This painting began as an exploration of a segment (quoted below) from Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, in which he described a curse created by “The Yellow Emperor,” which kept a whole other world confined inside the reflective surfaces of our own world, and how one day that curse would be broken. When I was making the drawing for it, I was thinking of humans, of us being the ones trapped inside the mirrors—trapped by perceptions of the world and its possibilities that we’d developed before we were even conscious of what we were doing, perceptions handed down to us by our parents, society, ill-managed emotions, fears, etc. I was thinking about it in the sense of our “true selves” being something completely foreign, even unrecognizable to this somnolent being that wanders through each day, making often meaningless, rote motions at dictated times (coffee, job, study, gym, drive, pick up the kids, whatever your life is, etc) in an effort to pass “correctly” or safely through yet another day. To make it. My thinking was that most of the time, our perception of what is possible is limited to what we’ve already seen done; thus, most of the time, we’re merely mimicking—mirroring—what is already before us, unable to believe past what we can see and into the wild, chaotic space beyond it. So this moment of freedom from the curse would be that moment of passing through the mirror, becoming (once more) real, alive.
Or, in quantum physics, it is said that all the possible outcomes of the choices that we’re faced with at each moment are played out in some space and time, and each of those spaces and times are called parallel realities. Sometimes these realities are symbolized as bubbles jostling each other in endless space. The mirror, then, might be the thin skein of the bubble separating one reality from another. One choice from another. One me (one you) from another.
So, I saw her as being curious, not angry. And I gave her a fig leaf, instead of an olive branch (since it’s an impossible task she’s heralding).
The Emperor begins jogging :)
Now, for the Borges:
“In those days, the world of mirrors and the world of Man were not, as now, isolated from each other. What’s more, they were distinct; neither the beings, nor the colors, nor the forms were the same from one world to the other. Both kingdoms, the specular and the human, lived in peace; one could pass through any mirror as a doorway between them. One night, the people of the mirror invaded Earth. Their force was great, but after many bloody battles, the magical arts of the Yellow Emperor prevailed. He pushed back the invaders, imprisoned them in the mirrors, and forced them to repeat, as if sleep-walking, all the acts of Man. He took from them their strength and their form and reduced them to mere servile reflections. Nevertheless, one day they will shake themselves from this magical slumber. The first to awake will be the Fish. In the depths of the mirror, we will note a fragile line, and the color of that line will be one like no other. The other forms will follow. Gradually, they will differ from us; gradually, they will cease to imitate us. They will break the barriers of glass or metal, and this time, they will not be defeated…”
—Jorge Luis Borges (my translation)
The entire text, in Spanish, is available here