This was the view yesterday evening from the home of Kes Woodward, my friend who is hosting a meeting of the WESTAF executive committee here in La Conner, Washington. Kes and his wife Missy and later their son Eli moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, to here in January after a long sojourn in the arctic north. Their home clings to a steep hillside overlooking Puget Sound, and inside the white walls are full of Kes’s clear, wild, intelligent landscape paintings.
When I arrived at his studio in downtown La Conner yesterday I saw myself looking at me from the wall. Last week he painted a transparent acrylic, which looks just like a watercolor, 28 inches by 20 1/2 inches, three times life size. This image of myself seems to contain elements which I have not claimed yet in the self-portrait that I carry around in my head. So the painting feels like a prophecy, a vision of what it would be like to quit fighting my demons and to wholeheartedly accept their presence in my mind and face. Kes studied every photo of me he could find in the blog archives, as well as several he had taken himself. The two most striking elements, he told me, were how my left eyelid drops lower than the right, and my thin smile, which is always crooked. He began painting the eyes first, then the mouth, then the rest of the details which life so far has etched on my face, like wind and storms and sun on the bark of a birch tree.