Corbett "Birthday" 24x30" oil on canvas
This self-portrait was accepted in the the "Recent Works" 2011 juried exhibition at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. (Sept 30 - Nov 6). I was proud and happy that my work was in the exhibit as only 20 percent of the entries were chosen (because of space limitations at the gallery, I think). It was fun to talk with all the people at the opening. The portrait was popular and hung in a prominent place. I didn't expect any other feedback about the work.
Then, a couple of days ago, Kelly Thayer, a College of Lake County student was writing a paper for a Humanties course, contacted me for a quote about my painting. She was analyzing my painting to complete an assignment. With Kelly's permission, I have included an excerpt from her paper and my response below:I looked at every piece of art in the CLC gallery, I gave everything a fair consideration but this is the one piece that I kept going back to. The colors are rich and very warm, inviting and relaxing. The artist used lots of deep yellows, chocolate browns, creamy ivory, pinks and burgundies with wavy brush strokes. The wavy lines and rich color made the piece feel more intimate and personal, like a photograph of real life instead of the usual dream-like imaginary feel of paintings.
" It depicts a middle aged woman, seated in front of a tri-mirror vanity in her bedroom, holding a black and white picture of her younger self, on the vanity is a small box and a small vase. In the mirrors is the reflection of the woman holding the photo, she is wearing a deep blue green corset or shift with bedroom furniture behind her.
The movement of the piece seems to be a counter clockwise circle, with your eye starting at the back of the woman’s head, to the photo in her hand, to the right side mirror, then the center mirror and lastly the left side mirror.
The photo in the woman’s hand is black and white, maybe to depict that it was taken a very long time ago, she is slim and pale with short dark hair, wearing a dark sleeveless shirt. Each mirror holds an image of the woman, with the same short dark hair and the same clothing but each image is of the woman at a different age.
The right side mirror is the woman now, oldest of all the images, with prominent gray patches in her hair, larger slightly sagging breasts, with the skin on her face and neck looking more gaunt and lined. This image is looking at the other mirrored images, which is what lead me to believe it was the most current image. The center mirror looks to be about ten years younger, her hair is just beginning to show some gray and her breasts are smaller and perkier, her skin has more pink in it which makes her look more vibrant than the washed out color of the older image on the right. The left side mirror looks to be about ten years older than the picture in the woman’s hands; this image has no gray showing in her hair, and her skin is plump and pink; she looks the heaviest in this mirror, it reminded me of the plumpness most mothers have while their children are still young.
While each of these images shows the woman growing older she doesn’t look sad about it, she looks dignified and accepting. Her facial expressions change very little in each image, which is what made me think that her opinion of herself has not changed with her age. That was what made this picture so relevant to me; it depicts a woman who doesn’t let society distort her own self worth because of her age, a woman who knows she is beautiful without conforming to the unrealistic constraints of what society deems “attractive.” So many women let themselves be torn apart by their aging, so much so that it had become completely unacceptable in our society to ask a woman her age. Why should someone be ashamed of their age? I’ve had many people very close to me die before they could live, they were gone before their first cars, graduations and 21st birthdays, I am proud of every year I put under my belt; the fact that someone can be ashamed of living makes me irate! This painting made me feel inspired to hold on to my feelings towards aging, if other people want to let society tell them that at a certain age you have to be ashamed of yourself fine, but I will always think it is silly nonsense and I will continue to celebrate each birthday and gray hair with pride, because I’ve succeeded where so many others have failed, at living.
I had the pleasure of corresponding with the artist, Leisa Shannon Corbett, herself via email about her inspiration for this piece and this is what she had to say,
“The inspiration for the piece came in part from a conversation with a grad school classmate. She said that she had reached the point in her life when men no longer turn to look at her when she walks into a room. She said I hadn't reached that point in my life. When I turned 50 years old a few years ago, I wondered whether I had hit my peak in sexual attractiveness and would it be all downhill from then on. I thought about my life and looked at a younger version of myself in the mirror. The future does not seem bleak to me because I have a wonderful husband who loves me deeply and thinks I'm sexy. It's true that younger men don't jerk their heads around to look at me, but men in my own age group sure do. So I haven't lost that power "to open doors with just a smile" yet. Being an artist gives me a more encompassing view of what's beautiful than Hollywood or fashion magazines offer.” And she later went on to say,
“It was most perceptive of you to realize that I am not throwing tantrums or upset about getting older. As I get older my life just gets better. There have been so many deaths in my family and friends in the last few years that I am grateful every day to be alive and healthy.”