Fayum Reimagined

I was delighted yesterday when a Facebook friend noticed the similarity to the above image, a work in progress which I had posted to social media and to that of the Egyptian-Roman mummy portraits of Fayum (late 1st c. B.C. to approximately 3rd c. A.D.).

I have a keen fondness for Fayum paintings, one of the last links to the celebrated paintings of the Classical world. We have the frescoes of course, but painting, which was so well praised and documented in the Classical period, is for the most part available to us except in the mosaic reproductions found gracing the villas of Pompeii. The Fayum panel portraits are therefore even more precious  a cherished reminder of a splendid tradition lost to time.

I’ve been conscious of the aesthetic similarities but hadn’t engaged with the likeness actively as a concept. But as my faces are attached to a stuffed fiber torso and my predecessors upon linen wrappings, there is an undeniable link. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, I hadn’t been that familiar withthe Fayum paintings, but the Getty Villa, once again, with its admirable Classical collection afforded an intimacy with these portraits of lost souls. The Getty Villa is a slice of heaven.

There is such freshness and vitality to these encaustic and tempera portraits that one feels you have met these folks before (here in LA, perhaps The Grove).

From the Getty collection, this lovely lady graces the Getty shopping tote.

Frequently they are portraits imagined in the full bloom of youth.

I haven’t the source, long clipped and saved, unattributed.

There is in that, a similarity to my own work; an ode to comeliness and youth.

I haven’t yet seen a Fayum portrait that wasn’t expressive, each visage staring directly into your soul , in some cases swaddled in their shroud.

I recently saw this wonderful mummy portrait with its unusually intact wrappings at the Getty Center. This isn’t my image however.

My aim of expressiveness is the same.

“Daphne” in progress.
“Daphne”, with their own elaborate wrappings.

This is a particularly handsome example, link follows: http://solarey.net/ancient-faces-egyptian-portrait-man/

A few of my own “Fayum” ( Gayum ?) portraits. Pardon the silly pun, but who could resist?

I am going to close with this fanciful image of a discovery of a Fayum mummy. Although the Wikipedia source seems to disparage the accuracy of the depiction, its fancifulness is just what delights me. This imagined scene, with its loose-limbed cadaver and baroque sarcophagus is in keeping with my own vision.

Engraving by Pietro Della Valle.

Image source and further Fayum information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fayum_mummy_portraits

With that, good night.

 

 

 

Fairyland ABC

My ongoing body of work Fairyland I am beginning to see has its roots and inspiration in the nursery. I find myself harkening back to my childhood. We hadn’t a nursery, or day care, in fact, due to my mother’s mental illnesses my childhood was spent in self care and self nurturance. I raised myself best as I could. One of the delights of my solitary childhood was stumbling upon the Victorian and Edwardian library of my maternal grandmother’s own (isolated) childhood nursery. One such delight was Walter Crane’s enchanting Absurd ABC. I spent many quiet hours poring over Crane’s vivid and complex drawings, imagining better worlds. I owe a huge debt to Crane. 

Walter Crane
“Absurd ABC”

With that alphabetic primer in mind, I turned the focus of my daily drawing practice to the ABC’s; each day producing a primer that would have suited that little boy (and the fellow I am now). Later in life I discovered other primers and have experienced inspiration in ornamental alphabets such as this medieval ( neo-medieval?) illuminated primer.

With that information in mind, my Alphabetic Primer of Fairyland:

“A” is for Aladdin
“B” is for Baal
“C” is for Commedia dell’ Arte ( & Chinoiserie)
“D” is for Death
“E” is for Egyptomania
“F” is for Faun (& Fairy & Floral)
“G” is for Greenman (& Gryphon & Ganymede)
“H” is for Herakles (& Hydra)
“I” is for Imperial Rome ( & Impermanence)
“J” is for Jester
“K” is for Kells, Book of
“L” is for Lazarus
“M” is for Minotaur
“N” is for Nereid
“O” is for Opera
“P” is for Pierrot (& Pollarded Trees)
“Q” is for Quetzalcoatl
“R” is for Rococo
“S” is for Salome
“T” is for Theatrical Temperament
“U” is for Uranus (& Uncomfortable)
“V” is for Viking
“W” is for Witchcraft
“X” is for Xibalba
“Y” is for Yankee Doodle Dandy
“&” is for Ampersand
“Z” is for Zanni

This isn’t my first alphabet, back in 2012 I went to task working on my Primer of New Spain ( see side bar for link ). However I lost steam and interest, as interesting as Mesoamerican art and culture is, it isn’t MY  story. From now on I am focusing on what is true to me, Fairyland is home.

The following is “D is for Dog” from the above mentioned Primer of New Spain.

 Dogs are always “true” to me.

“D” is for Dog
2012
from “Primer of New Spain”

Link:

https://boondocksbabylon.com/2012/11/30/d-is-for-dogs/

With that, I close this post. For the record all of the images are 8 by 10″, on toned grey paper, sanguine (mostly) pencil and white charcoal highlights. I continue my daily drawing practice, starting most studio days with at least one decent drawing. I imagine revisiting the ABC’s once again. 

 

The Cave as Metaphor

Caves are a recurring image in my dizzying dream world. As a result I incorporate them into my work, initially as an impulse, but now working with a Jungian dream analyst, with more deliberation. My friend Betty Brown, who frequently posts thoughtful affirmations and memorable quotes shared this Campbellian gem this very morning  (thank you Betty):

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” 

-Joseph Campbell

That pretty much sums it up.

Now to that cave.

Leonard Greco
“Journey of the Rose”
oil on canvas
2014

GDPR

Official dull, boring, seemingly obligatory, keep-the-evil-gods-at-bay announcement:

 

As you probably already know, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect  25 May 2018. The new regulations are such that your personal data can only be used with your consent. Here at Boondocks Babylon, the safety and privacy of your information is paramount. If you enjoy receiving my updates and announcements, no further actions are necessary.

 

Should you wish to stop receiving notifications , please email me at neobaroque@mac.com (or I would think , just unfollow me). This is all far above my head, I am a painter, this stuff, all a bit daunting .

 I do however appreciate your continued interest, it flabbergasts me that anyone finds it interesting. So thank you.

Sincerely,

Leonard Greco

Memorial Day 2018

Los Angeles

Memories of Teotihuacan

We spent yesterday afternoon delighting in the mystical offerings of the Moon and the Sun pyramids , Feathered Serpents and the well traveled Avenue of Death , I speak of LACMA ‘s excellent exhibition , on display now ( through July 15th) City and Cosmos : The Arts of Teotihuacan.

The following are some mementos, but they hardly do the works displayed any justice .

LACMA is bursting with amazing offerings at the moment . Of personal interest is Ancient Bodies : Transformation, Personhood, and Power in Mesoamerica ( open through July 8th); an exploration of contemporary Iranian art that seemed from first cursory glance to be almost too spectacular In the Fields of Empty Days : The Intersection of Past and Present in Iranian Art ( through September 9th) and opening June 3rd The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy ( through September 16th).

Much to occupy my summer .

My David at the foot of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, 2013.

And now some snapshots from yesterday’s visit ,  treasures unseen , unknown to us prior .

This Host figurine was perhaps the most inspirational of what I saw yesterday . The figure , under a foot , initially held smaller figures . I am eager to incorporate this idea into my own work .

Also inspirational was this Bundle figure , a graven depiction of a sacrificial bundle offering with detachable masks . Masks are nearly as important to my own work as they are famously important to that of Teotihuacan.

 

A small delicate piece .

And a large offertory piece ( with squinting husband for scale ) . Mysteriously smashed at the end of the Teotihuacan Empire , many large scale figures destroyed seemingly purposely, still not clear why .

Magical figurines from the Pyramid of the Moon.

Of course plenty of incredible wall murals , the fresco luminous to this day .

A most comical avian figure .

And a wondrously detailed warrior.

 

I’ll end with this most expressive face.

Cloistertime

I’ve been spending much of this year sequestered in my studio , focusing upon work at hand and engaging with the actual world far less . My desire to work has compromised my ability to attend openings, pay studio visits , basic human time . I have ambivalent regret about that , but the time spent at the cloister of my making is so fleeting , my life so short that I feel compelled.

Although I spend less and less actual time with friends , many talented and exciting artists, company I treasure I do stay engaged, at least superficially. Social media keeps me in the proverbial loop , for that I am grateful .

Work in progress : The Herakles Tapestry

And through social media I am offered moments of reflection . I recently saw a post from an artist I admire very much and a dear friend , this post was hash tagged with “#f@ckoverthinking” ( without my censor ; it increasingly seems the “f” word is the go-to descriptor for almost anything : “f-ing brilliant “, “f-ing amazing “, etc. ).

This admonition to not overthink one’s process and by extension work , inspired thinking about my own process and the work itself . The taste for seemingly spontaneous, emotive work , where the process is an existential eruption feeds a narrative very much in fashion . Hollywood for decades has promoted the mythology of a feverish genius , blind with passion , communicating madly with their unrelenting muse ( the new film concerning Picasso has a cover image that depicts this archetype very well – handsome , paint , bespecked , exhausted ).

I confess my studio time has never been a cardio workout . In fact , contrary to my friends admonition to “f” overthinking, I think a great deal . I think, I write , I connect the dots . And while my work isn’t aesthetically feverish , it is dense with layers , perhaps too many , I don’t know for I am too close to the process . But it is the work I find interesting , the work I want to look at and the work I want to bring into the world .

I’ve never been interested in work that doesn’t call me back for another visit . That makes too direct a point . The works I most admire puzzle me , tease me with elusive symbols , require my attention . Directness is not my nature , not in life , or conversation, or even in my writing ; I am furtive , and in my studio work I would rather slip in a sly informed allegory than confront an issue directly . A flourish of meaning easily overlooked.

But I do think my approach is at odds with contemporary expectations of what art is or should be ( my calling my work “art” is an indulgence I allow myself when speaking of it , generally I refer to it as “stuff I make ” ). Street art has in a great way set this expectation : deft, ecstatic , exuberant, and most importantly, accessible. Marx would have been pleased.

My own work tends to be more obscure, more measured , the process at times almost plodding , but a joyous plodding , because the dedication to minute brushstrokes, to innumerable pencil markings or whip stitches is not unlike a prayer .

I had a wise teacher , a Russian iconographer , who insisted that every brush stroke when painting (an icon) is a prayer of gratitude. This deliberate , exacting mindfulness, the antipode to “overthinking” , is what I seek in my cloister .

Which is where I will spend my day . Have a great one .

(I am inspired by medieval illumination, , the measured , concise focus upon marginalia . This ornamental border , my take on Marginalia, is on a much larger scale , but when finished will, I hope, convey the same spirit . I’m looking to go larger and also to employ fiber art.)