Of Trout and Virgin Queens…and the Arroyo Seco

My thoughts at the moment are on all things piscine. I’m participating in an upcoming celebration of the Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the LA River, a costumed parade bash celebrating this once vital body of water. I’m helping with community puppet making and looking forward to that opportunity  Apparently at one time trout was abundant in the Arroyo Seco;  that is now difficult to imagine to this newcomer, the LA River is at times choked with debris, the tributary often a mere trickle. But one can hope through activism, awareness and frankly fun events such as the Fish Outta Water parade that the river will once again be alive with all sorts of wildlife. 

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The Virgin Queen Goes a Troutin’ 

1984(?)

houseplant and dumpster furniture

(This is from a piece of painted furniture from a million years ago, I was very young, living in Maine, peddling painted furniture to summering dowagers. This sold almost instantly to a lovely woman in Blue Hill.)

My attention is turned to fashioning a suitable costume and mask. I want the mask to be a relief print so I can make several if I wish . I would like for it to a personification of the Arroyo Seco (granted more baroque, more absurd). But what the hell. This quick sketch is the basis of where I think I want to go, simple construction, wildly ornamented.

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I’ve spent the first part of the day brainstorming ideas for the masks, drawing literally on baroque ornamental cartouches. I’ve gone through a heck of a lot of paper, but I have whittled it down to three potential candidates.

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I think this last one will be the winner. I want to make additional water critters and dangle them down from the watery beard.  My new friend , the very talented Peter Hess ( see link: http://www.peterhessart.com ) designed the poster for the event. It is incredible .

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In closing I just wanted to include some images taken a few months ago at the LA River. It is a favorite haunt of ours to run,bike or just walk the brats, and although it is not as conventionally romantic as an east coast river, it is rich with wildlife. Sadly much of that is gone, in preparation for El Nino , habitat has been  damaged if not out right destroyed to facilitate drainage. We have heard rumors that the river was to be completely dredged of plantlife, further compromising sanctuary for the egrets, turtles, fish and other critters that call this oddball place home.

May the River God Arroyo Seco protect them.

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Now to some lino carving!

Of Ressurection and Hope

  
As Easter begins here in Los Angeles, and my neighbors fuss with their delicious tamales , the steam of the maize wafting about as powerfully as frankincense, I’m struck once again by the similarities between the Quiche Maya narrative and that of my own familiar Christian narrative . That similarity being the brutal sacrifice of an innocent , his Ressurection and our redemption. 

In the Popol Vuh narrative the maize god Hunahpu’s sacrifice allows for us to be born. For our flesh is His, that of maize. As the Easter Eucharist is joyously raised aloft this morning I wonder if it ought to be made of corn.

May this Resurrection  Day, be it Christian or so called pagan, be glorious!🌽🌽🌽

A Day to Pause

 Good Friday ,has for some time, been for me a day to reflect , not in a self consciously “religious” way ( I seem to lack the traditional  faith element) but in an existential way ( talk about sounding self conscious and pretentious). I plan to spend this  day with a friend , check out some art and be more acutely aware of this situation we call life that I am so entangled in. For one day I will be disentangled and no matter what you believe , there aren’t any retakes .

 Enclosing a few images from paintings depicting the deposition of Christ.
  

The Descent from the Cross, 2015, acrylic on canvas

  Agnus Dei,2015, relief print on paper 

   

 
Descent from the Cross, 2015, watercolor on paper

Happy Holy Week

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day ( a wee bit early)

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Given tomorrow is St.Patrick’s Day and that its celebration is a well loved childhood memory (my mother’s surname being Murphy after all) I wanted to post something to honor the saint who drove the serpents out of Ireland. I found glancing through past work , that although I am very fond of the saint, I’ve never drawn him before. I decided to remedy that error and set about putting together this rendering .

I hope he would be pleased.

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Blessed Saint Patrick

2016

graphite, colored pencil, pastel and mixed media on paper

18 by 24″

Last minute I snipped away one of my relief prints and added the harpy to the composition ; I’m pleased with the result.

I must have sensed on some level that the holiday was approaching as I have been listening to quite a bit of Irish folk music. A favorite is The Raggle Taggle Gypsy O , particularly as interpreted by the great countertenor Andreas Scholl. I thought I would include it into this post. Link below.

 

The Miserly Peacock

Seeing a certain carrot-topped charlatan  bloviate and strut about the former Post estate in Palm Beach (a house that somehow manages to maintains its beauty in spite of the vulgarian within) boasting of how he is going to “make America great again”, I am reminded of the many other   pompous Palm Beach parvenues I had the misfortune to work for in my  over twenty year career as a decorative painter.  It is incredibly unprofessional to bad mouth former clients and decorators, but frankly leaving behind that often shallow and tight-fisted business, particularly in Florida, was the best decision I have made.

One wretched client I recall vividly, he  specifically admired and wished to emulate Mr. Trump and unsurprisingly the motif he chose to decorate  the dining room of his newly poured 30,000 square foot McMansion was the peacock. In my many years as a decorative painter I have found the peacock to be the most requested theme. Don’t get me wrong, I love the peacock as a decorative motif but to be snobbish about it, I like to think my fondness has roots in the Art Nouveau not the aspirations of the nouveau riche. This client, unlike what I have read of Mr.Trump, was particularly miserly. He would willingly boast of the $100,000.00 chandelier he had just purchased and his self aggrandizing decorator would boast of the spontaneous trips they had just taken on his private jet to pick up some god-awful ersatz baroque settee;  but when it came to hiring the local, not-so-famous, struggling artist willing to paint the still damp walls of his faux palazzo, well then , that fellow could haggle. 

Such is the life of a struggling artist, be it decorative or studio, so much depends on the market, your own financial situation and how willing you are to  debase yourself to stay afloat. Sometimes you just don’t have many options. David and I had a cute little house in Ft.Lauderdale, his practice was still developing and we had a mortgage to pay. So the two grand that the client assured me was ALL he could afford was settled upon. In the end, as in all experiences, there were lessons learned: how to manipulate cheap house paint quickly (of course there was a deadline that just HAD to met); dealing with ineffective decorators who still demanded their cut no matter how paltry the commission; and of course, slowly, excruciatingly slowly, recognizing my own worth.

This wall painting has its flaws, as in my studio work I do not possess an academically trained polish to my work, and in my decorative work, my tromp l’oeil was less than convincing. But they are attractive and I believe distinctive. And this painting, finished in the three week deadline, isn’t that bad.

I’m going through file after file of old commissions, some going back to the 80’s, I’m also  cobbling together a website for them, an archive free of dust, but full of memories . Some memories make me cringe , but some , like this one still pleases me in spite of  the bitter aftertaste .

 

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More details:

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It has to be noted that the presumptuous genius Whistler  openly mocked his client Frederick Richards Leyland for not appreciating the completely unrequested “improvements” to his now famous ( and rightly well regarded Peacock Room) by depicting him in a harsh caricature of a demonic peacock. I still question if Whistler had the right to squawk after he had painted over newly installed (expensive)16th leather wall coverings (which sound like they must have been fantastic), but nonetheless , this painting  is great fun and the room a wonder of the world to this day.

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James Mc Neill Whistler

The Gold Scab:Eruption in Filthy Lucre 

1879

I lack Whistler’s hubris and genius, but if my peacock is still there (so much of what I have painted has been destroyed in subsequent redecorations) I hope he is giving the clients dirty looks as they feast!

With that little bitter gem, be well, and now back to the studio.

 

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The link to the still developing decorative website is: http://www.leonardgrecoornamentalinventions.wordpress.com 

Temptation of St.Anthony of the Desert (a fellow and his pig)

 

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Just moments ago I finished up a drawing of the abbot of the desert St. Anthony. This well intentioned saint who sought to avoid worldliness and the corruption that follows only found himself in the thick of it. Anthony is my muse (as he was to Bosch, to symbolists such as Flaubert and to many  Surrealists), I turn to him time and again and have lost count as to how many works I have devoted to this early father of the Church . But one attribute of the anchorite that I particularly love is the company he keeps, pigs. The pig is found in many depictions of the hermit but this  is the first time I have worked one of my favorite beasties into the composition.  I’m sure there will be many more.

In this depiction I tried to incorporate,in a whimsical way, classical elements to depict worldliness ; not that I feel humanism is corrupt but classical sculpture can certainly raise one’s pulse.

 

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The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert (and his pig) 

2016 graphite and pastel on paper

18 by 24″ 

My love of pigs is personal, being a vegan I have a particular attachment to this highly intelligent and sensitive creature . David sponsored a pig for me this year as a Christmas present, her name is Sweet Tea and she is well tended to by the loving folks at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. Although I wish she lived with us we can easily visit her in Tuscon AZ, we plan on visiting her at least every boxing day. This image is from the day we first met, as you can see she is quite adorable and friendly. It is delightful how pigs rush to you when you enter their compound, ever greedy for treats and attention.

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Sweet Tea

Like I mentioned Anthony is often depicted with a pig, this little gem of painting by Lelio Orsi (1511-87) is one of my favorites at the Getty, I search it out whenever I visit.

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On my last visit I noticed this wee little pig pawing at the anchorite’s robe as fervently as my pug Viola.

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As I mentioned I will be sure to return to Anthony time and again, my very sweet and very talented friend, the artist and musician Henry Kitchen offered to pose, sending along this funny photo. He is actually a perfect Anthony, right down to the hoodie.

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I’m sure to take him up on the offer very soon.

Until then, back to painting, good night.