Of heaven and hell and somewhere in between


I recently finished a painting Hadesville which I think might be my best painting thus far. I am not being immodest but the act of painting it was a joy and I believe the painting conveys that fact. The fact that friends, fellow artists, that I admire and respect were positive about the painting was very encouraging. I will make a separate post of the painting in the near future, but for now I have thoughts I need to process.

Recently a friend described my work as devilish, which made me chuckle a bit.  One can be forgiven thinking that by many of my paintings and much of my work in general. But I see my horned figures as primal beings, not solely associated with darkness and vice. I instead see them as a joyous  (if fiery) contrast to the sanctimonious displays of the self-appointed righteousness that has surrounded me for much of my life. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about devils and angels and I’m guessing it is affecting my work.

There seems to be, in this election season , quite a few devils posing as angels. Bill Maher’s recent conversation with Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager,  left me questioning who is on the side of darkness and who on the side of light : the potty mouthed liberal or the smug blonde who can’t besmirch her reputation with salty language yet can easily tolerate policies that will decimate civil rights to non-blonde, non-straight, non-Christian Americans.

I couldn’t help to be reminded of the glittering and duplicitous Antichrist, posing as virtuous yet possessing a craven soul as the pretty  Ms.Conway flitted and flirted her way through her conversation with Maher. I was left infuriated by how convincing and how appealing she may seem to a great many folks. From my perspective, risking hyperbole, the Antichrist is amongst us.


Much of my work lately has been confronting the oppressive restrictions of the religious right, thus far Fundamentalist Christians but frankly anyway who adheres too closely and too literally to the Abrahamic traditions. In this morning paper, there was an article ( link below) concerning a literalist Christian couple feeling “outnumbered, isolated and unpopular” as our nation moves forward to towards progressive and secular ideals ; my response was boohoo and “welcome to the club”. These feelings of despair that they are now experiencing for the first time, feelings which have personally led me to innumerable dark days and suicidal moments in my youth and which in fact have led many queer kin (many so very young) to take their own life, leaves me with little sympathy for these so called Christians.

Let them have their heaven, I’ll take hell.


This sense of the conflict between the so called diabolical and the celestial has even entered my dreams. I awoke today, in the wee hours of the morning, to record this dream:

I encountered  Lucifer and he ran a sordid, understocked bodega in the vast basement of a 19th c. building. The place was dank, damp and ill lit. There was very little merchandise and what he did offer was meant to appeal to the youngsters of the neighborhood , sugary soft drinks and prepackaged junk food. If the boys, for they were all boys, were lucky, they escaped with a bag of Doritos, but more often than not Lucifer pinched their cheek leaving behind a sharp triangular scar, a  Devil’s Mark. Some were so unlucky in their quest for a quick snack that they lost their eternal soul.

I did not interest Lucifer, for I was not some dimwitted boy but in fact an angel. more specifically an Avenging Angel. I didn’t immediately see Lucifer when I descended to his lair; the sordid shop was desolate, the  half empty shelves reflecting the dim light of the grimy basement window shafts, all was gray and ambiguous . I found a crackling flickering light emanating from a washroom and there , through the cracked open door,  stood Lucifer hunched over a scrub sink.  He was a stooped middle aged man, thin and balding as ashen as his bodega but from his ankles, thin as reeds , flames could be seen coursing through the sinew. I was witnessing the sulphur of depravity. His fiery emptiness coursing through his lower limbs. A few young boys descended  seeking their salty sweet empty calories, I tried to shoo them away, one heeded my warning but the other, stubbornly intent upon his tawdry treat, barely escaped Lucifer’s pinching embrace. As the terrified boy rushed up the flight of stairs the bloody “v” of the Devil’s Mark was plainly visible.  I approached Lucifer, and as if on cue we simultaneously spoke the same lines : “You are (I am) Lucifer, damned for eternity”. I turned to my unidentified companion , pleased and eager to display my pride in predicting what Lucifer would say.  Even Avenging Angels suffer from pride.

From that point on it became clear that these were pre-scripted lines and that we were in fact actors in some Mystery Play. We each had our role and we were playing them admirably.  With this new understanding Lucifer and the Avenging Angel ascended to street level, to a well lit shop, a typical 1930’s sort of place, all plate glass and checkered linoleum floors, perfect for a barber shop. I grabbed Lucifer by the shoulder, embracing him and declaring “this is what Good feels like , do you like it?” , as he recoiled from my “goodness” , an archetypal flag waving-Scripture quoting-gun loving  couple saunters into this empty shop.  Devilishly , just to tweak them , I faux-bugger him from behind ,   this time declaring “this is what Evil is, do you like it?”

He did and we fell onto a pile of Turkish rugs  giggling as they skedaddled out of Sodom and Gomorrah as fast as they could.”

I’m working now on a Hellmouth costume, all made of cardboard . A walking marionette/Mystery Play pageant wagon. I think, if I may be immodest, that it is going to be super. I will post the finished work upon completion but for now this image of the work in progress with my decidedly angelic dog Speck.

14440768_10210181421401592_1519083514061968665_nSpeaking of Hell and Hellmouths my mixed media assemblage Daisy’s Reliquary  (made for the unexpected death of my beloved pug Daisy several years back) will be part of a Dia de Los Muertos exhibition at Ave. 50 Studio here in LA, I’m very pleased and honored to have been asked to participate . Info concerning the October 8th opening follows, sadly I have two openings in northern California the same weekend and will not be able to attend. The link is : http://avenue50studio.org/upcoming-events-3#honoring-our-ancestors

1 Daisy’s Reliquary

Until next time .“Shanti! Shanti! you must not let anger possess you like that.””

Puppetry on Easter Sunday

David and I are experimenting with my marionettes, I’m looking forward to bringing more focus to  the project after I finish with this intensive class (two essay assignments this week alone).

I certainly am learning from experience. The marionettes are essentially quite cute but a bit clumsy-actually their puppeteer is the clumsy one. But they do photograph well, as is befitting fellows “born” in LA I suppose.

The following are some images taken from this afternoon’s “shoot”:






We obviously have a lot to learn concerning production value…


Happy Easter!


A Reliquary for Daisy (and a few others)

Last evening, without exaggeration I went without a wink of sleep; in my 50 years I have never had an entire evening of insomnia.  I couldn’t bear tossing, listening to the pugs and  the husband snore (out of harmony) ; so instead I finished a biography of my hero Max Beckman and worked on a charcoal self-portrait (not at all flattering, Beckman haunts the soul ). Initially I attributed my insomnia to the stubborn flu I have been fighting, my throbbing ankle from a recent jog,  and my mortality ( as I mentioned Beckman haunts); but when dawn broke I realized that two years ago this day my very beloved pug Daisy died.

Her death though mercifully swift was unexpected, sudden, bloody and violent; one morning she awoke, that evening she was hemorrhaging violently , ultimately dying of a heart attack.

Her heart wasn’t the only one broken.

It may seem maudlin but my attachment to this dear beast remains strong, tears well up readily when I think of her, which is often. I believe , and this may be mystical voodoo  rubbish speaking, but I believe on some level  that I was unconsciously keeping vigil for her. The hours I was a awake were the same hours as her struggle with death; death won and I believe my body remembered .

After her death I set about dealing with my/our grief. Daisy was truth be told “my” dog, we both loved her deeply but I work from home and pugs love nothing more than snuggling at your feet while you paint. Daisy was the supreme studio sentinel. One way I dealt with the loss was to build a reliquary, I built two. The first was glazed ceramic, I cannot find it, frankly the glaze was a disappointment and I was never happy with it. So next I fashioned a proper mini mausoleum for the dear girl. I was far happier with that, and it is now her final home, sitting atop the studio library.

This is what it looks like:


Daisy’s Reliquary


painted wood, paint, oven dried clay, mixed media including mortuary ashes


figures no larger than 6″tall

As can be seen, Daisy’s ashes are housed on the “ground ” floor. Sadly the Christmas before, our odd little cat Moses had also died, as had David’s father; small urns of their ashes also reside within. 

0 “Chinois” Daisy as studio sentinel.

This is how I remember Daisy best, always watching me. Frankly she wasn’t the prettiest pug-as if there is such a thing!- my current pugs Rose and Viola are quite beautiful; but Daisy with a ridiculously long tongue and outsized personality charmed almost everyone she encountered. She was quite a force.

I so loved this image of her I painted a portriat from it a few months before she died. I feel very fortunate I was able to do that, to be able to examine her funny little feet and crooked face for distinctive characteristics;  I would have missed that opportunity after she died. To see the painting and more very funny pictures of Daisy follow this memorial link I made shortly after her death.

The following are details of Daisy’s reliquary.


side panel decoration, one of two, both inspired by the Danse Macabre.


This is a detail of the upper floor. I was in denial about Daisy’s health. She was a  frequent visitor of many veterinarians since we  had adopted her as leggy pup. She was epileptic , which wasn’t a very big deal, but she seemed to be chronically afflicted with other ailments. This upper floor is crammed with just a small sampling of her medications. The 19th c. figurines seemed a proper mourner. The Hell Mouth a suitable architectural style.

000detail of Daisy’s medicine cabinet.

I crafted funny little dark figurines, for no particular reason aside to keep Daisy company. They seem archetypal although from my imagination, they are as follows:

2Grumpy pauper king with skull.


Mischievous Demonette


Gilded Slug of Wisdom.

To be fair, I must include a photo of Daisy’s eternal room-mate, the quite handsome if not quite grumpy Moses. He was very beautiful , very tormented, unwell most of his life, but a peculiar delight, We still hear his odd little squeak .

R.I.P. Moses.


Moses disturbed from his nap by annoying admirers.

I appreciate the indulgence, I hope this post wasn’t too maudlin. I will work this evening, then retire early to a new day.

Until then, take care and be well,