To say the opening of Fairyland last Saturday went well would be an understatement. Frankly the support and good feelings expressed towards this work has left me in a dazed state. I have cloistered myself in the studio for so long that to finally emerge and meet such warmth and kindness, well, I feel a bit blinded by the light.
All I can say is thank you, thank you to the friends, familiar and newly made and to my family who trekked cross country to attend my opening and brought such tidings of good will. I am deeply moved.
For those unable to attend I am having the work documented by several very talented photographers and a book is scheduled for publication. But before that time, there is this wonderful video which was made (and made me a nervous wreck as I am very camera shy).
I was also delighted to receive word that the magazine Hi-Fructose had published a favorable review of the exhibition, that certainly made my day!
Presently much to be grateful for, I am officially on a bit of a holiday, a respite I suppose, precious time with my sisters and then a weekend gateway with my husband David who turns 50 in a very few days, and then …back to work.
I do want to express a great deal of gratitude to my friend Kristine Schomaker of Shoebox PR who handled the publicity of Fairyland. The diligence and hard work of Kristine and her excellent staff has been instrumental in pulling this darn thing off. Thank you my friend.
I’m going to close with a few Shoebox PR snapshots that I especially like.
But with careful planning and ample experience in moving, the packing up of the work went surprisingly well. I even took satisfaction in the neat and tidy cardboard packages, labeled like so many Christmas packages under the tree.
For all my control-freak fretting the museum staff was incredibly capable and supportive, in the transport and in the installation. I fret and fret and all goes well,so much angst for naught.
An unforeseen drama was the vinyl lettering, the custom font I had designed and posted previously was simply too complex a design to be printed by my printer.
A last minute revision was made with happy results.
Best laid plans…
One of the dramatic transformations has been reimagining the white box gallery space into a personal place of enchantment. I specifically chose rich colors as an antidote to the “good taste” of so many gallery spaces, the blinding white or tepid neutrals . I wanted to use colors that I have lived with all my life, the blue seen above , a “Williamsburg” blue favored by my mother, that is now the wall color in my guest bathroom. The golden walls dense and theatrical evoke an orientalist fantasy and the deep red is beguilingly called Cochineal-how does one resist? I also wanted to play up the primary colors, the workhorse of a painter’s workshop and the nursery of fairy tale loving children.
So from chilling white …
…to something more personally gratifying, and since nearly all of my paintings have Paynes Grey in them , they look pretty spiffy.
To say it has been harrowing is an exaggeration but it has involved a great deal of planning to get this show on the road, in place and now installed. So much of my time and energy has been devoted to this project that I now feel myself bereft of purpose. I feel such a loss, my studio is forlorn, stripped bare of my stuffed friends and my favorite paintings, a wet LA winter has left the workshop bone-chilling cold, I am feeling unable to focus on the simplest tasks. I intend to read a new translation of The Odyssey and instead binge on H.R. Puffinstuff (which I now feel has been a latent influence , unbeknownst to me previously-also it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year). But for the most part I feel like a ghost, wandering lost, awaiting the next project. I know something will emerge, if nothing else I will set new tasks for myself. I am moving out of the workshop to something climate controlled, clean and with pretty views of LA, plus my husband will be my suite mate. But I haven’t any new real deadlines aside from the final , existential deadline of mortality…that always keeps me moving.
If in Southern California please try to catch Fairyland, it runs through March 31st.
Given that it is a new year, why not start it off with something delightful.
Flowers fit that bill perfectly. I’m obsessed with flowers: in my home, multiple bouquets are generally scattered about, I’m seemingly unable to pick upholstery fabric without selecting a floral chintz or needlepoint, and of course the garden. But it is in my studio that florals frequently make their strongest appearance. I’m drawn to the seeming disharmony between the floral and the fine arts. I delight in challenging the dismissal of floral and vegetal motifs to the decorative arts .
I’m also interested in refuting the gendering of the floral, this feminizing of floral motifs leads to an insidious misogynistic homophobic mindset. One I experience externally by society at large and more disturbingly, internally- I am often embarrassed by my affection for the “feminine”, this post a testament to that discomfort. It frequently seems serious art cannot be floral or possess prettiness, and yet I am very serious about my work and floral patterns and motifs bud abundantly-it is in this fact, that my work is perhaps most “queer”. It is the incongruity between the floral prettiness of my work and some of its disquieting aspects that I am drawn to in the first place. My desire is to challenge this bias, both externally and internally.
My latest painting, a large unbound “tapestry”canvas embodies this gendered split. It is of a repentant, tearful Herakles, far removed from the bravado chest thumping posture in which he is usually depicted. This is of the post mad Herakles, after the wife slaying, after the brutal slaying of his own children, the broken man seeking redemption , rived with grief. Ostensibly the Twelve Labors were to be his redemption, but tradition maintains that the modest hellebore is what cured his madness.
Again the flower.
The other day I approached a restroom at a restaurant and encountered this very gendered placard- it made me chuckle as the establishment was earnestly trying to be progressive yet did so in a rather gendered binary way.
If I were choose I would certainly choose the floral.
That aside, this latest tapestry/painting is part of consistent floral motif throughout my Fairyland body of work (and I imagine will continue for quite some time) and until Fairyland is installed I will be snipping and sewing away on many elements, but perhaps most especially, flowers.
Of the gendering of “women’s work”, be it embroidery, stitchery, floral motifs etc, The Subversive Stitch is a wonderful examination.
My supplies shelves are crammed with vintage floral patterns from my boyhood-essentially the patterns I was denied as a little gay boy.
But I’ve made up for lost time. With that, happy 2019!
In preparation for my solo exhibition at MOAH/Cedar https://www.lancastermoah.org/cedar-exhibitionsI am in that happy place, that point of total absorption with the task at hand. There is a superficial chaos to my studio at the moment, baskets and boxes spill over with thrift store yardage, flashy discarded costumes tumble upon the floor, even the dog beds are spotted with a gay confetti. But from this disorder spontaneity is flowing. I’ve set tasks at hand, a general to-do wish list in order for Fairyland to become a reality , but only used as a guideline. My best work is revealed to me through the process of making, as much as I may enjoy the planning.
There are those close friends who see through the madness, one such person is my fastidious , admirably precise and thoughtful friend Ken, who when visiting recently seemed taken with my large, unwieldy Victorian steamer trunk, crammed full of scraps of fabric and snippets of embroidery floss (I’ve saved every scrap of fabric from the Fairyland project, I’m either very clever or a hoarder). Ken is just the sort of friend an artist wishes for, seeing your intentions, he not only grasps your meaning but elaborates upon it. The notion of the “worthless”rag, the discarded snippet being a metaphor for a disposable humanity needed no explanation to my friend; he too sees the sacred in the forgotten, as witnessed by this dazzling kaleidoscope he created out of studio floor flotsam.
It is really beautiful.
With the floors littered with bundles of thrift store yardage, the work tables are increasingly crowded, I now have five tables in current usage. This charming 19th century illustration below (source unknown to me) delightfully (if romantically) captures the mood of my studio.
And like the doll-making above, my figures are indeed emerging, not by Fairy hands alas.
Concepts formerly inchoate are not taking form. I was recently asked by the museum for a Fairyland statement. Ideas and inspirations have been swimming about in the noggin for some time , but again, inchoate, not fully developed. It was time to put needle, pencil and brush aside and to pick up the quill. This is my statement for Fairyland (the formatting is peculiar for some reason) :
This recent body of work I’ve called Fairyland has developed a definite camp sensibility (not dissimilar to the theatrical confections of Cecil Beaton in the 1920’s).Camp, having been described as the lie that tells the truth, is an innate language I have been reticent to explore until recently.
Perhaps internalized homophobia has left me hesitant to make work so boldly queer – in every sense of the word – making art so openly flamboyant.Purposely stamped with informed wit and a wry knowing humor, this new work is first and foremost intended to visually delight and be taken seriously .
Among other things, it touches on the weighty tableau of the Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert and the perilous trials of Herakles.My aesthetic expression is influenced by my instinctive inclination to lighten somber somewhat ponderous existential themes with a gay touch (consciously using this word in both its current identity-laden fraught understanding and the anachronistic yet more delightful sense).While the work possesses decidedly camp sensibilities it is never ironic as is so often the current fashion.I find irony frequently cynical; my work is never cynical for no other reason than the inherent affection I hold for my motley crew of heroes, saints and sinners .
I draw indiscriminately upon diverse seemingly unrelated archetypes and themes from many sources, including Classical mythology, British folklore, Wagnerian operas and the biblical text of my Catholic youth, doing so in order to touch upon that which is culturally familiar to me, to others – and if we believe Jung – found deeply rooted as archetypes in our souls. These eternal themes provide me ample, seemingly endless, means of interpretation. As a person steeped in the Western tradition of literature and the visual arts, it is a rich fertile field I feel most comfortable in adopting.
The work presented at Fairyland are these familiar themes, explored many times over by countless artist; yet this time reimagined through a prism of my own. My play upon cultural themes hopefully adds a sentence or two to this ongoing cultural conversation.Working in variety of mediums, and a fabulist by nature, it is my intention to create a theatrical spectacle that is peculiar, visually arresting and deeply personal.Although the work is made solely for my own delight, I hope others find the work meaningful in some way.I also hope visitors feel inspired to resist the siren call of selfies and pause instead, if only for a moment, as these works are visually dense and to add their own voice to this enriching and frequently neglected conversation.