Koo-Koo boy is the alter ego of my friend, Scott Coblio. He assumed this alter-ego as the front man of his band, also called Koo-Koo Boy. They were based in Rochester, NY back in the 90's. You can find his music online. Scott is one of the kindest, funniest, most generous, most artistic people I know. His creativity knows no bounds. And he loves photography. And one of his favorite photographic subjects is himself. He tells me he has thousands of pictures of himself from throughout his life. He more or less photo-documented it, particularly during the Koo-Koo period. Do I consider this an act of thoughtless vanity? No. I think of him as an archaeologist/anthropologist of his own life. After all, artists have been fascinated by their own visages since the pencil and mirror were invented. The artistic self-portrait is something that pretty much every artist comes around to producing, often more than once. And I understand why.
Some very good questions. I wondered if Gaugin had done any self-portraits. I couldn't think of any. Sure enough:
So, why do artists feel so compelled to self-portraitize themselves through whatever medium? I think it's because artists are blessed/cursed with a larger helping of curiosity about the questions most of us want to avoid. Gaugin couldn't have put it better: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (That painting is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and I've had the pleasure of standing in front of it more than once). Also, I think, artists kind of marvel at their own creativity. Not necessarily with braggadoccio; but a kind of awe. Like, why did God decide to give me these talents? Where did I come from? Why does my mind seem to work in a way that other people's don't? For example. I have never seen my dad so much as doodle on a scrap of paper. I have no idea if he has any skill at drawing; for I've never seen him draw anything. That's not to say he's not artistic in some way. And he loves the Arts. I wonder if I put a pencil and paper in front of him and asked him to draw himself what the result would be. How would he respond to the request? I might try it next time I see him. My mother too. She has a very artistic bent; but I've never seen her draw anything. Here's an interesting "fact." All children draw. Like ALL. Some continue on and some simply stop. Why? I'm thinking it's because they reach a point where some critic tells them they're no good, so, shamed; they stop.
Which brings us to me. ME ME ME!
This is not a self-portrait. It's a picture taken of me when I was seventeen. It was for a play I did in high school: Peter Shaffer's The Private Ear.
Have I done any self-portraits you ask?
Yes. Exactly two. The first, done some twenty years ago, is still unfinished. And I wouldn't consider it a true self-portrait, as it was based on a photograph, taken by someone else.
My first true self-portrait was done quite recently. I took a class at the Y for painting. I did not know that it was going to be a class in "alla prima"; which is technique where you paint the image directly onto the canvass, without an underdrawing and the paint is "wet on wet." I couldn't decide what I wanted to paint so I just threw up my hands and decided to paint myself. Here is the result:
But then again not really.