Fleeing Babylon

on Melrose

Tomorrow the movers arrive, our worldly possessions Chicago bound.

After sixteen years living in Los Angeles ( with a brief stint in San Diego ) I am left with mixed emotions, mostly just eager to get out of Dodge.  LA has never been a good fit, we moved here for David’s career and I have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to appreciate Southern California . It would be churlish (and predictable ) to gripe about LA’s unsurprising superficiality , increasing squalor and existential decadence … churlish but fun.

Instead I will focus on fond memories, of which the many studios I have been lucky to work (and often live in) I place near the top of that list.

My current studio (now crated) was/is in a mid rise office building I shared with my psychoanalyst husband. Perched 1o stories up it was a peculiar home for an art studio, yet it was close to our apartment, possessed attractive amenities and A/C- not a given in the art studio market, and in scorching  LA most essential.

6404 Wilshire Blvd. suite 1030
Wilshire Blvd.
Wilshire Blvd.
Wilshire Blvd
Wilshire Blvd.
Adios Wilshire Blvd .

Mentioning A/C, my previous studio was the largest , most sprawling and allowed me to expand my scope of my work, my solo show Fairyland wouldn’t have been created if it hadn’t been in this rather dismal factory space in the heart of hot as Hadesville North East LA-without A/C. Grateful for the experience but boy oh boy it was hot.

LAIAC
LAIAC
With Robin Goodfellow and my sweet Chihuahua Speck
LAIAC

At one point I had tried working from our little hillside cottage, the Little Hermitage …little being the operative word and it became apparent rather quickly that I needed actual work space.

Rose, Robin Goodfellow @ the Little Hermitage

Previous to the industrial heat pit I had a smaller yet air-conditioned studio, the former work shop of the fellow responsible for fabrication of the clown costumes of Ronald McDonald …or so my landlady told me. It was a charmingly squalid place.

Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
Colorado Blvd.
Colorado Blvd.
The Unholy Trio & Hellmouth
Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock

Before we purchased our Little Hermitage on LA’s NE side we lived (where we once again live) in what is known as MidWilshire. We rented a sweet little duplex, with a pretty little garden, charming light and quite a crazy Marxist Feminist landlady-all perfectly fine aside from her tyrannical harping. But it had good light!

Carmona Ave.
Carmona Ave.
Carmona Ave & pups
Carmona Ave.

In spite of our crazy landlady that apartment had been most welcome for we had been living in San Diego, which sounds lovely , and is , but we were living in what is known as East County, El Cajon specifically. It truly was Hadesville , and our reason for living there was to tend to David’s Mater- quite the SheDevil.

anyway, I spent quite a bit of time sequestered in one of the bedrooms repurposed as a studio…it had A/C AND good light.

In ElCajon with Miss Viola
Naptime in El Cajon, ever faithful Miss Rose
El Cajon
El Cajon

Moving to El Cajon was made drearier for we left what had been our favorite home up to that point ( our current place in Chicago now vies for that distinction), a work/live loft, on the top floor of Factory Place in LA’s Arts District. It was so well suited to our needs , a joy to call home, well lit and with very good A/C.

It broke my heart to leave. Pardon the plethora of photos.

Factory Place, 2010
Factory Place
Factory Place
Factory Place
Factory Place
Factory Place
Factory Place
Rose @ Factory Place
Speck @ Factory Place
Factory Place
Factory Place

When we moved  to LA sixteen years ago, we purchased, in the midst of a devastating bubble an outrageously overpriced condominium on a very pretty street , Havenhurst Ave., in very pretty West Hollywood. It was a period of great optimism and hope. The condo, though small, overpriced, far outside our budget, seemed a beacon of opportunity. And there was opportunity, David began establishing his career, my decorative arts career was blossoming, friends were made easily…we were married in our condo’s backyard. Yet the recession hit, and it hit hard, we were far too overextended, borrowed time, borrowed money , we lost our proverbial shirts and the condo . I truly thought we were lost, all of my prudent savings squandered. Yet sixteen years later we have rebuilt and now we approach this new chapter, our Chicago chapter. 

Symbolically perhaps  I can locate NO photographs of that sweet little West Hollywood apartment or that period aside from our wedding.

Wilshire Blvd.

So onward, boxes packed, awaiting what the good Lord places on our path. I do have a studio waiting for me in Chicago, I am very eager to see what develops.

Cornelia Arts Building

 

Wish me luck!

on Melrose

 

 

Studio Sale Offerings

The following images are of available art that I have discounted for my upcoming studio sale; generally about half of the regular studio price-some even  more deeply discounted due to storage and shipping concerns.

My moving sale will be Saturday July 16th, I would love to see folks in person. If you cannot make it certainly reach out to me (cell 310-498-0817) and we can make arrangements . Payment plans considered, my aim is finding new collectors and  good homes for my work. Reach out should you have any questions. Sorry to say , pick up only, I am not available to offer shipping right now.

With that in mind, thanks for considering my work.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony of the Desert
2013
oil on canvas
36 by 48 inches

This is my first of many Temptations, Anthony is a self portrait. Originally listed at  $3500.00 now available at $2150.00 (unless my husband asks me to keep it ).

The Apotheosis of Sophia
2014
Oil on panel
24 by 18

Originally listed at $2100.00, now $1250.00 SOLD

The Presentation at the Temple
2014
oil on canvas
40 by 30 inches

Originally listed at $1600.00, now $450.00

The Resurrection of the Father (watercolor)
2013
watercolor on paper, framed, under glass
18 by 24 inches, unframed dimensions

One of the earliest Popol Vuh works, originally listed at $2400.00, now $800.00, handsomely matted and framed.

Icarus
2013
Watercolor on paper
18 by 24 inches, unframed dimensions

Icarus is handsomely matted and framed, was $1800.00, now $400.00/SOLD

Resurrection of the Father (oil)
2013
oil on canvas
40 by 50 inches

Large, striking canvas of the Hero Twins,originally  $3200.00, now sharply reduced for swift sale $500.00

Castration of Uranus
2015
Watercolor and graphite on paper
11 by 14, unframed dimensions; matted and framed

Definitely NSF , also nicely matted and framed (I keep framers busy), was $1800.00, now $500.00/SOLD

Patroclus Fallen
2013 or so
Pencil on paper
23 by 29 matted and framed

Again, handsome presentation suitable to a Homeric hero, matted and framed, was $1100.00, now $350.00/SOLD

The Anointing
2015
acrylic on paper
20 by 28 inches

 

My Hero Twins are also nicely matted and framed and attractively priced, originally $1600.00, now available for collecting $750.00/SOLD

Herakles & Telephos
2015
watercolor and graphite on paper
12 by 9 inches, the unframed dimensions

I really like the framing and matting on this work, a playful pink matting adds  just the right over the top touch for a mighty macho fellow. Was $1600.00, now $800.00

Jumping Tlaloc
2015 or so
acrylic painted cardboard, brads, twine.
The size of a small man

Of a series of oversized jumping paper dolls, pull his string, he does a little jig. He is a little shop worn (he is cardboard, his right hand slightly wrinkled). He was $500.00, now $150.00

Lavinia
2015
acrylic on canvas
20 by 16 inches

Lavinia and Second Apparition below were part of a series depicting favorite scenes from Shakespeare’s dramas (Titus Andronicus and Macbeth).

Lavinia was $800.00, now $400.00

The Second Apparition (of Macbeth)
2015
acrylic on canvas
20 by 16 inches

This scene from Macbeth priced as above, was $800.00, now $400.00

Coatlicue
2013
oil on canvas
36 by 24 inches

One of my early Mesoamerican themed paintings, Coatlicue the mother of the war god Huitzilopotchtli, frequently  compared to the Virgin Mary of the Aztec pantheon. Originally  inspired by a dream, initially listed at $1600.00, now $450.00 SOLD 

The Great War God Huitzilopochtli
2015
oil on canvas
12 by 8 inches

Speaking of the Great War God Huitzilopochtli. this small but mighty painting is a fitting companion to the fiery Madonna and Child above. Was $900.00, now listed at $450.00 SOLD

Strange Fruit (Popol vuh series)
2013 or so
oil on canvas
30 by 20 inches

Early work exploring the mysteries of the Popol Vuh, was $1600.00, now $400.00/SOLD

The First Popol Vuh
2013
mixed media
24 by 36 inches

The very first of what would be many Popol Vuh works, of Hero Twins, Death Gods, Xibalba the Maya Underworld, martyred Maize Gods, this a theatrical mixed media spectacle . Never before listed let alone shown, lets say $400.00

Philoctotes
date unknown
oil study on cardboard
24 by 18 inches

I have quite a few studies and daubs such as Philoctotes above, most priced at $75.00 or so. I also have quite a few drawings and studies for browsing and most likely  gifting.

I hope to see you there, again, the date is Saturday, July 16th, 2022, between 11 am and 3 pm at my studio, 6404 Wilshire Blvd., suite 1030 (not far west from LACMA). The building is locked most of Saturday so give me a ring at 310-498-0817 and I can let you in. I can let you in for parking as well.

 

 

 

 

Art Mates

I’ve been making art, studio art, after a twenty year career as a decorative painter since about 2015. I started off with much optimism and I’d say hubris as well. I’d had a relatively successful career as a painter of ornamental schemes and I figured if I put in the work , was as, if not more industrious as I had been with commercial work I’d receive some degree of recognition. It seemed a logical conclusion, very American really, hard work equates success.

That optimistic model doesn’t really apply to a studio career , at least in Los Angeles, I’m pretty certain that is the reality near everywhere. So much seems to influence the move from obscurity to recognition, cynically it does seem to be who you know, who recognizes you and to some degree the work itself , personality seems to have a great deal of social capital as well  but fundamentally the influence a person has more broadly (how many followers etc.) can propel a career to an astonishing (disheartening) degree. Add to that mix the relatively recent priority given to identity driven art ; the impetus/demand to throw in the correct hashtag, the most desirable identity driven victimhood intersection, proclaim your work  queer, non-binary, trans or some such woke jingo and let the clicking begin…or not.

I’ve tried the hash tagging; the sycophancy; the countless, costly exhibition submissions (with ever increasing rejection notices); the social media attention seeking; the snake-oil publicist route; the humiliating schmoozing; the mortification of fawning over gallery owners, museum directors , art critics; even sucking up to artists with more successful careers, all with the hope that a crumb or two might fall my way. Large sums of  money have been spent (squandered) on false hopes and empty promises – those claiming to have the secret of success and recognition and are all too eager to exploit that desperation and  lighten your purse in the bargain.  In my experience most haven’t the wherewithal to actually fulfill their promises-in all reality  how could they? 

As I depart LosAngeles, I do so with a sad degree of bitterness, disappointment, and increasingly a sense of humiliation – I feel as if I leave with tail firmly between my legs. , I wish that weren’t so. I wish I could say that though disappointing the experience had been  humbling but rewarding . It has however been revelatory in a discouraging way, an inclination towards inwardness.  Increasingly I am driven to a resignation of solitude. I will continue to make art, most likely smaller works for my new studio is even smaller than my LA studio, focusing on true loves:drawing, stitchery, panel painting in oil, taking up perhaps relief printmaking. But I am recognizing, reconciling, that I must set aside expectation of the work having broader  meaning other than personal…and hopefully to a handful of folks.

Of those folks,  I count my chum Jodi, another artist, an artist who’s work we collect, who puzzlingly ,also works in relative obscurity.

Jodi , center, with the family portrait he painted for us.

We love this beautiful person, of such a gentle, generous, forgiving spirit, one who inspires my better nature . Plus she is a quite the artist, we are fortunate to have quite a few of her pieces in our collection, the latest addition Polyphony from her new Bird series. It will be a fitting and most welcome addition to our Chicago home.

Polyphony
Jodi Bonassi

To see more of Jodi’s work follow the link below.

 

https://www.jodibonassiart.com/home

Jodi and work

 

Because I do have so many reminders of Jodi’s talent and spirit in my life I hoped to gift her with my own. Gifting art is a tricky issue. I’ve given art to friends before  and humiliatingly they’ve returned it!, that was obviously awkward . It is undeniably  presumptuous to assume that though one may be friends that they’d  necessarily  want pieces of your work taking up valuable space in their home, but nonetheless , Jodi and I share a respect for the craft of art making , animals, the land and its conservation  and a  general sense of being odd ducks so I took the chance.

I had a few pieces that I felt might symbolize that bond, a textile piece The Green Knight (or The Wodewose) and a drawing Rape of Our Mother.

The Green Knight
2018
Mixed textile media
The Rape of Our Mother (or The Rape of Gaia)
2017
pencil on paper
24 by 36 inches

I hadn’t expected Jodi’s squeal when I handed her The Green Knight. Let’s say it was more gratifying than the above mentioned gift return.

Though I am not sure where she will hang the rather cumbersome framed drawing, I do know where my Green Knight reigneth.

The Green Knight at the Round Table

So I leave Los Angeles trying to maintain a sense of perspective, naturally prone to a gloomy outcast, I am heartened. By just posting these fond memories  gratitude is triggered for the Anam Cara, the soul-friends, the Lord has placed upon my path. Of which, quite lately, I’ve been blessed to meet a new art chum , a talented writer, wit (she is British after all ), incredibly bright and irreverent , she goes by a few names, I call her Saria, however her nom de plume is Scam Likely. She has become a fast friend and one I will also miss a great deal. She popped over for a studio visit recently  and I dubbed her with this scepter, she struck a worthy Valkyrie pose.

 

I heartily recommend her latest book, its quite funny :

 

In closing I will explain the first image of this long winded post, an early painting initially called Naked Emperor  (I have recently decided upon Los Angeles). Early on in my enthusiasm for a life as a studio painter I had work accepted into a group show-at a museum! I was thrilled, this is so easy I told myself, full of vim, vigor and self importance I attended the opening, certain, cringe worthily certain, that my work, certainly brilliant, would get the attention and respect it deserves. Well suffice to say, it didn’t (it also wasn’t very good ). What did however elicit all manner of oohs and aaahs was a really ridiculous , pretty formulaic bit of installation work, a rusty  boxspring, wired with old-timey bare light bulbs and, wait for it, suspended from the ceiling. It was as cringeworthy in its bombast as my own self expectant hubris. But the attendees of the awards program were besides themselves in admiration for its brilliance. I felt alone in my incredulity and of course the Emperor and his new clothes came to mind. Next morning I picked up brushes, new to oil, this was one of my first clumsy experiments with my now medium of choice.

(afterthought, the following image of Punch was the above mentioned, not so very good work)

Punch
2015?
Mixed media
approx 40 by 30?
Lost

Jodi admired my Emperor and its sentiment so I gifted him as well.

Los Angeles &/or The Naked Emperor 2015

 

Closing Shop…& new chapters

Well it is official, after sixteen years of being in Los Angeles we are at last moving permanently to our home in Chicago. I’ve been griping about Los Angeles for at least fifteen of our sixteen years living here, but as our office manager shows our suite (my husband and I share a commercial space for his practice and my studio) to prospective tenants, our July 31st exit feels all too real and I am feeling unexpectedly blue.

In remembrance of this, my last studio in LA, I felt it fitting to document it right before its dismantling 

My Wunderkammer is now either boxed up, crated for shipment, dispersed amongst friends or awaiting an upcoming studio sale. Its a pretty dispiriting place, I am not terribly inspired to even draw. My mind wanders from task to task, fretting as to movers, cargo trucks, cross country logistics…

My reality now is the distinctive tan of cardboard and packing tape.

I next begin packing up the apartment we’ve called home here in LA for the last year or so, the property manager just signed off on our lease this morning and we are now free to head eastward . My husband David is a psychoanalyst and was recently offered the position of president of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, the position officially beginning in the autumn;  this incredible opportunity and  honor has pushed forward considerably our timeframe for exiting LA. Though excited and very happy for David I am now, after much vocal animosity towards this city, feeling a nostalgia and pining for what never was, for what never happened , for dreams unfulfilled.

But I am letting that go and looking forward to this next phase of our life together; for David certainly exciting , for me, I imagine a bit of the same old same old, working diligently and with full enthusiasm but with little external recognition. That is a difficult reality of being an obscure artist, the existential why of it all. I may work for months, a year or two even,  on a piece, and in the currency of our age,I may get perhaps fourteen social media “likes”- pathetic really this pining after validation, but so it is. Artists aren’t different from anyone else, we all want to be liked, our effort valued , our passions validated.

It is a conversation I have with fellow artists that I am close to, those of us fully  devoted to our craft but who largely go unnoticed- not quite the correct intersection of fashionable identities it seems. Art made with sincere passion but not capturing the imagination of the easily swayed public can  trigger crippling self doubt. The key I hope  is in the satisfaction the making brings to its creator, that in the end must have significance.

Or at least I hope so.

I have a new studio in Chicago, in addition to a small home studio (the former service wing of our  apartment). The space has what young folks call vibes, good vibes, and I look forward to fitting it out as a cozy den of stitchery, printmaking and panel painting (on a smaller easel scale than I have worked here in Los Angeles); drawings will be the craft practiced at my home studio…my own little drawing room at last!

So onward.

And remember , if in LA please stop by to my studio sale, payment plans considered, negotiations encouraged, even gifting of work if I like you! My orphans need homes and I seek a fresh start.

 

And to LA, thank you.

Mr. Punch’s Auto-da-fe

Mr. Punch’s Auto da fé
2022
Gouache and pencil on illustration board
15 by 20 inches

 

New work, still on the drawing board, inspired in great part by personal frustration and a general sense of impotent hopelessness.

My latest works are frequently snide, furtive symbolist comments on what I find frustrating , annoying and frequently terrifying (I wish I felt uplifted by society, but in what feels an apocalyptic age of societal decay , I do not).  The silencing of dissenting or unpopular perspectives through public shaming by what is loosely referred to as “cancel culture”  has for some time recalled to me  the Inquisition with its spectacle of public humiliation and penance through the ceremonial auto-da-fé. Whereas in the 16th century there was raucous public degradation and self flagellation of the accused with their pointy headed capirotes, the damned garbed shamefully in their “shirt of flame”, the samarra sanbenito.  The accused trespasser of our day, faces an even more relentlessly raucous mob, the unclean must grovel and tearfully (sincerely or not) repent publicly  to the politically “woke”elite, hoping against hope to be allowed back into the fold .

I wince every time  I witness  yet again another sinner, who having  failed to tow the party-member line, frequently trespassing ever so slightly, must quiver in isolated shame, flagellating themselves performatively to an unforgiving, intolerant mob.  I question why they do that to themselves, can’t they stand by their convictions?  But would I be any different if I were in their more high profile shoes? 

I fear not, for even this modest post, one read by very few, is still contrary to the generally left, increasingly far left of center art world ; such a stance has me wondering if Mr. Punch will be garbing me in the flames of contrition any time soon.

 

 

Afterthought, I used the word “woke” above, I do not like that word, it is too vague, too broad a brush, it is a lazy shorthand . The attached article below explores the word, its possible ideology with more sensitivity, compassion and eloquence.

“In return, the people formerly known as “woke” need to cut it out with the witch hunts. I hope they understand by now that politics by inquisition is unsustainable. Eventually, the guillotine finds its way to you.”

The substack  Journal of Free Black Thought is well worth a subscription.

https://freeblackthought.substack.com/p/turning-the-page-on-wokeness?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share&token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoyODU5MDc0LCJfIjoiTWFJUlIiLCJpYXQiOjE2NDcyNjg2NTIsImV4cCI6MTY0NzI3MjI1MiwiaXNzIjoicHViLTQxNDIxMCIsInN1YiI6InBvc3QtcmVhY3Rpb24ifQ.w0v0Drizkmzg9nMDCMr9HbcfzVr46lMt84wfqDQFPWA&s=r

A few details:

Detail
Detail “Mr. Punch’s Auto-da-fé”
Detail with “Capirote” head gear and Shirt of Flame “samarra sanbenito”.

Organizing photographs I came upon this forgotten (lost?) painting of Mr. Punch. I’ve loved the awful mean spirited Punch since boyhood, it is little wonder as I approach sixty that he keeps reappearing.

Punch
2015?
Mixed media
approx 40 by 30?
Lost
Mr. Punch’s Auto da fé
2022
Gouache and pencil on illustration board
15 by 20 inches

Panem et Circenses

A newly completed work on paper, pencil and gouache expressing my confusion, dismay and anxiety concerning multiple new realities, be it social upheaval   identity obsessions , pronoun hysteria , language police, climate vulnerability  , and now martial aggression in Eastern Europe.

Bread and circuses, be it foolish political distractions, petty grievances and mindless entertainment seems to be what society craves most  .

I’m just trying to navigate the onslaught .

Panem et Circenses
2022
pencil, gouache on toned paper
19 by 25 inches

Dense image, some details might be in order:

Detail including self portrait in commedia costume.
Detail, me, telling the White Man he is indeed Dead.

More background detail.
The germ of the work, a quick notebook sketch.
Panem et Circenses
2022
pencil, gouache on toned paper
19 by 25 inches

The Xibalba Codex

The Xibalba Codex

 

A year ago yesterday (30th January 2021) I read for the first time a new  translation of the Quiche Maya Popol vuh by a talented poet Jemshed Khan. The manuscript appeared unexpectedly in my email inbox one morning, as I am a devoted admirer of this great creation myth  (of which  I’ve read multiple translations) I was eager to see how it compared- I confess I hadn’t high hopes.  I soon found this manuscript to be a sensitive translation, that it  would arrive so magically, so mysteriously, to me, I found enchanting – the old gods seemed at play.  

From the first reading it was obvious to me that Khan shared my passion for this great work, weaving his own poetic voice within the tapestry of ancient ancestors.

 Gratitude to old gods.

 

The Popol vuh is clearly a Mesoamerican treasure, steeped in the rich traditions and archetypes of a particular region; however equally true, I find within its twisting liminal wordplay, universal themes that I believe many can (and do) identify with: betrayal, wonder, fear, bravery, parental concern, tragic loss, sorrow, redemption, ultimately rebirth…and concerning the impish daemons of Xibalba, prankish, school-boy  humor.

Though this epic work found its expression in the pre-Conquest consciousness of the Maya people, the shape shifting artistry of this great culture  undeniably awakened in the Quiche-fluent Spanish friar Francisco Ximenez (the original Popol vuh translator) familiar associations (much within the text  resonates with Christian archetypes: virgin births, ritual sacrifice, resurrection and redemption) . As the Mesoamerican scholars Mary Miller and Karl Taub attest in their indispensable An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya :

In the Classic Maya area, the complexity of the hieroglyphic inscriptions is entirely matched by the attendant iconography, the texts and the pictorial images conveying different qualities of information. Unlike the specificity of writing , the power of Mesoamerican iconography lies in its subtle ambiguity and ability to express different levels of meaning. In a single scene , a richly costumed king can be regarded as a diety impersonator , an actual god, or both. In terms of metaphoric expression , the iconography comes alive. Lightening can appear as a burning serpent, blood as writhing snakes or gouts sprouting sweet flowers, and a mature maize ear as a human head awaiting decapitation from the stalk. (pg.32)

My desire, once I committed to a collaboration, in designing the following plates,  was to convey this “subtle ambiguity”, desiring as well that my iconography equally “comes alive” with curious meaning .

In approaching a work so rooted in the Maya people’s culture and identity I naturally tread cautiously and hopefully I convey the respect I have for this masterpiece. I did not resort to Mesomaerican archetypes ,  such indigenous  iconography, while clearly inspirational, didn’t feel appropriate for my use.  As one of mixed European  heritage I felt haven’t the natural right to directly appropriate such rich material;I  instead  wanted to express my desire to create a mythical, timeless space of my own imaginings  (as much of this epic is set in the underworld kingdom of Xibalba, this was done with relative ease). 

This self imposed stylistic restraint is not an original concept , that titan of Mexican mural painting, the great José Clemente Orozco placed upon his own work similar restrictions (though I would argue he had more liberty to “loot” than I do). In Neil Baldwin’s Legends of the Plumed Serpent: Biography of a Mexican God” Orozco is quoted as expressing similar intentions:

Deliberately, unlike Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional three years early, Orozco will not draw so directly upon “aboriginal traditions”. It is time , rather for a “new cycle”, he says, and to forego “looting indigenous remains…however picturesque and interesting they may be”.

My desire in addition to creating a dream space is to explore perception, the images that float before our mind’s eye when told an unfamiliar story. I turn immediately, instinctively to Durer’s rhinoceros, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dürer%27s_Rhinoceros

a fascinating example of perception misaligned with reality; Dürer,  an artistic genius able to convey with great sensitivity and seeming ease  the world about him, however clearly had never stumbled upon an actual rhino. He instead seems to cobble together a bull with an armored tank, sketching I imagine what had been described to him. It is this disconnect of perception with “reality”  that I had hoped to convey, my stratagem was in pretending that I had no knowledge of the Maya people and their incredible artistic accomplishments, instead, listening as if for the first time to this grand epic we call the Popol vuh. Populating this fascinating narrative with ambiguous, mythical, vaguely familiar  figures; my conceit was imagining a 16th century European court sitting entranced by this exotic tale from a far-off land  and in their imagination the Hero Twins possess  the brawn of Herakles, the Xibalban princess is sister to a tower bound damsel and the Maize God so obviously the brother to Christ (or at least the Baptist).

That is the intention of this collection of illuminations , an outward expression of my appreciation for the Popol vuh, for we hear in these unfamiliar stories, from unfamiliar lands, the familiar. The Popol vuh, like the creation stories of the Classical world and of our Northern kin, speak of universal truths, naturally  touching the hearts of all who stumble upon them, providing inspiration to so many.

The fruit of that inspiration follows.

Design for endpaper, left side.
a-1, Prologue
a-2, Prologue
a-3, Prologue
” The local bruja warns of the dead about the lapsed pyramid.”
A-D, Maiden Blood
“Lord One Death hangs the head of a slain warrior in the dead tree by the road…”
A-F, Flight from Xibalba
(final version)
“…my hands fly to my belly. Both alive, they kick inside.”
A-F
I decided against this one, but still elements I liked .
A-I, Messenger Owls
A-J, Maiden’s Journey to Grandmother’s Hut
A-J
Spot illustration with text.
A-M, Birthing at the Placed Called Los Sapos.
A-N, Song of Hunaphu
“…of mother’s womb the void glowed redness bathed me for hours…”

 

Plate A-N, Nursing Twins: “screechers of want…”
A-O, My Boys
“…returns with quetzal feathers, muscled shoulders draped with jaguar skins.”
A-P, A Grandmother’s Wish
“…I remember their father did the same…”
Plate B-D Hard Work
Plate B-G, The Rat’s Tale
Plate B-G Ixbalanque, We Twins Scheme for our Father’s Rubber Ball
Plate B-N, Twins Practicing the Ball Game
“Atop a pine the dove observes their arrival”
BX, The Underworld Lords’ Complain
“Have they no shame stomping about up there? said One Death.”
CX, A Summons from Lord One Death
“Lord One Death summons you to play the sacred game against us.”
DX, Screech Owl Leads the Way
“At dusk, I transform from owl into a skull…”
EX,The Brothers’ Canyon Descent
“Milky Way glitters overhead against the dark womb sky.”
FX, Scorpion at the Crossing
“Midair, my stinger whips and spikes the rubber sphere with such fury that ball and striker will not separate.”
GX, Blood River in Earthshine
“Two boys ride the scorpion’s back. Eight insect legs scuttle across my river bed.”
HX, Finding Black Road
“Under Blood Moon Twins ride Scorpion’s back…”
IX, Mosquito’s Tale
“Hunaphu plucked a hair from his leg. He gave me wings, named me mosquito, and told me to guzzle blood.”
JX, Thrones on the Black Road
“Thus they came to where the Xibalbans were.”
KX, Gifts at the House of Darkness
“The messenger of One Death offers us a torch and two cigars.”
LX, Home-court Advantage
“We…drop our rubber ball on the court. But the Lords refuse it, throw down a skull instead. ‘This is not a ball’ we protest.”
L-LX, Winners and Losers
“Just four bowls of flowers, says Seven Death, one bowl yellow petals, one bowl red, one bowl large petals, one bowl black.”
MX, Prisoners in the House of Blades.
“Yours shall be the flesh of animals, they said to the blades”
MX, 1
spot illustration
MX, 2
Spot illustration
NX, Ants Tell of Cutting Petals
“We clamber stalks to nip petals from their stems, march back to the House of Daggers, our fragrant spoils.”
OX, Outside the House of Daggers
“Air thrums with death bats, moths, owls. Ground crawls with coralillio, centipedes and scorpions.”
PX, A Night in the Bat House
“…screeching snatch-bats careen through the dark.”
Poem Q, Severed Head.
“One Death rolls Hunaphu’s head to the court where the Xibalbans rejoice. Ixbalanque turns from grief and calls together all the animals. From a squash, leaves, wood and stones they build for Hunaphu a crude head.”
Poem R, Rabbit’s Ruse
“In the House of Bats Ixbalanque whispered in my long soft ears…”
Poem S, The Songs of Ixbalanque.
“Now the Lords scheme our death by red hot stones and burning coals.”
Poem T, Twins Leaping”.
“Let’s play a game of jumping over fire, said Lord One Death…Coals blazed and the rocks glowed bright red. But before the Lords could push us in, we dove headfirst to our deaths.”
Poem U, Funerary Advice.
“The Lords pulled our smoking corpses from the fire pit and laid us on the ground.”
Poem V, Resurrection.
“After five days we reappeared with faces glistening and shimmying in the water like catfish.”
Poem W, Of Orphans and Armadillos.
“On a side street we dance the Armadillo. A crowd gathers to whistle and shout.”
Poem X, Dancing for Lords.
“One Death cheers when we dance the Deer and laughs at the Centipede.”
Poem Y, Death Wish.
“Kill me, then make me live again…But One Death does not revive and his heart is cast before his throne. Next we take the heart of Seven Death. Two High Lords now lie dead. Ten more shake with dread.”
Z-i, The Heart of One Death.
“I call my heart to my chest. For I am One Death risen from the dead.”
Z-ii, One Death Survives.
“Let them think they’re Gods about to kill an earthly Lord.”
Z-iii, The Song of One Death.
“…loyal Lords dead, owls and moths fleeing light.”
Z-iv, Exile from Xibalba.
“Do not fear for I am serpent and I am sky. I am death.And death survives.”
Epilogue, Aj q ‘ijab.
“…we reach a flat hilltop clearing where an eight-foot stella rises. Carved on the back are glyphs of dynasties and sun nosed bats. 1600-year old traces of cinnabar cling to tooled crevices.”
Finis.
Design for Endpaper, right side.
The Xibalba Codex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yuletide Greetings from Chicago

Here in frosty Chicago , I have felt  the wintry chill for weeks, yet my calendar informs me that true winter isn’t until tomorrow, the 21st of December. So in honor of all manner of frosty solstice cheer  and Yuletide goodwill, I share today’s drawing-painting.

Happy Yuletide, from here, to you.

Glimmers of our first Chicago Christmas follow.

Direct inspiration for one of the characters in the drawing ; I have a passion for collecting these chenille doodads.

@Art Institute, apparently a holiday tradition, a handsome pair.
Yuletide Greetings, 2021
Gouache and pencil on toned paper
11 by 9 inches

 

New Painting: Veni Creator Spiritus

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit)
2021
Oil on canvas
24 by 48 inches

Latest painting, inspired by story chanting, spell making, magic weaving and fairytelling.

Details follow:

Detail: Veni Creator Spiritus
Detail: Veni Creator Spiritus
Detail: Veni Creator Spiritus
Detail: Veni Creator Spiritus
Detail:Veni Creator Spiritus
Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit)
2021
Oil on canvas
24 by 48 inches