Slaughter of the Innocents

The Rape of Our Mother 2016 pencil on paper  24 by 36 inches
The Rape of Our Mother
2016
pencil on paper
24 by 36 inches

While listening to the dismal election news coming forth from my studio radio last week , I was busy at work on a drawing. The drawing was vague, more of an amusement than any specific concept. But as the electoral numbers came in, my panic rose, and the magnitude of what was at stake, all that I hold dear being seriously imperiled , the heretofore ambiguous drawing took a life of its own.

As the Bully rose in the number, my fears turned to those most vulnerable: women, POC , religious minorities, LGBTQ folk,  but most specifically the environment. If we were to being living in this profit-first-profit-only environment then kiss aside any slim progress made during the last few years. Good bye  Miami, hello hellacious droughts and rampant fires. Any sane regulation to protect our mute charges steam-rolled  by corporate greed and the rapacious machine of unregulated capitalism. All of those poor enslaved creatures in factory farms across the nation will be subject to the  same horrors found in the darkest most perverse Chinese market : animals skinned alive, brutally bludgeoned, callously scalded alive. A hell scene out of the imagination of Bosch, but the “sinners” are the innocent and the helpless.

My heart breaks at the potential exploitation of the earth and her children, all for some mad grasp at some lost imagined  American “greatness”.  So taking the advice of artists wiser than myself I channeled my nervousness and my anxiety into making this past week; this diptych one of the results.  I’m going to need to be hyper vigilant the next four years (gods forbid eight), and I expect my work will reflect the strange times we now live.  My colors for this drawing reflect my emotions, ugly, garish and harsh. By employing color wheel opposites  I tried to embody the split between Right and Left, the green and red expressing the tensions between the natural order and Man’s voluptuous greed. I have never employed such ugly coloring before and I doubt I will again. It has been too unsettling even working with them.

But then again, we live in unsettling times .

The Rape of Our Mother 2016 pencil on paper  24 by 36 inches

The Thinking Reed : From the Hermitage to the Underworld, the Quest for Gnosis

I’m putting together two proposals for a solo show, this is one of the proposals:

greco_resurrection-of-the-fatherwatercolor( cover: The Resurrection of the Father , 2013)

The Thinking Reed: From the Hermitage to the Underworld, the Quest for Gnosis.

“Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows none of this.
Thus all our dignity consists in thought. It is on thought that we must depend for our recovery, not on space and time , which we could never fill. Let us then strive to think well; that is the basic principal of morality.”

Pascal, Pensées

 

 

 
This dignity is our greatest gift and our harshest burden, this awareness of how absurd our very existence is. Bird, beast or fish are oblivious to their insignificance ; we alone must confront this existential dilemma . We are left to comprehend this miracle we have been given, a gift given with the cruel understanding that it endures for only the blink of a god’s eye. We must then live this life fully , and as Pascal demands, ponder deeply and “strive to think well”
It is this Thinking Reed which I wish to examine with this body of work. Begun in 2013, it consists of drawings, relief prints, watercolor and oil paintings, drawn from a number of sources: the Popol vuh of the Quiche Maya to Flaubert’s Temptation of St.Anthony. These narratives are re-examined through a queer prism , reclaiming the canon as a gay man living in the 21st century.  Of varying sizes they depict a quest for “think(ing) well”, a search for gnosis -self knowledge.
The collection will include approximately 10 -12 pieces, work I envision hung salon style; in the ideal world, against a rich background (I will need to ponder the logistics of that desire). As per gallery preference, ultimately I leave that up to the jurors and the gallery, however the Center Room might prove an intimate setting well suited to the intricacy of the work. Much of the work is completed and ready to be hung; in the instance of enclosed drawings, they may be translated into a painting, a tradition which is part of my studio practice.

The works are as follows:
1- Cover: Resurrection of the Father
2013
watercolor on paper
18 by 24 inches

2- Gnosis…& the Old Gods Were Pleased
2014
oil on canvas
24 by 48 inches

3- Genesis
2014
oil on canvas
30 by 40 inches

4- Seizing Sanctimonium
2016
oil on canvas
40 by 56 inches

5- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
2013
oil on canvas
36 by 48 inches

6- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
2015
acrylic on paper
11 by 14 inches

7- The Apotheosis of Sophia
2014
oil on masonite panel
18 by 24 inches

8- Jonah
2016
oil in panel
8 by 10 inches

9- Herakles and Telephus
2015
watercolor and graphite on paper
9 by 12 inches

10- The Temptation of St. Anthony (of the Desert) at the Baths of St. Mark
2016
sanguine pencil on toned paper
18 by 24”

11- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert (or , The Betrayal of the Pig)
2016
graphite and colored pencil on paper
18 by 24 inches

2 greco_gnosis_and_old_gods_pleased

3 greco_genesis

4 greco seizing sanctimonium

5 greco_temptation-of-st-anthony-of-the-desert (1)

6 greco temptaion-of-st-anthony-of-teh-desert7 greco_sophiathe-apotheosis-ofoil-copy8 greco jonah-20169 greco herakles10 greco the temptation of st anthony_bath of st mark11 greco the temptation of st anthony and pig

My second proposal is more conceptual and I would rather keep it under wraps until it comes to fruition. This one however consists of work I have posted before.

Wish me well.

LG

Yet Another St. Anthony

My passion for the anchorite St. Anthony never seems to abate. Another composition for perhaps another painting. I have many to choose from…

IMG_9246

Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert

2016

pencil on paper

18 by 24″

Details follow:

IMG_9245

Anthony and his guardian Wodewose-Greenman

IMG_9244

Herakles and Ophelia

IMG_9246

The Rape of Tenochtitlan

 

Rape, the very word causes you to pause. I ruminated upon even using the word “rape” for this drawing, but no other word fully expressed the Conquest of New Spain by the Old. The use of the word rape is relatively common in Western art, one refers to the Rape of the Sabine Women and of course all of those frothy depictions of The Rape of Europa , a pink cheeked maiden astride gorgeous twinkly eyed white bulls. I wanted to play upon that theme and the word rape is an integral element of the concept. In this case Europa is doing the raping. 

img_9130

The Rape of Tenochtitlan 

2016

colored pencil on toned paper

18 by 24″

I’m gathering my thoughts, both visual and verbal, concerning  a project focusing upon Mesoamerica in general, Tenochtitlan specifically. But the historical elements are superficial in many ways as  I am primarily interested in identity  and perception , how one empire can so thoroughly misunderstand  one another , New Spain vs. Old Spain.  How we continue to misunderstand one another, be it racial tension, gender conflict, cops vs. Black Lives Matter, queers/straights, Muslims, you name it, if it ain’t “us” we become all paranoid and defensive (check out the GOP convention in Cleveland at the moment to confirm my assertion).

I’ve been fascinated for some time  by the intersection of cultures and what is gained and lost in the process. Although  I am not the first and I certainly will not be the last, I hope to add something personal to that conversation.  Drawing back in time, when even the most basic images of what is now Mexico City were ominously romanticized and barbarized,  they were oozing with biased  fodder for our imagination, fueling our fascination with the  pornography of violence:  the perverse fascination with human sacrifice and  the seemingly  never-ending ghastly spectacle of the Aztecs. To the conquerers this New Spain was in fact a New Jerusalem, ripe for conversion, once they came to heel that is.  To drive home the message of this new and terrifying place, the images were depicted through the prism of Classical antiquity , as the  temple image below suggests.

Van_Beecq_-_Tenochtitlan_Temple_of_the_Sun

Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722) – Illustrations de Histoire de la conquête du Mexique ou de la Nouvelle Espagne

I am now eager to explore this cross cultural disconnect in an upcoming series of work in which I play upon the theme of courtly entertainment, toys and baubles meant to amuse an aristocratic audience, all presented to the Holy Roman Emperor from the New World by none other than the reviled/beloved Malinche. And as my brain is driven fundamentally visually, sketching out vague concepts is the most pragmatic approach.

IMG_9130

As is usual with my approach, whatever floats across my field of vision will often find itself incorporated into my work. The other day while visiting LACMA I encountered a beauty, a small ceramic depiction of the Maize Goddess. She was Mayan in origin, and although diminutive she possessed all of the grace of a Tanagra figurine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanagra_figurine

IMG_9071

I was happy to place this lovely lady into my composition.

IMG_9133

Another inspirational happenstance,  though less elegant, was when my publicist Kristine posted an image of this drawing in its unfinished state and accidentally added a filter of rainbows and stars. In what would have been in any other circumstance appalling  to me , was in this instance, just what I needed. Of course fair Europa would feign affection, declaring undying affection to get at that gold lurking behind Tenochtitlan’s fiery skirt.

13754210_10153743355773587_2594660042478581998_n

IMG_9132

As I drew my mind wandered back to my visit to Mexico City, how as soon as we entered the city, I felt I belonged there. I was wistful reminiscing about the ancient art that seems to reach out from the very soil,defying the Church, defying the State, defying Time.  This detail is drawn from loose memory of a visit to the National Anthropological Museum.

IMG_9134

IMG_4368

IMG_4386

I’m going to continue to draw upon these fascinating resources, albeit in my own ways. I feel no more compulsion to depict the divinities of Mexico as they were by indigenous peoples than I would feel obligated to depict Christ in a Byzantine manner. The following are a few beauties found at the Museo Templo Major, literally pulled from sacrificial ground. That just fascinates me.

IMG_4250

IMG_4288

 

I’m going to close with my handsome husband taken at the Casa Azul for no other reason than it was a really marvelous day and a really marvelous memory. 

IMG_4498

Cernunnos

IMG_8899 (1)

I just finished a drawing of the horned god Cernunnos. My studio companion of late has been a Druid podcast out of the UK, fantastic stuff about finding the sacred in the every day. The horned god seems to pop up quite a bit, so I felt compelled to at least work out a sketch of him. I was also compelled to imagine what sort of hut he would live in which indulged my interest in neo-medieval follies . It was fun, drawing gives me great pleasure and freedom.

IMG_8901

Cernunnos and his Lair

2016

pencil and pastel on toned paper

18 by 24″

I’m reminded of another horned, branched, antlered figure I sketch out awhile ago, thinking it might make a handsome little (or large) painting. We will see, may the gods grant more hours.

IMG_6128_2

Daily Sketchbook

I’ve been challenging myself with a commitment to my sketchbook, random images, most from source material that has delighted me. In no particular order, a few follow…

13256357_10209084108089445_6071102484541777990_n

1936159_10208970598051765_972566682705693509_n

13083318_999014490184405_8819700991286879001_n

13124524_10208941587406517_2274048969638197787_n

13165869_10208977284618925_3629056678485484423_n

13165923_10208946905699471_652254974067363258_n

13178950_10208999411052072_7896657464042399911_n

13239969_10209070304584366_3660268311785924983_n

a silly musing, I think this is what I do best, in the natural sense

13267789_10209049339580254_6293566207349031379_n

Christ enthroned 2016
Christ enthroned 2016

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. 

IMG_8696

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.

greco_presentationattemple

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):

presentation:from brotherhood of holycross 

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

connor mcgregor

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.

IMG_8690

Well for now that is all, be well.

LG