In preparation for my solo exhibition at MOAH/Cedar https://www.lancastermoah.org/cedar-exhibitions I am in that happy place, that point of total absorption with the task at hand. There is a superficial chaos to my studio at the moment, baskets and boxes spill over with thrift store yardage, flashy discarded costumes tumble upon the floor, even the dog beds are spotted with a gay confetti. But from this disorder spontaneity is flowing. I’ve set tasks at hand, a general to-do wish list in order for Fairyland to become a reality , but only used as a guideline. My best work is revealed to me through the process of making, as much as I may enjoy the planning.
There are those close friends who see through the madness, one such person is my fastidious , admirably precise and thoughtful friend Ken, who when visiting recently seemed taken with my large, unwieldy Victorian steamer trunk, crammed full of scraps of fabric and snippets of embroidery floss (I’ve saved every scrap of fabric from the Fairyland project, I’m either very clever or a hoarder). Ken is just the sort of friend an artist wishes for, seeing your intentions, he not only grasps your meaning but elaborates upon it. The notion of the “worthless”rag, the discarded snippet being a metaphor for a disposable humanity needed no explanation to my friend; he too sees the sacred in the forgotten, as witnessed by this dazzling kaleidoscope he created out of studio floor flotsam.
It is really beautiful.
With the floors littered with bundles of thrift store yardage, the work tables are increasingly crowded, I now have five tables in current usage. This charming 19th century illustration below (source unknown to me) delightfully (if romantically) captures the mood of my studio.
And like the doll-making above, my figures are indeed emerging, not by Fairy hands alas.
Concepts formerly inchoate are not taking form. I was recently asked by the museum for a Fairyland statement. Ideas and inspirations have been swimming about in the noggin for some time , but again, inchoate, not fully developed. It was time to put needle, pencil and brush aside and to pick up the quill. This is my statement for Fairyland (the formatting is peculiar for some reason) :
This recent body of work I’ve called Fairyland has developed a definite camp sensibility (not dissimilar to the theatrical confections of Cecil Beaton in the 1920’s). Camp, having been described as the lie that tells the truth, is an innate language I have been reticent to explore until recently.
Perhaps internalized homophobia has left me hesitant to make work so boldly queer – in every sense of the word – making art so openly flamboyant. Purposely stamped with informed wit and a wry knowing humor, this new work is first and foremost intended to visually delight and be taken seriously .
Among other things, it touches on the weighty tableau of the Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert and the perilous trials of Herakles. My aesthetic expression is influenced by my instinctive inclination to lighten somber somewhat ponderous existential themes with a gay touch (consciously using this word in both its current identity-laden fraught understanding and the anachronistic yet more delightful sense). While the work possesses decidedly camp sensibilities it is never ironic as is so often the current fashion. I find irony frequently cynical; my work is never cynical for no other reason than the inherent affection I hold for my motley crew of heroes, saints and sinners .
I draw indiscriminately upon diverse seemingly unrelated archetypes and themes from many sources, including Classical mythology, British folklore, Wagnerian operas and the biblical text of my Catholic youth, doing so in order to touch upon that which is culturally familiar to me, to others – and if we believe Jung – found deeply rooted as archetypes in our souls. These eternal themes provide me ample, seemingly endless, means of interpretation. As a person steeped in the Western tradition of literature and the visual arts, it is a rich fertile field I feel most comfortable in adopting.
The work presented at Fairyland are these familiar themes, explored many times over by countless artist; yet this time reimagined through a prism of my own. My play upon cultural themes hopefully adds a sentence or two to this ongoing cultural conversation. Working in variety of mediums, and a fabulist by nature, it is my intention to create a theatrical spectacle that is peculiar, visually arresting and deeply personal. Although the work is made solely for my own delight, I hope others find the work meaningful in some way. I also hope visitors feel inspired to resist the siren call of selfies and pause instead, if only for a moment, as these works are visually dense and to add their own voice to this enriching and frequently neglected conversation.
With that, welcome to my Fairyland.