In college, I studied art history. It was one of my favourite classes, because it allowed me to set historical context for a given work, and to apply an analytical method to what it really means. But most of all, for the rest of my life, I have come out of those classes with a new way of looking at art and asking myself what it really means to me.
Every once in a while, I see a painting, sculpture or performance, hear a song, read a poem, and can’t help but let my mind dance through the imagery and metaphor to find the true meaning of the piece, - or at least to me. And so, as I was searching for a funny picture to change my coworker’s unlocked computer desktop background to and I came across a masterpiece:
Who is this man? Probably some model the artist, Illma Gorellilma Gore, encountered, and just had to sketch. Looking at the work, I can understand why. This tasteful nude says so much with just his very presence.
His stance is one of authority - the relaxed body is merely a distraction from the constantly working mind. The belly and shoulders are pasty white, and his lack of muscular definition shows clearly that he is not a man who works with his hands, or one that works outside. The sun has only tanned his forearms, neck and face giving his porcelain (perhaps of Norman descent) complexion a reddish tinge.
Perhaps the work is a homage to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, the Emperor of which parades naked like a fool in front of his court after being tricked into a false new outfit. Andersen’s tale is a cautionary one, in which both the subject and his obsequious ministers and nobles do not dare tell him that he is, in fact, absolutely naked. Perhaps there is some of that Emperor in this man’s face?
But then again, the subject is also not pictured at all. Perhaps the physical shell of this ordinary body, with its thinned hair and small, flaccid penis is not the subject the artist was trying to capture, but the man who has evolved out of that body is the real muse. There is so much written in that face that has transcended the base corpus that it wouldn’t be fair to look at it as just the sum of its physical parts.
The transcended (as opposed to the physical) man, whose drive, desires and fears are all so clearly written on his face, stares at his captive audience with a smug sense of rightness, one that is used to getting his way. His mouth, sneering beyond the fourth wall, projects his attack-first way of handling himself, and his eyes squint as they spill the infectious sense of folly to question their gaze.
But the question that his face so stingently avoids with its directness is one of what happens when it subsides? Perhaps the man is like a shark, whose constant movement is necessary to prevent certain ruin. But surely there are times when the man can pause - when he is alone as his mind is unrestrained by the usual unyielding desire to be right, perhaps in the moments before sleep or the blank minutes he spends staring at his reflection as he brushes his teeth or shaves, the questions of his identity creep at him. Perhaps as he sees them emerging, he squints as his brows descend, and he mocks the pathetic, small-dicked man with the ridiculous combover. No one can see this man, he thinks to himself. And no one will.
And so his charade continues, as he projects his self-loathing on some poor soul who happened to unleash the man who floats in front of his own face, because if he can make them small, he can still be big. He can hide behind his strawman of a personality that no one dares to cross. He is a leader, not a follower. And like most things, the more you feed it the bigger it gets.
Perhaps he is a sign of the true face of his own time and place - the man may just be a projection of the whims of those around him, feeding on the anxieties, weaknesses and prejudices of the people he awes so that they, too, will unleash their inner monster. While he desires only to win and prove himself the bigger man, his followers also unsheath their own motivations based not on reason but on some vein of inadequacy which his experienced eye has spotted and exploited.
Fantastic, this work - the artist did a great job showing us a glimpse into a man who will most likely not rest until he has trumped his goals.