Samhain 2020, Punkie Night and the unquiet departed

Samhain is fast approaching as is All Saints Day, both observances that I find personally meaningful . For they provide a moment to pause and recognize that liminal in-between state of the Quick and of the Dead. Whether you are seeking the portal to Fairyland, or beseeching the intercession of the saints, it is a backward glance, one familiar and comforting as winter hunkers down. Given my general melancholic state , it is my favorite time of year. In order to best honor Samhain I annually create a drawing to celebrate this Punkienight, the haunt of woodspirits, fairyfolk and frightening rutabagas demanding one “Give me a candle, give me a light If you don’t, you’ll get a fright”.

What’s not to love?

Taken in my neighborhood , where napolitos replace rutabagas!

So today’s daily drawing honors this special time of year, where the dead, the fairy, the saint, are all in our midst. Enjoy their company. In my neighborhood, one with a vibrant Mexican American community, the Dia de los Muertos altars are being set up, bright with orange marigolds, culinary treats, candles, confectionary skulls and the wafting aroma of ancient copal, and clearly , most importantly, the gathering of loved ones, particularly poignant in this moment of isolation. Tomorrow I will burn copal (hopefully my smoke alarm will behave itself), I will read the mass of the Saints, I will reflect upon those passed and treasure those in my midst. honoring both the spirits of life and the souls of the parted.

Happy Halloween, good Samhain, a festive Dia de los Muertos and may the legion of Saints guide you to light and peace.

Punkie Night, daily drawing 30th October 2020, color pencil , gouache highlights on toned paper, 12 by 9 inches

Magnificent Insignificance or what the hell am I doing?

Detail : Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death , 2020

As I spend my time alone in my studio , methodically painting my dainty little paintings , aspiring to some elusive medieval-perfect lapidary finish ; filling day after day with early music, pug snores and cloistered reflections upon obscure seemingly irrelevant themes , I begin to question this existence – after all , is anyone REALLY interested in a third century Hermit and struggles with darkness ? does anyone give a fig about Fairyland, old gods , new gods and the same questions asked century after century, yet always left unanswered; is this “relevant”, to use an increasingly irritating word.

I begin to question all this and how ill-suited, frankly irrelevant I may be , my interests may be and most painfully , my art my be . I follow my heart, as trite as that sounds, led by my interests, waiting to see how the path unfolds; I’m fortunate that my day to day life allows such indulgence, I’m not unaware of that fact . But I think personal exploration to be an essential duty, an imperative in fact , the defining quality of being gifted with a soul .  But my highly personal expression frankly is just that , personal and I think leaves many, if I am lucky, perplexed but more likely just indifferent. I am not sure I blame them ( whoever “them” is ) , for in this frantic attention span challenged universe , where the consumer model is its core influence , just how exactly is my work to be hash-tagged, how best categorized? It isn’t technically proficient enough to be lumped with the MFA realists; it’s too content heavy, too narrative driven to please the non-representational crowd, is it illustration? is it anime ? it isn’t obviously political enough to gratify the identity obsessed awoken claque , it isn’t technically reckless enough to be shelved with the brush-dripped- art brut scrawls so in favor, so well suited, to this rough-and -tumble over shouting world we find ourselves.

I hadn’t thought of which category to select when I first picked up the brush .

I just knew I had to pick up the brush .

Self Portrait of the Artist as a PaperDoll

 As in all things , there is a fashion to the times , a collective defining mood, ours currently seems to be more angry than aesthetic, more retribution oriented than reflective , more inclined to group think than the nuances of individualism , defined by an us-versus-them obsession that frankly rejects the universal humanism I am so inclined towards. A society so collaboration obsessed that from my perspective seems to reject the quiet of A Room of One’s Own and in the end , I believe it to be a society that is just plain old anti-oddball.


I’m also becoming convinced that those who do more readily fit a preferred contemporary narrative and who are able to squawk the loudest about oppression , injustice and their righteousness gets the worm , be it the commission , the residency ,that elusive prize of recognition and relevance. That wiggly golden worm can be anything from an army of devoted social media followers, gallery representation and the ease that seems to embody and most validating, solo shows.

I guess for me , the painful question is , am I good enough , aren’t I good enough ?  Such an adolescent cry, yet in the school yard of contemporary society, seemingly fitting . I see friends audaciously brag about their accomplishments, shamelessly boast of solo shows, commissions and residencies; haughtily letting it be known that their gallery tends to all such mundane business as promotion, representation money gathering etc – mind you, all the while, never ceasing to talk endlessly about themselves and by extension their art.

 Or , perhaps more likely I’m just simply jealous. Just another old white guy (for there is no category of personhood seemingly more open to derision and contempt than the White Guy, preferably the Old White Guy ) dabbling with paint and dabbling not very well . But I’m not willing to accept that fact just yet. I’m going to keep dabbling . For in a dream I was told by that Unknowable Being found in all my dreamscapes that my insignificance is magnificent.

I cling to that contradiction. 

Detail: “Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death” 2020 Oil on panel


Daily Drawing : 30th September 2020

I am going to try to be more consistent in posting on this site, even if only one of my daily drawings . I’m trying to avoid Facebook for a number of reasons , most particularly because it frequently leaves me feeling depleted and depressed.

 

So this is the first of what I hope to be an alternative studio routine :

The Secret Ingredient

Backstory to the drawing is that my membership card to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic in far off Cornwall arrived the other day . I’d love to visit , dearly wish to see that land of Arthur and that rugged coast , but with travel restrictions firmly in place for the foreseeable future , and frankly budget concerns, that isn’t likely anytime soon. So for now , this dedication drawing .

 

Max Ernst and company

 

Saguaro in a Desert Landscape
2020
Acrylic on panel
14 by 11 inches

This period of extended isolation, while challenging for many has proven a boon personally . For some reason I am included in quite a few exhibitions this year of 2020, virtual and actual  . Earlier this week I received notice that two of my religious/Christian themed works were accepted by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s annual Trinity Art Show in Sacramento California , I will be trekking up to Sacramento for  physical drop off early in October-fingers crossed further restrictions and or devastating fire are avoided.

In the virtual realm I’ve been as blessed, several exhibitions in LA and beyond , of especial note Transition at Launch LA just closed. Jurored by Holly Jerger an artist (an person)  I admire , she selected a distinct collection of work, far removed from the usual predictable drab LA fare. Given her association with the Craft Museum it was perhaps unsurprising that many works selected were distinctive in their hands-on techniques.

I was also honored that my Herakles Tapestry was included in the vibrant collection of works at the expansive Brea Gallery in Brea California. This year’s Made in California (MICA) seemed socio-politically timely with much emphasis on POC/gender/queer art themes. To be honest I felt my work and my presence a bit anachronistic. Nonetheless pleased to have been included, I believe that show closes today.

But of most particular delight was having the following painting included in an upcoming  virtual exhibition hosted by the University of Arizona, Museum of Art, Picturing 2020: A Community Reflects. The University of Arizona’s Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection, one I
had not initially  expected. In response to the isolation of Covid upon artists in particular the museum selected new art to be in conversation with art from their permanent collection. In a moment of being “heard”, the museum’s selection for my work Saguaro in a Desert Landscape was none other than Max Ernst’s Arizona Nightingale. Ernst is quite an inspiration , to be compared in any way is an honor, for the comparison to be from an art museum I admire and had frequently visited, quite an honor indeed. 

I floated as lightly as Ernst’s nightingale the rest of the day!

Max Ernst
Arizona Nightingale
1946
University of Arizona, Museum of Art, permanent collection

Please pardon the paltry image of Ernst’s painting, it is what I have been able to find, a link to the painting and its provenance (which is impressive) follows:

https://uarizona.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/7D540225-B162-467E-A1D3-122721033944

 

 

In place of traditional museum label written by a curator, the museum is using my own words to describe my painting ; as usual bumbling, but sincere:

“An existential darkness is revealed in spite of the joyous coloring and surface patterning, which stylistically references my affection for medieval miniaturist illumination, by so doing I inadvertently expose my inner self…the hazard and boon of spontaneous expression.”

The exhibition will run September 26th through March 28th, via this link:

VIRTUAL: Picturing 2020: A Community Reflects

 

We are snowbirds to Tucson , spending our winter holidays in the beautiful high desert, visiting our growing adopted pig family at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary and of course visiting the University Art Museum (their permanent collection of 15th and 16th c. paintings incredible , most particularly Maestro Bartolomé’s series of panel paintings). This year with Covid closings not sure what our Tucson winter will be like, thankfully the saguaro , and perhaps the mythical nightingale , will be there to welcome us back.

Saguaro in a Desert Landscape
2020
Acrylic on panel
14 by 11 inches

 

New painting: Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

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.

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

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 .

The textile model.
A detail of the maker , painting Death as Death models offstage – I have a fondness for paintings within paintings. I also have a fondness for gilded satyr angels .

 

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.

 

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

 

Graphite , Issue 11, Spring 2020

www.instagram.com/p/CAqzFlrl9nw/

 

I’m delighted that my Goblin Market was selected for the spring issue of Graphite. A handsome art journal collaboration between UCLA art department and the Hammer Museum. Validating to have such respectable institutions give a thumbs up.

As I am old , I look forward to the hard copy. There was to be a launch party last week but of course … another doozy in Doozyville.

There is a quick preview from Instagram above.

I was taken with their call to art and felt compelled to submit straight away, feeling my work a good fit for their quirky yet quite mindful approach: 

Choosing such a vague, yet clearly loaded, theme such as fruit, really appealed to me.

Super pleased I submitted.

Now back to work.

 

Junk

 

NSFW or the easily offended.

Silly post, too much time on my hands apparently, trying to avoid weekend housekeeping…

But in seriousness trying to navigate in my work how much nudity, particularly male, I should depict. When is it gratuitous? When essential? When just free expression?  Still processing this question, but in the meantime, peen.


No intention to self censor, but I do want to be more mindful of my own intention. Recently , when we were still having dinner parties, a guest quipped that I painted “that pornographic art” ; in another situation I was referred to as a “penis painter”. Nothing particularly wrong with either but that hadn’t been my conscious intention. Nudity is an element to my work but I hadn’t thought it the main focus. Again, feeling more mindful of intention.

But enough naval gazing, I’ve scrubbing to attend to.

New Painting:The Knight’s Tale

Latest painting inspired very loosely by Chaucer’s  The Knight’s Tale ,the first yarn from the Canterbury Tales.

The Knight’s Tale
2020
Acrylic on canvas panel
18 by 24 inches

My reading group, the Agora Foundation, in enchanted Ojai California(https://www.agorafoundation.org/), has a Great Books focus and this reading season they selected works that consisted of narratives within a greater narrative, along with the Boccaccio’s Decameron and the Arabian Knights , Chaucer’s perennially relevant Tales were the reading offerings, all up for fascinating group discussion. By far Chaucer’s work was my favorite, the Decameron while bawdy and amusing was populated by characters a bit thin, I encountered  difficulty in differentiating one from another; Arabian Knights I found unreadable, the macho blood thirsty violence, the rock solid foundation of misogyny , xenophobia and racism was repulsive, it  sickened me, I wasn’t able to read more than a third. But The Canterbury Tales was a pure delight, and while The Knight’s Tale wasn’t really my favorite of the lot (that recognition would be for the Wife of Bath, most especially her rip-roaring Prologue) the Knight’s Tale was rich in chivalric detail masquerading in classical garb; low hanging fruit for a Neo-medievalist illuminator .

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was in fact eager to discuss it, digging deeper, when the time came to join the banter I was completely silent, my usual insecurities trumping any desire to participate. However during the discussion, which I did find illuminating, I once again turned to doodling my thoughts and responses. I’ve responded this way to social awkwardness since boyhood, very rarely would my voice be heard but my notebooks were packed with my feverish scrawling.

Below is an example from that day’s mute notebook:

Free associative sketch for/from “The Knight’s Tale”.

A few more details follow:

The Knight’s Tale
detail

The Knight’s Tale
detail

The Knight’s Tale
detail

Given the isolation and pangs of reflection during this Covid plague, this painting provided some timely  “content”:

 

That is it from here, hoping all, and this being global, truly all, that all stay sane, well and of good cheer.

The Knight’s Tale
2020
Acrylic on canvas panel
18 by 24 inches