Now, I understand the implication of writing a post called “Narcissus and Me.” But when I started the series of posts _____ and Me (see recent posts, “Francis Bacon and Me,”and “Edvard Munch and Me”) I did not think through the implications of some future writings. Besides which, having spent all but 17 years of my life pursuing my own passion, the title may actually be appropriate.
In these past “Me” posts I have written about influences from a few of my idols, but I want to delve into something a little different here. Connections, that are not directly related to some experience or influence, but are there without a doubt.
Untitled #04-14-09-462, 2009
This image, made in 2009, is just one model and his reflection. The model and I are both underwater, and he is looking up. The figure on the right is aware, conscious and giving all his attention to the figure on the left – his reflection. His leaning posture and reaching hand are beseeching the reflection to open his eyes and connect with him. His reflection, however, appears feminine and looks to be losing control, as if giving in to ecstasy or joy. Though there is in fact only one model, this image shows two entirely different points of view: one as a profile, the other as a full face, resulting in the appearance of two people with distinct emotions.
It is no surprise that as I initially studied this image the figure of Narcissus came to mind.
Narcissus, by Caravaggio
The myth of Narcissus illustrates a powerful archetype that describes the human condition we call “narcissism”. The most common version of Narcissus comes from the first century BCE, from Book 3 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which became a major influence on Western culture. In Ovid’s rendering, Narcissus is an exceedingly beautiful young man who attracts the attention of Echo, a young mountain nymph.
The egotistical Narcissus offhandedly rejects Echo, and in her sorrow and unrequited love wastes away until all that remains is a lonely echo. Upon hearing of this tragedy, Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, decides to punish Narcissus. She manages to lure him to a pool, whereupon he discovers his own reflection and falls in love with it at first glance. He, too, eventually wastes away, longing for a love that can never be returned – his elusive reflection.
My image above, Untitled 4–14–09–462, could also be seen in this more classic interpretation of the myth of Narcissus. Instead of giving into joy, the reflection, the figure on the left, could be seen as fading away, evaporating as Narcissus tries in vain to touch the object of his love.
This feeling of connection is profoundly gratifying. In this crazy time where we are shut in our homes and effectively isolated from those outside our families, I am appreciating the power and importance of CONNECTIONS. Hmmm…. I am thinking of a new topic for a blog post…..