Let's Talk About Selfies

(and the resale shop)

 

When you go to the resale shop everyday, you start to learn a little something about life. Your footsteps quicken as you approach the entrance. You must be feral and ready to secure the best of the unending supply of things that people have laid to rest in this graveyard of sorts. You and an unending stream of other like minded folks are at the top of your game when you enter the doors, relaxing into the comfort of finally being there, wide eyed and curious. You dissolve into the zone, the scavenger hunt, not really knowing what the prize will be but sure you will know it, when you see it. Some grapple to get the thing from the shopping cart the worker pushes from the back, through the heavy plastic curtains into the arena of disposal. Some are rude and brusk, pushing aside old ladies who are equally greedy. Occasionally a sage will wander in off the street, with no desire or madness, just an amused expression of perusal. Someone like Theo.

 

 

Birger Sandzen: "The Sentinel, Garden of the Gods, Colorado," 1921

 

 

We relax on one of the sofas for sale. There are many to choose from, but the one closest will suffice. "Anything good today?" he asks. Theo is a self taught artist, art collector, and would make a formidable curator. His eye is critical, his approval sparing, and his praise is left for the real masters like Millard Sheets and Birger Sandzen.

 

 

 

Millard Sheets' 1935 painting "California"

 

 

We talk about the treasures we have found and lost in this very shop, dithering too long over a piece we should have snatched up, "cash and carry", as the workers say. We talk about the paintings we are working on and I mention my Selfie Trilogy featuring young women in burkas.

 

 

Selfie #2, from the Selfie Trilogy, 10" x 8", acrylic on board, antique frame

 

 

His eyes light up and he tells me about a time in a coffee shop, when three young women in burkas were sitting next to him showing each other their selfies on their cell phones. They cooed over the pics, comparing and critiquing which one was superior. "I think you look really cute in this one!". Theo couldn't help it. He discreetly peeked at the objects of their affection. He was disconcerted to see that the selfies were burka clad.

 

It was funny and I laughed. Theo remarked that everyone laughed at this story. By his expression, I could see that he didn't find it humorous. He found it troubling and maybe even disgusting. He was probably a little surprised when I told him that my spouse of 32 years is Muslim, born and bred in Pakistan. Our conversations roll along without pauses, and certainly without much reflection, leaving essential things unsaid. I should have told him that Muslim people find the eyes very expressive and in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, men and women convey their feelings and flirt with their eyes. When my husband was young, he had to avert his gaze when in the presence of young women, other than family members. To stare into a woman's eyes could get you beaten to a pulp by the neighbors. It was considered crude and intrusive, a violation of code.

 

 

Selfie #3, from the Selfie Trilogy, 8" x 10", acrylic on board, antique frame

 

 

I remember the first time I laid eyes on the man who was to become my husband. He was a new guy at work; banquet server at one of the big hotels in Chicago. I was a server too, in between classes at college. I gazed at him thinking, new guy. He looked back at me, eye to eye, and then he frowned in a forbidding way and turned away. I was repelled by his expression and in the few moments that I scrutinized his young face, I also noted that he had a deep scar on his forehead, and concluded that it was a gunshot wound. It jived perfectly with that first glance and dangerous rebuff, (years later I would learn that his older sister dropped him on his head when he was a baby).

 

 

Selfie #1, from the Selfie Trilogy, 8" x 10", acrylic on board, antique frame

 

 

If I had been a really thoughtful person, I would have explained to Theo this flirting technique, with the eyes and staring and secret glancing between men and women who happen to be Muslim. It might have assuaged his discomfort with that tent-like garment. I might have mentioned what a great thing a burka can be for hiding things, even a second person, if both inside are young and limber and slender enough. Next time, at the resale shop, I may direct Theo to my site where my Selfie Trilogy portrays sheer burkas with a glimpse of a nude woman inside. Even as I type this I wonder if such a thing exists? If not in the real world, it does prevail in my paintings.

 

 

 

 

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