Onward in Solidarity: The Women’s March LA

Tomorrow the coarsest man imaginable ascends to power, an unthinkable concept for so many of us.

The following day, that same incredulous crowd will take to the streets for the Women’s March in D.C. and sister marches across the country. I plan, in solidarity, to march as well here in L.A.  

In the spirit of the 1913 Suffrage Parade, I channeled Hedwig Reicher’s fantastic embodiment of Columbia for my marching placard, but I switched out the western allegory for the Aztec mother goddess Coatlicue, She of the Serpent Skirt- who but a fierce Latina could best smite the Orange One?

Hedwig Reicher as Columbia, 1913 Suffrage March. Library of Congress
Hedwig Reicher as Columbia, 1913 Suffrage March.
Library of Congress

My take…

Coatlicue, placard for Women's March LA 2017
Coatlicue, placard for Women’s March LA 2017

Being a big homo and loving the growing interest in so called “pussy hats”, I stitched up my own “pussy-boy” hat. 

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Amidst the spirit of unity there is a bit of conflict amongst those so upset by Trump’s rise to power. Initially there was a call to protest by not engaging in commerce; going so far as to ask museums and art institutions to shutter for the day. Many reasonable people have argued this is a bit of slicing off one’s own nose; what better balm than art.

I get that.

But personally I plan to abstain from any commerce , art related or not. It may very well be an impotent gesture, but by hunkering down in my studio, ignoring the bombast in Washington, I hope to maintain a bit of calm.

Others will seek solace where they find it, but no matter what, we artists are for the most part united in solidarity.

Onward.

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Seizing Sanctimonium, a Primer

My latest painting, a large one (40 by 56″) , large at least for my studio, is at last finished!

Hurrah!

It has not been an easy birth, unbelievably having been started February of 2014.

Link below:

https://boondocksbabylon.com/2014/02/16/the-old-gods/

Between other paintings, my time in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and my own uncertainty , the painting often languished . And when I thought it near complete, and to my satisfaction, my last critique group, left me once again in the grip of  uncertainty. After nearly four weeks of being unable to paint (hence a stream of drawings) I at last regained my faith in this painting, finished it up,  and now consider it one of my best.

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Seizing Sanctimonium 

2016

oil on canvas

40 by 56″

The painting is undeniably complicated, visually and in its narrative; I think that is why my critique might have had some issue with it. But my interest in paintings often includes complicated compositions; I might be hubristic but my intention with this painting was to emulate in my modest way the elaborate tableaux paintings of Poussin. I studied them carefully, which is pleasurable work as he is one of my idols. I captured what I love about his paintings: the ability to stare at this painting and discover ever unfolding details. Bosch of course, another idol, also gives us that generous gift. But I think for many viewers, particularly those with the 6-second attention span, this painting will not please. I perhaps, to satisfy contemporary tastes should have left the painting in its initial planning stages; something several folks, had hoped for. I might have saved myself headaches and angst, but I would have been very unhappy. This painting ,in its finished state,makes me happy.

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(Initial stage of the painting, I do like it, I like the ghostly images; but I am not that sort of painter. I love a lapidary finish.)

The story behind this painting is complex and personal. It began after discovering the Gnostics, with the concept of the Demiurge,  a false god posing as a true god. Misleading the faithful down a path of sanctimonious righteousness . My demiurge, the bronze figure in the center is a sarcastic depiction of Christ the Church. If I were to change anything it would be this element . It is more cynical than I now feel , with our new pope, the blessed Francis, my relationship with the Church has become warmer, more loving . I know longer harbor the estranged hurt and anger I felt when I began this painting. But instead of erasing him, I felt it good to keep a record of my discontent.

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 The Demiurge, center flanked by details of the earth goddess Coatlicue, one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and the Axis Mundi.

Going counterclockwise , from upper left around, I will attempt to offer clues to the figures:

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My initial conceit for this painting was to utilize “bad” gods, unfortunate figures, maligned archetypes, to do battle with the smug and sanctimonious , be it the Church herself, the pompous evangelist down the street, ISIS, or that homophobic second grade teacher who shamed you for playing with the girls. That said, the upper left figures are depiction of the denizens of Xiblaba, the underworld of the Popol vuh. Next, descending in a very theatrically baroque manner is the savior Quetzalcoatl . Below, stands the accursed Judas ( noose still dangling) and the blessed Magdalene, clad only in her long hair, as per the archetype. Next to her, stands the familiar companion of the Other, the Scapegoat.

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The Scapegoat .

In the next quarter,  the Mesoamerican rain god Tlaloc sheds tears for humankind, he is attended by a companion vaguely reminiscent of the figures found in Teotihuacan, possessing triangular heads. Further back, the Mother of the Gods, the Aztec earth mother, She of the Serpent Skirt,Coatlicue, she hurries her son, the Great War god Huitzililopochtli into toppling their nemesis, the Demiurge, embodied by the Church that silenced them.

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Next to them is a gaggle of squawking birds, sure of themselves, confident in their noise, essentially those who I politically and religiously disagree. Next to them, well I guess that is me.

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In the third quarter, I placed a Boschian figure of no particular meaning, just an odd blue figure with a piscine phallic nose. Next , again, just vague figures, a Fire-god aflame with passion;  a herm to signify the supremacy of the fertile earth; another Quetzalcoatl, or perhaps a passive Ares, I don’t know. Basically he was hot and looked Poussin-ist. Central to this quarter are the Hero Twins from the Popol vuh, archetypes so dear to my heart. Although they are brothers, I have in a personal way , embraced them as emblems of same sex affection. They are fiercely loyal to one another, acting as one; Hunahpu (on the left) going so far as to sacrifice himself, hence the blood and unearthly pallor. His brother Xbalanque helps to resurrect his fallen brother. I have returned to the Twins time and again, in paintings, puppets and prints. I predict they will be with me until I pass into the Underworld myself. A quick click in the side panel,on the tab “Hero Twins” will lead you to other examples.

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 Floating above on a very smart cloud is my favorite figure of this painting, the dashing floral-tatted Herakles. Herakles is every sissy boy’s hero, and I just could not resist including him. He surely would fight the fight of the just.

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Herakles, plus a preliminary rendering.

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Rounding out the painting in the last quarter I have various moon gods, non specific, just pre Christian. Next to them stands an Earth Father figure. A softer kinder answer to the excesses of patriarchy. He is horned in his affiliation with old truths, old gods, old ways. He also reflects my evolving reintroduction to the Church, with the pope reminding me of Christ’s magnificent message. This figure is a tribute to that compassionate god. He may also be an incarnation of the great Maize-god, sacrificed father of the Hero Twins and of humankind , Hun-Hunahpu. It is through his death, we are born. Sound familiar ?

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Moon-gods, for you can never have too many!

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The Christo-hun-Hunahpu figure.

If I had any residual uncertainty concerning this painting, it was silenced by this painting being accepted into an upcoming show ( along with my jumping jack figures from a recent post). I’m thrilled the well regarded juror Peter Mays included this painting.

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The positive aspect of being unable to emotionally (post-critique) to paint for a few weeks was drawing. I’ve been drawing like mad, I’m sure I am  boring social media with my progress, but I feel I am gaining confidence and ready to begin a series of small panel. I think of them as Illuminations, intimate, needing to be contemplated. I am discovering, at heart,that  I am a religious painter. Unorthodox , unclear and ambiguous in my own faith, but I am compelled to make “icons”, depictions of universal archetypes. One of the new paintings will be of Jonah, this preliminary sketch, shows my intention.

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That’s it for now, I will post this little painting, only 8 by 10″ when I am finished. Until them, be well.

Presentation at the Temple

spent part of yesterday and today sketching out a new painting. As I work I find myself wanting to be more and more deliberate in my (graven) image making. Trying to be more fully aware of the composition , the drawing out my ideas provides an excellent roadmap. That and it is a hell of a lot of fun. 

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The Presentation at the Temple

2016

graphite and colored pencil on paper

I am returning to a theme I explored in 2014, another painting also called The Presentation at the Temple but one in which I pursued the composition less deliberately . The painting hangs in my studio and I have never been happy with it, yet I am not the sort of painter to rework a painting. Generally I allow the painting to be less than satisfying and make an another attempt; drawing upon what I felt was working and abandoning the rest. Such is the case with this new painting.

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The Presentation at the Temple 

2014

oil on canvas

30 by 40″

When I look at this painting on my screen I like it,yet some things drive me nuts, I feel the female figure Coatlicue is undeveloped for example; but mostly, the painting feels to large. I feel my play upon the biblical presentation scene should be more intimate , more jewel like, more of an illumination. So this version will for starters feature a more composed  earth mother Coatlicue , presenting her son, the war god Huitzilopochtli (also of virgin birth) will bepainted on a 12 by 16″ panel. I think it will work out well, plus frankly, there isn’t any more room in the studio for large paintings, I’m maxed out. 

 The theme draws upon multiple references, traditional images of the Presentation, such as this wall mural from an Orthodox church (The Brotherhood of the Holy Cross,  which I believe is  in upstate NY):

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But also popular culture such as the usually cute, yet in this image,completely  crazed wrestler Conner McGregor:

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Part of my studio discipline has been devoting a portion of the day, usually before lunch, to making  at least one decent rendering a day. I’ve made this challenge part of my Instagram feed ( leonardgrecoart). What I’m rediscovering is just how much I love drawing, particularly graphite on toned paper with chalk highlights. I am finding myself improving each day. This image, of Christ Enthroned, I felt to be successful.

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Well for now that is all, be well.

LG 

Open for Critique…kinda

So after much studio time (on and off, over a year) I am at last, pretty close, almost positive, for the moment, finished with my latest paintings. And although I have heard younger artists, seemingly without any pause (or apparent modesty) call their work “masterpieces” , I am in no way inclined to make the same claim; but I am pleased (for now).

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Seizing Sanctimonium 

2016

56 by 40″

oil on canvas 

click on the image to enlarge

 I have been eager to get the painting into a presentable stage as Sunday is my turn for the critique group I have recently  joined. As some of you might remember this is a bit anxiety producing. My paintings are very far from random and imbued (crammed)with meaning : personal, mythological, literary etc. All not terribly obvious from first encounter. I fear it might not be well received or understood, but that is something I cannot control.  One of the problems I anticipate is that the one being critiqued is  not to respond while criticism is being made. I might have bitten off my tongue by the end of all of this.

So wish me and the painting well.

I will tighten the painting some more next week, details and glazings, saturating shadows and such. Then I will try to explain the painting at some length in the final post. Hopefully with a better image.

Until then , be well.

Today’s Progress: The Great Earth Goddess and Her Bastard Son


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This is a detail of a larger composition (a painting that may very well kill me), this detail is of the great and bountiful Aztec earth goddess Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt,see her official portrait below, taken at the Anthropology Museum of Mexico City, where she resides in terrifying splendor) and her troublesome bastard son, the  bloodthirsty, ever demanding war god Huitzilopochtli tugging at her serpentine skirt.

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Now off to make dinner for the husband , be well.

LG

Lavinia Seeks Solace at the Court of Coatlicue

The following painting is an experiment on several levels.  I’m experimenting with a new paper from Arches called Huile oil paper which is designed specifically for oil painting. Anyone who paints in oil knows that working on paper is frowned upon as it is not archival. Secondly I am experimenting with the Surrealist technique of automatic drawing and painting. The following painting is the result.

IMG_6231 Lavinia Seeks Solace at the Court of Coatlique

2015

oil on Arches Huile paper

15 by 22 inches

It is an absurd image composed of seemingly random characters, but there is a free- associative logic to it all…at least from my perspective. Lavinia (from Shakespeare’s  Titus Andronicus) in a dream state, wanders into the court of the Aztec goddess Coatlique, She of the Skirt of Serpents … and a pretty fantastic necklace composed of skulls, hearts and most importantly, hands! A bit of gallows humor perhaps, but I didn’t think it out too much. I allowed unconscious  instinct to direct the composition.  The following is Coatlique taken from our trip to Mexico City.

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One of the things I really enjoy about taking classes outside of the discipline of art is the opportunity to free my mind and doodle with abandon. My judgmental brain is turned off and my hand flows across the page. They are not great drawings by any means, often ridiculous; but I find in them a nonsensical spontaneity that  I value and want to integrate into my work more often.

The following are samples taken from an English Composition C course that I recently finished.

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This might be my last post for awhile until I leave for my Philadelphia critique course at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I have obligations I need to tend to before I leave on Independence Day. I’m nervous and excited, I’ve never been away from David (or my dear dogs)for such a long stretch; but to have time just for my work is an amazing opportunity.

Until next time, be well, LG

Presentation at the Temple

Moments ago I finished a painting I had hoped to have finished by  Feb. 2nd, the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In my ongoing desire to be the pagan icon painter I present my own Presentation-a few weeks off.

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Presentation at the Temple

2014

oil on canvas

30 by 40 inches

My presentation includes the Meso-Aztec  Holy Trinity : Coatlicue-She of the Skirt of Serpents, her son, the war-sun god Huitzilopochtli and a mendicant rain god Tlolac ( pretentiously and ridiculously appointed by yours truly,Pope O’Nonesense, as Protector of LA).

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Tlaloc detail, Patron of Los Angeles-it is supposed to rain today, praise be to Tlaloc.

It is always delightful to finish a painting-I want a nap now but work awaits.

Until next time,

be well, Lg