My Muse, My Michelangelo, Myself

So I have a dear artist friend Michael DeHart Harris ( who’s created a portrait, well really more so a visual biographical piece of me that hangs in the guest bedroom of his home near Grant Park. This multi-media, multi-part piece was on display during a somewhat impromptu Art Social he hosted last Sunday. Quite interesting to have a such a personal perspective in a rather public display (also available for viewing-muc larger than here- worldwide at

You see, Michael & I have known each other for about 25 years. He was my Art History professor at Morehouse College when I was a senior at Spelman. We hadn’t talked much over that long period, but have spent much more time together since rediscovering each other at last year’s National Black Arts Festival Gala at the High Museum. One of our subsequent outings last fall was to the Henry Callahan photography exhibition, also at the High, where Michael serves as the African and African American Art Curator.

This show featured Callahan’s photographs with his wife Eleanor as his primary subject. I suspect that this work may have influenced Michael in the creation of his own version in this piece of me. For some time now, he’s been creating a body of work known as Hair Stories that deals with African American women and their complex relationship with their hair. Mostly, these pieces are digitally and physically altered photographs of the backs of women’s head. They have a sophisticated, multi-sensory-stimulating collage feel, and tell a story about the subject that goes way beyond her physical appearance.
For example, Michael depicts my college math major background with signs & symbols in my hair, my rebellious spirit with an imbedded photo of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s ex-wife Kathleen. This ‘biopiece’ is like a movie whose end I don’t want to ruin for anyone; it’s much more intriguing when you see the piece and interpret it through the filters that are your own senses and life experience.

My own interpretation of me – ‘autobiopieces’ like my button/pin collection (see My Signs, My Symbols, Myself blog) & my puzzle portrait pictured above – are quite rudimentary in comparision to Michael’s; after all, he’s highly trained intellectually & spiritually with not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 degrees from Yale, as well as technically proficient in his craft. In their own way, whether rudimentary or sophisticated, I suspect all renderings can be quite telling, depending on the perception and awareness of the viewer.

But these works bring to mind some fundamental questions: How are we known vs. how we want to be known vs. how are we really, like how do we BE, as human beings not human doings? To what extent do these ‘knowings’ & beings line up in each of our lives? Do you ever feel misunderstood? What creative expression would you use to perfectly align these perspectives (yours, mine, God’s/OUR’s)? I invite you to explore this topic for yourself and let me know what you generate.


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