Recently I tried to join an online Facebook reading group, although I recognized their conservative leanings, their thoughtful discussions around the Great Books encouraged me to follow them. I was, perhaps naively, taken aback when I received an automated reply that my Facebook page did not meet Community Standards. The post that drew their ire was the one above, posted pre-scribbled fig leaf-although I am pretty confident, that even with self censorship I would still not meet their standards.
Although taken aback, I really can understand their position from a conservative Christian perspective. I have , rather boldly, sometimes with a puerile inclination to provoke, lavishly depicted genitalia , specifically boy parts, in my work.
Only the other day I was in discussion with a friend concerning my upcoming show In Fairyland and the question was raised as to how I wanted to alert the public to my “x-rated” work (the argument being to shelter children). That statement I must say was more startling for it came not from a religious conservative . I was taken aback once again.
Startling because although my work might technically warrant an x-rating for its nudity it isn’t pornographic. These instances of how my work is perceived (misperceived?) has left me pondering, what do I think about depicting the human form in its un-neutered form? For me, aside from some boyish visual pranks, the nude male form is inherently vulnerable and exposed.
My nightmare state as this self portrait attests.
I’ve tried, too bluntly perhaps, to explore this vulnerable existential state. Perhaps unsuccessfully.
I have of late finding myself questioning as to whether or not to include a peen or not, is it necessary to make my point or to gratify my aesthetic vision? Sometimes it is, often it isn’t. I don’t find this to be restrictive self-censorship but rather a more discerning , aware approach to making.
But I must say rather disappointing as I’ve fancy myself to have mastered textile willies.
The following is a gallery sure to offend Community Standards, please rate it an “X”.
New drawing just completed, I believe this may be it . I’ve depicted the first seven Labors but to be frank , aside from our hero’s wrestling match with the fearsome Cerberus, I’m not particularly interested in drawing them . I’ll wait and see if inspiration strikes . But for now the first Seven:
1- the Nemean Lion , slay the poor thing
2-Lernean Hydra, slay that poor thing
3-Ceryneian Hind, capture that poor thing
4- Erymanthian Boar, capture that poor thing
5- Augean Stables, clean that filthy place
6-Stymphalian Birds, kill those man-eating things
7- Cretan Bull, capture that randy thing
The Labors of Herakles
Sanguine pencil with chalk highlights on toned paper
18 by 24 inches
When and if I return to the balance of his Labors I will continue with the continuous narrative composition as a diptych.
“Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool”
Parsifal, Richard Wagner
I am currently immersed in the operas of Richard Wagner, a full plunge into his world. Be it the mythic narratives he skillfully adapted to suit his vision; his very specific costume and set requirements ; or his peculiar relationship with his royal patron Ludwig II, all capture my fascination. Of his operas, Parsifal intrigues and delights me the most. I am not certain why, for I find passages of Tristan und Isolde so moving that I return to them time and again, and the Ring is so very exhilarating, yet on a quiet and personal level, Parsifal satisfies, validates and encourages me.
This opera is perplexing and confounding, Kundry one can spend hours pondering, Amfortas possesses a wound which we all can psychologically identify with. But Parsifal, the Pure Fool is an archetype too powerful to resist. I may simply delight in the synthesis of Christian and pagan archetypes and the universality of a redemptive figure such as Parsifal, unknowing, yet sanctified. But I believe there is more.
Whatever my attraction may be, I am very aware of my having only yet scratched the surface of its complexities. When I began this figure it was with mostly subliminal intentions, I dreamt of Parsifal vaguely, inchoate the inspiration. I discussed with my analyst my interest in the opera and the archetype of Parsifal. It turns out my analyst is not only a sensitive Jungian psychoanalyst but also a music scholar, his paper Wagner’s Parsifal as ritual theater: approaching the numinous unknown provides this insight:
“When Parsifal bursts upon the stage, he is an impulsive agent of death and can only articulate his un-knowingness. In a sense, he is the embodiment of the unconscious itself: void of knowledge or understanding, and unable to carry out the basic operations of human consciousness. Such an undeveloped psycho- logical state could easily arouse contempt in others, but Gurnemanz recognizes the innocence in Parsifal, and sees his potential to heal and transform the king and the entire established order of the land. So it is that the greatest transformations in our own lives do not emerge from the established order of the ego, but rather from our unconscious selves, our foolishness.”
link to Dr. Thomas’ paper, I heartily encourage a thorough reading:
I have much to think about concerning this work of Wagner, many recordings to listen to (currently the ’62 Hans Knappertsbusch Bayreuth recording and the ’81 Bayreuth production directed by Wolfgang Wagner). But for the most part the making of this latest “stuffed painting ” has been intuitive. What delights me is how in sync my instinctive intentions were to Wagner’s- truly, archetypes are universal, known to all who listen and feel.
Enough of words, now images:
The figure is nearly life sized at 5’4″ and possesses a 8″ train.
The train of Parsifal is ornamented with flowers to represent the final act, where in the words of Dr.Thomas “Parsifal fulfills the redemptive prophecy of the Grail by returning to the kingdom, where the land greens and blossoms at his arrival.” I confess I wasn’t aware of this symbolism consciously yet needle in hand I expressed it.
Speaking of needles, my recent re-reading of this wonderfully important book has only recommitted my dedication to “women’s work”.
Recently I was invited by the art historian/enthusiast/promoter John Hopper to be included in the next edition of INSPIRATIONAL magazine. I first “met” John online through his admirable site The Textile Blog (link: thetextileblog.blogspot.com). John possesses an encyclopedic knowledge concerning the arts, with an emphasis on the 19th century revivalist movements. Be it Owen Jones, William Morris or the Glasgow School, John provides keen insight , frequently showcasing lesser known under-represented figures ( his The Embroidery of Ann Macbeth introduced me to an artist heretofore unknown to me). A link to his scholarly writings can be found here:
All that said, when John requested an interview, I could only be delighted. While John is an esteemed scholar concerning 19th c. decorative and textile arts he has his sights set forward, encouraging and promoting makers of the here and now. Hopper is no fusty antiquarian but a connoisseur of applied and fine arts, with a seeming emphasis on the frequently neglected field of textile arts. I guess that is where my Stuffed Paintings come into the picture.
The vehicle in which this new Evangelist John proselytizes his aesthetic vision is through his on line art magazine INSPIRATIONAL, link below.
I will allow John to describe his vision and issue 17 himself:
INSPIRATIONAL 17: Now on Sale
Welcome to the 17th issue of Inspirational magazine. In this issue inspirational features interviews with four new artists, as well as one previous featured artist with new work, a community article, a project article, a book review, and events pages highlighting exhibitions and art events from around the world.
Inspirational 17 is an interactive downloadable contemporary art magazine, which can be purchased for instant download from the following link: https://payhip.com/b/BsR4
CONTENTS OF INSPIRATIONAL 17:
Feature artist: Akiko Suzuki is the internationally renowned Japanese textile/fiber artist. She has worked in a range of disciplines and collaborated creatively and highly successfully with fellow creative artists on an international stage. Akiko gives an in-depth interview and shows a range of her work in this Inspirational feature.
Feature artist: Amy Oliver is a profound British conceptual artist that works with her own experiences regarding among other subjects – mental health, women’s rights, abuse and identity. Amy gives an in-depth interview and shows a range of her work in this Inspirational feature.
Feature artist: Emanuela Cau is an Italian photographic artist who produces the most extraordinary emotional, theatrical, magical work, rich in texture and meaning. Emanuela gives an in-depth interview and shows a range of her work in this Inspirational feature.
Feature artist: Leonard Greco Jr is an American painter and textile artist. Leonard is one of those rare artists, one that has an acute sense of history, sense of spirit, sense of wonder, sense of epic and intimate. Leonard gives an in-depth interview and shows a range of his work in this Inspirational feature.
New work: The British textile artist Stewart Kelly was originally featured in Inspirational 8. Nine issues on Stewart is again being featured, he gives an in-depth interview, and we see what he has been up to since first being featured in Inspirational, showing a range of his work in this Inspirational feature.
Community: PEG (Profanity Embroidery Group) is a British textile/fiber community, one that meets regularly to embroider profane statements, but they are so much more. PEG is a community that supports, shares and genuinely engages with its members. Members of PEG are interviewed and they show a range of work produced by PEG in this Inspirational feature.
Project: World Wide Weave 2018 is a project organised by British textile/fiber artist Maria Clarke-Wilson. It is a planetary wide project that involves eco dyeing of fiber by artists around the globe, and then the pulling together of the results by Maria so that she can freestyle weave a unified result. Maria gives an in-depth interview about this planetary project for this Inspirational feature.
Review: Points of Juncture is a book about an exhibition. Points of Juncture was a ground-breaking exhibition held at the Forty Hall Estate, London in 2017 by the textile/fiber artist Cos Ahmet. It proved so successful that a book has just been published by Forty Hall Estate and the Arts Council England in celebration. Cos gives an in-depth interview and shows a range of his work for the Points of Juncture exhibition in this Inspirational feature.
Events: pages that are global in nature. All continents are covered, highlighting a range of art events and opportunities across the planet.
It’s a full and varied selection of contemporary talent for this issue of Inspirational. Please enjoy.
I am incredibly grateful to John for including my work, his finding it worthy , given my respect for his scholarship, means the world to me. But most especially for the friendship and encouragement he has given me throughout the years. Although we have never met, and when I finally make it to the UK we will, he has nonetheless been a friend I value and treasure.