Sometimes, when I can’t think of anything to photograph, I choose me for a subject. During the first year of the pandemic, when I was isolated, me was my only subject option. I tried to find all sorts of different ways to pose me for a variety of effects. I have used cell phones and two mirrors.
Today was a Big Event for me and I had someone else take my photograph. The Big Event involved my second Fauci Ouchie. Actually, the photographs of me are Big Events. They are Big Events because there was a time when bullies told me that I was ugly. After years of hearing, “you’re ugly,” I grew to believe the unpleasant message. I didn’t want anyone to take my picture because I was “not photogenic.”
Then something happened to change all that. It occurred at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, which is located within the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. I had gone to a free drawing class. That day’s instruction was about drawing the human face. The instructor demonstrated how to draw a face and then she sent the students off to find a painting to copy on paper that was provided by the Luce Foundation Center. I had a tiny sketchbook that I carried in my purse so, after finding my spot, I began drawing my copy of the portrait very tiny.
The instructor was walking around, visiting the students as they drew. She spotted me drawing a very small portrait and she asked me if I wanted a bigger sheet of paper. I did. I then drew the same person, but in a larger version.
Later, when the group reassembled, the instructor asked to see both of my drawings. She showed them to the group and said, “I can tell that both drawings are of the same person. Are you happy?”
“Yes,” I said. Drawing the same person twice is a great skill to have, so I was happy that I could do that.
As I practiced drawing people, I became aware that no one was ugly. I found human features to be fascinating, and I wanted to draw all of them. Despite that, I was still convinced that I was ugly.
All of a sudden, one day, it struck me that I also wasn’t ugly. How could it be possible that the only Ugly Person in the World was me? I like to think of myself as Special and Unique but that was too much negative specialness. It was then that I was able to let go of Ugly Alice and replace her with a person who was just as beautiful as the rest of the world. Someone whose face would not cause the camera to break. Someone who could pose for two mirrors and a cell phone or just other people. Someone who could share the joy of her portraits of her by her with the world. Someone named Alice. Not Ugly Alice. Just Alice.
Today, the Luce Foundation Center, like the rest of the Smithsonian Institution, is accessible on line. All of the museums are temporarily closed. The Smithsonian Institution has not announced a reopening date.