”Because I am not a realist and I don't paint what I see, my self portraits don't really look like me but are probably far more revealing than just seeing my image.~ Daeu Angert on her painting, The Self-Portrait (If I Was A Wave)
Art Basel recently asked followers on Twitter to name their favorite artist’s self-portrait, and the art Twitter did not disappoint. Among the favorites were Dalí, MC Escher, Van Gogh, and even an AI rendering of Jaques-Louis David’s self-portrait.
That got me thinking about my self-portraits – and right off the bat, I tripped over a couple of issues…The first: I am not a realist; the second: I’m not someone to sit there and paint myself all day… However, with that said, I do have an entire collection – The Diary Collection – of experiences as art pieces. As you can tell, I am also not a person to sit there and write stuff down. I’d instead paint about it.
The Diary Collection is all about turning experiences into art. Usually, those that suck the life out of you for weeks at a time (The Allegiance); make you question what you’re doing (The Blue Angel Running), or things that keep you up at night (The Sailboat In The Storm)…mostly challenging ones, but some happy ones are thrown in as counterbalance.
The first rule of The Diary Collection is that we do not talk about the Diary Collection. The second rule of The Diary Collection is that WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE DIARY COLLECTION.
For a very long time, those were the rules. I wouldn’t even share the titles of my paintings (they all had one), let alone talk about what they are or what they mean (never!). Well, until now.
In my old age, I enjoy talking about each piece, in detail, on my podcast, I Paint Ideas™ podcast… I view art as an entity and energy that co-creates with me, and now it is my pleasure to give my art a voice. It’s a provenance from the art’s mouth.
Not At All Realistic, But Far More Telling
The Diary Collection reminds me of an autobiography I had to write — for a grade — in Mrs. E’s class. I couldn’t stand Mrs. E. She was a Broadway wannabe who, according to my estimation, gave up halfway through. She firmly believed that the entire world is a stage and every other theater cliché imaginable. I come from the theater, too. I started acting at 9, and my first paying job was on the main stage of the National Theater in Belgrade at 16. I wasn’t buying what she was selling and what I objected to the most was that she had a clique of students she favored at the expense of other much more talented kids.
As I said, I couldn’t stand her. My problem was that I had her for all my classes: English, video production, acting… except Art History. That was Mr. S., and he was fantastic.
For Thanksgiving that year, Mrs. E. wanted to produce a commercial that intersected video production with acting classes. She wanted the entire acting class to dress up as turkeys and rap gobble, gobble, gobble. I flat out refused. I told her it was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard, and I was not doing it. She let me know in no uncertain terms that it was her idea. I still thought it was dumb and wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to tell you. And I said as much.
This punk kid backed me up, and we almost started a revolution. That didn’t go well. But, on the plus side, the punk kid and I become fast friends.
Aside from my job at the National Theater and before I came to that school, I was a part of a theater group, and we had no budget for anything – the only currency we had to produce our plays was our bootstrapped creativity. That was it.
This studio here was fully loaded. You could literally do anything. But, NO! We had 20 people in a single static shot rapping gobble, gobble, gobble. I take serious offense to the lack of imagination and laziness. Such a waste.
On the way home, I thought that maybe that was a little rude. Getting the kids against her and all… English is my second language, and sometimes I can be impolite without knowing it…I contemplated apologizing, but when I returned home, I learned she had already had a chance to complain to everyone, including my parents.
I changed my mind about apologizing. The.gloves.were.off.
When the time came to write an autobiography for her English class, I didn’t want to tell her anything about myself at all. Instead, I wrote a series of stories told by my angel, following me around, based on psychological tests. You know the ones… “There is a house, you walk in, on the left is a red door, you open the red door, what do you see?”. I delivered it early to get it over with.
I wrote that, not realizing that that is far more revealing than any events I could have written about. Somehow I impressed Mrs. E. From that point forward, she asked me if I wanted to participate in class. Most of the time, I did. I just wasn’t going to do dumb stuff.
Just like the psychological test autobiography, the pieces in the Diary Collection are not at all realistic but are far more telling.
There are at least three that may even qualify as self-portraits: The Self Portrait If I was A Wave, An Artist Trapped In Nerd’s Mind, and The Multipotentialite.
The Self Portrait. Daeu Angert. Diary Collection. 2020. Oil on canvas. 36″ x 36″ (91 cm x 91 cm)
The Self Portrait (If I Was A Wave)
The Self Portrait (If I Was A Wave) is heavily influenced by my love of quantum physics. In fact, I didn’t really like physics when I had to take it but when I didn’t have to take it anymore, I found myself in the library reading up on quantum mechanics, particle physics, and string theory… Anyways, I talked about it all.the.time. My best friend and an amazingly creative, free spirit herself listened. When she called me, she’d say, “Are you a wave or a particle? Because if you’re a wave, I’ll call you later and if you’re a particle, let’s go to the movies”.
I am a particle! I am a particle! – I couldn’t say fast enough. Let’s go to the movies!
This is my self-portrait…This is me as a wave. Prussian blue is the Higgs boson field. The colors are elementary particles, cobalt blue is electromagnetism, white – gravity…Who said it was hard to unify gravity into a standard model!? 🤓
It’s a very deceptive painting. From afar, if you look at it across the room – it’s very dark and moody, but when you get closer to it, and I mean very close to it – it comes alive with color and texture. I tried to show an object that gives you a different experience when you are looking at it from other points of view. Big picture vs. details. Particles vs. waves. And there are a lot of little waves and a little texture, very subtle texture, in it. Even the scanned image doesn’t do it justice. You have to see it in person to appreciate all the details.
The funny thing is… This could be a portrait of you, too. Or anyone else, for that matter. We are all made of the same stuff.
I lost touch with my best friend over the years, but I knew she would get the joke if she saw it. This painting is dedicated to her.
During the pandemic, I had a chance to interview a person from CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), a European Organization for Nuclear Research that operates the largest laboratory for particle research in the world and it’s home to the Hadron Collider. I showed him my painting, and he invited me to visit the next time I’m in Geneva. Needless to say, he made my day! I was floating on cloud nine for weeks. I can’t wait!
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