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I Once Was Lost

I Once Was Lost, Mikel Glass, 1996

A self-portrait of my adolescence using toys as metaphors to represent me and other people and events in my life. The bright colors are meant to suggest a happy façade, while an exploration of the content in the circular movement of the composition reveals a cycle beginning with turmoil and ending in discovery and freedom. I am represented consistently in yellow and blue, first as Bart Simpson, then as Willie Wee Wee, next as a paint roller and ball and finally as a bigger Bart.

I started getting into trouble at around the age of nine, and a few years later I was sent to boarding school with the hope of setting me straight. I am handed over by “Mother” to the pink glove that takes on a human form to represent the receptive spirit of the institution - though it cannot replace the personal touch of family. In that environment, my misbehavior turned inward. A blackened glove is ominously extruded as by-product as I, now Willy Wee Wee, look terrified as a scary monster confronts me under a cloudy and turbulent sky. By this time in real life I was engaged in many abusive behaviors. I tried to maintain a normal appearance to the outside world, though I felt like an empty shell – now represented by the sullied yellow and blue paint roller with ball perched atop – the product of institutional reform.

But better things were to come: together, the upstanding paint rollers represent the institution of marriage, and my wife and father-in-law take me in. It is through that union that I am eventually able to take flight - a winged Bart soaring over this scene of my past and reaching out to extricate myself (little Bart) just as a baby careens down toward the scene, symbolizing the institution of fatherhood that will obliterate everything below. The spaceman, just barely physically connected to the scene by a toe, is my father.

The interesting part of the story is that I did not interpret it myself. During a stint in psychotherapy, the narrative was dictated to me. In reality, I had scraped together a bunch of junk that was lying around my studio and assembled it into this composition. Consciously, I was only concerned with the aesthetics of the assemblage.


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