People my age get a lot of flack for things like taking selfies. Selfies. Like seriously, why? No one complained about all the self portraits in the Renaissance.
There are few honors greater than that of being immortalized in art. And immortalizing yourself is, sometimes, even better.
I take a lot of selfies. And I don’t always look better in the selfies than I do in pictures taken by friends and family, but I still like them better. I currently have twelve paintings and four sculptures of myself in the house. And don’t even get me started on the sketchbooks.
Art is powerful. No one denies that, and historically, no one has questioned the specific art of self portraits. Is it just because it’s so quick and easy that it’s seen as vain and self centered?
If you make yourself into a piece of art—with a camera phone or with oil paints—you’re forced to see yourself as a piece of art. My reasons for the selfies are the exact opposite of vanity. I figure, if I make myself into art often enough, sooner or later, it’ll have to sink in that I have some worth.
This past spring, I found a new medium for my self portraits. Poetry. Words have always been easier for me than paint, anyway. So I’m finding new ways to see myself, good and bad.
I’m an avalanche—that’s the main one, and the title of the book that all of these poems are in. I’ve always found that a really powerful image. A mountain is crumbling, falling apart, but it wreaks all kinds of havoc on the way down. So weak and so strong at the same time.
I just came out of a really difficult period in my life, and I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through it without my self portraits, in all forms.
So take selfies. Take them when you feel pretty. Take them when you feel gross. Smile. Make weird faces. Post them on the internet, keep them for yourself, whatever. Paint yourself. Draw yourself. Carve and sculpt and write. Abstract, realistic, grotesque caricatures. Do it however you want, but please, please, be unapologetic in the celebration of yourself.
You are beautiful in a million ways, and even your flaws are nothing to hide. Immortalize yourself, so that you can always remember who you were.
Life gets really hard, and sometimes you’re going to hate yourself. Those, I think, are the best times to make yourself into a work of art. Even if you think you’re horrible, well, great art and beautiful art can be very different things.
Every life is already a work of art. So embrace it. Take all the selfies. And if you think selfies are stupid, well, get over it. Art is important, and selfies are powerful.
And of course, for the shameless self promotion portion of the evening, please buy my new book, Avalanche: A Self Portrait in Verse, available on September 1, 2015.