Words and music, two of my favorite mediums of expression both enter our experience less directly than an image. Since first impressions can bias a person strongly, I am fully aware that the choice I make for a CD cover could have a major impact on how people listen to my music, think about my artistry, or even whether or not to buy my CD. Before looking at my options I would like to digress for a moment.
As an Oberlin student in my early twenties my friend Natalie had an assignment for her photography class that led to several hours of us having a fun time, her shooting away and me posing with my cello. The results of her work was a series of compelling images, as well as some images that I have hidden in a very secret place so that no ne will ever find them! Natalie’s class mates critiqued her work. Her artistry was overlooked, because the students were distracted by the fact that the body of her subject was conventionally thin and beautiful, and obsessed with a man made object, a cello. Later, I thought I would try this out in my women studies class and used one of my favorite photos on a paper about image analysis. Interestingly, and very telling, the image received the same criticism from my professor as it had from Natalie’s classmates. In both instances, my beauty had me victimized and not worthy of artistic assessment. You have to love Oberlin!
(Actually I DID love Oberlin, but there were some interesting moments). At the time I insisted that the image was empowering, showing that a woman could be both beautiful and skilled. Today, when I look at the photograph, I see an embryonic character to my posture, that aptly reflects my barely budding musicianship. With eyes closed, wrapped around the cello, there is also a sense that this instrument is a lifeline, a somewhat narcissistic reflection of my beauty that kept me intact. Also very true.
Skip ahead to 2010. As an artist, I no longer confuse my public image with my identity, yet crave enough authenticity in what I present that my integrity remains intact. It becomes a question rather of which aspect of my creativity and self will I reflect at any given moment, a choice that I have to make in each piece that I play, and even in each section of each piece. As a musical actress I can relate to each character, but also do not mistake any as being solely me.
So here we are with my dilemma. As a debut album I would love to give an impression of coming out of my shell, a powerful musician ready for any success that may come her way. From this perspective the sitting down image with hair blowing does the job well. From a playful creative perspective, and in keeping with the Dance aspect of the title of the Cd, I like the movement and grace of the image with the cello apart from my body. But let’s face it, I look a little dorky, and silly. Finally, the third image, a coy sort of look, a touch of red, an almost gypsy-like mystique…this one has my attention. So the tie really is between the first and third image.
Perhaps it is my Oberlin education, but I can’t help but wonder: is the first image too masculine, too much of a woman who has become hardened and tough to get ahead? Or is her masculinity a sign of empowerment, that she has gone beyond the bounds of her upbringing and can embrace all aspects of herself? The second image is more indirect, and thus more conventionally feminine. Am I hiding my true power here? Am I pulling my punches? Or is the subtlety of this image speaking to the uniquely feminine type of power that women wield, embracing the delicacy of our tenacity and gentle strength? The whole gender issue aside, what about simply considering the theme of the CD. Wouldn’t the image with the scarf reflect a more folk or ethnic type character.
In a nutshell, which is the more important event here, the theme of the CD, or this being my debut? Does empowered diva self, or artistically authentic character win the day?
The image that I choose could be worth a thousand dollars.