a menacing, silent quality that is not entirely of this world.

De Chirico wasn't only a painter. He was also a crotchety egomaniac who thought he was the best painter ever, which puts him in the laudable company of George Bernard Shaw for unmerited self-evaluations. He wrote a fantastic surrealist novel, Hebdomeros, which I highly recommend. He took as his motto "Et Quid Amabo Nisi Quod Aenigma Est?" or "And what should I love if not the enigma?" One time, he wrote this:

One must picture everything in the world as an enigma, not only the great questions one has always asked oneself [...]. But rather to understand the enigma of things generally considered insignificant. To perceive the mystery of certain phenomena of feeling [...]. To live in the world as if in an immense museum of strangeness, full of curious many-colored toys which change their appearance, which, like little children we sometimes break to see how they are made on the inside, and, disappointed, realize they are empty.

(miraculously, I found this, the exact quotation I was looking for, at

One is reminded of the book which the alien leaves behind in Voltaire's Micromegas (1752):

He promised to give them a rare book of philosophy, written in minute characters, for their special use, telling all that can be known of the ultimate essence of things, and he actually gave them the volume ere his departure. It was carried to Paris and laid before the Academy of Sciences; but when the old secretary came to open it, the pages were blank.

"Ah!" said he. "Just as I expected."

Had you going there, didn't I?

So - we have a second body of work, chiefly but not exclusively exemplified by De Chirico, which has a quality I want to call enigma.

What kind of a construction am I getting at for these two things, mystery and enigma? Well, I think they allow a useful distinction.

Mystery, as used here, is a quality of human situations and human character which one cannot get to the bottom of.

Enigma, on the other hand, is a quality of the world itself, particularly of metaphysics, which is ultimately illegible.

Mystery is the mystery of the soul. Giorgione constructs riddle-paintings, mystery-paintings, to show us the limits of our understanding of anyone else and even of ourselves.

Enigma is the enigma of being. De Chirico constructs enigma-paintings to show us that the world is a strange and alien place, an unmapped zone of threatening magic, which we only forgot was utterly incomprehensible because we got used to looking at it.

Here is something very important. I've said it before, but it's worth saying it again in this context: I write a lot - a great deal - about how to know better. How to know how the eye sees, how the brain sees - how to know how the heart feels, how the mind analyzes - how to handle paint, how to make an image. You would think I was pursuing total knowledge. In fact, I am pursuing total knowledge. But I do not think that if I ever get total knowledge, I will know everything. The point of total knowledge isn't to know everything. It is to separate every knowable thing about men and women from the Mystery, and to separate every knowable thing about the world from the Enigma.

It is no good to say, "This I do not understand, it is the Mystery." No, without total knowledge it is, at best, a mixture of the Confused and the Mysterious. Confusion comes cheap, it is a dime a dozen. Confusion is a matter of not knowing some things that can be found out. It has a solution. I'm not interested in problems with solutions - not the same way I'm interested in problems without solutions. The Mystery has no solution, but to approach near to the Mystery, to touch it and see its shape, you must pare away all confusions. Total knowledge is a means to glimpse true ignorance.

So - the point here is to localize and name two loci of true ignorance. True ignorance of humanity occurs when a disciplined perception bumps up against Mystery. True ignorance of the universe occurs when a disciplined perception bumps up against Enigma.

These, to me, are fundamentally important categories, latent in all paintings, foregrounded in some, worthwhile to consider every time you pick up a brush. The brush comes third. The person, place, and thing come second. The Mystery and the Enigma come first.

Let me leave you with a favorite painting - we've discussed it before - and it is saturated with both Mystery and Enigma:

Las Meninas
Diego Velazquez, 1656-7, oil on canvas

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Dignity

Let me tell you what I was thinking about while I was working on the interminable background of a painting I just finished.

I was thinking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, episode 9, "The Wish." This is how Buffy and her friends Xander and Willow ordinarily look:

This is how they wind up looking in "The Wish":

What happens is, arch-annoyance Cordelia wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale and screwed up her life. She happens to make this wish in earshot of a demon, Anyanka, who grants it. The alternate Sunnydale, not unlike the alternate Bedford Falls, is a vampire-ridden craphole. Xander and Willow are obnoxious vampires, Angel is a captive of a master vampire Buffy severely staked in the real world in season 1, and Buffy's paternal watcher Giles leads a small and outgunned group of vampire-hunters.

Over the course of the episode, Cordelia, Xander, Willow, Angel, and Buffy are all slaughtered. Giles, himself on the verge of being killed by Anyanka, figures out how to undo the curse and deprive her of her powers. Anyanka, realizing she faces demotion to merely human, tries to reason him out of smashing her magical amulet:

Trusting fool! How do you know the
other world is any better than this?

(almost to himself)
Because it has to be.

The text cannot convey the pathos of Anthony Stewart Head's delivery of this line. Giles has lost everything, even his memory of life in the world as it was before Anyanka. His despair is total; he has reached the point of certainty that the world could not be worse than it is. And yet, he has faith - he makes the leap of faith that an action of unknown consequence could only work to the good. His faith is profound because it is impossible without his despair.

Thinking over this riveting scene, while painting an almost mind-boggling number of little vertical strokes of paint in nearly identical colors, I concluded that one thing we can learn from this scene is the real nature of dignity. Giles is dignified in this scene. He is never more dignified in all the time that we spend with him over the course of Buffy.

In what does his dignity consist? He has been completely humiliated. His struggle against evil has failed, his allies are dead or soon will be, vicious plans are triumphing in the world. And he himself is vested in his struggle, there is no difference between himself and his work. So he is defeated in a philosophical way, and he is defeated personally. In a minute or two, he also must be murdered. And even so - even so, at this farthest verge of failure, he cannot help but be who he is. He cannot help his faith that little choices can make the world better, and he cannot help committing his final act to this effort. It is possible to defeat him in the temporal world, but tested to the point of annihilation, it proves impossible to budge him from his virtue. This, I argue, is dignity.

I read an essay somewhere not long ago, arguing that the greatest tragedies - Oedipus, Lear - not only do involve kings, but must involve kings. Why? Because a tragedy is a story of a fall. And the greatest fall is possible only from the mightiest height. Only a king has the power to make his scope of decision tragically significant. A shopkeeper may have a tragic flaw, but he cannot provide a monumental tragedy, because the distance from his life, to the bottom of life, is too short. A tragedy demands a king.

I wish I could remember what the essay was. It's a very interesting idea, with much to recommend it, I think.

Paralleling this, I think that true dignity is possible only in the context of total humiliation. Dignity is generally taken to mean having done up one's buttons properly, and showing good posture. This is not dignity, it is the trappings of acting dignified. What is dignity? The dictionary gives us "the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect, from Latin, dignus 'worthy'". What is worthy of honor or respect? Virtue. And when do we best know that virtue is true? When it is defeated, but not abandoned.

Dignity is a virtue of the desperate hour of the soul. Instances of dignity provide some of the most moving moments in literature and drama. Two examples come to mind: the conduct of Rieux throughout Camus's The Plague, which is my personal atlas of virtue. This is a complicated example and you would be best served to simply read the damn thing. It's short, but amazing.

The other example is a particular transformative scene in Roland Joffe's 1986 movie The Mission. Set in South America in the 1750's, the movie follows Rodrigo Mendoza, played by Robert De Niro. Mendoza is a self-indulgent mercenary and slaver. Horrified at his murder of his brother in a fit of passion, he comes to the Jesuits to do penance. He is assigned to haul an enormous load of supplies up a mountain to the camp of the Jesuits, who are living with an indigenous tribe. The difficulty of the effort is vividly physical in the film. When Mendoza reaches the top of the mountain, a member of the tribe cuts the ropes that bind Mendoza to his load:

The tribesman flings the load down into the abyss. Mendoza sinks to the ground and weeps. By the time he is done weeping, he is laughing.

This is the pivot of his transformation. He has been crushed under the burden of his evil, and when he reached the very bottom of it, he was saved from it. When everything else was lost, he discovered what remained: his humanity, his virtue, his redeemability. Thereafter, he cannot be swayed from his friendship with the tribe, who had been his prey as a slaver, and ultimately goes to war alongside them. Before this scene of weeping, this nadir, Mendoza was without dignity. He gains dignity when he loses the last of his hope. This transformation changes his life.

All this, I thought about while I was working on this painting:

Eliq, oil on canvas, 60"x36", 2011

This is a painting of my friend Angelique, an artist and model who lives in Nashville. She is the subject of much of her fabulous work:

Awakening Joy, Angelique Moselle Price, mixed media on birch wood, 44"x30"

Unusually, for me, I worked from a photograph - I don't live in Nashville. Angelique, who also calls herself Eliq, wanted me to paint a nude of her. I thought it over for a while, until I came up with a good idea:

Eve, Gustav Klimt, 1917-18

Sure, it's not my idea - but who can argue with Gustav Klimt? It takes a stouter heart than mine, anyway.

I sent the image to her, and she worked on it with her husband Chris, a photographer who is endlessly inspired by Angelique. They came up with a revised version, and sent it to me - and I got to thinking about what I could do with it that would be really interesting. Still reflecting on Klimt, I decided to apply the brushwork in his Judith I - or my interpretation of his brushwork anyway:

Judith I, Gustav Klimt, 1901

Now, all this stuff about dignity is only tangentially related to this painting. But it is not unrelated. I'm not sure if you noticed, but I paint a lot of nudes. We have a big hoo-ha in our culture about nudity, which is very long and very tedious to get into. The upshot is, there are questions of vulnerability, and exploitation, and who-has-the-power, that come up when you spit out your cheroot and say, "I'm gonna paint me a nude."

Ordinarily, I could give a damn about all that. Most of my nudes exist in a kind of null space, an absolute space where they're nude because they're not in the world: they're in a zone of true things where there's no such thing as clothing. That is, they are still inside the hard light and cold wind of Eden.

Not so Klimt. Klimt is not painting nudes; Klimt is painting naked women. If they're not reading as naked women to you, then by gum, Klimt is going to twist a chunk out of his beard at his failure to get it right:


I chose Klimt as inspiration for this painting because of the formal elements. But as I worked on the painting, I began to get the feeling that I had once again inadvertently stumbled on something thematically significant with a choice I thought was purely aesthetic.

Let me explain. Posing nude is a very broad activity. It does not have one meaning. There is a certain continuum among models. On one end are those for whom modeling is an outward activity, separate from themselves. These models are, strictly speaking, nude. Nudity is not transactional. It is a question of state, not of a relation between an observed and an observer.

At the other end of this continuum are models for whom modeling is an outward activity that is a reflection of an inward condition. These models are naked. Nakedness does not exist without being seen. It is a form of communication.

Only nudity can be imposed by external factors. Nakedness - the revelation of self - is something that models choose whether to bring to the table.

If you stare at any one thing long enough, your extended perception gives you an awareness of the subtleties of the thing. I stared a very long time at the photograph Chris took of Angelique. Angelique is not nude in this photograph, she is naked. There is something going on with her, and between the two of them, that moves her to be naked. She and Chris invited me to participate, in this painting, in a conversation that has been going on between the two of them for years.

Naked is vulnerable. And vulnerability is the prerequisite for humiliation. The invincible cannot be humiliated. The process of humiliation that reduces Giles, reduces Rieux, reduces Mendoza, is not true humiliation. It is a scouring that leaves behind the elements that are invincible, invulnerable, that cannot be humiliated. It is the presence of these elements that gives them dignity.

So too, when Angelique poses, she undergoes a process of scouring. She presents her vulnerability. My job is not to leave it there - not to leave her humiliated. Humiliation is not enough. It is the door, not the room. Therefore, the first part of my work on this painting is to muster the resolve to pass through the door of humiliation: I have spotlit her and labeled the painting with her self-chosen name, I have made her an advertisement for herself.

But I am also required to have the insight to enter into the room of dignity. To have dignity, and to encounter dignity, are two different things. That dictionary definition of dignity offers us "the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect." The honor and respect are the things conferred by those encountering dignity. How do we honor and respect things? Well, in many ways, I guess. But the one I think about is that we name them. We say, "I name you - inward gaze. I name you - expanded ribcage. I name you - mighty abdomen. I name you - relaxed hand." We name every thing that can be named, and when we have got to the very edge of the namable, we say, "I see you, Mystery."

I will have more to say about what I mean by Mystery very soon.

In the meantime, let me conclude this way - my goal is always to show the complete human. This includes the weakness and the strength. I believe that almost all of us have dignity, in the end.