Once again we find ourselves in Arizona for the Christmas holiday . Serene in the quiet of the high desert . David and I spending this celebration of the Savior’s birth reading , lolling about with the pups and desert strolls .
Seemed a jolly time to don my latest mask . I look a bit like Satan Claus.
I find it nearly impossible to engage in the abstract , my vocabulary is perhaps too concrete . In a brief attempt at schooling I was assigned a project in which I was to refrain from representation. I failed miserably .
I see figures everywhere , in water beading upon the shower door, cracks on a wall and in the drifting sand . It’s impossible for me to not embody.
Yet with stitching I find the randomness of my clumsy stitch work ( I am an inept seamstress, the “brut” quality is not an aesthetic affectation) reveals accidental non representational compositions. The compositions create themselves , I merely accompany them , needle in hand .
Of interest at the moment is mining the accidental compositions found upon my studio floor when working with needle . Fashioning my Stuffed Paintings is messy work , gravity and chance creates repeated patterns that I as a designer would be unable to imagine . I find them particularly poetic. I snatch them up and appliqué them upon whatever figure I am working upon .
There is something deeply gratifying in celebrating the discarded . As a queer man making work that is frequently as queer and having frequently felt disposable myself , elevating the overlooked is gently satisfying. This might very well be the overindulgent musing of an artist at work , but they are my musings . I leave them here , wishing all a tender holiday season .
Today is the official first day of my residency with Shoebox Projects, here in Los Angeles. The residency is a little over a month allowing for the holiday interruptions. The unveiling of the work will be Saturday January 13th, 3-6 pm; link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1994368064109763/.
As I embark on this exciting opportunity I wanted to first clarify my thoughts, the following is my statement of intent for this installation which I call Embodied: St. Anthony and the Desert of Tears.
Embodied: St Anthony and the Desert of Tears
The anchorite’s cave , the hermit’s lean-to and the studio of an artist are ideally a place of solitude, reflection and self discovery.A place to contemplate upon the divine , be it the godhead or the muse .
Yet this desired solitude is frequently tormented by demons, external and internal, distracting temptations seductively masquerading as duties or obligations, understandable commitments such as those to family, health and home are inevitable. These realities must be tended to with balance and discipline.
Yet more pervasive is the insidious influence of social media and the subtle influences of “community”, the chattering world , which frequently, at least for this seeker, stirs up emotions of self doubt , insecurity, timidity , and a call to conformity. Even within the sacred space of the studio one can be tormented by an almost adolescent peer pressure, the hive mind buzzing about can be deafening . Community, particularly amongst artists, is currently highly valued , perhaps a reaction against Individualism. But why ? Haven’t we the spark within? For although I treasure the fellowship there is also a very palpable anxiety ( again exacerbated by social media ) to compare and judge oneself , frequently unfavorably, against ones peers.
My inspiration for this mixed media installation is drawn upon the well known narrative of the Early Church Father , St Antony of the Desert and the hermit’s own struggle with demons. It is in the tradition of depicting Anthony ‘s demons playfully that I wish to explore my own struggles.
Oscar Wilde famously said that an artist’s duty is to make art “…for his own pleasure, and has never asked the public what they wanted …”.
This is an extreme, perhaps arrogant , isolationist stance yet if one recalls ones childhood , mud pies were made for the pure delight of the making. It is in this making , unfettered by opinion , second guessing or concern for that ever-elusive societal “relevance” that the artist must center their practice . For it is my belief that is where true art is found .
This anchorite hopes to do just that during this residency.
We were fortunate this Thanksgiving break to spend the holiday in divine desert isolation (Twenty Nine Palms, CA), renting a small cabin, free of distraction, bathed in blissful silence. It was much needed balm for us both and has provided inspiration for this project. A few images follows:
The property has a wonderful abandoned cottage, it provided added inspiration. Trying to incorporate some of the images into Embodied.
In reading the narratives of the Early Church Fathers one is struck by repeated themes: temptations of lust, boredom, the perils of isolation. One recurring motif that I found particularly amusing was the desert desire for cucumbers. A reasonable desire perhaps, but the Freudian associations were hard to dismiss. Surprisingly, adjacent to our rented cottage, stood a date farm planted upon an oasis. The laborers had tapped into the precious water and planted gorgeous pumpkins and squash; they seemed a fitting reference to the hermit’s cucumber.
Eager to begin to assemble my multiple elements. I have a sense of intention, but as with all plans (and art making), change is inevitable. Please wish me luck.