This self-portrait was, quite possibly, one of the hardest for me to create. Even now as I write about it, I feel so blocked. It’s hard to put into words how almost two decades of musical influence by one specific artist has helped to shape my life. I just picked up “BLUE: the Color of Noise” by Steve Aoki. There is one specific chapter about how Michael Jackson influenced his life as a kid and his music as an artist. As an adult, he was approached by Motown Records to do a remix of “Dancing Machine” and later via the Jackson Estate through Sony to do a remix of “Thriller“. Aoki talked about how he immersed himself in that “Dancing Machine” remix so much in order to bring forward the essence of Jackson Five and his own self in one song. However, when he created his first remix of “Thriller” he created a banger but it had (and I am paraphrasing) no soul – it just didn’t feel right so he had to go back to sitting in silence and truly feeling the music so he could do justice not only to MJ but himself as an artist. This is essentially the story of my Tiësto self-portrait… Minus the fact that anyone huge contacted me to make it haha. This is my Tiësto inspired self-portrait and it was a struggle to create.
I should back up a bit to tell you who Tiësto is. My close friends and family will know but if you casually follow me online you may not know. Tijs Verwest, who is known as Tiësto, is a Dutch DJ and music producer who has shaped the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene for over 20 years. He began his DJ’ing career in 1985 and has only grown since. What I particularly like about him as an artist is how he is constantly evolving his style and giving smaller artists a chance to really thrive.
I had a concept in my mind. I wanted to be embodied by his music and I wanted it to be coming out of me with great power and dominance. I wanted this portrait to feel powerful with a touch of magic. I also wanted this portrait to have deep symbolism embedded into it and little details that you wouldn’t notice at first glance (like when you listen to music and you cannot possibly take in all of the complexity of each note and sound).
Music has played a huge role in my life since I was a little girl. I never was one to listen to kid’s music. My tastes were more for Madonna, Meat Loaf, Mike and the Mechanics, Fey and Michael Jackson. Music influenced the way I felt and how I saw the world. Music has always filled the voids of my imagination with sounds, colors and feelings that I could never possibly achieve sitting in pure silence. Music is everything to me. In high school, I went through an Offspring, Metallica and Britney Spears phase. Then, when I was 17, Trance music re-introduced itself into my life again. By the time I turned 18 (there are 18 Tiësto birdies in this portrait), I could say that DJ Tiësto was one of my top favorite DJ’s alongside Ferry Corsten. “Just Be” quickly became one of my favorite albums that I had playing in my car 24/7 when I was in college. When I met Adam in 2005, I gave him a copy of the album “Just Be” and made him listen to it until he fell in love with it too. It felt so wonderful to have an album to bond over. I will always look at that album as the one that gave me a “leg up” in my dating game with this guy I liked who is now my husband.
In 2007, I went to my first Tiësto concert “Love Outdoors” in Washington DC. Now, there is nothing quite like seeing an artist you really like, LIVE. That concert solidified my love for this Dutch DJ named Tiësto. The years that followed contained many concerts and amazing memories of me fighting people much bigger than me to retain my front row position at concerts (don’t mess with this shorty when it comes to Tiësto).
When Tiësto began playing at Hakkasan Las Vegas in 2013, I always said that it would be my dream to see him play there. In 2016, Adam and I flew to Las Vegas to see him play – it was a dream and a very special memory for so many personal reasons. I re-drew the birdies in this piece to look like the ones from the neon Tiësto sign outside of Hakkasan – they are symbols of dreams come true. This birdie is also the same one that I have tattooed on my hip, not only to symbolize this very special trip to Vegas, but of Adam and I’s relationship together in the last 15 years.
I want to talk a little bit about symbolism in this piece. I mentioned the 18 birdies and the style of how I re-drew them based on the neon sign in Vegas but I also dressed as if I were going out dancing and gave the image a vibe to the visuals he shows at concerts. There is a little lightning bolt coming out of my finger to one of the birdies depicting life. I believe that art (music, performance, visual, etc) is a two way street. Art cannot live if there is no one to create it and no one to experience it. Some may argue that art has the power to save us – I believe that art has the power to save the artist. I also believe that in order for art to live on past the creator, it needs an audience. That little spark coming out of me is a symbol for that relationship between myself and the music. Would music have the power it has over me if I didn’t originally give it such power?
In all of my years loving Tiësto’s music I have never met him but I have always said that I would. Perhaps now is the time to work on that dream and make it come to fruition.
Has one artist and their work ever given you so much life and influenced your life greatly? I would love to know who they are, comment below.
“Feel it in my Bones” one of my favorite songs played at the DC Armory.