The Temptation of St. Anthony (of the Desert) at the St. Mark’s Baths

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After the Orlando massacre a few weeks back I have been giving thought to my past, particularly my youth and what a miracle it is that I am here today. Lets say the theme of  Memento Mori is my day to day soundtrack of late. 

My youth was a turbulent period, my parents were furious at my being gay and  they regularly changed the locks after tossing my  meager belongings out onto the lawn.  Their  flashes of temper left  me homeless for periods of time, sometimes a few days, sometimes weeks. Often I would just float around , I had a large car, a Chevy Impala, it was an ugly beast but it was commodious; frequently it sufficed as the roof over my head.

This was the early years of the 80’s and with the little cash I scratched together  I would head north; NYC beckoned me away from that shit-hole in NJ.  And like many suburban gay boys I  fantasized about that city, I picked up copies of the now defunct Soho News, the Village Voice, Interview magazine, fantasizing about this paradise only a train ride away. I imagined living in this fantasy  loft, with beautiful pine floors and expansive windows, “artistic” furniture and of course Boston ferns. Boston ferns were not negotiable .

But of course that was not my reality, I was poor and  not that cute in a city of incredibly beautiful people and my only real companion was an on again- off again drunk drag queen named Leo, her drag name Leonora- perfect Lenny and Leonora.  What a pair we must have made.  

Leo was only six years older I have just discovered but gosh, I thought he was so mature, so experienced. He had BEEN to Broadway, had been  to the Met(both the opera house and the museum), the ballet, he knew everything . He was an introduction to a level of sophistication I hadn’t imagined. On our first encounter he bought me the cast recordings to “Dreamgirls” and “Evita”,both spectacular hits. I hadn’t a stereo or even a home at that point but they were totems of a life I so desired.

But Leo as sophisticated as he was, as genteel as he was, was also very familiar with the sordid (yet exhilarating) aspects of the city. We went to the nightclubs if they were free, the lights flash now in my memories , one blur after another. But what Leo enjoyed most was going to the baths. And really they were perfect, they were cheap, all you had to do was buy a towel and you were in…for hours, until dawn. Leo would buy his towel, often if he was flush, buy mine as well, kiss me goodbye, tell me where and when to meet up, and off he went. I can remember still how he draped his towel, he tucked it up well over his chest, inching it as if he had breasts, pushing them together to imitate  a cleavage he didn’t possess . I often wondered what the hell he was doing, here in this hyper masculine world , here he was sashaying like some peculiar version of Marilyn Monroe. Yet he was popular.

I was not, I was an invisible boy, goofy, plain and confused . Also I was exhausted. What I often found myself doing was falling asleep. I wasn’t deliberately chaste, I just wasn’t chased. So as I was too broke to buy drinks and afraid of the drugs around me, I found myself falling asleep in the oddest of places, the orgy rooms of the bath houses. I think my unpopularity saved my life. Leo would be dead in less than a decade, and so would pretty much anyone else I knew in this strange  wonderful new world. But I survived, and that , I have been thinking about of late. How when I was a young kid,as young as many of those kids in Florida,  how I desired  to attract the attention of the  many beautiful gods  that surrounded me, only a few feet away yet I remained invisible. I was lucky.

That is what I wanted to capture in this drawing, that confusion, that dizzying excitement, the pagan energy, that now is only a shadowy memory. Elusive as a lost soul.

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The Temptation of St.Anthony (of the Desert)in the St.Marks Baths

2016

sanguine pencil on paper

18 by 24″

It is of course a dense image one full of meaning but what is most significant at least to me is the image of the saint, who resembles a younger me, the clown like figure in the lower right; the skeletal figure in the mask is my dear friend Leo soon to be almost as ruined as this figure I depict. 

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I haven’t much from that period, the LP’s Leo gave me our long gone, the cliched pink flamingo statuettes he bought ( even though I essentially lived in a car) long broken, but I still have the post card from The New Saint Marks Baths, it captured the glamour and excitement of that place then and now years later, it still does .

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An odd bit of ephemera to a period long past.  I can’t think about it anymore…

Have a good Independence Day

Tempus fugit…or Self Portrait of the Artist as a Paper-doll

IMG_8578 I’ve just finished this self portrait paper doll, I was eager to see it in action and it is indeed a gangly silly fellow. Tomorrow he travels to school for our final life drawing  project which was initially called Tempus fugit (but that apparently proved too difficult a concept for the millennials in my class so it became simply one concerning  movement and speed). I knew instantly what I wanted to capture, my ever present, frantic desire to make up for lost time as an artist,  fighting frantically against time (and ultimately, death). I also knew I wanted it to actually move.

Hence a play upon the Victorian jumping jacks, a passion since boyhood. Playing upon the jumping jacks also allowed me to actively engage the comments made at my last critique that the figures in my paintings  looked like paper dolls.

So what if they did! I love paper dolls , I  have always loved them and in some way, conscious or not, they have emerged.

So I plan on intentionally embracing this notion, exploring my own self loathing, my internalized homophobia, my weird body issues, issue after issue, and a self portrait paper doll seemed an excellent place to start . I have inserted commedia figures into my work before as personal avatars but now that I have an actually maquette and  I can draw upon it for aid in compositions ( more gratitude to Clive Hicks-Jenkins for introducing me to maquette making).

Now that class is over I can concentrate on paintings that I have in process and paintings that I have in my head. Better jump to it, Tempus fugit!

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Tempus fugit or Self Portrait of the Artist as  

2016

watercolor on paper, graphite, acrylic, brads approximately

26 by 40″

 

Death & the Maiden, in the beginning

I just pulled a proof of my newest print Death & the Maiden. I’m going to continue exploring with multiple plates, but for now, I’m pleased.

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Artist’s proof

Death & the Maiden

2014

 relief print;plate 8 by 10, print 9 by 12

The print is based upon an oil painting I did some time back.

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Death & the Maiden

2011

oil on canvas

I will get to work on adding other plates, but for now…

be well,

Lg

Genesis

Last evening I finished a new painting, Genesis. As is so often the case my inspiration was the Popol Vuh, the sacrifice and resurrection of the Maize God , the Hero Twins,  and the narrative of the Creation of Man.

An added inspiration was AIDS, I am of that generation where many of my friends and loved ones from my youth are now long since dead.  Not too long ago Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart was on television. My visceral reaction was of  a resurrected  fear, long suppressed, reborn at the sight of so many Spotted Men.    Those  past  days of Act Up meetings in NYC and Philadelphia; those handsome men speckled with death and anxiety; demonstrations on the street, at St. Patricks…; anxiety and selfish terror, would I be next?; and yet the excitement of activism, these  were all faded memories in my now relatively carefree life.  Until that film.

I was  confronted once again with that incessant gnawing deep within, a true existential crisis. So in a simple way, my Hero Twin Hunahpu, who is  traditionally depicted spotted, as he too encountered Death,  represents all those struck down. Somehow I missed the scythe, I bear witness like Xbalanque, Hunahpu’s brother in arms.

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Genesis

2014

oil on canvas

30 by 40 inches

My Spotted Hunahpu

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The inspiration for this painting is also from a previous painting, Primavera a relatively small water color. My friend, the incredible artist, Judithe Hernandez suggested I rework Primavera either in grissaile or as a larger composition. When in doubt I always choose larger. The original version:

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Primavera

2014

watercolor on paper

In this painting there is a nicely perverse little subterranean flowering plant, symbolic of life in hostile situations; today my lovely little Stapelia-Carrion flower offered up a gorgeous maggot filled blossom. A Boschian treat if ever there was one.

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This morning’s Carrion  blossom, more on the way.

IMG_5478 2 My imagined Carrion Flower.

Tomorrow I return “home’, Philadlephia, to visit family of the flesh and those of brick, and paint and marble. Philadelphia is so architecturally rich: Furness, Richardson, Queen Anne, 18th c; plus the museums, I will be in heaven.  I think I will print out this “prayer card” of the Maize God , Hun Hanahpu to keep me safe.

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Be well, Lg

Back to the Hermitage

Having first finished Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony and then  having gone to the Getty Centre to see the spectacular Ensor exhibition ( twice, and not at all too many visits )  where I encountered Ensor’s interpretation of the poor anchorite bedeviled by worldliness, I was inspired to paint yet another Temptation.  

Flaubert’s work influenced Ensor and that is apparent, from the writhing Byzantine whirl of Temptations to the floating, glowing head of the Savior (Freud was also heavily influenced by this amazing and odd little book). If you are inclined towards visual excess as I am, Flaubert’s text offers endless inspiration. One of the many temptations that poor Anthony encounters is the personifications of Lust and Death, in Flaubert’s description they are an inseparable duo, one cannot be without the other.

I found this magnificent and horrifying, his description of the two is chilling:

Lust: “My rage equals thine. I also yell ; I bite. I too, have sweats of agony, and aspects cadaverous.”

Death: ” It is I that make thee awful! Let us intertwine!”

I love that, it is so terrible, so damned, and yet Anthony resists them and they flee.

This painting unlike the last Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert ( link: HERE) is a small little oil painting, only 16 by 20 inches. I painted smaller frankly because I am running out of studio space and I have two other large canvases that I am working on occupying two easels . 

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 The Temptation of Saint Anthony

2014

oil on canvas

16 by 20 inches

I wanted to commit to grissaile which at times has been a challenge; my love of color so great. Given the theme I resisted the siren’s call.

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detail of Lust and Death

I explored Lust and Death previously with my relief print Lust und Tod.

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The idea of Anthony carrying the mask came from a dream, which given Freud’s love of Flaubert’s Anthony, I thought too important to omit.

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I will close with this image, the handsome hermit tempting Temptation.

Be well, Lg

Labor’s Reward

I recently finished a decorative project for a certain blond mega pop star who everyone pretty much knows; as glamorous as all that may be, I really did not want the project. I do however hold her designer in high esteem and count him a a friend ; PLUS money is nice.  Money is really nice for buying oneself gifts. I have been itching for a press and I now have one.

Some fellows, when they have a mid life crisis buy a flashy car ; I buy a printing press, but is absolutely testosterone driven.

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 Press source

The work station is pretty fantastic gift as well, a birthday gift from the spouse man, welded steel, capable of supporting 3000 lbs, overkill, as the press is under 200 pounds, but again, testosterone driven on very  impressive wheels.

Source Uline : source

This press actually intimidated me a bit, and my chum the talented artist Deborah Lambert graciously walked me through the process; incredibly simple and it works like a dream, the following is an afternoon’s leisurely output.

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The relief print I worked on this afternoon was inspired by Flaubert’s The Temptation of St. Anthony, in one scene the poor beleaguered anchorite is tormented by Lust and Death,  representing the eternal circle of life.

I really love that idea, without Lust , Death cannot be fed, they need one another.

So hence , Lust und Tod.

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 Lust und Tod

2014

relief print on mulberry paper

9 by 12 inches

I have not been posting because I have been working on a large painting, once again dealing with life, death and salvation, apparently I never tire of the theme. As much as I love printmaking, painting gives me the greatest joy. I have existential angst at times as my prints are well received and my paintings, well, not so much. I may in fact not be terribly good, my landlady told me frankly I shouldn’t bother with paintings, focus on printmaking. I know she means well, though it did indeed sting; but the fact is I love painting. So good or bad, well received or not, I continue my practice. the following is a detail.

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be well, Lg