Self-portrait 2; The Artist as Clown

5 Jan

Self-Portrait2; The Artist as Clown

“Facial disguise temporarily eliminates from social intercourse that part of the body by which…the individual’s personal feelings and attitudes are revealed or can be deliberately communicated to others.”  – Claude Levi Strauss, father of modern anthropology, 1961.

Years ago my wife and I took lessons in clowning and discovered for ourselves the remarkable Zen of Clown. Since then we have performed as street artists in many places and are continually amazed at the loving responses we receive despite, and perhaps because of, our ineptitude. The first inkling came when we were handed our red noses I thought “I don’t have to put on this stupid thing”, but immediately realised the mask, this tiny mask, confers a freedom which is unbelievable, a chance to step out of yourself and tentatively, temporarily, reveal your vulnerability. This is to be “In Clown”.


Mr & Mrs Pothead 2013


Here’s a photo of Mr & Mrs Pothead at work, inspired by René Magritte.


I would like to tell you a story – a true one – We had a tiny patient with short gut syndrome, he was nine years but the size of a four-year-old, and wizened like a monkey. My job was to replace his naso-jejunal tube from time to time, which he hated. One day, whilst he was recumbent on the table, crying, I asked if he would like to hear a joke “What are the coloured sprinkles on top of cup cakes?” Intrigued, he stopped crying and said “Candy”. “No, but what are they REALLY?” I said, by now he was well drawn in, the tube inserted and I was taping it in place. He shook his head; “They’re SMARTIE – Poos!” He gave his little crooked grimacing smile, looked me in the eye and shook his finger. The next day he was in our waiting room with his mother, sitting cross-legged in a wheel-chair. He beckoned me over “I got a joke for ya” he said, “Wot’s pink, and wrinkled, and hangs out your underpants?” I glanced at his mother whose eyebrows shot up, and said something like “I don’t think we should go there”, to which he replied, looking wicked, “Your grandmother! Chuckle, chuckle.”

Life, I think he was telling me, is too serious not to laugh about it.

Thankyou to those who commented on my previous portrait, I am most appreciative. This is a new direction and an exciting one, please keep comments, both good, and critical, coming. 



2 Responses to “Self-portrait 2; The Artist as Clown”

  1. leecleland January 6, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    You do lead a varied life – now Mr & Mrs Pothead indeed! Love it, and love the story about the little boy.
    This self portrait doesn’t draw me in as strongly as the first. I’m finding my eye flicking back and forth between your face and the watery background. I really like the water but maybe it’s a bit strong (if that’s the right word?) for this image? Love the use of red to tie it back to the red nose of clowning but am having trouble finding an X-ray or parts thereof, are there any?

  2. Xraypics January 6, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    Thankyou so much Lee – exactly the kind of helpful comment I need. I had some doubts before posting and you have put your finger on the spot. Perhaps I’lldo some more work on this – provide a clearer focus. There is indeed an X-ray in there, the boxy outline reveals the edges of the film, but it is otherwise very much in the background. Cheers. Tony

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