Blog / 2021 / Mining My Favorite Insult

October 8, 2021

[video transcript]

You can see a photo of me as a crow here, though it was taken during a rehearsal, so I’m not wearing makeup. A few years ago, I made an unpopular video comparing makeup and headscarves, and Paul Dempsey’s photo is kind of a follow-up to that video.

I intend to be at the opening for Clique21 tomorrow, but only if the weather is good, because I’ll be staying out in the garden. With new studies showing that COVID’s variants spread more efficiently through air than the original flavor of the virus, I’m not comfortable taking the celebration indoors.

Perkins Center for the Arts
30 Irvin Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108

Reception: October 9th from 5p to 8p
Open: through November 18th
Hours: 9a to 5p Monday through Friday

Paul Dempsey’s photo of Gwenn Seemel
Paul Dempsey’s photo of me

I never learned how to do makeup. It wasn’t for lack trying on society’s part either! Not only does the world generally make cis girls feel like they should hone this skill, but I did theater intensively for ten years, and makeup is essential to stagecraft. Still, every time I did a show in high school, college, even as a newly-minted grown-up doing community theater, I managed to find a generous crewmate to do it for me.

For my last play before retiring from the stage at twenty-three, I was a crow—it’s Mac Wellman, just go with it—and one of my fellow birds was annoyed with all the attention my performance was getting. We were both physical actors, dancers, kind of—her more than me. But she had more training than I did. But still I was getting more attention I think because I’m naturally very flexible and so bendy and strange-looking, and then also I really don’t care as much about societal norms as a lot of other people. So I’m delightfully strange, and I think that comes across in performance.

So this castmate was frustrated with me, and one night when I was having my eyeballs outlined by a lovely person who was doing my makeup for me, this castmate turned to me and said: “it’s funny how you paint faces for a living but you can’t even paint your own.” She was referring to the fact that I was already painting portraits professionally at this point. I know her comment was meant to be cutting, but it only made me giggle.

Fast forward seventeen years, and a photographer wanted to create an unusual photo of me as an artist. Paul Dempsey asked me to give him some ideas to work from, and this long-ago insult popped into my head. Thus the experimenting with face paint and makeup. Thus Paul’s final image!

Paul’s photo is currently on display at the Perkins Center for the Arts, along with some of my art. That’s in Collingswood, New Jersey. It’s part of a show called Clique21, which is a group of south Jersey photographers who are photographing other kinds of south Jersey artists, and then you get to sort of see the artists behind the art and see their art as well.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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