I like to fuck around with stuff. I hate still lifes. My painting class in Community College was pretty much entirely focused on still lifes, mostly of fruit for the first few paintings. I kinda hated that, too.
Then we got to choose our own subject matter for a still life. Our teacher, Al asked for it to be things that “represented us”. Not necessarily stuff the was important to us, but to make the still life a “portrait” of ourselves.
The first thing that came to mind was the marble unicorns. I had used them in a couple other still life’s before, and I liked the anecdote I have for them: I was with my family visiting relatives in San Diego, and we took a day trip down to Tijuana. It was still early in the day and we were going through the little tourist shops. In one I found these sets of five tiny marble animals, for $20. The shopkeeper came up and greeted me, and asked which set I liked best. I told her I liked the unicorns, but I was just looking. She started haggling me down, until she got to $5 for the set, and I couldn’t say no. A friend later told me she probably did that because it’s good luck to make a sale to your first customer of the day.
There’s a blue mini squirt gun behind the unicorns. It doesn’t really look much like a squirt gun. I think I got it when I worked at Party Tree. The balloon also represented my working there. It’s actually a miniature balloon, about five inches in diameter.
Underneath the squirt gun, almost unrecognizable is a pair of needle nose pliers. I had them from when I took 3D Design, which was my favorite art class ever, even though I was and still am primarily a 2D artist.
Somewhere in the collection process it stopped being about the objects and started being about the painting. I found some oversized push pins, and thought about the way paintings communicate size and spatial relationships. I thought about reflective surfaces and translucency. I began to choose my objects based on color properties and perceived scale.
The pink object is the lid to a heart shaped box. I noticed I had a pink and blue scheme going on and I needed more pink to balance it out.
At school we had a cabinet full of random objects like vases and fake plants and bones. I found a cow thigh bone(?) and a miniature foam skull. I chose them not only for their size, but also to serve as a memento mori.
The goal of this still life then became to confuse the viewer by giving them inaccurate reference points for the scale of the items. Everything is depicted as accurately as possible in terms of size, and yet, the objects one would expect to know the size of (such as the balloon, skull, and push pin) are either larger or smaller than usual.
So I finished the painting and wanted to name it. I was brainstorming with my friend Gina and we wanted to name it something about a lot if unicorns. We started talking about a story one of our teachers had shared about her childhood:
Leslie’s parents worked in Africa and the middle east (doing what exactly, I forget), and at one point a guy offered her parents 10,000 camels for her to marry his son. They declined, because what the hell would they do with that many camels?
So the main part of the title became “Ten Thousand Unicorns”. It needed something else though, so I added on a lyric from “Flash Delirium” by MGMT, that kinda connected back to the memento mori.
I showed this piece in the annual juried art show at my community college, way back in 2010, along with my “Hands and Feet Study”. I kinda forgot until now that it was a “self portrait still life”, so it makes sense why I chose that title to be my pseudonym.