Daphne, the Apotheosis of.

I’ve just finished my latest “stuffed painting”, the term I use to describe my painted-mixed-media sculptural figures. This latest figure, my largest thus far (56 inches tall) employs a heavy use of embroidery and crude needlework. Like Herakles under Omphala’s gaze I turn to “women’s work”, however unlike the disgruntled enslaved hero, I relish the task.

The new work explores gender not only in its materiality but in “gender-fucking” the main character; my Daphne is no slim maiden but a hirsute fellow ripe in manhood yet broken and unable to save himself from a horrid fate.

Detail of “Daphne”

My figure of Daphne was inspired (very loosely) by Bernini’s ravishing depiction of the attempted rape of the maiden Daphne by the libidinous Phoebus-Apollo. The way Bernini depicted her delicate fingers morphing terribly into branches has always struck me with horror (and admiration). For although the chaste Daphne pleads with her father,the  river god Peneus to save her from the looming rape, his solution always seemed as cruel as her debasement. Patriarchy in action, the solution to male excess being born heavily by the victim.

At least Bernini’s vision of the terrible scene was breathtakingly beautiful.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini
“Apollo and Daphne”
1622-1625

I do not fool myself into thinking my own version in any way resembles the Baroque masterpiece, but I do hope I captured some of the pathos.

Leonard Greco
“Daphne”
2017
Mixed media: acrylic painted recycled rag, thread, twigs, embroidery floss, poly-fill.
56 by 33 by 9 inches

My desire for the work was to capture the pathos of his/her situation , the brutal transformation of supple gorgeous flesh into brittle bark. What horror Daphne experienced as the soul became encased and ultimately erased. Transformation into an olive tree is hardly a reward for virtue.

I also wanted to explore how gender factored into the beauty of Bernini’s depiction of a violent crime. Why are there so many ravishingly beautiful depictions of violence against women, art I know and love : the raping of Sabine women, of Europa, of lusty satyrs having their way with unconscious Maenads, and of course Daphne. Why is this acceptable and yet the depiction of male rape is not glorified by art; clearly not desired by the male gaze at large,  aside from the homo-philic images of Ganymede.

And even with the images of Ganymede’s “abduction” , they frequently depict a slightly effeminate ephebe. Rembrandt goes so far to depict the rape by depicting Ganymede as a rather horrid infant pissing in fear. Its a nasty bit of work from an artist I have failed to appreciate. The painting seems to embody heteronormative bias against same sex affection.

The rape of Ganymede
*oil on canvas
*177 x 129 cm
*signed c.: Rembrandt. ft / 1635

But aside from the politics of the piece and my developing intentions, I wanted to create a work that pulled the heart (in a neo-Baroque sort of way).  When I look into my Daphne’s face, I am moved to pity. I hope that is the general effect to the viewer at large.

The images below are progression shots, Daphne being the first piece made in my new studio, started close to my birthday , July 24th.

Concept drawing for “Daphne”.
All of my work starts in pencil.
The “painting” part of my “Stuffed Paintings”.
The new space.

A study in contrasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Vermin and Fig Leaves

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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.

flea without

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea 

2016

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. 

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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!

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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. Antonio Canova. Italian. 1757-1822

Antonio Canova

Venus and Mars 

1822

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.

Without the fig:herodias

and with:

E.430-1972 Salome, Plate IX- Enter Herodias from a portfolio of 17 plates; by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98); published by John Lane; English; 1907. Line block print.
E.430-1972
Salome, Plate IX- Enter Herodias from a portfolio of 17 plates;
by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98);
published by John Lane;
English; 1907.
Line block print.

Both are delightfully perverse, horny candle sticks and dear Oscar as master of ceremonies. Source:http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1110742/enter-herodias-a-portfolio-of-print-beardsley-aubrey-vincent/

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 beautiful Litany to my Heavenly Brown Body. I need to research Aguhar more thoroughly but felt it a fitting close to this post.

Mark Aguhar, %22Litanies to My Heavenly Brown Body%22

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…

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

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Christ enthroned 2016
Christ enthroned 2016

Of Hands and Feet…and a foolish clown

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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.

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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.

Until next time, be well, LG

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Open for Critique…kinda

So after much studio time (on and off, over a year) I am at last, pretty close, almost positive, for the moment, finished with my latest paintings. And although I have heard younger artists, seemingly without any pause (or apparent modesty) call their work “masterpieces” , I am in no way inclined to make the same claim; but I am pleased (for now).

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Seizing Sanctimonium 

2016

56 by 40″

oil on canvas 

click on the image to enlarge

 I have been eager to get the painting into a presentable stage as Sunday is my turn for the critique group I have recently  joined. As some of you might remember this is a bit anxiety producing. My paintings are very far from random and imbued (crammed)with meaning : personal, mythological, literary etc. All not terribly obvious from first encounter. I fear it might not be well received or understood, but that is something I cannot control.  One of the problems I anticipate is that the one being critiqued is  not to respond while criticism is being made. I might have bitten off my tongue by the end of all of this.

So wish me and the painting well.

I will tighten the painting some more next week, details and glazings, saturating shadows and such. Then I will try to explain the painting at some length in the final post. Hopefully with a better image.

Until then , be well.

The Castration of Uranus

I  recently stumbled upon a 14th c. image of the Castration of Uranus . It was of course disturbing , but also fascinating. I felt compelled to add my voice to the conversation and the following drawing is the result. 

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 The Castration of Uranus

2015

graphite and colored pencil on paper

11 by 14″

The story, in case forgotten, is that the old god Uranus had fathered the Titans (and the Cyclops) with the Earth Mother Gaia.  As is so often the case the father became wary of the offspring and buries those born of his seed deep within Tartarus -so deep in fact, “it would take a falling anvil nine days to reach the bottom”.

Gaia prompts her Titan son Cronus to smite his father, arming him with the familiar scythe of Time. Unbeknownst to me, but fortunate coincidence, Cronus, according to the mythologist Robert Graves, “grasp[ed] his genitals with the left hand (which has ever since been the hand off ill-omen”. This merciless act produced the vengeful Furies and from the severed penis, when thrown into the whirling ocean, the eternal Aphrodite.

The story is stunning in its primal psychological symbolism; incomprehensible yet visceral. At least I felt so, hence this drawing.

The following is the  wonderful illumination that inspired my own.

cronus and uranus, french c.1501

This image is a bit confusing to me. It was identified as Saturn Devouring his Son (ca.1501). I think that is off, Cronus/Saturn would eventually  devours his  Olympian young  (as magnificently represented by Rubens), perhaps the artist was confused as I haven’t stumbled upon Zeus/Jupiter castrating Cronus/Saturn. I believe this image simply illustrates Cronus castrating Uranus with the prophetic image of Aphrodite in the background. The bloody child-devouring a cinematic bit of excess to gets one’s attention-if severed genitals weren’t enough. It is perplexing that the castrated figure is wielding the Cronus’ scythe of Time. Whatever, its a grand image. 

First day back to the studio, now I will try painting , I feel quite rusty…and anxious.Will keep my progress posted, until then, be well, LG

Herakles and Telephos

In my ever expanding collection of books , I possess a well worn volume that I treasure dearly. It is The Odyssey of Homer,  translated by Alexander Pope and illustrated with lovely line drawings in the manner of Flaxman. As I mentioned, it is in sorry shape, but I picked up this gem for a quarter at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh  many years ago. I confess I haven’t read this translation, the pages are brittle, the text so teeny I can barely focus on the page. I merely enjoy the book ; its fussy attention to detail, each page framed by an elegant red line, its many musty charms. I particularly love the ornamental spot illustration, micro plates , somewhat Greek (sometimes not) in nature,that intersperse the text; they are often enigmatic and always delightful .

One such micro plate inspired this painting/drawing, Herakles and Telephos.

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Herakles and Telephos

2015

graphite and watercolor on YUPO paper

9 by 12″

Initially when I stumbled upon the plate (set neatly between Book  XIV and Book XV) I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was looking at. The image seemed  vaguely surreal in its composition and in its elements: a big headed man, a putto, a doe (with antlers), a strangely phallic cloud and a menacing raptor. But as I began working on my own interpretation I began to realize I was looking at an image of Hercules and his infant son Telephos. In  a nutshell, Telephos born of one of Hercules’ many dalliances, was ill fated, and like the babe Oedipus, sentenced to death, in this case by his fearful maternal grandfather. Our Hero-daddy rescues the boy, entrusting his care to a lactating doe. For a better explanation, this link might help, HERE.

The following is the initial image, blown up quite a bit, the original is the size of a postage stamp; I have no clue as to who the artist was.

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If the original was enigmatic, my interpretation might be more so. I of course retained the phallic cloud, and the doe’s perplexing antlers, but Telephos is no mere babe and the raptor/Zeus ( the boy’s grandad) is no mere bird. I’m not going to analyze the drawing to deeply but let’s just say the notion of a protective father figure resonated for me. Session ended.

In this drawing/painting I experimented with a new material, the synthetic paper YUPO ( link HERE). I was introduced to this paper by another artist who extolled its virtues, namely its ability to take a lot of medium and still remain flat and unwrinkled. It also allows for errors in watercolor to be easily removed. Alas it also allows for details you value to be easily removed. It takes a bit of time for paint to set up, and I must figure out how to work with it. YUPO may not be my go-to paper just now but it does have possibilities I would like to explore. It is marketed as a watercolor paper yet it takes graphite beautifully, the pencil glides upon the smooth surface. The following is the drawing before I added watercolor.

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Today I will be back into the thick of oils and perhaps venture into a hand puppet ( one idea will not leave my head so I better let it out).

Be well,

Lg