The Seemel twins
My brother and I are not twins, but, ever since we’ve been old enough to make the three years between us less conspicuous, people have assumed that we are.
Maybe it has something to do with us both being June-birthday Geminis.
For much of our childhood, our birthdays were spent at our grandparents’ house in France.
It’s funny to see the years blend together in this way: same place, same cake, same moment.
My mother was always one to document the experience, especially the wishing…
...and the blowing out of the candles. In recent years, I’ve taken on the job of taking the pictures.
At Kristan’s last birthday, I took even more photos than usual. I had ideas for what I wanted to do for his portrait for Subjective, but nothing was settled yet. His birthday seemed like the perfect time to catch a portrait moment.
Though I toyed with painting him making his birthday wish, I settled on this composition instead.
My brother was trying to re-light one of the candles by encouraging the flame travel through the smoke—something he insisted that a flame could do.
It’s silly, but something about him trying that had a poetry to me.
I had been thinking about how my relationship with my brother is similar to my mother’s relationship with her brother…
...and the way that patterns repeat between generations reminded me of the flame following the smoke to the wick.
It’s for that reason that I made the portrait-within-a-portrait of our uncle.
“Small gods” is a reference to something my brother said to me when we were teenagers.
He was reading Terry Pratchett’s novel by that name and I was reading a book with a less inspiring title—something like “going nowhere.”
Kristan joked that the books we read say a lot about us. (Of course.)
It was a silly sibling moment…
...but it has become an exchange that, for no particular reason, I assign a lot of meaning to.
It’s one of the stories I tell myself about who my brother is to me, although I can’t actually begin to unravel why that is.
As with a lot of things in this painting, I ended up letting “small gods” fade into the layers.
I chose instead to flesh out the portrait of our uncle.
The portrait-within-a-portrait is also a nod to our twin-ness. I painted an image of my brother’s shirt to echo the image on my own shirt in my self-portrait for this series.
To catch Subjective in Corvallis, visit the Arts Center by 31 March. It’s open Tuesday and Wednesday this week between 12:00 and 5:00 PM.
The Arts Center
700 SW Madison
Corvallis, OR 97333