Inner Michael » The Man of a Thousand Mirrors

The Man of a Thousand Mirrors

d’ Arno Bani, a very young photographer living in the Parisian suburbs in 1999, received a visit and a request for a portrait of the most famous face in the world. Michael Jackson had read about his work in the Sunday Times and was impresssed. Bani’s portrait photo was Michael’s plan for the cover of his Invincible Album released in October of 2001. Sony rejected the photo for the album cover and after Michael found an attorney conflict of interest in his contract, he announced he was leaving Sony citing racial issues and a lack of support and promotion for his work. The photo is scheduled to be auctioned in Paris next June.

Inner Michael featured the photo last posting because of requests to speak about Michael’s work and a promise or giving one’s word needs to be honored with integrity. It is the Michael way of things.

Shamans live in at least two worlds and three dimensions. The laws of ordinary life do not apply in these realms and things dismissed as fantasy in other places may be steadfast truths in the worlds of spirit, mysticism and magic. In the shaman’s world, things speak that have no voice, the laws of ordinary physics do not apply and unseen teachers guide and lead to undiscovered and undreamed-of places. Shamans rarely see anything at “face” value. The world of spirit knows no time such as past, present and future and there are no limitations in the realm of distance, place and experience.

The eye of the artist is different too, than the eye of the casual observer or the critic. Art speaks. All art has meaning. All art has intention even if it’s not immediately known by the artist. Some artists use subliminal hints to convey messages and some say it loudly with content and attitude.

My study of Michael Jackson and his work has revealed to me the soul of a man who was a genius, a rebel, a wavemaker, a change agent, a mystic, a metaphysician, a muse, a shaman, and so many more things that the list is too long to name. He was much more than a simple entertainer. He was a brilliant and prolific artist whose art leaks into every corner of his life and work. That he saw himself as an artist seems to have been lost on the world at large. How unfortunate. Because to look at his work from that lens of artist conveying a message meant to shatter complacency and change the world is to reveal the real inner Michael Jackson.

When a spiritual seeker follows the path to the divine for a lifetime, he is considered a mystic. The mystic’s only aspiration in life is union with the divine. Once a glimpse of the divine is anchored in the lexicon of experience, a plan becomes clear to that seeker. The plan is perfect and elegant. This glimpse of perfection is so profound, stunning and convincing that it becomes a recruitment tool to draft one into the army marching toward enlightenment and its eventual conscription of all humans.

Michael caught a glimpse and became a warrior for the light. After that vow is made, nothing is approached haphazzardly or unconsciously and all is in service to this plan or divine blueprint. That includes one’s presence, one’s work and ultimately, one’s life. And so it was for Michael.

Michael says a great deal in his work. He encodes profound messages. It unfolds. The discovery continues like layers and layers of an onion, that as it is peeled, is pungent and provoking.

What might Michael be saying in this photograph?

The period of this photo and the intention of its gracing the cover of “Invincible” helps to place it in context:

The tones are cool and appear not human but ethereal. Not of this world. The skin looks transparent in some ways and a bit transluscent and is reminiscent of porcelain that is fragile and can be shattered and yet of stone that is strong and steadfast. The veins, muscles, and features look chisled as in a great marble sculpture or master work.

The V that begins at his chest is a sharp angled arrow that points to and opens to his face that looks sad yet aloof or off somewhere else that we don’t seem to be able to follow. His hair is slilcked back and lightly highlighted but fades into the dark background making his face the most prominent feature in the compositon. The arrow leads us right to a face that jumps out at us from a silent background.

The blue dot over his left eye makes that eye dominant, in fact makes “the eye” dominant. Is this a reference to “in the eye of the beholder?” The term for right eye is “dextro” and the left eye is “sinistro” and I leave that to you to ponder. Perhaps this blue area is the black eye that comes from a pummeling at the hands of those who “cannot see” the truth? Is this a bruise from a beating? Is that why it is important to say “I’m invincible?”

Is the reference to the skin as stone or marble a statement of “I’m unbreakable?”

The position of the eyes– looking down seems introspective and connotes a barrier perhaps; it is a place that he goes that we may not follow. And we are shut out by the closed eyes that ask for “privacy.”

The mirrors on the jacket are circular and echo the shape of the eye-dot which pulls the composition together but does much more than that. Michael was “The Man in the Mirror” but Michael also was the mirror itself- for all the dark projections thrown at him like arrows (there’s that arrow again) and especially the criticisms about his changing face (there’s that arrow pointing to the face again.)

People don’t like change. For the most part, they don’t like someone changing the landscape they have become familiar and comfortable with. And certainly, they don’t want the face of their reality changed and especially continually changed. To change the face of one’s humanity? Of humanity itself? Now asking that really is uncomfortable!

So projecting one’s unconscious and shadow unrealized self onto a visible target is a trick that humans play to avoid self reflection. But here is Michael wearing lots of mirrors and so makes it impossible to avoid some reflection. Yes, Michael Jackson was the man in the mirror but he was also the mirror itself- for much of humanity’s shadow as it attempted to navigate through its evolutionary process aided by this famous person and face who kept changing and wouldn’t stand still long enough to be defined and dismissed, or perhaps labeled and rejected. Yes, please find a vile label so that I can dismiss this exercise of looking at myself! Of looking at us! Of the evidence so visible of humanity’s projected shadow! The portrait here comes out of darkness, the background being black and silent. Does it emerge from evil? Yet the face is serene and chisled and beautiful.

The mirrors provide movement and dimension and a call to action– Look! When you look at me, what do you see? What is in that mirror or all those mirrors that you project onto me?

And look, I have a black eye from the struggle and the altercation resulting from an interaction with me. So I gave you mirrors and you gave me a black eye. No matter, I am invincible.

A curious thing about these mirrors- they are large and small- the reflections of different sizes and magnitudes but there is one large mirror that doesn’t match the size of the others. It is not duplicated anywhere else in the portrait. Its placement is curious too. It appears to be placed intentionally over Michael’s heart.

And that interpretation, I leave to you…


  1. kamarie said . . .

    I interpret these photo’s in several different ways. First, as the blue eye is the Earth, the sequines on his jacket are the universe and Michael is ‘one’ with all that there is… I also see a black man with a blue eye-black and blue…beaten but still standing, his skin representing no color. White is the ultimate color that breaks down into a rainbow when placed with a prism, representing all colors of all beings. The mirrors on his jacket could be the many ways we see Michael and as he sees himself. But the one over his heart has no mirror to never reveal what is truly inside of him… only he knows the truth.

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink
  2. marga1961 said . . .

    Rev. B. The explanation of the photo(s) is so clear. You did make a point by saying Invincible and Unbreakable. He looks almost bioluminiscent here I think. He was a person who looks into another Dimension I always believe. He was a very very special guy on this Planet. I’m glad I live in the era of MJ. He touches me through his lyrics, dance, shyness, charity but also the kind of photography or paintings he participated. He was a gift. And that greater mirror at his heart…we know, yes we do. Again ThanXX for this article.

    [ It is my interpretation based on knowing from research that everything deliberate that Michael did was for a reason. Since it was intended for the Invincible album it would say, “Invincible” and “Unbreakable,” and “we all cry at the same time tonight” and we did when he passed. Yes, I believe we do know his heart- there is actually a mirror there as other views show a reflection of light. I heard it as: “Look! Here! Inside this lonely heart! Look in the biggest mirror to see my heart, the real heart. And you will see your heart there too.” But others interpreted it differently and I like that too… see other comments. Michael would be so pleased. That is the beauty of high art- it speaks privately in public, kind of like a spiritual whisper. ~Rev. B. ]

    Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  3. admin said . . .

    For an expansion of the idea of “Soulspeak in art” see the latest entry at ~Rev. B.

    Posted July 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  4. lmt said . . .

    I love the whole concept of this photo. When one looks just beneath the surface, there are so many different interpretations to consider. I’m impressed by Michael’s genius because just as everyone can see something different, the something different also enables the viewer to see inside the self. There’s a lesson there for each person–where is my heart, or soul or being? What am I learning from how I interpret what Michael is projecting? Maybe Michael is promoting enlightenment–asking “Are you aware of your soul? Can you touch the divine in yourself? Here are the mirrors to that inner self. Take a look. How you see me can teach you about you.” Thank you Michael. [ Smiling. ~Rev B ]

    Posted July 14, 2010 at 3:11 am | Permalink
  5. Irina said . . .

    Blue is (again! and there are a ton of blues visually in his work- just think of the video to The way you make me feel, the entire panther dance in Black or White is shot in dark blue, TII contains huge amounts of blue light) really the color of the throat chakra, of any kind of expression. Dance, Music, Singing. It’s as if he’s placing his throat chakra on his eye, it’s as if he’s using a chakra to see the world though his physical eyes. You can feel blue, in different language the color blue means different things- it’s uniting. Uniting your chakras as well- on the way to Divine Union. Start with Kundalini rising, then ascend. The blue planet- to see the world as one, to return to ONE. Just as you can create through artistic expression- visualize first, then manifest it- imagine, if we did that in everything, not just in the arts.

    Posted July 14, 2010 at 4:34 am | Permalink
  6. Theresa said . . .

    Thank you Rev. B and the other commentors here. I know that I love the photographs but am unable to articulate why as I do not have that discipline of language in my vocabulary. Thanks for putting into words the potential meaning of the art depicted in it. It deepens the impact tremendously.

    Posted July 14, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  7. Pam said . . .

    I love this picture, but when I first saw it the first thing I noticed were the spheres all over his jacket. I also remembered that Michael made reference to spheres in his autobiography, “Moon Walk.” At the beginning he quotes John Lennon who talks about “the real music…the music of the spheres, the music that surpasseth understanding..” Also, you may notice that at the beginning of the movie “This Is It” there are spheres in the stage setup. Michael was able to tap into this heavenly music of the spheres. As for the mirror over his heart, to me it said, “Can you see yourself in my heart?” “You’re just another part of me.”

    Posted July 17, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  8. appleh said . . .

    To Rev. B. and the other commentators: I´m overwhelmed about your explanations of that picture. I have to admit, that I´m just a fan since
    his death. The more I discover from MJ I wish, I had known and understood him earlier. With every new fact I learn I admire him more and more.

    Posted July 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  9. Cassie said . . .

    Beautiful! The man, the picture, and the story behind it. Michael never does anything simply for show. There is always a message to the madness and a powerful one indeed. I am in continuous awe of the multitude of magnificent things that I learn about him, even now. He is my life coach. I love him unconditionally.

    Posted July 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

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