I have been hard at work on my contributions for the group show “Bad Girls & Outcasts” at Cactus Gallery . Earlier last year my friend, the talented Ulla Anobile had conceived of the theme and had invited me (and the marvelous Mavis Leahy) to participate. Initially it was to be the three of us, but given the interest in the theme ( perhaps in large part due to our current political climate ) , Bad Girls are all the rage and many fine artists are now participating. It should be a very exciting show, Cactus Gallery always gathers together diverse artists and I have no doubt this will be an exceptional group of makers.
For my part I’ve focused on a few of my favorite archetypes: the brazen femme fatale; the sinner/saint; the vengeful goddess and of course, witches. I worked in a variety of techniques: fiber art, painting, drawing, and relief printing. The following images are the results of my love affair with all girls bad, wonderful and misunderstood.
Happily, as I finished up yesterday, I did one final drawing of The Magdalene, as a study for personal reasons, not for the show. After posting my studio progress on Instagram I was pleasantly surprised to find that a collector for the drawing. I’m not yet ready to part with the drawing but I’m telling you, Bad Girls are all the rage!
As I attempt to develop some sense of presence of myself as an artist, I find myself turning to social media. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or this studio journal, I am becoming increasingly aware of what is and what is not appropriate to post. As much of my work depicts nudity, posting full-frontals has the potential of censorship.
My latest paper doll-jumping jack Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea is unabashedly nude. The nudity was a big “fuck you” to the bigots and the nasty folks who hate us , particularly important after the Orlando massacre. Queers have been treated like vermin for so very long, by fashioning myself as a flea I embrace what they find so vile.
That sort of righteous anger is all well and good but will it work on my Instagram feed?
Hence the fig leaf.
Now for the sans fig leaf.
Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea
pencil and watercolor on paper, brads and string
22″ high by 16″ wide
He is a funny character, when he jumps he twitches awkwardly, I like him a lot, just not sure which I prefer, the figged figgy or the unfigged (we call fleas “figgys” in our house).
A problem with nudity is of course not new and I had my encounter with censorship a few years back when the city of Encinitas CA refused to hang my painting Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased unless the female character was made more discreet – for some reason the male junk seemed a-ok.
Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased
An artist I admire quite a bit , Milo Reice ( link to his site: http://miloreice.com/MiloReice/intro.html) who I discover happens to be a neighbor, has explored censorship and the fig leaf archetype in his own work. In his words concerning the following image :
“A detail of a recent work of mine where I was lampooning censorship- underneath everything is thoroughly painted – the appliqués held on with magnets”
A brilliant solution to a vexing problem by a magnificent artist. Check out his website above!
Of course there are times when foliate discretion adds to the allure as in Canova’s hunky Mars, who in this 1822 sculpture Venus and Mars. One rarely encounters such provocative undergarments outside of a go-go boy club.
Venus and Mars
But so it, perhaps an ostentatious fig leaf is in order. If so, I am in fine company. My boyhood hero introduced a ridiculously over sized fig leaf to the ephebe valet in his Enter Herodias ( from a Salome folio, first published in 1894) after there was criticism to the boy’s boy-bits. Not sure which image is more profane ; not to mention the grotesque fetus-like attendant with his enormous boner.
I want to close with a beautiful prayer to the queer and the unwanted. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting the internet was awash with support and queer empowerment . This prayer by Mark Aguhar, who apparently killed him/herself ( I believe the author was transgender) wrote this beautifulLitany to my Heavenly Brown Body.I need to research Aguhar more thoroughly but felt it a fitting close to this post.
sadly ended Tuesday. I will miss the experience of having an actual body, in the flesh, in front of me. I benefit keenly, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent, from a live model and consistent and structured practice.
That said, in the stacks of drawings made in this class , very few were worth much more than parakeet liner. And from the rest, only bits and pieces satisfy me.
But one of the issues I am working on is abandoning this mad quest for perfection, I fail miserably each and every time. So relinquishing the claims of my ego, I post some of the drawings from Art 12A ; some from extended poses, some gesture drawings (gestural drawings drive me bonkers).
So now with class ended I will join other forums and study groups…plus I always have myself!
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!
Tempus fugit or Self Portrait of the Artist as
watercolor on paper, graphite, acrylic, brads approximately
My life drawing class with Jim Morphemes is sadly winding down, I’ve grown accustomed to my regular sessions with a live model and I will miss that . I will also miss Jim, he is a heck of a nice guy and a great deal of fun to chat with. Thankfully there is a Life Drawing II.
Our next to last assignment is to produce a drawing of hands and feet, so the above is my offering. As with most of the assignments given I have taken the opportunity to benefit my studio practice in general and this assignment is no different. I have wanted to explore the similarities and differences between real flesh and blood and that of the antique- namely Roman works for some time but have never really taken the time to do so properly. I am far from the first artist to do this, my great hero Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) avidly emulated the ruins being unearthed in Rome seeking to comprehend their beauty and power. I have always admired how so many of Poussin’s figures possess a certain stiffness, possessing a theatrical formality, a chill even and I would venture it has much to do with his study of the marbles. Folks rant and rave over the dirty feet of Carravagio’s peasants ( a contemporary of Poussin) but for my money, give me the gods of Nicolas. The following is a study by Poussin taken after the antique now in the Musee Conde, Chantilly, France.
I still haven’t picked up a brush after my critique. I don’t want to think that I am still rattled , much has been demanded of my time in the domestic sphere, household duties, the beasties, homework assignments. But I am anxious and will just need to jump in at some point and try anew. I’m told my Seizing Sanctimonium is SO close to being a worthwhile painting, but now I fear I haven’t the tools or the understanding to bring it to completion. That I guess is where faith comes in. I have however put together a self portrait (part of the final project for Jim’s class) and it makes me chuckle, hoping you like it.