As I attempt to develop some sense of presence of myself as an artist, I find myself turning to social media. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or this studio journal, I am becoming increasingly aware of what is and what is not appropriate to post. As much of my work depicts nudity, posting full-frontals has the potential of censorship.
My latest paper doll-jumping jack Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea is unabashedly nude. The nudity was a big “fuck you” to the bigots and the nasty folks who hate us , particularly important after the Orlando massacre. Queers have been treated like vermin for so very long, by fashioning myself as a flea I embrace what they find so vile.
That sort of righteous anger is all well and good but will it work on my Instagram feed?
Hence the fig leaf.
Now for the sans fig leaf.
Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea
pencil and watercolor on paper, brads and string
22″ high by 16″ wide
He is a funny character, when he jumps he twitches awkwardly, I like him a lot, just not sure which I prefer, the figged figgy or the unfigged (we call fleas “figgys” in our house).
A problem with nudity is of course not new and I had my encounter with censorship a few years back when the city of Encinitas CA refused to hang my painting Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased unless the female character was made more discreet – for some reason the male junk seemed a-ok.
Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased
An artist I admire quite a bit , Milo Reice ( link to his site: http://miloreice.com/MiloReice/intro.html) who I discover happens to be a neighbor, has explored censorship and the fig leaf archetype in his own work. In his words concerning the following image :
“A detail of a recent work of mine where I was lampooning censorship- underneath everything is thoroughly painted – the appliqués held on with magnets”
A brilliant solution to a vexing problem by a magnificent artist. Check out his website above!
Of course there are times when foliate discretion adds to the allure as in Canova’s hunky Mars, who in this 1822 sculpture Venus and Mars. One rarely encounters such provocative undergarments outside of a go-go boy club.
Venus and Mars
But so it, perhaps an ostentatious fig leaf is in order. If so, I am in fine company. My boyhood hero introduced a ridiculously over sized fig leaf to the ephebe valet in his Enter Herodias ( from a Salome folio, first published in 1894) after there was criticism to the boy’s boy-bits. Not sure which image is more profane ; not to mention the grotesque fetus-like attendant with his enormous boner.
I want to close with a beautiful prayer to the queer and the unwanted. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting the internet was awash with support and queer empowerment . This prayer by Mark Aguhar, who apparently killed him/herself ( I believe the author was transgender) wrote this beautifulLitany to my Heavenly Brown Body.I need to research Aguhar more thoroughly but felt it a fitting close to this post.
As class winds down I manage to think of work on the horizon, specifically a large oil painting that I have been working on in fits and starts. The following is the body decoration for Herakles, I was delighted to employ my decorative talents once again. I wanted pretty and I received pretty.
This is the sketch of the fellow unadorned.
I think he will look swell, perhaps one day he will have a solo role. The following are a few sketches I made for possible paintings-essentially just getting ideas out before they fade into the ether.
A tree god inspired by a Juan O’Gorman painting I saw recently. and a coy Adam.
Received happy news today , two of my favorite paintings were accepted for an upcoming exhibition celebrating gay pride month, held in perhaps the Vatican of Gaydom, West Hollywood . I suppose that proves, no matter how much I may protest , my work is just a little homo!
I have been reading several books concerning gnosticism, schisms and the early church fathers. Most are academic but piece of fiction has been a great pleasure,Flaubert’s monumental The Temptation of St. Anthony. The edition I have has a very handy glossary which has made this mad jumble of opinion/characters/branches somewhat manageable.
That said I do not suggest that I understand fully all the various manifestation of gnosis. But one manifestation of the Supreme One, the aeon Sophia (wisdom) is of particular interest. My understanding is that she is the mother of Zoe (life) who brought light to Adam who apparently lacked a spiritual spark. I’ve attempted to depict that seminal moment in my painting Gnosis…and the Old Gods Were Pleased. Link to that painting: HERE
This painting is an icon of the blessed Sophia, mother of wisdom and truth.
I like the idea of focusing upon being an icon painter to the Old Gods.
Sophia, the Apotheosis of…
oil on panel
18 by 24 inches
My interest in gnosticism was sparked by a BBC-In Our Time podcast; I had skimmed over some Elaine Pagels books off and on, but this short podcast brought clarity to a perplexing and fascinating subject. I’m addicted to the In Our Time series, it has become a constant studio companion. If interested you should listen to the following link HERE.
A bit of good news fell in my direction this week, on my way to yoga I popped into a gallery with some wonderful paintings, work that I really related to on a visceral level. Chatting with the proprietor of the gallery was very pleasant and informative, I exchanged cards which I feared presumptuous. But happily he emailed me the next day to schedule a studio visit. That was quite exhilarating and the wonderful news is that he would like to include me in some upcoming shows he has planned.
The Old Gods must be pleased with my icons to bestow such good tidings.
I just finished up (for now anyway) a watercolor painting called Primavera.
watercolor on paper
18 by 29 inches
Once again I draw upon the Popol Vuh and the sacrifice-redemption theme. The eternal fascination with the Life and Death cycle never seems to relent; the understanding that through death there is life. I am currently reading Zimmer’s collection of Indian “myths” ( offense term for a faith with current practitioners). But the Hindu grasp of this most elemental truth fascinates and brings a degree of comfort to what can be a deeply discomforting exploration. This painting tries to address some of this. Through the sacrifice of the Maize God, Humankind is born-man made of maize. I wanted to convey the visceral quality of this act, the maize shaft bursting through the actual flesh of our mother earth. Of course this is a very personal imagining with miscellaneous cultural references thrown in as I saw fit. But with Good Friday approaching it felt timely; the resurrected world is colored in Easter egg pastels. the underworld is rich and ripe with verdant greens and blood crimsons.
The Hero Twins below ground.
One element I enjoyed introducing into the composition was the very feline looking dog. My recently deceased (actually I put him down) daschund Buddy keeps appearing in my dreams. His appearance causes me much conflict. We, I decided to put him down the day before we move back to Los Angeles. This decision has tormented me, for although he was 19 and his health was quickly, seemingly overnight, failing, I still wonder if I put him down for my own convenience. He might very well have lived a bit more, I don’t know. He obviously haunts me but in the spirit of this painting he always appears in my dreamscape, first as deeply broken as the following photo indicates; but as the dream progresses he is fresh, new and reborn, happy and bouncy and beautiful.
I try to take that as a good omen.
All that rambling aside, dogs were believed to be guides in the Maya understanding of Xibalba, the underworld. The little fellow I painted was inspired not by my sleek Buddy but by a chubby ceramic “neighbor” from Colima at LACMA.
Dog Wearing Human Face Mask
Burnished red and orange slip
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
He is a delightful fellow, as was Buddy.
That is it for now, I’m working on a few other paintings, seems to be the season for watercolors right now at least until my new easel arrives which will be strong enough to hold a hefty canvas. I will close with a photo of Buddy, be well Buddy.