Take Me As I Am. Graphite on Paper.
The title of this self portrait comes from the last lines of the song “California” by Joni Mitchell. When I was house sitting in Venice one day back in 1990, my ex, Elliott and I were walking along the boardwalk and this elegant blonde and a tall dark man walked by us, and after about 10 steps, I turned to Elliott and I said, “was that Joni Mitchell?” And he said, “yes”. And I turned around and ran right up to her. I told her she meant the world to me and I kissed her hand. I was a goofy little hippie kid with long wild hair and so much raw emotion, romance and hunger.
Today, I am not that little guy. I am heading to San Francisco tomorrow for a visit with my husband Keith, and I am really wondering what it is going to be like to be there. I haven’t been to San Francisco since 1994, I think, since I lived there for 6 months after I graduated college. They might have been the hardest 6 months I ever had (in a row). I went to Pitzer, which is an amazing college, but I studied performance art and creative writing and I left that school with no idea how to make a living in a recession and all my heart and hunger to be somehow a part of the world and shape it would meet a wall. The only job I could find was a temp job working on a drug trial for people with ALS. Every single person I met at work got sick and died, and as I watched them decline day in and day out, I found myself isolated in a place that was very hard for me to find my way in. San Francisco was not impressed with me and although it was very beautiful, and I spent many days wandering around the hills, it was no place for me.
I moved to New York later and that city hugged me like family, got me set up in a decent place to live, and hooked me up with friends and jobs from the get-go. Even Los Angeles, with all the temptations and chaos, left me warmer and provided me with some of the deepest friendships and hard-earned, but real lessons that I carry with me today.
I am not that kid seeking love and admiration and answers and hope and a path. I am married and happy and have a path that is often very clear. I will be seeing a friend I haven’t seen since I left San Francisco, a cousin sho I haven’t really known since I was a kid, and my friend Shah, who saw me struggle through some hard times in LA, but who also has seen me shine. Hopefully I will see a whole new side of the city through these so different, 49 year old eyes.
My artist friends have suggested that I do these self portraits every few months. To see how I have grown as an artist. But also to see what I see in myself at the time.