Mama Don’t Take My Xylophone Away – Kodak Slide Projector Self Portrait

I stumbled across my functional, but ancient Kodak slide projector. A not so long time ago, an artist would take slide photos of their artwork for documentation and submission to galleries, and calls for artists. I was an exhaustive and meticulous process where one would very carefully crop the images of the 2″ x 2″ Kodak slide with silver tape on a light table with a loupe, tweezers and an X-Acto knife to make it ready for submission. Don’t forget labeling “This Side Up” with name, title, size, medium, etc all printed on the slide. I have an entire slide projector carousel full of slides from the early to mid 90’s.

My 16 daughter Ruby was there when I found my projector, next to a few more boxes of other remnants of the 1990’s. Being a good dad, possibly the best dad ever, I plugged in my Kodak slide projector and projected a forgotten slideshow of images onto the wall of my studio. She had to be impressed by the technology, but even more impressed with the images of her young dad that were being magically projected from that slide carousel.

Fearful that this moment in time might be lost and forgotten, I ran to the local art supply store and bought a 24″ x 30″ stretched canvas with the intention of documenting this fantastic, yet ugly moment in a more permanent and accessible format. Graphite and watercolor on canvas. It’s interesting to think that the archaic, yet tried and true format of painting on canvas has outlasted Kodak’s slide projector technology.

With this trusted and immediate technology available, I simply projected my forgotten self portrait onto my freshly primed canvas and scribbled away with a variety of graphite pencils and erasers, cleaning up my badly mismanaged beard from back in the day.

This is my most recent gift to the art world.

The unexpected events that happened next make this portrait experience even more interesting to me than most.

Mounted on my studio wall is a small children’s xylophone. Without intention I hung the blank canvas on the wall next to the xylophone because it was the only place that I could project from the slide projector on a shelf across the room. It was the perfect distance to project the image onto the canvas. There were actually 4 photos from this series of documented self portraits to choose from. Two were with a shirt and two without a shirt, and all 4 had a horrible facial expression.

I chose the image with what I thought might be the least horrible from a batch of really horrible facial expressions. The shirtless images were interesting because the photos included multiple beaded necklaces that would probably be of great interest in a portrait, but ultimately, it was the striped shirt combined with the “least offensive” smirk that I chose.

I wanted to have a decent self portrait from a strange moment in my life that would otherwise never be remembered or recovered from a slide in a box in a garage and eventually a landfill.

The unexpected surprise… In the days this photo shoot occurred, 1994 or so, I was in a band with Bert and Wendy Savage. I loaned this very xylophone to Wendy who could immediately play any song ever written. For years she must’ve had it in her studio. One day she returned it to me and since that day it’s been hanging on a nail, on a wall, in every studio I’ve had. 

Hours later Katyraven poked her head in the studio to see how I was progressing and she immediately suggested that the canvas and the xylophone belong together as an installation. The image projected on the canvas has a red and black shirt that matched the red mallets. Without knowing the story of the xylophone and the projected photo of me from that day, she knew they belong together.

After several more nights working on this, it’s done.