Tuesday, March 15, 2005

If Sister Wendy Had A Blog...

... What would she say about this photo?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets the
media with Karen P. Hughes, who has been nominated as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. (Stephen J. Boitano / Getty Images)

Sister Wendy might say...

The viewer is immediately drawn to the mouths of these women: first, to the dominant subject (Ms. Rice) in the foreground (because she appears to be talking); and then to the secondary figure (out of focus) in the background.

Normally, the viewer is first drawn to the eyes of human faces in portraits; however, if another facial feature stands out dramatically, as does Ms. Rice's mouth, the viewer's gaze is automatically drawn to it.

On a side note...

As is not always the case, we viewers are actually privy to the circumstances behind the event portrayed by the artist (photographer): The Announcement Of Karen Hughes As George W. Bush's Nominee For Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Continuing on...

In this photo, the mouth of the dominant figure, Ms. Rice, tells us that this woman is engaged in verbal combat... and there is also an element of defense evident in her facial musculature and clenched teeth.

When the eye is drawn to one feature in a face, it automatically seeks comparison in other subjects portrayed by the artist (or, in this case, the photographer).

As our eyes seek symmetry in subject matter, we are immediately compelled to compare the mouths of the two subjects at this point. The mouth of the figure (Ms. Hughes) in the background does not communicate the same defensive, combative essence as that of Ms. Rice.

Ms. Hughes' mouth, lips pursed and turned decidedly downward, tells us that she is much less confident than Ms. Rice, and that she is, perhaps, angry and deeply disappointed that Ms. Rice must defend her appointment to those unseen in this portrait.

The eyes, of course, are the windows to the souls of portrait subjects. The eyes of these two figures tell us that these two women resent being questioned under any circumstances.

Ms. Rice's eyes are sharply focused on her unseen questioner/accuser, and she appears to be working very hard to control her facial muscles. In this respect, the viewer can assume that Ms. Rice, while no stranger to criticism, is fully aware that a loss of facial control will result in further, deeper criticism of her own public persona.

In defending Ms. Hughes' appointment, Ms. Rice is forced to subject her own philosophical and political image to deep scrutiny; thus, the intensity of her self awareness and her obvious attempt to control her facial expression dominate the portrait. As a result, the occasion (of what these women thought would be a joyous announcement) is lost entirely, and the two women's past experiences with public scrutiny (leading up to this event) become the singular reason for our interest.

The second subject, out of focus, yet fully visible to the viewer, is a study in internal conflict: Ms. Hughes' eyes are focused directly on Ms. Rice, instead of the questioner/accuser... which betrays her own wavering self-confidence level; in addition, Ms. Hughes' eyes, with such prominently arched brows, communicate a sincere longing... a yearning, if you will, to possess the level of confidence and controlled awareness inherent in Ms. Rice's steadfast gaze. One might surmise, indeed, that Ms. Hughes has cosmetically altered the shape of her natural brow in order to achieve her goal to be taken seriously on the world stage.

Everything about these two subjects' faces communicates a marked unhappiness: the lines in both faces (note the corners of the eyes, the noses, and the mouths) turn down naturally; these lines also tell us that these two women have spent many more years frowning than smiling.

An intense bitterness, coupled with a hint of sadness, lurks behind the expression on Ms. Hughes' face, and one must suspect that such sadness is not the result of dissatisfaction in either her philosophical or her political choices, but directly related to that yearning, noted previously, to be as confident and assured of her self worth as Ms. Rice projects herself to be.

How sad that these two women aspire to be cruelly confident in their public personae! One wishes that they could communicate their philosophy and politics with expressions of serene wisdom, instead of combative bitterness.

From time to time, your scrivener will invite "Sister Wendy" back to this blog as a guest commentator.

After all, the public image of BushCo defenders reveals as much about their motives as their words and deeds.

Heavy sigh.


Post a Comment

<< Home