Final Days

 

I’m in the final days of my current studio , here now nearly two years . And while it has been roomy with plenty of light and space for me to sprawl out and create Fairyland, it is also been an uncomfortable fit . Blazing hot or frigid cold, open to the elements at one end , dust pours in, oil painting an impossibility. Also just a very ugly part of town that fetishizes its own ugliness . Time to move on . My new digs will be in David’s office suite, a few rooms , adequately lit, tenth floor with pretty views , climate controlled , air tight and a built in tea-time companion- plus the pups are welcome .

All well and good but I am nervous and anxious at the unknown ahead . Fairyland is finished and I find myself floundering , not sure where to go next . I have a long list of anticipated projects, optimistically scribbled down during the frenzy of manic making but now in the sobriety of task completed, inspiration is flaccid .

I know this will pass , all things in their time and yet my heart and soul aches . I’ve committed to drawing-table time, seeking no muse just a date with my pencil . My task at hand is to draw , simple as that . No expectation, no need to share or impress – studio vanity is a very real thing in my immediate universe , the endless posturing of busyness, productivity and excellence. None of that , just pencil to paper .

And packing . Ostensibly I am to be out by April Fools Day , with my Fairyland commitments and now this move , my time feels precious.

But as I have said I feel a heaviness of heart. I pack, I discard , recycle and donate , ruthless in shedding unwanted, unused objects, furnishings and materials only for them to languish for years in rented storage .

Today will be spent with the pups , cardboard packing boxes and hopefully more drawing .

I snapped the following images of the place as a memento of how it appeared before the dismantling.

Farewell my temporary workshop.

One of the most challenging tasks was ridding myself of the huge bags of scraps , the detritus of Fairyland. Initially I fancied I would make something of them but when faced with the reality of their being I saw only bleakness. I tend towards melancholy and this depression at a the sight of ragged scraps, floor dust and dog hair might be a result of that . But without much reflection, I tossed them into the dumpster .

Then I felt guilt over adding to the landfill . Such is my internal world .

This will pass , I believe that , until that time , I just being .

Ekphrasis…what an honor !

Ekphrasis, the artistic practice of a poet or artist inspired by one piece of art that another, generally a poem, is created in its honor. This is an ancient tradition, Homer in both his Illiad and The Odyssey frequently gushes about lovely delicately wrought brooches and elaborate too-pretty-for-war battle shields. The Poetry Foundation describes ekphrasis as :

“an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art.” More generally, an ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired or stimulated by a work of art.”

Generally understood as a literary practice I myself however have almost exclusively been inspired to produce tributes to poetry and literature through the visual arts. I frankly cannot think of a single piece of work NOT inspired by literature .  My installation piece Embodied:St. Anthony & the Desert of Tears is directly inspired by Flaubert’s magnificent hallucinatory  noodle-buster The Temptation of Saint Anthony (which in turn was inspired by a marionette performance of the same theme).  My work is either illustration (which I would disagree with ) or ekphrastic tribute. As ekphrasis is a beautiful  somewhat haughty  and daunting word, I will go with the latter.

All that said I have been honored recently to have TWO works of art made in tribute to my own art! That is an extraordinary experience. The first is a work of poetry by the artist Edwin Vasquez who had a personal inspiration from my Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert (below). This poet and artist sent me both the poem and a very poignant  note explaining the meaningfulness of my work to his own personal experience. Like so many artists I work in isolation and frankly never give consideration to potential viewers or their reaction to the work. To have such a touching tribute be sent my way, well that  is incredibly validating and much appreciated. The following is Edwin’s poem and a link.

 

The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert
2018
Oil on panel
18 by 36 inches

The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert

by Edwin Vasquez


Restless river zig-zagging like a poisonous desert snake

mirroring a non-existent, pale blueish color

from the grey hue of the restless sky.

On the right, in the forefront, St. Anthony stands in a catatonic state

behind a hollow tree trunk that resembles an empty cave where demons play,

his hand with painted nails holds the trunk — perhaps for dear life.

His forehead partially reflects the shadow from the twisted, carved cross,

accenting his sad and somber, melancholic face;

he resembles an animal in distress,

the saffron tunic replaced with a

tight costume – toxic green – accentuating his features,

yet he is not man nor woman,

he is animal, haunted by his own desires and demons.

The joke is on them:

the Bishop and King, the centaur and satyr, the jokers and demons;

they, in disgust, look away from him, who they want to scare —

he, who lost himself in the desert of his soul.

Link:https://sagebrushcafe.wordpress.com/ravensong/?fbclid=IwAR0VHEPDJgO5diiQQ4s8sZqNPT_UoXN7J3nFtrDwNqGJxzZNClnJ2rzmaQg

 

If that wasn’t exciting enough, another artist Jason Jenn has crafted a performance piece around my installation Embodied:St. Anthony & the Desert of Tears. I haven’t seen the work yet and have consciously distanced myself from any input , eager instead to see what this talented friend comes up with. The image associated with the performance of  Temptations in Fairyland delights the heck out of me.

Temptation in Fairyland
Jason Jenn

A link to the performance is on this Facebook events page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/387324135388019/

I don’t know what to expect, and like everyone else I will have to wait and see on March 16th, but I am  unabashedly excited.

And honored.

“The Temptation of St.Anthony of the Desert at the Baths of St.Mark”
2016
sanguine pencil on paper
18 by 24 inches

This  solo show experience has been a great source of personal gratification. I am on a sort of forced break from the studio, first I am in the process of moving the studio to another location, but more importantly (and more pleasurably) meeting friends at MOAH/Cedar to walk them through the galleries. I haven’t socialized this much in years, a bit daunting for an introverted hermit but what a delight. Today I met two really darling friends, both very talented artists, Malka Nedivi and Simone Gad, this photo being a treasured memento (my pups travel pretty much everywhere I go at this point).

Malka, left, The Dogwalker and Simone, right.

Again, what an honor!

The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert
2018
Oil on panel
18 by 36 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embodied Realized

My textile /mixed media installation piece Embodied: St. Anthony & the Desert of Tears is a major component of my solo show Fairyland  which is now on exhibition at MOAH/Cedar. This body of work  occupies an entire gallery and is on display until March 31st, 2019.

Those familiar with my work recognize that I have devoted considerable studio energy to the theme of the hermit Anthony and his desert trials. This particular work, by far my largest, was  first  realized in an inchoate state last year as part of residency at Shoebox Projects in Los Angeles. It has more fully developed into its present incarnation. Further development is most likely inevitable.

My concept for this show which is partly based upon Flaubert’s masterpiece of the same theme, and the myriad visual depictions of this beleaguered Desert Father not to mention my own trials and distracting temptations of life in the modern age is best expressed in the following  artist statement:

Embodied:St.Anthony & the Desert Tears, my latest mixed media installation  is inspired most significantly by Gustave Flauberts “The Temptation of St. Anthony” (1874). The richness of detail and illusion that Flaubert evokes almost suffocates the reader in its voluptuous beauty. Flaubert himself was inspired in great part by Brueghels own phantasmagoric depiction of the tormented hermit. I wish in some way to allude to that dizzying yet exhilarating experience.

As a young boy Flaubert witnessed a marionette performance of “The Mystery of St. Anthony”.  From that point on, “St. Anthony accompanied Flaubert for twenty-five or thirty years”, as the philosopher Michel Foucault has written. Flaubert returned to the anchorite time and again until completing the work in 1872.   This is not an easy read, dense, at times over-ripe, seemingly more chant than prose; Foucault describes the work as an “overcrowded bestiary” with “creatures of unnatural issue.”

It is this “overcrowded bestiary” I wish to evoke with Embodied,wishing to populate the tableaux with a parade of bewildering, complex “creatures of unnatural issue”. These hybrid embodied beings represent not simply base impulses but our own deep struggle to live a fully expressed life.   For when I tackle such fraught topics as sin, temptation and redemption, I am looking beyond the typical biblically inspired admonition (such as Lust or the other Seven Deadlies). I am more interested in the quotidian, seemingly insignificant distractions that prevent us from embodying our truest selves. In essence, what interferes with your being authentic?  What is your demon? Who, what shadows your path?

Im particularly interested in exploring how the tools of modernity – social media, the self-commodifaction through “branding” oneself, the pursuit of relevancy— all hinder full true self-expression, perhaps even censoring it or rendering it mute. Foucault describes Anthonys temptations as “…false gods resembling the true God….” I argue that false gods lurk in the inky alleyways of a frenetic and rapacious contemporary society.

The mystic Thomas Merton in discussing the Desert Fathers insists, “they did not reject society with proud contempt, as if they were superior to other men”, but instead were seeking the fullest expression of their purpose. Throughout our lives we are given signs which point us (or call us) in the direction of our authentic purpose, so as Merton reminds us: “…whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe”.

I will do that “thing”, clumsily, distractingly, awkwardly, but like Anthony, sincerely and with purpose.

 

Numerous earlier incarnations on the theme, such as this 2018 oil painting of the troubled saint, play upon this intention and  communicate directly with the installation  Embodied:St. Anthony & the Desert of Tears. 

The following images taken at the March 23rd 2019 MOAH/Cedar opening  hopefully substantiate that claim. 

(Note, all gallery courtesy of Shoebox PR.)

Leonard Greco
“The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2018
oil on panel
18 by 36 inches

The installation centers upon the Anchorite’s Chair, from which numerous demons torture the saint from within and without.

Anchorite’s Chair
Anchorite’s Chair, reverse
Detail, Anchorite’s Chair

Numerous demons pester the troubled hermit.

Lilith
Pluton, Prince of Fire, Governor of the Region in Flames.
The Curia
Flora
The Foliated Trinitarian
The Houseboy
The Wodewose

The crucifix of the desert saint itself  isn’t immune from daemonic molestation.

The Anchorite’s Cross
Detail, Anchorite’s Cross
The Living Cross

Dear friend Dwora.
The artist with his little dog Speck.

To see Embodied embodied was deeply gratifying, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to see Fairyland it does run through March 31st with an artist talk on the 30th.

https://www.facebook.com/events/725419224526201/

I am also hosting a life drawing session March 24th, 4:45 through 7 pm, the gallery will be open prior to the life drawing should you be inclined to take a peek.