Sep 29 2011

#152 “The Man in the Mirror”

From a stranger in Canada

Several questions about this particular piece have plagued me ever since I received it a few months ago, but in the end they all revolve around one central query: Who is the man portrayed in this illustration?

Based upon the doodle in the upper left hand corner of the drawing, I can easily assume that the artist possesses a significant talent that would allow him/her to produce a magnificent “conventional” rendering of a wolf. And even though I support the nontraditional and encourage the weird and the unique, this still doesn’t stop me from pondering the obvious question at hand of why the artist would focus on the man instead of the beast.

In the end, the list of specific subquestions that I have puzzled over include the following: Is this a person who is intimate with the artist? Or is this man possibly the subject of derision here? Is the subject an individual that somehow displays certain qualities of the lobo in his daily life? Does he look like a wolf in some way? Smell like one? Behave like one? And if so, does his behavior reflect the sentimental side of the creature or the more savage side? At which pole of the wolf spectrum does he fall? Is this man some sort of pseudo-celebrity that I am simply not recognizing, or is this illustration some sort of interesting yet unusual self-portrait?

Or (and I must say that I find this idea particularly intriguing) did the artist intend to suggest that this illustration represents me, the anonymous collector of lupine artwork? I can guess that at least a few viewers and contributors to this site must wonder at times what my true identity is, but is this really picture meant to be a guess at what I actually look like? I can’t say for sure, but considering this idea for a while caused me to engage in some significant introspection.

After examining this illustration, I took a long hard look in the mirror and examined what I saw there. Some of what I saw I liked. But I also noticed a few things that I didn’t like. And even though this illustration seems to explore only the physical aspects of its subject, when I consider the idea that this picture may be a guess at who I am, it creates in me the desire to present myself in a manner that will bring respect and honor to the idea of the wolf and to this project as a whole.

So, am I an aging, balding man with impaired vision? Do I have somewhat scraggly facial hair and a penchant for V-neck t-shirts? Do I breathe heavily? Do I have squinty eyes? Honestly, I’m not quite prepared to say, but I can tell you these three things about myself:

1. I appreciate every single piece of art that I receive, and I believe that each is valuable in its own special way.

2. I believe that the world is a magical place and that we all have a story to tell that is worth hearing.

3. The world needs more people that passionately speak out about their passions, dreams, and goals.

Thanks, stranger in Canada. In reality this illustration might have nothing to do with me at all and I might be totally egocentric for even considering the idea; but in the end it caused me to think, it caused me to question, and it caused me to grow. And for that I can offer nothing but gratitude.

Aug 24 2011

#116 “Costume Shack”

From Allie in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Not far from where I live in Chattanooga, there is a costume shop called “Beauty and the Beast.” On the whole I am totally enamored with this little ‘mom and pop’ business, and I often wish that I could think of an excuse to simply stop in and peruse the merchandise besides that one time a year when I make my annual visit a few weeks before Halloween. There’s just something magical about wandering through those aisles piled high with pure imagination. The questions and possibilities flow so freely there. What do I want to become today? A pirate or a pimp? A werewolf or a cyborg? Perhaps a wizard might be nice. Or what about Roman soldier?

With the right amount of imagination and a few additions to our outward appearance, we may transform ourselves into totally new beings. Although we may not have the opportunity to assume these identities in “real life,” the temporary donning of a costume has a powerful effect on our minds, often producing a cathartic experience, a cleansing or purging of the emotions through a temporary changing of identity that is often as simple as putting on a mask. God, I do love to pretend.

As is the case with many pictures that I receive, the illustration above plays on this theme of a wolf dressing up in sheep’s clothing, but what I love about this particular picture is the notion that this act, while being one that is typically associated with slyness and a devious nature, is one that might also be associated with fun… with imagination… with the joy of simply putting on that costume and becoming something new, if only temporarily.

Today, I encourage you: don a costume, wear a mask. Be someone new and unique and creative and interesting and painfully alive. Go shopping and use a faux British accent. Where a suit and tie and carry a briefcase even if you are going nowhere that requires it. Dress like a bum and sit on a street corner downtown. Throw on some khakis and a red polo shirt and go to Target; if someone asks for your help, give them your best assistance. Wrap the top of your head in a bandage and speak with a stutter or a slow drawl.

Try it out. Put on that costume. I promise you won’t regret it.

Aug 21 2011

#113 “Identity Crisis”

From Charlie in San Francisco, California

Labels. We often say that we hate them, but in some ways we all strive for them. Let’s be honest: In reality, everyone is searching for an identity. Sometimes the identities that we seek out are truly unique and individualistic. At other times, our desire is to belong to a clique or group that will allow us to be a part of a collective identity and secure a position of belonging.

Overall, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a desire to be known as a certain “type” of person. It provides security and safety and makes us feel like we have a definitive of knowledge of our own selves, and most of the time there’s nothing wrong with this. Introspection is something we value, and creating labels for ourselves allows us to feel like we have achieved this even if we have not.

As for myself, I have sought out a variety of labels and identities over the years. In high school I was at first a nerd. Then I turned granola. After this, I dabbled in the stoner or hippie identity with a little bit of southern redneck thrown in for good measure. During all of this, I played the class clown and the sarcastic deadpan comedian with a hard exterior but a heart of gold.

As you can tell, of course, the pictures that are on display today explore a couple of modern labels that have only recently entered into our cultural lexicon. Now, I am not sure if you despise those that seem to adhere to the characteristics of these illustrations or if you are the person who fully exemplifies them. Either way, I think we can all agree that these illustrations are humorously exaggerated but also entertaining in their accuracy.

Over the past several months, I have engaged in a fair amount of communication back and forth with Charlie. I don’t really know exactly who she is because I have never met her in person. So… I couldn’t tell you if she is a hipster, hippie, scenester, nerd, goth, mean girl, yuppie, stoner, wasp, queen bee, wallflower, punk, emo kid, mod, or bla bla bla. But… I can tell you that she is another wonderful contributor to the Wolves by Strangers project and for that I have the deepest respect and admiration for her, and of course, as you can see, she is a very talented and unique artist. Also, I just have to say that I was so impressed when she asked me to send her some WBS flyers to hang up in San Francisco. How cool is that? If you want some flyers to hang up in your town, just let me know, and I would be more than happy to send some your way.

Finally, just as a final note, here is a hilarious website that details 37 different personality types. Check it out and see which label fits you best.