"Explain this painting," he said.
I preferred not to explain, but I did, because his needing to have the painting explained is relevant. When I look at this painting I see a young woman with gaudy eye make up and innocent pink lip stick. She wears many veils, symbols of hiding or trying on new identities. There are surrounding shapes that might represent sow bugs or pupas, representing hiding and transition into something new. Above is an organic form that has released its seeds, seeds of thought. To the left, hidden behind a transparent splash, is a clawed hand: danger/fear. She appears to be standing in front of another person, or perhaps this is another aspect of herself or who she hopes to be. I explained that this is a portrait of a teenager, about 16 years old, confused by her hormones.
My visitor looked down at me, "Couldn't you paint your symbolism more specifically? You had to explain this to me and a good painting explains itself."
Exactly, I said. You felt confused and annoyed by how the painting didn't explain itself to you easily. Without my explanation you were the girl looking in the mirror. You had no idea what was going on. You could have figured it out if you paid attention, but what teenager wants to do that? Now I've explained a little, so the world makes more sense, but I bet, as any teenager would, you wish you could have figured it all out on your own.
Here is another portrait of female adolescence, a teen in transition. Both were painted when my daughter was high school aged, but they are not portraits of her, specifically.