The mirror is a common motif in my mother’s artwork. It was prominent, obviously, in her mirror-themed exhibit. Mirror images are not only a necessary part of the printmaking process, but also appear in many of my mother’s prints to distort and mystify images. I have seen her hand write paragraphs in mirror image so that they will appear inverted in her prints. Symbolic mirrors also abound in her work. Her pieces, such as Inside Outside, often play with duality. The left-hand-side, monochrome portion of this piece, what I choose to be the Inside, is presented in the first-person. This face looks as though it might be looking in a mirror, like this is how my mother sees herself. The face on the right-hand-side, however, is looking away, is covered, is in color. This second, Outside face might be how others see her, might be her in the ‘real world.’ Because her gaze is not present here, this version of my mother is more objective. Her own judgement doesn’t give this half of the print any bias since she doesn’t witness it like she does when her mirror image is presented in monochrome. Which side is the truer version of my mother? How do mirrors change who we are? Mirrors provide one of the only ways to look at ourselves, yet many people perform for themselves when they look into mirrors, so how honest can this view be?
I am currently working on a short story (spoiler alert) in which the protagonist is a young girl’s imaginary dragon. This dragon doesn’t know what he looks like. He has never looked into a mirror. As the story progresses and he finally gets a glimpse in some particularly reflective water, he sees himself, not as her imaginary dragon, but as the monster that lives under her bed.
So does looking into a mirror allow my mother to see her true self? Or does looking into a mirror transform her into something else?
Inside, Outside, an 8″x10″ photopolymer gravure etching, is offered this week at $200, unframed.