My big brother Harry was something: Leave the crude undamaged beneath the sea, he said, sold his car, and even refused for a time to ride in cars. (Later, he lived in a car.) Immediately after college, Harry changed his name to Harrison Redwood, moved north, and chained himself to an old growth redwood. There was an article about him in The Seattle Times under the headline “Defender of Trees.” The camera loved him.
But none of that actually happened. In reality, Harry never finished high school. He died of a rare blood disease when he was eleven. Still, I can remember an earlier time when Harry told Miss Beitler, his fourth grade teacher, (and this part is true) that he used to have another brother named Mr. BlueWhite, who died and was buried upside down under a redwood, his feet sticking up through the grass, one blue shoe, one white. Unfortunately, this is not true either; I am an only child.
At First Blush
At first blush, it appears an unambiguous portrait, the subject a man in meditation— adamantly upright posture, well-cut jacket, background in soft focus. From another angle, one sees a woman with a broad, strong face and red hair. Viewed from a third angle, the subject is a beast, half-covered in sleek fur, half in phosphorescent feathers. Studied from yet a fourth angle, the portrait is of a woman entirely unlike the first—caffeinated, haunted, angular features—the man from the initial view no longer a man but a small boy, three or four years old. From this last angle, the beast appears to be a large black dog, its teeth sunk into one of the boy’s legs, the boy’s face contorted in pain. A remarkable self-portrait.