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.””

A Day’s Work

Nicolas Poussin once said, when comparing himself  unfavorably to the hyper  manic Carravagio, that he felt his day had been productive if he painted one face. I often feel  that way as well. If today’s accomplishment is any indication, I emulate my beloved Poussin.

Below is a detail of an oil painting I am now working on. 


unfinished detail of a larger composition

As I paint, the pugs rest, Viola standing guard atop a UPS delivery. If being a painter is tough, being a painter’s dog is tougher.


Getting ready for date night with the spouse, Thai  for dinner then “Noah” which releases today.

Have a great weekend, be well,


Postscript: for my friend Richard, an update on “Noah”. Well worth seeing, big mythic spectacle. We saw it at the Sunset Blvd. Arclight where they often have actual costumes, sets, props etc. on display in the lobby. The following is the costume of Noah’s nemesis Tubal-Cain. Thought you mike like the jewelry designs. 

tubal cain

tubal -cain-detail

and Noah’s costume



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.


above ground


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

Colima, Mexico

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.


Hosting Grief


Last week I stumbled upon a half-finished watercolor painting from a nearly a year ago. I had completely forgotten about it. It pleased me and I was determined to finish it, which I have just a moment ago.

The subject is a phrase my wise friend Rosa has used, “Hosting Grief”. I won’t take the liberty of speaking for Rosa, but I understand this phrase to be that moment when sadness, grief and mourning become more habit than genuine experience. The  destructive mindset bent upon a wearying darkness, a mindset I am often  way too familiar with. With this painting I wanted to poke fun at my own melodrama, Grief’s headdress tickles the crap out of me, I would certainly wear such a confection if I could .


Hosting Grief

watercolor on paper

18 by 24 inches

(clicking on the image enlarges detail)

My love of Egyptomania was indulged in this painting; that I happen to be taking a summer course, a survey of the art of ancient cultures, notably Egypt and Greece, only fueled my imagination.


A final detail,  tarted up by Instagram.

My regular solution to Grief follows, one of my beasties is sure to make me chuckle with some ridiculous antic, in this case Viola looking at the world upside down.


Must close, but until next time, be well and avoid hosting Grief,


“D” is for Dogs

As this may be the last entry for my Primer of New Spain, before the  Alphabet Soup deadline of the end of November, I thought I would base the character upon my favorite beastie.

To the Maya and to the Aztec dogs were, in addition to a foodstuff (gruesome I know), believed to be excellent guides to their owners in the treacherous Underworld.  Apparently they were particularly adept as crossing bodies of water.  As the Mesoamerican dog was bred to be hairless I suppose that makes some sense.

My own pup, and model for this image is a modern day chihuahua, quite hairy and slightly chubby ;a delightful and I think quite handsome fellow. His name is Speck and he hates the water.  I would however be thrilled beyond belief  if Speck was waiting for me in Charon’s barge.



“D” is for Dog

Dogs may have been excellent guides in the Underworld, but in the studio my little fellow was a reluctant model, refusing to hold a pose for very long.

But I fashioned a resemblance of sorts, altering  the color of his fur, he is in actuality a beautiful blonde, not this garish yellow.

A reluctant muse.

Here is the superstar, posing on his own terms.


According to tradition, the dog when imagined as a guide to the Underworld , would be depicted wearing a mask. It is a particularly  fascinating stylization, well suited to my interest in symbolism and dreamscapes.

The following is a local treasure from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), I am particularly fond of it.

Dog with Human Mask
200 B.C.-A.D. 500
Clay with pigment
Mexico, Colima


It seemed fitting that if my little Speck was stuck in the Underworld that he could at least have a jolly time playing fetch with all of the bones lying about. For his unearthly companion I once again made use of my handy demon maquette. 

Lady Demon Maquette

I will continue with the Primer, perhaps relaxing the color restriction a bit, perhaps not.

Well that is all for now,

until next time,

take care,