When my therapist encouraged me to draw again, for the fourth or so consecutive time, met by reluctance and deflated weariness of art in general, he didn’t think his patient’s first attempt would be of a suicide in Aokigahara, a forest in Japan also known as the “Sea of Trees,” the second most popular place for suicide, next to the Golden Gate Bridge. I end in speaking of myself in the third person because my chronic depression often feels like watered-down fiction, a played out novel whose mental vernacular is predictable and nauseating, the hero still waiting for a pouty heroine to enter.
When the deceased man pictured hanging from a tree killed himself, he didn’t think a photographer would take his photo weeks into his decomposition. He was not preoccupied by the internet, its silent thread of ephemeral images weaved together into a droopy hammock for the longest collective nap in human history, and a man living in San Francisco drawing his dead body—a contour found first by a lens, then Google, then the tip of a black pen—as a slight exercise to appease his therapist.
The mistake implicated in our title is not necessarily our model’s decision to end his life, but rather, exclusively, that of the artist’s rendering. Thick skinned amateur. The feet in the drawing are not foreshortened enough; they are not as near to the viewer as the photographer was to the dead man. Verity needs not rely on the mechanisms with which its very likeness is rendered. It simply is. Death can be a wonderful conceit, and well, somewhat conceited. The fiction of how I feel is still being told every day. While the backdrop of black clouds is nicely rendered, I’m beginning to suspect an unreliable narrator.