Self-portrait as a Phoenix

  • Phoenix bird art
  • Phoenix-painting

Self-portrait as a Phoenix

(collage and oil on carboard. background created from recycled materials)

“But no one can lose sight of what he desires. Even if there are moments when he believes the world and the others are stronger. The secret is this: do not surrender.”
Paulo Coelho

“It’s best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes.”
Anne Baxter

“I’m a Phoenix who raises from her ashes, lights a cigar from the pyre and makes a toast to her new life.” (something I wrote at one point)

When I was twelve I painted a self-portrait. I called it “My name is Phoenix”. It sounded better than “My name is Natasha”. I never felt any particular attachment to my name. Most likely because I knew it was an afterthought on the part of my parents. For the first month of my life I remained nameless.  My parents referred to me as ‘the girl’.

The girl gets a name

Originally, they were going to name me ‘Alina’ or ‘Julia’, either one considered a pretty name for a beautiful baby girl.  Unfortunately, I was born ugly. In fact, the doctor asked my mom if the baby he just delivered looked like her husband. My mom looked at him all confused. “You’re a beautiful woman,” he explained, “This baby looks nothing like you, so I assume it must look like your husband.” He then proceeded to tell my mom that during his whole career he’s never seen a nose this big on a newborn.  

Since a pretty name wasn’t suitable for someone with a large nose my parents struggled to find a good name for someone who might or might not grow into their giant schnozzle. Apparently ‘Natasha’ did the trick.

Knowing the story of how I got my name didn’t exactly make me love it. At one point I started wondering what I would’ve liked to be named if I could name myself. We (in Ukraine) have an expression “Your boat is going to sail according to the name you give it”. It made me wonder what if your name shapes your destiny.

Like Phoenix rising from the ashes

Years later while reading the passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls I found a similar concept described in “The Gospel of Truth”. The idea there was that a person must receive ‘his own name’ which will become his true identity. Later yet, I found the same idea in Paulo Coelho’s “The fifth mountain”.

I’ve always believed in the collective subconscious and to me if different people at different times come up with the same idea means it means it must have some universal truth to it.

But I digress… Many years after I painted my first self-portrait as Phoenix I felt compelled to do it over. By then I have fell apart and put myself together so many times that I actually did feel like a magical creature able to emerge from its own ashes.

As I was painting my self-portrait, I started wondering whether it was possible that a twelve-year-old me somehow managed to name herself and grant me this wonderful ability to overcome anything in life by choosing “Phoenix” as my true name?