I never really know how my work will be perceived, I try not to think about it. My work is earnest , often with a degree of what I hope passes for wit , but is never intended to be ironic . I work diligently and sincerely on all my work. Perhaps I am humorless, too dour , but I put my heart into the work.
So with this in mind I was taken aback by an emoji “comment” (is an emoji really a comment?) made recently on my Instagram page after having posted this recently completed self portrait. I really dislike facial expression emojis , I earnestly try to avoid them, trusting my command of language will properly convey my intentions .
Of all emojis the one I dislike the most is this one : 😂.
I find it infuriating. It seems to embody the moronification of society in general and Los Angeles particularly. To garner public approval most everything needs to be a joke – a sarcastic , mocking joke laced heavily with irony is most desired . And so this painting was received. I must put this in perspective, it was a single post , by an artist who from his IG site we learn that his specialty is “big dicks and wet c#nts”- so we are speaking of a quite the gentleman. But of course the gentleman in question possesses youth , is handsome , fit and talented in a Tom of Finland. He has well over ten thousand followers and to attest to his smug arrogance , follows no one in return . Oh , and he paints shirtless to better display his artfully paint be-speckled pecs.
I mention all this because my initial response to his puerile emoji comment was to be affronted. I even blocked him in my disgruntledness for a few minutes . But then I realized just how perfect this comment was for a painting, a self portrait, intending to skewer/reject worldliness . If I paint myself as a Holy Fool ,albeit in the self conscious irony I generally reject , I need to expect some hecklers . So from wounded-ness I now possess a degree of pride in having elicited a reaction from just the sort of shallow nincompoop Anthony sought to avoid.
This painting started out, as so much does, unintentionally. My daily studio routine generally starts with automatic drawing . I try to not focus on any particular reference material , or getting details “right”, just the free flow of ideas inspired from who knows where . Such was the case of this sketch made I am guessing close to seven years ago while living in San Diego – a difficult period in our/my life .
I hadn’t intended for it to be a painting let alone an allegorical self portrait, yet there was something about the dashed off drawing that beckoned further exploration. So a few months back I decided to revisit , revise the by now , quite familiar theme of St.Anthony of the Desert, his temptations and my appropriating his reality .
The painting went well nearly from the start , each element revealing itself to me , and in this period of plague isolation, quarantine an anchorite would find familiar and social unrest akin to third century upheaval , it felt a timely theme.
What follows are the details .
Seated upon a memento mori throne , I was inspired by a stuffed and stitched example I made awhile back for another Anthony inspired tableau- the circle continues .
Detail of accompanying figures that I haven’t particularly explored the meaning of : Hirsute Giant, Druidboy and Millefleur Boy ( a favorite).
Yesterday’s automatic drawing shares the theme of the painting , a memento mori reflection prompted I know by personal concern . David spent much of this week in the hospital, heart concerns , a procedure was needed , we were of course concerned. It appears all went well, fingers crossed , candles lit , novenas uttered , he will be on his way to good health. He is resting now , Viola a lackluster nursemaid , but he’s home .
There isn’t an emoji to express my gratitude.
4 thoughts on “New painting: Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death”
This is such an astonishing painting Leonard. You look out at the viewer from the canvas and catch their gaze, then pull them in to explore all the details that are swirling around you, it’s brilliantly realised.
Those personal qualities you describe at the beginning of the post – diligent and earnest – are positive attributes, although maybe not so in fashion in social media-land, but that’s no matter. Those qualities help you create these magnificent images that are uniquely your own, they’re very special. Wishing David a speedy recovery x
Thank you my friend, I hope to draw the viewer in. I struggle with what is personally engaging with what is popularly engaging, frequently, nearly always, I am at a disconnect. So your observations are very affirming, most especially since I hold you and your talents in such high esteem. X from Babylon
I think your work succeeds on both counts , it’s enthralling 😊x
Yes, the emoji is typical of the superficiality of LA but you handled it well. I am so pleased David has recovered and your journey is always a pleasure to read and to view. I am quite poor at my “Blog” and have not done it for some time. Perhaps this will inspire me! Your work is a gift.
With much love dear brother from another life,