Thursday, April 16, 2009

At the mirror

It's been a long time since I posted any art here. Since my old computer died, I also lost all the art images that I had saved. That hurt. Tonight, I decided to just look and see what I could find.

This one hit several targets within me. I wondered why so many painters have painted women at their "toilette." What's the fascination with what is merely a daily routine?

Then I realized that I was just as susceptible to the fascination. I had a very clear memory of being a young girl somewhere between 10 and 13. My cousins, also female, were visiting, and they, my sister and I were all hanging out in the hallway outside the main bathroom of our house. My mother was standing there putting on her makeup, and we were all watching her. My mother was careful but not obsessive with her makeup, and she used it beautifully. It was never too much, no unblended lines, never messy, just more polished than her bare face. (Oh, I wish I had her incredible skin that didn't really need makeup.) I still don't remember why we watched her, other than her beauty, but we did.

Later, I became the object of attention. My husband was absolutely fascinated by what all I did to groom myself. This held a fair amount of irony. I could spend what felt like hours preparing for a formal evening, and he'd never notice my appearance, but he'd tell me I was beautiful when I was bare faced, barefoot and bra-less, washing dishes in the kitchen. The process intrigued him though. He regarded the gels, the curlers, the powders, the brushes as if they were ingredients in a magic potion, and he'd just watch as I made up my face.

The transformation between a woman made up for her day and undone to her natural state is usually a subtle one. I wonder what other people see on both side of that metamorphosis. Which image is truly more powerful?

The painting is Lady At Her Toilet by Berthe Morisot, 1875.


Blogger emmapeelDallas said...

I love the painting. Remember the scene in Steel Magnolias, where Dolly Parton is talking to Sam Shepherd and he's playing with the tub of wax, and finally he lifts the stick out of it and asks, "What is this stuff anyway?" and she laughs and says, "Oh honey, that's to make us beautiful!" It's a wonderful moment, and sums up beautifully some of the differences between men and women.

April 19, 2009 3:05 AM  

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