In the Mirror: Portraits of Place and Self

posted in: All, Thailand | 1


Time was running out and I had a mission. Positioning myself across from the long mirror covering the wardrobe, I examined the finite universe within its borders. The reflection showed a slice of doorway on the right, curtains over windows, a framed picture hung on the wall, and me. At the bottom, a night table peeked into view, featuring the usual assortment of objects atop: tissue box, water bottle, wristwatch. Analyzing the scene, I reduced all the elements to geometric shapes and abstract forms: rectangles, triangles, cylinders, and blocks. My head, an oval, tipped sideways slightly, and along with the lines of my body, added a few desirable diagonals to the pictorial space. I was ready to draw.

Since moving to Thailand, where cheap lodgings abound, I made it my habit (or some might call it an obsession) to sketch myself in the mirror wherever I roam. It’s as much about the “place” as it is about me, and the goal is to describe both in equal measure. Human beings do tend to steal the show in works of art however, so I make myself small in an attempt to compensate. Unlike a traditional self-portrait, likeness isn’t important; and unlike the modern selfie, I’m not trying to make myself look good. Each drawing documents a particular place and time, connected only by the mirror motif and the fact that I was there.

The initial drawing happened at the Lamphun Will Hotel. Lying in bed, at the end of a long day, I became enamored with the interaction between the objects reflected in the hotel mirror, myself included, and the array of things surrounding it. The mirror looked like a window to an alternate reality. It cropped. It had its own light. It allowed me to look forward and backward in space, simultaneously. It was playful. Grabbing a sheet of hotel stationary, I got down to work.


USK 1-23(800pixels)

There were challenges, both logistical and artistic. Imposing restrictions forces creativity, and a few rules were set. No use of photography. No moving the furniture to make the scene more interesting. (I broke that one once and it felt like cheating.) Find a way to make it interesting regardless of what you’ve got to work with. Once I had to sit on top of a mini-bar just so I could squeeze myself into the picture.

Twenty-three drawings and counting, the series has become my personal trip advisor. Now, upon entering any lodging, the top priority is to scope out the mirror opportunities. The higher priced hotels and inns tend to provide a selection- apparently people with money like to see themselves-but the budget places often have but one option, located above the bathroom sink. I have to sit on top of the toilet tank in order to get a broader view. I’m getting quite good at drawing plumbing.

Sitting across from the long mirror, I glanced back and forth between reflection and sketchpad. They were talking to each other while I moderated. Drawing can be a meditation, capable of imprinting powerful remembrance. Within its lines, there is the place, the sounds, the smells, and the feeling of the moment. And self-reflection.


To view the entire series:





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