Pigment Prints (2011)
I am an insurgent.
It’s a painful, humiliating and humbling experience to be surrounded by youth while simultaneously confronted with the unimpeachable evidence of one’s own ‘maturity’ and tapering viability. A sort of panic sets in at this recognition: that even though I myself may (occasionally) feel as full of promise as any young adult, others’ perception of me and my remaining potential is vastly different. I may be youthful, but I am not actually young.
And this presents a huge problem to the ego. The ego will do anything to fix itself. Which, in turn, presents another huge problem.
While poking around for answers as to how to go about solving this many-layered conundrum without incurring massive emotional and/or physical damage, I arrived at a daunting conclusion: A frightening new age is dawning, where the decision to preserve one’s body intact, unmodified, and un-“improved,” will be viewed as a strange, contrarian act of will, somewhat akin to a farmer’s anachronistic reluctance to part with a draught horse, or a grandmother’s refusal to use email.
Persons permitting themselves to visually, viscerally, accurately, reflect their time on this planet may one day find themselves singled out for the kind of befuddled mockery one generally reserves for those who, today, so ungracefully battle the inevitable: the Madonnas, the Chers, the Renee Zellwegers, all suffering the penetrating gaze of their fame willingly and fiercely, while promoting their own status as early adopters and trailblazers. They are our ambassadors to the future, unapologetic to the last, faces drawn as tight as drums into camera-ready rictus grins.
The question may soon come, “Why? Why hold onto old meat? Why not take advantage of the latest advances in order to extend one’s longevity and desirability?” On this day, some of us may find ourselves having to justify our decrepit and interruptive presences in the face of the resentment so sure to follow any reminder of transience.
Of course, that very transience is what lends an all-too-brief life the value it possesses. The cyclical nature of the Life Conundrum lies in its aspiration to completion, and its aversion to closure. As a nation, as a culture, we desire both and neither at the same time. We obsess over the destination, but deride the journey, and we would wipe the map utterly clean if it meant we could convince ourselves that we were young and full of potential again, not perishable beings more than halfway into the uncertain trek that has left its dusty fissures engraved into our faces.
It is those very fissures that intrigue me now. In tracing and re-inscribing their patterns and origins, in appreciating their depths and loci, I am fortifying myself against that which would lead me to forget the value of my life, and my life’s value to others.
I will protect who I am by laying myself bare, looking unflinchingly at my reflection, and allowing others to see me as I am, imperfect, and decaying.
—NY, May 2011