Me in the Proust Room for our 40th Birthdays, 2010 Oil on linen 22 × 30 inches
Me in the Proust Room for our 40th Birthdays, 2010
Oil on linen 22 × 30 inches

After I took the photo of Andrew which is next to this picture in the Whitney installation, I handed the camera to him and he took this picture of me, standing in front of a reproduction of a portrait of Proust (the original hangs in the Musee D’Orsay).   This was an incredible (but small one bedroom) room above the restaurant at the Ritz, where Proust supposedly had his meals brought up to him in his private soirees.  Like Proust, and his famous Madeline’s, all the images I paint from are talismans to memories and the feelings that they conjure, that, also like Proust, I string together in non-linear narratives of my installations.  So truly he is one of my heroes—it goes without saying that he was also queer and “queerified” the notions of what narrative could mean, in addition to speaking allegorically about the politics and society of his times, as I would also like to do, and although I don’t think of myself as a “dandy”, think there is something transcendent about the ability of the “Bricoleur” to walk through culture as an active bystander, being able to have the artistic sense of remove to really comment upon and “see” the world as perhaps it “really is”.   While painting this (as I have done with previous portraits of Proust) I listened to an (abridged—but still over 60 cds!) of an audiobook of “Remembrance of Things Past” and tried my best to concentrate upon it and really understand what was being said, whilst also interpreting it—my “left brain” was so occupied by this, my “right brain” could really concentrate on the nuance of form and light and color, and it was surprisingly relatively easy to paint, although it seemed as if the ghost of Proust was speaking into my ear, both from the painting and the reflection in the painting!  I always enjoy painting aspects of photography as if they were real, and the light in the photo, and the red in my irises seemed to get through to the idea that I was painting as if looking in a mirror at my inner self.  When you see people looking in mirrors in movies it usually has something to do with self-reflexivity, and in painting this, like any self portrait that hopefully is good, I was painting also aware of my self, and my past, and what notions constitute the self as self-instituting, and how, like they say in Buddhism, this is impossible, that interdependence, the balancing of identities based on memories, environment, our interactions within the world, so richly brought out in narratives such as Proust’s life work, can create a sublime feeling of the objectification of oneself as merely a being within the world.



I love this Chardin self portrait from the Louvre, and the painterly way he uses pastel in micro-managed ways like I now try to paint… And he seems in this an effete dandy, whilst at the same time masculine and strong, and one of the best painters of domestic (and symbolically political) life, and looked specifically at this portrait while painting this work.

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Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Self portrait wearing Glasses, 1775, Louvre