I am preparing my annual entries to a works on paper show here in LA and in so doing focusing my studio time with that more ephemeral medium. In particular, paper dolls, which have long held an interest, harkening back to my fussy sissy boyhood. Fond , forbidden moments snipping away ; this drove my father to fury and violence ,so now, in revisiting this artform, I do so with emotion and gratitude.
My studio complex is an industrial space, and in the recycling bin can be found beautiful clean , rather low grade sheets of cardboard; all for the taking. And taking I have been doing. Large scale paper dolls, and larger planned, have occupied my work table. One of the problems I and others have encountered in working with paper-dolls , is a sense of durability. Inherently ephemeral, how does one strengthen such fragile material. This low grade cardboard (yet free!) has an unsightly edge that I find distracting and unfinished. My solution, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to employ yet another sissy art ( and equally infuriating to Pater) , stitchwork. By a simple stitch of embroidery floss , I strengthen and add an exciting line of color. I confess a certain pride in this, and stitching cardboard is immensely gratifying, not unlike popping those addictive sheets of packing bubbles. I recommend trying it to relieve stress.
My latest trio of paper-dolls are completed but more are planned, this grouping, the largest figure about 36 inches tall, is called The Siren & the Machiavels.
In addition to my paper-doll making , I continue my daily drawing practice. In the same spirit of the nursery, like paper-dolls, another staple of childhood, the ornamental and instructive alphabet:
I will continue through with this alphabet and post upon its completion. For today, as it Sunday, household, not studio duties beckon.
I finished this painting several weeks ago, but needed to step away from it a bit, literally and figuratively. It is a large painting and that is the direction I would like to take with my studio practice. This painting is in many ways the impetus for my moving studios. I’ve simply run out of room at my charming current studio.
But this has been a long journey, nearly two years, from bringing what had been a seemingly simple response to Christina Rossetti’s incredible poem of the same name, a simple pencil sketch, to this large canvas.
Before heading off for Philadelphia in the summer of 2015 I made this sketch, dashed it off really.
I was entering a summer program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and I hadn’t really any concept of how to focus my time. Materials needed to be shipped and I felt overwhelmed logistically. Plus I suffer emotionally from being separated from David and the pups.
I’ve posted before about the PAFA critique program, at times bitterly, but in hindsight I realize how unprepared for the experience I actually was. I now feel, a few years later, that I could approach the experience with more confidence and intentionality (is that a word??).
Perhaps some other summer.
Without a real game plan I decided pretty much on board the plane that Goblin Market was to be my next project for the summer. Part of what I had hoped for with the critique program was to loosen up mentally and creatively, and my little sketch , which I had so enjoyed drawing, would launch me in the right direction. Or so I hoped.
The following are some sequential images of its making.
I pause here because this is where strife began between me and the program director , she insisting that this was a finished work, and I insisting it wasn’t. I envisioned a more polished painting and she wished to “free” me from what she perceived were constraints . Again, in hindsight, I feel I could now express my intentions with more clarity, but at the time I felt crushed and confused.
I persevered but warily.
This image is where I left it at PAFA, unable to finish , I rolled it up, threw it on the plane and allowed it to languish in my studio. I tried avoiding it frankly. Then, in 2017 I decided I needed to face the painting once again.
I’ve tweaked it a bit since this next image, but I now believe it to be finished…for now.
I have a solo show coming up in July, its a small show ( Goblin Market will most likely make its debut), a gallery within a showroom I enjoy showing in. I am excited. It is my first solo show and in many ways it is a clarifying experience.
I’m grappling with what I want to say as an artist and as a person . What is my contribution in this dialogue of life. The window we are given is open ever so briefly, and as I feel I have only just recently entered into myself, I desire to do so fully.
My show will be called “Fairyland”. It is a concept I wish to explore in depth; I will be putting together more extensive proposals for other solo shows, so this show in July is the model.
The following is a revised statement for “Fairyland”:
“At this stage of my life, off center of a century, I am grappling with ways in which to express my “being-ness”. Unable to avoid the “who am I “ question any longer, I find myself ,as a visual artists reaching beyond my usual studio practice of oil painting into diverse disciplines including figures in the round.The figures are essentially dolls, and are fashioned by fully embracing the pre-conceived sissy element of this art. It is in this extension of my practice that I am exploring, at this late stage, my identity as a queer and terrified man; the specter of the pansy boy I was, being given new voice in my latest ongoing project “Fairyland”. It is in this new series of projects , where paint, needle and thread give expression and validation to a long suppressed self loathing.
The very name “Fairyland”, a word once delivered with bloody blows transcends beyond with a message of empathy, compassion. pride, and I hope , humor. Reclaiming the fairy has been empowering. The art I attempt to create is intended to express the spirit of furtive repression breaking free.”
I just finished a new painting, a very small one, 8 by 10″. After having labored rather diligently over a large painting for so long, it was nice to produce a painting in relatively short time. I think its finished, I will probably go back and play with the contrasts , glazing and such, but for now…
oil on panel
8 by 10″
The painting started as a quick sketch and I wanted to maintain as much of the sketches spontaneity as possible, I think I have- as spontaneous as one can be while working with essentially a single haired brush anyway.
Having first finished Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony and then having gone to the Getty Centre to see the spectacular Ensor exhibition ( twice, and not at all too many visits ) where I encountered Ensor’s interpretation of the poor anchorite bedeviled by worldliness, I was inspired to paint yet another Temptation.
Flaubert’s work influenced Ensor and that is apparent, from the writhing Byzantine whirl of Temptations to the floating, glowing head of the Savior (Freud was also heavily influenced by this amazing and odd little book). If you are inclined towards visual excess as I am, Flaubert’s text offers endless inspiration. One of the many temptations that poor Anthony encounters is the personifications of Lust and Death, in Flaubert’s description they are an inseparable duo, one cannot be without the other.
I found this magnificent and horrifying, his description of the two is chilling:
Lust: “My rage equals thine. I also yell ; I bite. I too, have sweats of agony, and aspects cadaverous.”
Death: ” It is I that make thee awful! Let us intertwine!”
I love that, it is so terrible, so damned, and yet Anthony resists them and they flee.
This painting unlike the last Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert ( link: HERE) is a small little oil painting, only 16 by 20 inches. I painted smaller frankly because I am running out of studio space and I have two other large canvases that I am working on occupying two easels .
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
oil on canvas
16 by 20 inches
I wanted to commit to grissaile which at times has been a challenge; my love of color so great. Given the theme I resisted the siren’s call.
detail of Lust and Death
I explored Lust and Death previously with my relief print Lust und Tod.
The idea of Anthony carrying the mask came from a dream, which given Freud’s love of Flaubert’s Anthony, I thought too important to omit.
I will close with this image, the handsome hermit tempting Temptation.