Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Man, The Myth, The Pseudonym

Last week I signed my latest painting with my pseudonym, "Gemini Art." Its the second or third piece I've attached that signature to. It was a surreal experience. Since the creation of this blog and the establishment of my web gallery I feel as if I've developed to distinct personas. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not admitting to any type of multiple personality or dissociative disorder. There's no pathology going on here. I just have two major parts of my life that are compartmentalized from each other. For the most part I have a mainstream, conservative, "bread & butter" career. But, for recreation and a very meaningful hobby I am an amateur artist, art critic, blog author and an increasingly openly gay man.
While I am dedicated to my daily professional career which I have enjoyed for almost 20 years now, it pigeon-holes me into being little more than a bureaucratic drone. I follow the rules, I enforce the rules and never breathe a whisper that might resemble self-expression or individuality. So, I guess Gemini Art has become my personae that represents everything that is "not that". (Read the works of Jung if you don't get the personae and archetypes I'm talking about.) As Gemini Art I can give my personal opinion freely. I can admire and appreciate beautiful artwork (and beautiful men) without fear of persecution. I can be imaginative and creative. As Gemini Art I experience that incredible lightness of being that I have observed in other gay people but had never experienced for myself.
I've questioned a few times if its "normal" or emotionally healthy to subdivide my life in this way. After long reflection I recalled that some of the most admired creative minds of our time have lived and worked under pseudonyms. The first that comes to mind is Samuel Clemmons who wrote under the name Mark Twain. A juvenile Ben Franklin had the audacity to write as a middle-aged woman named Silence Dogood. Even Stephen King has written under a pseudonym.
What can we learn from this? I believe that most creative or intellectual people use pseudonyms for two reasons. First, they use the name to protect themselves from persecution. Secondly, they use the pseudonym to hide a personal history that might not be as prestigious as their writings suggest. For instance, Clemmons wanted to be known for his literary work, not as an uneducated river boat pilot (he had great contempt for the public education system). Franklin knew that his scandalous words would get him in trouble as a teenage boy. As a puritanical and respectable widow of a minister, he was given more credibility.
Am I suggesting that by assuming a pseudonym I am hiding from persecution? In my profession and locale, YES! Am I suggesting that I'm hiding a less than adequate academic background? NO! My masters degree is just as good as the next guys, and most of my friends would probably say that, if anything, I'm too smart for my own good. Am I comparing myself to intellectual giants like Sam Clemmons or Ben Franklin? No, but I guarantee you that Gemini Art is a helluva lot more interesting than the other guy that lives in this skin.

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