My local copy centre has some big prints of Chinese ladies looking soulfully over a river in a remote province.
The lady-boys I met in Borneo had all been to their local photo studio, dressed up in white lace and veils and posed with a girlish 18th century-style pose they called the ‘soft touch’.
My sister and brother-in-law have an arty soft-focus number on their wall that shows off their tatts.
At school we liked to gnash our teeth over Nick Cave’s ‘Oh Deanna’, apparently inspired by the chick from Dogs in Space. Why did junkie geniuses not pen a song about our spotty selves?
Whether passingly mentioned in print, on canvas in a local exhibition, in a wedding photo in the Herald-Sun, in a song with lyrics like ‘our love knows no bounds’ or on the wall of a train station, most people cherish a secret hope that some day, someone with a unique outlook on one’s ‘inner beauty’ will see fit to record it forever. And despite the lowly position that art and artists hold in our community, many of us wouldn’t object to being a muse, if only for a day. Even John Merrick had his day in the sun.
The book may be tucked into the bookshelf and forgotten, the canvas stored under the pink batts, the Herald-Sun used the next day to wipe up the strip of spew after the cat hacked up a hairball, the song unrecorded and the graffiti pissed on by masses of Brunswick High students, but it’s the moment that matters. That feeling of being remembered just as I am.
Now it’s my turn – I’m going to have my portrait painted and am brimful of excitement, corny ideas and a complete lack of modesty. I’ve been Googling like mad in search of the perfect pose, and come up with so many options. Limited only by my Shatner-style acting (and perusal of Rose Chong’s costume shop) I’m going to sit for a photo and have the painting based on that.
Obviously it’s going to be very tally-ho.
My immediate vision was of a pirate queen scaling the rigging, one foot poised on the shrouds to reveal a sharpened stiletto lashed to a shapely leg, with a cutlass in one hand and a look of wot larks. I would be pursuing a Yul Brunner-ish gent in the distance, who would be stripped to the waist and laughing merrily.
This idea is a bit less portrait and a bit more Virginia Henley, so I had to discard it regretfully. The painter then suggested some sort of lady in full navy rig, a pirate hunter recently returned from a mission, with maps, weapons and lamps on her desk and a crow-covered gibbet in the background. This was a brilliant idea, but I though it would give out the wrong message about my views on pirates.
I’m also fond of those 16th century portraits of elegant ladies stroking martens or leopards, with imperious looks on their faces. I like the idea of strange objects and motifs scattered about, to offer up hints as the subject’s state of mind, tastes and social standing. I’m fond of nauticalia, zeppelins, Spitfires, Scottish things, mosques and moustaches, things that are pointy (like shoes and durians), and think these motifs can be cunningly worked into the background in the style of Van Eyck or Dali.
Hands I think are very important in a portrait. They can be clasped quietly, or point commandingly at invading armies. They can be delicately coiled around a flower or clasp a cane, quivering with rage at London’s urchins. Expression is also significant. I should like to capture some of the noble nostril-flaring of Anthony Andrews or the bloodless stare of Tilda Swinton. I shall have to practice in a mirror.
Turbans in their many forms, and some sort of reference to slaying the White Whale, both of these will be included without question.
I thought it would be rather a hoot to have it hung over my mantelpiece to amuse my guests, and me, every time I walk past it. If I ever get a word published, we’ll enter it into the Archibald. I just have to find the perfect outfit, and immortality shall be mine.