Sometimes I’ll see a picture of myself, or catch a glimpse in the mirror, and just think, “is that me?” There is a genuine non-recognition, maybe like someone you haven’t seen in a really long time and you aren’t quite sure. But then there is the opposite, when you see a drawing or painting of yourself and it is so immediately recognizable and somehow feels more “you” than you do. What is that?
It’s hard for me to look at myself, I just don’t like doing it. Kevin will show me a perfectly beautiful photo he’s been working on, but I’ll immediately pick out some element of myself that I don’t like and fixate on it. A photograph does not leave a lot of wiggle-room. We kind of take them to be Truth with a capital “t”, in a way. But when it’s a drawing, when there are innate and inescapable inaccuracies within the craft itself, it’s no longer a “fact,” but an impression. That’s how I wish to view Kevin’s photos of me, because it’s how he sees me. When it’s a drawing, it’s almost entirely the how someone sees you. And maybe that’s why it can capture something that the seemingly “unlying” photograph doesn’t, because it’s an expression.
There’s an episode of Rick and Morty that is absolutely brutal and my favorite. The parents go to this marriage counselor in space, who has the ability to manifest each husband or wife as actually being how the one partner “sees” the other. You become what the other who loves you sees you as. The wife, through the husband’s lens, is this cruel, sexy alien queen. The husband, through the wife’s lens, is this disgusting, submissive worm. The depictions are incredible. But the point is, being shown how you appear to someone else’s eyes can be brutal; it can also be very true and even empowering. Capital ‘t’ True, even. Below, the alien queen wife, saving the worm husband, in their transmogrified states. He is saved by her being what he sees her as.
In this work by the artist Inthogen (follow him on Instagram here), the psychedelic leanings and richness of color aren’t something I’d ever expect from someone who knows me well. Which is actually very cool, because people who know you well are blind to elements that are really you. To give an example: I sent this image in a group chat to my 3 brothers. The oldest said it was beautiful and captured my chiseled features, but was more masculine than the real deal. This is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons: 1) this is the one brother who ever tried to push me toward being more feminine (when I was young he wanted me to do ballet and would compliment me when I dressed more like the “cool girls” from his grade and less like the exact shirt and jeans he’d worn 4 years back and handed down to me); 2) I don’t find the image masculine at all and actually find it appealingly feminine, whereas the original photo from which it’s inspired probably does look “too masculine” to me. My second brother said I looked like an elf from the graphic novels “Elf Quest.” I answered, “Winnowil, I hope,” who was my favorite and a witch. That brother replied, “you read my mind?!” This is interesting because Winnowil is the opposite of this picture; she’s so pale and covered in raven-black furs that, even in a color drawing, she appears black-and-white. Very dark. Very broody… not psychedelic at all. And yet, here we are reminded of her and this quality of her that’s also like me, right here from this technicolor image. Because it’s art, I got to see myself through two of my brothers’ eyes by their small critiques of the art. Like a prism. Like a kaleidoscope.
I wrote this on Facebook: “Real people are better reflections than any mirror ever can be. Drawings and paintings and digital renditions are far better expressions for how you appear. And f***, I have some of the most amazing artists in this ride with me. I usually hate looking at myself; I have tainted eyes. But this is beautiful and when I see this image, I feel proud of myself. That’s a gift.” As fighters we put ourselves on a stage. We put ourselves in idealized states and perform in a way that many people only dream. We are infinitely hard on ourselves in our inner-monologue. We try to please our coaches and krus, and we painfully compare ourselves to others. For someone like me, ever ready to believe the harshest things I say to myself it can be trying and sometimes isolating. But, we have to be open to how those who cheer for us see us too. These are real parts of ourselves, sometimes the best parts, things we are reaching for. Be open to the best that others see in you.
The image is so beautiful and the response has been so strong we thought we could do some good with it, we’ve made a shirt out of it. Help an aspiring artist and the krus and legends in the Muay Thai Library – 50% of the net profits go to the artist, and 50% to the Kru Fund. Check out the shirts here! on bleedingedge