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Is All Art a Self Portrait?




I realized something recently; all of my art might be a self-portrait.

I can’t step outside of my being to perceive my art, so all of my art is therefore an extension of my soul. It then gets perceived by the collective, and everyone elses’ inner reality. So is gets perceived by three different “realities” I guess?


In my particular reality, my inner realm, I can’t know what it’s like not to see a piece that I’m creating. I can’t create something that I am not already perceiving in myself; I can’t create from nothing.


Similar to the concept that everyone is a mirror, reflecting our versions of self, our self-worth and current experience back to us. If I go up to someone and something they do pisses me off, that is probably reflecting something back to me about myself, my subconscious.


So I think art must do a similar thing where it’s this physical existence of a two-way mirror into these different realities.


I had this realization because I kept thinking about the difference in realities and how we all have to move through each one through art. I think that’s the purpose of art. At least for me. Through art, I’ve found four different realities, I call a reality network.


The current reality network:

  • Spirit reality

  • Inner reality

  • Collective reality

  • Fictional reality

You perceive within your inner reality, through what is called the window of perception. I cannot step outside of my inner reality into yours fully or vice versa.


There is a direct bridge from spirit to inner and from fiction to the collective; these bridges are where I believe art to live.


Something that triggered all of this is actually what happened to me during my one and only experience at a Renaissance Faire.

The Renaissance, Los Angeles, 2019

My roommate at the time invited me to the Renaissance Faire, something I had never even heard of until moving to Los Angeles, and if you are like me, just know it’s like an outdoor medieval comic con. And like a lot of people, I had absolutely nothing medieval, so I used Esmerelda as inspiration, threw on a floral dress, wrapped my head in a headscarf, thinking it would help with the sun, and went as a fortune-teller? I guess.


Medieval doesn’t even begin to describe what we walked into though. There were fae, time-traveling pirates and people in full body paint; it was glorious. It truly felt like we stepped into a different universe, with most guests choosing to speak in a medieval dialect.


Not only did everyone adopt this dialect, but everyone adopted this certain collective reality when they entered into this space; a sense of community and understanding the unspoken roles and rules placed upon it. There were knights jousting on horses, with everyone gathered around. There were people selling drinking horns and costumes. There were jesters performing on stage. Even the trees were dressed up in knit fabric.


In this new universe, I was happy just watching everyone and learning from regulars. There was even a petting zone with goats, so naturally, I was hooked. My roommate was really excited about the number of food stalls there and told me not to eat much before because there would be so much to try.


Did I mention it was the middle of summer in Los Angeles?


After walking around for a bit, we got in line at the first booth, for funnel cakes or something. As I’m standing, I started to feel the prickling of heat stroke coming on. I touched my roommate’s hand and said whispered, “Just so you know, I’m about to faint. So I’m going to go sit over there.” I slumped over to a blessing that is a bench waiting for me at the front of the booth, and she called for help while making sure I didn’t fall over. Two men with a fabric wheelchair rocked up to take me away.

Fainting is a strange experience. It starts to feel like your body is floating and sometimes little white dots begin to blur your vision. It’s happened to me before, so I am weirdly calm when I feel faint.


But, anyway, these two men rocked up with this fabric wheelchair. They didn’t have any trucks or golf carts, I assume because it would take away from the medieval vibe. So these poor men proceeded to push me, while sprinting, for 10 minutes to the first aid tent, switching turns along the way. I felt so embarrassed and frankly, a little royal.




Being Perceived While Unconscious

At this point, I’m in and out of consciousness, with my roommate next to me, only somewhat aware of what is going on and unable to form sentences. When we reached the tent, the first aid attendant got me onto a bed and brought over an ice pack for my head. What happened after that felt like a hallucination.


The first aid attendant was a very flirtatious man, which didn’t bother me, but it was a bit strange flirting with a woman that was incoherent. He left me after a bit and I lay down with a wet towel on my head. Then walked in this man, a man that I can only describe as what I imagine Flynn Rider would look like in person. I wasn’t even sure if he was real or a figment of my lucid state. My roommate told me later that she wish she filmed the whole thing.


This Flynn Rider man (dressed like Flynn as well) was on the other side of the tent, and apparently, was saying that I looked like a “sleeping rose,” and that a maiden such as myself was in need of a kiss of life. My roommate was cackling at this point and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. He told her that he would come back for me, and then blew a kiss my way and disappeared. I still think about it to this day, wishing I was awake for that.


Then another man came in. He was with his friend that was sick from alcohol, and she was laid down next to me. He started talking to me as I was finally coming to, and the first thing I said to him was “You work at Disney don’t you.” I can’t tell you what possessed me to say that, but I was right. My intuition is scary when I'm basically in a trance.


When I finally had the energy to leave the tent, the flirtatious first aid attendant sprayed me down so that the wet clothes could cool my body down, or that’s what he told me. So I walked the rest of the Faire dripping wet.


When I got home that day, I couldn’t stop writing about perception.

Never in my life had I been sought after so much than when I was laying on a table unconscious. I’m not mad about being hit on in that way. They were all respectful and it didn’t make me feel unsafe or anything, but it did make me realize how my energy shifts when I am incapacitated.


Before that, I was very much in fear of being perceived. The energy put out was a bit standoffish and I knew I didn’t want to be acknowledged. The explanation I came to was that that energy was released when I “let my guard down” (fainted). Another option I considered, is that the way I was perceived transformed when I stepped into this reality set in fiction. By that I mean, we were not in our “normal” reality, but in a distorted view of reality, with a new set of rules, even a new dialect. Maybe I was perceived as this maiden, because of the new roles we all stepped into when entering the Faire. Would this have happened the way it did if I was in my normal life?


But, all of this made me realize the many different realities we are all moving through or perceiving continuously.


Real Fiction or Fictional Reality

Fiction and reality have always been a topic of constant analysis for me. I even took a philosophy class in college that was called Fiction versus Reality. This has affected most of my art, and I hope to create more mind-bending art in the future. I’m curious to see how exploring this concept leads to a shift in my version of reality. Can you identify the line between what is reality and what is fiction? Can our perception of reality be segmented and what does it mean for our society moving forward?


Collective

What I mean by collective reality is this identified communal consciousness, where we agree and adhere to a certain set of beliefs, rules, and laws. This is where systems, language, and science live. Our inner reality is our inner monologue and soul; the reality that we can not step out of and no one else can step into. And this is why I think all art might be a self-portrait. I cannot step outside of myself and into any other reality. I will never understand someone else’s inner reality and they will never fully understand mine. We can agree on the collective reality, but for there are still differences in what is agreed on.


That is another reason why art might be a self-portrait. What are you creating it from? It is from your own perception of the collective, the fictional, the spirit. It all starts there and has to move somewhere. It starts in your soul and enters into the collective to be perceived. Because it starts within and cannot be created from nothing…it has to be a sort of self-portrait, right?


This is why I visualize art to live on these bridges between the realities. I don’t think art lives in any one reality. I think it lives in all, to be perceived and created within our inner reality. I just see art as this bridge between them and acts as a communication gateway.


Fictional

The fictional reality is an extension of the collective reality; set rules that we adhere to that are separate from our physical existence. This includes the worlds of Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.


So during and after my hallucinatory heat stroke, I began trying to figure out where the line is between what we perceive as reality and what we perceive as fiction. Because, for everyone at the Faire, for people at comic con, superhero fans, harry potter fanatics, our reality is still rooted in the existence of these fictional worlds. We perceive people based on their Hogwarts house, or their favorite superhero. I can take a quiz and find out I’m a Slytherin. And you will perceive me with certain personality traits based on my quiz result. Everyone knows who Superman is. So, how can we say that he is fictional if we live life knowing who he is? We relate to people who are fans, or not, of Naruto. And at the Faire, these men were treating me like a maiden, were seeing me through this reality, not the “real” reality, but these lenses and perceiving me through these fictional rules.


With technology, media, our fast-paced culture, we no longer stay in our inner reality and instead project a distorted version into the collective, hoping someone else will take it and reflect it back to us. We seek gurus, healers, personality tests, to tell us who we are because we don’t know how to connect to ourselves or don’t want to hold onto our sovereignty.


It’s almost as if we live our lives with our noses pressed up to the window of perception and pretend that is all we can experience; that there is only the reality that lives within that window.


So my understanding was, we have our personal reality, that connects to the collective reality, which extends into the fictional reality.

Fiction vs Spirit

After I journaled about my feelings and this idea of perception, I decided it was a great decision to start reading about Norse Shamanism, and found a book on it by Evelyn Rysdyk. Within the first chapter, she wrote about how the trance state that we know shamans to experience, is not exclusive to shamans. This trance was available to everyone, used to better the survival of the tribe. When the sun would go down, no one had lamps or phones to get them through the darkness, so they would gather around the fire, and see images and messages from the spirit realm. They lived in a co-existence with the spirit realm, separate from themselves, with its own set of unspoken rules.


Over the years, we moved away from living with the spirit realm and transitioned into this fictional realm (movies, tv shows, books, etc). As a collective, we lost the connection to this trance state; which seems to have evolved into a trance-like state when entering these fictional realms. And we still live in a sort of co-existence with this realm; we know that Superman isn’t real, but we also live in an understanding of who Superman is, what his personality is like, who he loves. It is almost like he exists, even without a physical form.


Instead of connecting with spirit, we connect with stories of vampires. Instead of Greek gods, we worship celebrities. We allow our Hogwarts House to showcase our personality and debate who would win in a fight against Marvel heroes.

Rather than, focusing on internal dialogue and understanding our soul deeper, getting those messages from Spirit. The way I perceive it, Spirit is a direct connection to you. To get to the fictional realm, you have to go from the inner through the window of perception, into the collective, and down into fictional. It’s far away from your own experience.


Every time we go there. It is so addicting; we love it. I binge-watch anime like nobody’s business. I’ll go into this fictional realm and get super satisfied. But, when I come out, I get depressed for days. I realized my soul needs that connection to Spirit, not fiction.


This isn’t me bashing fiction either. I think when we only look at fiction, instead of a tool to uncover deeper insights into ourselves to benefit the collective, it becomes an addicting loop that keeps us hungry for more.


And specific to art, I notice when I spend a very long time in fiction and the collective I start trying to emulate what I perceive in my art. I almost try to copy it as if this is the only way. If we keep our nose pressed to that window of perception it becomes harder and harder to detach from those realties and understand that we are separate sovereign beings that are here to push the collective forward and put our own spin on and pour into the collective our unique gifts. When we are so focused on the collective and the fictional realities, it’s harder to know what our unique gifts are.

My Philosophy Tangent

Some philosopher (I think Nietzsche), said that celebrities are the new gods and that always stuck with me. We put them above ourselves, we perceive them in a certain way, we want to be around them, emulate them. Which, is that not what Greece did with their gods? If you were wealthy in Ancient Greece, you would spend your days working out to reach the figure of the Gods, because that was the ultimate representation that you were godly yourself.


I do also have a thing against philosophy itself. In my existence, and yes, I did have all these thoughts unconscious at a Renaissance Faire; in my existence with all of these different realities, I started understanding the limitations of language because it lives in the collective. There are parts of yourself that cannot be spoken. And that’s my issue with philosophy. Philosophers say their philosophy in written and spoken word, and you are trying to talk about these topics that are so enveloped in your inner reality that there is always going to be something that is missed. There is always a disconnect. There is something so innately human that everyone feels and experiences that cannot be put in language. And for philosophy; that’s the whole point. To identify what it is to be human. And I don’t think you can do it with language; I’m even trying to now, which is why I love philosophy too because there is something so hypocritical about it.


So I had all these thoughts at this Faire, and I started painting more and realized that all of my art is just an extension of my soul. I understand why painting is so addictive. It’s almost as if you can’t step outside of your purpose, because you’re living it by painting. It’s your identity. So all of my art is a self portrait.

When I made an actual self portrait, a light bulb went off and I understood how deep this was. I always felt like things reminded me, of me; everything I created, there was something about it that I was like “this feels like me.” And I would get frustrated because I didn’t want my art to look or feel like me. But, I think that’s what makes art unique to the creator; that’s how you create your style. Because art comes from the soul.

Summary

So that’s what I learned at a Renaissance Faire.


That, and, medieval people are very horny. I guess.


I like to try and offer a takeaway otherwise, podcasts might be kind of pointless, right?


I encourage you to sit with this idea of realities. The more I draw it out and speak on it, the more it starts to make sense. So I’m curious if it begins to resonate for you.

I also encourage you to just create a self-portrait. I mean I created my first one only a few weeks ago. And I was putting it off for a while, but it felt so freeing. It felt like this extension of myself that opened up a new obsession.


In the portrait, I discovered this portal waiting to be opened. Every time I meditate, I go into this place with the grass really high and a ladder going up into the clouds. But as I was painting the portrait, I painted this place, then this obsession with doors and portals started, which then helped me identify art as a bridge or portal.

Art can be a catalyst. A self-portrait can just be the colors that represent you, even just a sentence.


I like to believe that each one of us has a certain question that we consistently go back to again and again during our lifetime. Mine has always been trying to understand the line between fiction and reality. Where one ends and the other begins; if dreams are fictional, why do they affect us so much. I have never fully grasped the concept, never solidified a visual of what that boundary even feels. I imagine I will be sinking deeper into those questions my entire life. The Faire, though, fainting and having such an odd experience, feels like a step closer in my uncovering.


I hope to go back soon and learn more about fictional reality, without fainting.

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