contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Everything is a Self-portrait

Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose.

It’s all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand.

Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary.

Chuck Palahniuk

As I worked in silence with shards and pieces of egg shell, gluing, painting and marking it occurred to me these were perfect self portraits – cracked open, glued together bits marked with illegible words and streaks, just like me.

Cracked. Glued back together, changed by experiences.

Marked by the interactions of life.

An act of naming should quite rightly enable me to call any-thing a self-portrait,

not only any drawing, 'portrait' or not,

but everything that happens to me, that I can affect, or that affects me.

Jacques Derrida

More and more I can embrace that I am growing increasingly mature,

marked by life experience,

releasing attempts for perfection and becoming

more gloriously human than ever before.

Deep breath.

When you start with a portrait and try to find pure form by abstracting

more and more, you must end up with an egg.

– Pablo Picasso

Everything is biographical, Lucian Freud says.

What we make, why it is made, how we draw a dog, who it is we are drawn to, why we cannot forget.

Everything is collage, even genetics.

There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly.

We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border we cross.

Michael Ondaatje

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed,
bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees,
fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead.
I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature,
not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings.
We are communal histories, communal books.
We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.

Michael Ondaatje


  1. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

    This is the work I spoke of a few posts back - when I said

    "I have been playing with inks, bees wax, charcoal and egg shells."

  2. These eggshells are wonderful. I think my favorite famous artist quote is yours . . . "marked by life experience . . . more gloriously human than ever before."

  3. just grandiose, terrific!
    Thank you for the wonderful post Leslie!

  4. Thank you Martha and Ralph!

    Blogger now allows us to add pages to our blogs. I have added a page with more images of the Cracked series.

    See the tabs under the header.

  5. Yes, an incredibly inspiring post. The shells are wonderful! I'm also so taken with the painting.

  6. Love the mystery of the inner life marked new in the egg Like birth caves touched by an eternal ghost, finger etched flight hearted speech left to increase the mystery.

    I am and was last night reading the English Patient. Sweet words. A lover's tent the whole book.

  7. Amazingly creative and beautiful. The eggshells, so fragile yet tethered to the earth quite solidly. Just like us.

  8. Beautiful, beautiful egg shells and wonderous quotations. It is truly lovely to visit here. Penny

  9. They are gorgeous! I can never resist picking up what's left of discarded birds eggs when I see them. And lovely quotes too.

  10. Love this work Leslie and love the words "Cracked. Glued back together, changed by experiences" Exactly right. Thanks

  11. I always love your posts Leslie,enriching

  12. Hi Leslie,
    I have been thinking a lot about the word "play". These works sum up that word completely for me. And...I love the drawing aspect of the wire "nests" or clouds or.....this really gets my imagination going!

  13. How beautiful!! . . and very unique, delicate, sensitive, organic yet strong . . very "inner" . . as is all of your work. I had wondered how your were going to use egg shells . . so creative.

  14. Love your small fragile sculptures, the're great!
    (..and eating an egg will never be the same again!)

  15. OMG, Leslie these are amazing! Fresh and original, surprising and awe inspiring. Filled with meaning and mounted in such a delicious way! You have invented your own authentic, amazing art form. I am inspired.

  16. What wonderful work you are doing, those fragile needs considerable "quietness" to make them I am so moved by your work

  17. what a breakthrough of sorts into a new way of expression. Never seen anything like these egg shell sculptures. Even to think this up. Wow. And then to draw on these fragile surfaces. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Wow, wow, wow and I agree with 'artistjournal' - more gloriously human than ever before. THANK YOU xoxoxo

  19. Lovely to see your art making on these fragile egg shells. I so like your presentation.

  20. your work as always is so unique and stunning..I like how you linked the quotes through happy to have stopped by, inspiring!!!

  21. Wonderful post, and those egg shells - self portrait indeed!

  22. Greer - the egg in the painting appeared as if by magic.

    Mansuetude "like birth caves" - oh, I like that!

    Jo - yes! just like us.

    Hi Penny, great to see you!

    Carrie - finding a bit of blue Robyn's egg is a treat.

    Liz - yes, and some days I feel the cracks even more deeply!

    Thank you David.

    Play is such a fruitful activity, isn't it Mary?

    Jann - thank you so much! I like the idea of "inner". Yes.

    Eric - eating an egg around here means washing the shell carefully and setting is aside to dry.

    ZDot - thank you! They have been fun to do.

    Janette - they are fragile- many times bits broke off in my hand.

    Suki - it was a breakthrough once I got going. I made a few trials down a dead end before I hit on just the right approach.

    Noela - It is glorious indeed to be human! xo

    Mary Ann - I love good presentation. Its good to see you!

    ELK - The inspiration is mutual. Good to see you!

  23. Hi Karin - self portraits are everywhere, if we look! Thanks for stopping by.

  24. So glad these images are super huge, I wanted to climb into them.

    The delicacy.

    This morning as I goofed off in bed, I thought of the eggs I decorated at age 10 - winding embroidery thread around them meticulously..

    Wonder what that says..

  25. grrl - winding threads would have been like a meditation. I bet they were beautiful!

  26. This post is so amazing. wonderful
    i can`t take my eyes of this beautiful eggshells and nests.I've never seen anything like it . Thank you . love it

  27. Just at the time when the first shells are being cracked open by new chicks. Gorgeous. I'm wondering if these will go inside a box frame or if you might just let them blow away from a windowledge......

  28. I cannot find words to say anything that has not already appeared above, these eggshells are wonderfully inspiring and yet so simple. I am full of admiration of the concept and the execution. Conratulations!

  29. Beautiful. Such fragile, perfect things these eggshells. And the painting is breathtaking.

  30. Like a breath of fresh air. Such wondrous images and quotes. After another 12 hours without electricity this is exactly the right post to connect me to the world again. Your exquisite eggshells have a calming effect on me. Love what you are doing!!

  31. It's interesting that 'to birth' takes such strength when the egg shell is so fragile -- just like the human condition -- it takes strength to live but we too are fragile. And in that vulnerability is our best self/art.
    Your beautiful art and your quotes always remind me of my human condition -- thank you!

  32. Oh Leslie these are fabulous, and each has your unique thumb print on it. I love the scribbling, the natural color they are sculpture in themselves, but using them the way you have is quite wonderful. Inspiring quotes, thank you!!

  33. What a fabulous post, quotes, the painting is stunning and so are the eggshells. Brava!

  34. These fragile shells are simply exquisite, Leslie. Yours is the most creative soul I know. Keep going...

  35. hi Leslie, what a beautiful post. these eggshells take me to places both intimate and open at the same time...i hear whispers of love and fearlessness. unafraid to be, unafraid to love oneself, [un]brokenness and all...

    and i'm in love with your [breath] painting...those gorgeous lines and markings! such life and sensitivity in them.

  36. These shells are gorgeous and your words wise. I hadn't thought about it that way before but everything IS a self portrait.

  37. Hi Petra. Thank you Annie. And Ian thank you so much. Lynn, eggs are perfect, aren't they? Dear Robyn, Judy and Chris - thank you. Jala and Jo, thank you both so much. Thank you Mien, I am honored indeed. I love your eggs so much. Hi Seth, we portray ourselves in all we do, and its beautiful, because it means we are here.

  38. Time to glaze
    I retreat to your blog
    to find a new kind of inner
    make by marking
    design anew
    striving no more
    I can relax
    filling my mind and eyes
    with your beauty

  39. How beautiful.
    Fragile and strong.
    Eggs, giving new life and getting a new life thanks to you.

    Wonderful post Leslie.

  40. truly art in its purest form. creative. unique. fragile yet strong.. I'm just blown away...

  41. In your broken eggshells lie the secret of art, that is all I can say.

  42. Each shell is a jewel each of us is a jewel......simply divine! Thank you Leslie for visiting my site.....and for your comment......I LOVE your blog, your authentic voice and every place you visit here! Simply nourishing and inspiring.....every bit of it! Blessings, Marianne

  43. Working with clay at first I thought they were ceramic, great surfaces and shapes. Everything we make comes from some inner part of us.

  44. What a beautiful post. I have always said when someone is willing to open their mouths, make a mark, paint a picture, write a word, they are willing to tell you what they do not know. It's something to remember when we see our work unfairly judged. Perhaps the one judging doesn't see your work, if they are looking for something else. Egg shells delicate, strong yet fragile, beautiful in their simplicity...I ordered some marble eggs not long ago, and now I must draw them...maybe draw "myself."

  45. Leslie,

    I hadn't seen the redesign of your blog yet--and I love it. Your construction design echoes the wonderful openness of the shells.
    And those shells! So like tiny raku bowls straight from the potter's hand--embellished by yours.
    The blend that you achieve reminds me of taking Aikido many years ago. Our teacher spoke over and over about "blending with your partner," a moment when two energies become one. I see this same blend between you and the shells. Grace in action.

  46. such ****exceptional*** simple beauty

    g l o r i o u s

  47. LAM - who would have thought that the inside of eggshells would have provided such a delicate canvas for soft and subtle marks and lead to strong looking creations that have so much room for interpretation. Love your creativity and ongoing sharing of the search for meaning and expression of your art statement. Go well. B

  48. Brilliant. Your egg shells are amazing. I especially like the Ondaatje quote.

    Speaking of amazing, your blog is looking extra classy!

  49. Perfect timing for me to stumble across your post... identity is defined & marked by the people and events in our lives. We are constantly stitched and "glued" back together reinventing ourselves with each new encounter.

  50. Simple fragility and beauty! A blog Easter treat!

  51. Your egg shell creations are wonderful-- so creative and it is amazing how expressive they are as they are also so fragile. I love ALL your quotes- yes everything we do as artists are self portraits.

  52. Leslie - these stopped me still. They are perfection, beauty, calmness and encouragement. Some of the most beautiful work I have looked at in ages. So totally inspiring and gorgeous - thank you.

  53. Relaxation feels so good Wen. Thank you. Karin, Lisa and Roxanne - fragile, broken and made anew, yes. Marianne thank you. Linda - ceramic eggs would be fabulous.

    Annell I love what you said. "I have always said when someone is willing to open their mouths, make a mark, paint a picture, write a word, they are willing to tell you what they do not know." That's beautiful.

    Hannah - tiny raku bowls - perfect. Merci - indeed thank you. Barry, Tess, Erica, Rosie and Donna - thanks to each of you.

    Fiona thank you for seeing the calm stillness within each egg.

    Thank you everyone. More eggs to come.

  54. Leslie you are a great woman, a great artist, you are so rich in your soul... it's pleasure meet you, your arts, many thanks for all what you do and give around the world...Happy Easter, nice season ....Denise Pelletier

  55. Denise, it is my pleasure to meet you as well. I am touched. Thank you. And now that I have been to your blog of prints, process and photographs, I feel even more inspired.

    Artistic expression and healing thoughts for the world seem especially important.

    Happy Season of Renewal to all of you. (Or the renewal of autumn if you in the southern hemisphere.)

  56. Hi Leslie, catching up on blogs and what a delight to visit this latest post. As ever, you combine word and image to perfection. The work is delicately powerful, thoughtful, pared down to the beautiful bones. I sure don't need to ask you what you've been working on lately! Much love, J

  57. these shells are so strong in their fragility. fine.

  58. Jeanne - beautiful bones - I like that. Thank you.

    Velma - We share a love of hosta leaves. To me, they seem friendly with the egg shells. Speckles and dots divine. Thank you for visiting.

  59. A kindred spirit, oh eggs, I am in love with them right now too, making ting books inside eggs. I love yours! awesome


    the care of handling and transforming
    fragile shells as we would want our spirits
    'handled'.....your introspection gently
    telling of deepest self,
    text shared ~ the cherry on top!

  61. Your eggs(shells) self portraits have inspired me.
    I've been struggling with Spring fever and my muse is hiding from me. I come seeking from your words and art. Tomorrow is another day.

  62. What a fabulous post and so very, very true!
    Everything has one's indelible stamp on it --for good or ill.

    Splendidly chosen quote too.
    Have been feeling horribly rushed lately and unable to be really creative.
    This post was a good wake up call.

    (Buster, of infinite wisdom, sends his love too!)

  63. As always, your post is beautiful and inspiring. These works are truly beautiful.

  64. this is powerful. ur blog is provocative and i'm enjoying the clarity. i am confused a bit as to which are your words and which are quotes, which only lessens it for me because i want to hear ur voice too and i cannot always discern it. u have wonderful images and i'm going to enjoy reading back over ur posts. perhaps as i go, i will come to understand ur rhythm. much love. x

  65. Beautiful and fragile, fragments, I love how you use them as your material here. Like the way in Japan there are those beautiful paintings on the inner side of sea shells.
    So true about the self-portraits too, in everything we say
    and do...

  66. The conception (another wonderful metaphor for eggs), the execution, your rationale, ALL of it just sings to me, and breaks open my heart. The fragility of life actually contributes to our greatness, as human beings, because it exercises our appreciation for having made it this far in the face of great odds. A grateful being is far along the road to enlightenment.

    Can you hear my one hand clapping ?


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