I finished my latest figure last evening, what I had heretofore been calling simply a rag-doll, I am now calling a stuffed painting.
He is called The Wodewose.
Greenmen (andGreenwomen), The Green Knight, Wildmen and the archaic form, the Wodewose, fascinate me. They are at once pure of heart and spirit yet unbridled, carnal, the embodiment of our bestial selves. No wonder they appear so frequently in medieval marginalia; amidst sacred texts, randy hairy beastie-folk cavort and beguile.
I’ve turned to the theme multiple times. After reading Simon Armitage’s excellent translation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” I was hooked on the theme, a wondrously fascinating archetype; ripe for seemingly endless re-interpretation.
This latest work is in the round and I was able to more fully develop his fleshy-ness ( and hairy-ness thanks to some found faux fur).
I was inspired to employ the Wodewose-Wildman archetype because of the recent celebration of Beltane on May 1st. Rebirth, renewal, the “pagan” appreciation of unbridled spring. My figure has two ways of presenting himself in order to more fully keep in the step with the seasons.
The first being flacid Winter Dormant:
And thesecond, lively Spring Renewal:
“The Wodewose” will be part of my contribution to “Satan’s Ball”, a group show at Art Share LA that promises to be an:
“unapologetic embrace of the dangers, demons, burdens and temptations that beckon to the more sinful angels of our nature”.
I’m going to close with a few random images of Wildfolk that never fail to delight me. As I leave for Pittsburgh tomorrow and rain is supposed to be in order, I’m looking forward to a wild rush of greenery (and perhaps a few fauns).
I am happy to say that I have finished my latest figure for an upcoming group show here in the Los Angeles with a theme of “Bad Girls &Outcasts”. I’ve made about five pieces for the gallerist to consider and this soft sculpture figure is my latest.
As I continue on this practice of “painting-sculptures” I find myself more and more drawn to the possibilities of figures in the round. The making of these figures being immensely gratifying.
This particular figure was directly inspired by a relief print I had made before crafting The Magdalene. Perhaps its gimmicky but that print will accompany the figure when she is presented to collectors.
As with much of my work one thing leads to another, this small print leading to another more complicated and I believe, more successful print, of the same subject.
It will also be presented at the gallery.
The Magdalene has been a figure of fascination since my boyhood, searching out her familiar red hair and raw tears in countless museum visits throughout my life.
Her renunciation of worldliness in order to be closer to the God who left her behind stabs my heart every time. I’m of course playing loose with history and church tradition, but that is the emotional effect, one of abject abandonment, that moves me so deeply . In many ways, she reminds me of Dido and her awful lament.
Of course, at least according to Church tradition, she is ultimately reunited with her Savior , often depicted ascending heavenwards garbed only in her anchorite-wild hair. This visual tradition of presenting The Magdalene as a Wild Woman is also extraordinarily interesting to me. She is in effect the corporeal equivalent of the divine other-wordly Blessed Virgin.
That old trope of Virgin and (Redeemed) Whore.
This resonates for me in that it allows exploration of the Old Gods and the New and how we , as a society , have tried to synthesize these elements in a cohesive and manageable way. I love both the BVM and The Magdalene, but personally, I feel closer to the latter.
Following are a few (unattributed) images of MM that I treasure.
(this is I believe, her reliquary , at least that what my what I noted)
Below is info concerning the show, if in LA, please visit.
I am working on a series of pieces for an upcoming group show devoted to the maligned women of history , folk tale and myth . The show is called “Bad Girls”. There are plenty of so called Bad Girls to choose from and I’ve selected a few that have resonated over the years : Salome , Mary Magdalene, the three crones from “Macbeth”.
My studio progress which had been going well has been interrupted a bit ( even this post , ordinarily made from the comfort of my studio , is now made from my IPhone at my breakfast table .
My little dog Rose is very sick . We nearly lost her over the weekend and her recovery is arduous and fraught with worry . My time and my emotions are occupied with her recovery .
That said , I did manage to bring all the pups to the studio yesterday and put in a few hours . Rose’s whimpering abating , the anti anxiety meds kicking in allowing me some time to focus.
What I focused upon was the Mesoamerican moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, link below :
According to the legend this unfortunate goddess for reasons complicated by patriarchy and misogyny, is mutilated beyond recognition. Forever memorialized in the monumental disc bearing her image found now at the Templo Mayor museum in Mexico City . She is a powerful figure.
I worked rather feverishly yesterday as I knew my time was limited before Rosie became restless again needing my attention and the result thus far , is the corpus of the goddess found above . I myself was struck by the pathos of the being .
As usual with my dollmaking I hadn’t filtered my emotions for mechanics; the figure emerged on her own . And after I held her broken body and posted her image online , only then , over dinner with my husband ( the psychotherapist) did I realize that my Coyolxauhqui was in fact Rosie.
This should have been obvious , Rose has an amputated rear right leg and now a near lame right arm- she is essentially an invalid . That the doll is nearly life sized to my sweet pug is also an unconscious similarity.
I’m of course completely absorbed with Rose’s needs , we both are . David , a medical doctor’s son is particularly adept in assessing in a calm cool manner; but he has his own work , patients of the human sort wrestling with their own traumas .
As the artist with a more flexible schedule, nursing is for the most part, my duty . I’m so happy she is alive I am grateful to have this second chance . But it’s hard , she cannot eliminate on her own , fights me ferociously over her bitter pills and the whimpering, not consistent, but when she does whimper , it breaks my heart in half . Believing myself to be impotent , useless .
This is Rosie yesterday , a better day ( after a fraught night ) , shopping for new bedding and nursing paraphernalia. She loved the attention , her tail wagging with enthusiasm.
Today, after her follow up at the hospital ( it’s predicted to be a lengthy recovery , six months or so of this schedule), I plan to head to the studio and meet my other obligations to the show , my work and to myself .
The following images are of my progress thus far: Wish me luck.
After a rather arduous process I have at last finished my latest relief print depicting the “weird” sisters from Macbeth (actually any practitioner of ancient arts). It is for an upcoming show here in LA devoted to Bad Girls, and as witchery and pagan ways have beguiled me since boyhood (going so far as memorizing the witches’ lines from the bard’s play), I felt they were a worthy subject. I wanted to laud the women (and men) who have been maligned and persecuted in the past. I also wanted to, as in the middle sister, explore intersex identity. What I like about this print is that it recalls a stained glass window, a pagan stained glass window to ancient seers and prophets.
But I hadn’t anticipated such difficulty in the making. Perhaps it is a testament to my increasing skill in printmaking,but my expectations are now higher. And as with my painting practice, as I make progress, I also find myself more keenly aware of how to improve the work. In this case, after rather laboriously cutting multiple plates and running a rather sizable series of prints, after reflection , I just felt the print to not be up to par.
The cutting of the plate (s) above, and the enthusiastic running of sixteen prints.
And the lackluster results.
Having run the series on a Friday, by the time I returned on Sunday, the print seemed cramped and illegible. I have a high tolerance for density and visual information , but I found myself unable to read the image.
So back to the cutting table, the previous series essentially material for collage.
This new series is smaller (mostly because I have run low on good printing paper) , I was concentrating on making a sound image, not quantity. As it is, in a series of six, only half are in high enough quality to market. I had trouble with the density of black, too much “snow-flaking”, as in this blue version.
Given the small run and limited number of prints available, they are artist’s proofs. But I now feel confident that the next run will be a success. To ensure that success I may resort to a spell or two:
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Harpier cries “‘Tis time, ’tis time.”
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
Double, double, toil and trouble; (10)
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe (30)
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
[Enter Hecate, to the other three Witches]
O well done! I commend your pains;
And every one shall share i’ the gains;
And now about the cauldron sing,
Live elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.
[Music and a song: ‘Black spirits,’ etc, Hecate retires]
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
As the installation of our new president fast approaches and memories of the ugly divisiveness that the election stirred up, my thoughts turn to many things. First and foremost perhaps is immigration (the environment a close second when it comes to nail biting). What on earth does it mean to be an “illegal”, why we disdain some groups and laud others. What will happen to the undocumented?
Is it really so simple an issue that some folks entered “properly” and others enter through sheer will power, pluck and with a great deal of risk. I tend to think it is more than that. I often turn to my own immigrant stock grandparents who by the time I was a child were pretty much considered “good immigrants”.
And they were.
My grandparents were hardworking, ambitious and proud to be part of the fabric that makes this nation what it is . But so are the Mexican-American folks in my own neighborhood, many I suspect might have less than legal status. When I encounter the generosity of my neighbor up the hill, offering up a gorgeous platter of tamales , I am reminded of my Calabrian grandfather and the delight he took in a shared meal. When I see the diligence and pride my housekeeper Laura puts into her work, I am reminded of my Slovak grandmother; who felt no task too menial to not do well.
Then why? Why this difference in perception? Family lore was my grandfather was conceived on the way over to Ellis Island, that now seems apocryphal, but would he have been considered an anchor baby? It’s all very true that they entered “legally” , but must it be so arduous to be part of this great experiment? I wish it weren’t, we seemed to have been on a path of fairness. Now I fear a terrible regression.
As fate would have it I was notified of a group exhibition specifically addressing this heated issue. I was very eager to participate and this small painting will be part of the “fabric” of that show. I couldn’t be more delighted. My anxiety might not be lessened, but at least I was kept busy. In such times, that is all I hope for. If you are in LA please try to attend.
walter maciel gallery
2642 s. la cienega blvd.
los angeles, ca 90034
Co-curated by Monica Lundy
7 January – 4 March 2017
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 7th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Walter Maciel Gallery is pleased to present With Liberty and Justice for Some, featuring the work of several contemporary artists who have been invited to create portraits of immigrants to the United States. The show is a statement on the many fears surrounding the announcement of our new president elect and a powerful response rejecting the presumed policies that threaten to disrupt basic civil rights.
A Change is Gonna Come
I’m closing with this image of my grandparents, if they were still alive , the would be over a century old.
So I am participating in an upcoming group show which is an homage to DADA and the centennial celebration of its founding. The work thus far submitted looks marvelous , capturing the anarchist aesthetic of the movement.
Each artists self selects a work or artist who they wish to honor by crafting a new work in homage. It looks and sounds like great fun.
My selection is of course theatrical and perhaps a tad neo-medieval (does that even make sense?). My inspiration was Pablo Picasso’s cumbersome cardboard costume designs for the Ballets Russes’ production of “Parade”. His fabulous costumes were so ungainly the dancers were unable to dance, let alone move with any grace. Hence the DADA aspect, art/non-art; a ballet without movement…how is that a ballet?
Yet it was.
So I hoped to fashion my own cardboard contraption, equally cumbersome. A walking Mystery Play, marionette arms gesturing and inviting audiences to a performance of Jean-Paul Sartre’s incredible “No Exit” (if there was ever a more loathsome description of Second Empire interiors, I would be hard pressed to identify it). Sartre’s play is chilling and rip-roaring at the same time and I hoped to imbue my marionette-mask-costume with those attributes.
Its rather large, at least 50 inches in every direction, more when the arms start gesticulating. I haven’t yet been able to both wear it and have measurements taken- I will at the opening. The opening which is November 17th will be at a fantastic gallery space here in LA; thus far every event I have seen there has delighted me. I’m really eager and pleased to participate in this.
The following is Picasso’s incredible work, I’ve always loved his theatre work, encouraging me as a boy to play and experiment with the most pedestrian material: cardboard, tin cans, house paint, duct tape- especially duct tape! If nothing else, my homage is heartfelt.
It would be lovely if local folks could attend the opening and toast the greatness of DADA!