The Harrowing of Hell, a recurring passion

The Harrowing of Hell
Sanguine pencil, white charcoal, toned paper
24 by 18 inches

The theme of the great Harrowing of Hell, that period in time in which the Church seems to hesitate a bit, unsure of what really happened, that time after Christ sheds the mortal coil and isn’t seen for a few  days. Where he is said to have descended into the Underworld as a triumphant New Adam and liberates lost and languishing souls- that, that moment , fascinates me.

It has for quite some time, as a youth I placed ink to paper in an attempt to imagine such a  mythic moment ( the use of pomegranates as a decorative motif, seemed at the time,  a brilliant allegory and  subtle reference to Eurydice)

Youthful stab at a subject too grand…(1980-81?)

As the first(and latest) image attests, the theme still beguiles. Having only recently listened to George Saunder’s astonishing Lincoln in the Bardo (thank you Audible, now I must actually read it). I have been taken with the in-between time of death, redemption and the ambiguous souls left floundering;  the Bardo as Saunders asserts. Death isn’t always with me in a dismal way, but it is endlessly fascinating. I don’t actually want to know for sure what the path ahead holds for me, but I am darn curious.

The first introduction to the theme of the Harrowing was Albrecht Dürer’s spectacular depiction of it (Dürer is a heartthrob figure for me in so many ways).

Albrecht Dürer
Descent into Limbo

One can easily see Dürer’s influence on my work, going back to my teens. Clearly I stole from the Master in this youthful depiction of the Fallen Adam.

Unfinished drawing of Adam and fallen Bishop of Rome.

What I had failed to comprehend was what was meant by Hell. In time I came to realize not so much the eternal fires of a wrathful God, but a waiting station, the  vague Limbo of my youthful Catholicism.

The theme has been explored countless times; the following, are a few favorites.

The ubiquitous follower of good old Bosch.
A lovely example from 1504.
14th century
Petites Heures de Jean de Berry
A gorgeous depiction of the Harrowung of Hell, only vaguely attributed as “Renaissance”. Lovely nonetheless.

My own inspiration was more random, less planned; in my last studio move, an accidental composition made itself available to me. I suspect I will returning to theme again. Perhaps next time Christ will be more triumphant, more muscular in spirit, less hesitant. Although, truth be told, hesitancy seems a reasonable stance. 

The Harrowing of Hell
Sanguine pencil, white charcoal, toned paper
24 by 18 inches


Hadesville…in living color

I finished this painting a few weeks ago but waited to post until I had it professionally photographed. My friend, the photographer Steve Daly just sent over this image  (and that of Seizing Sanctimonium) and I couldn’t be more delighted. So thanks Steve!




oil on canvas

56 x 34.5 x 1 inches

I mentioned the intent of this painting in the previous post but in a nutshell this foolish image sums up my feelings, if these are the folks in heaven, give me hell any day!


This is the new image of Seizing Sanctimonium , again, I’m very pleased.


Seizing Sanctimonium


oil on canvas

56 x 40 inches

So these two are my retort against the smug and the sanctimonious who feel they alone hold the keys to the divine. From what I have born witness to the still seem to be struggling. I think I will stay on my path.


 Some detail images follow:







Of heaven and hell and somewhere in between


I recently finished a painting Hadesville which I think might be my best painting thus far. I am not being immodest but the act of painting it was a joy and I believe the painting conveys that fact. The fact that friends, fellow artists, that I admire and respect were positive about the painting was very encouraging. I will make a separate post of the painting in the near future, but for now I have thoughts I need to process.

Recently a friend described my work as devilish, which made me chuckle a bit.  One can be forgiven thinking that by many of my paintings and much of my work in general. But I see my horned figures as primal beings, not solely associated with darkness and vice. I instead see them as a joyous  (if fiery) contrast to the sanctimonious displays of the self-appointed righteousness that has surrounded me for much of my life. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about devils and angels and I’m guessing it is affecting my work.

There seems to be, in this election season , quite a few devils posing as angels. Bill Maher’s recent conversation with Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager,  left me questioning who is on the side of darkness and who on the side of light : the potty mouthed liberal or the smug blonde who can’t besmirch her reputation with salty language yet can easily tolerate policies that will decimate civil rights to non-blonde, non-straight, non-Christian Americans.

I couldn’t help to be reminded of the glittering and duplicitous Antichrist, posing as virtuous yet possessing a craven soul as the pretty  Ms.Conway flitted and flirted her way through her conversation with Maher. I was left infuriated by how convincing and how appealing she may seem to a great many folks. From my perspective, risking hyperbole, the Antichrist is amongst us.


Much of my work lately has been confronting the oppressive restrictions of the religious right, thus far Fundamentalist Christians but frankly anyway who adheres too closely and too literally to the Abrahamic traditions. In this morning paper, there was an article ( link below) concerning a literalist Christian couple feeling “outnumbered, isolated and unpopular” as our nation moves forward to towards progressive and secular ideals ; my response was boohoo and “welcome to the club”. These feelings of despair that they are now experiencing for the first time, feelings which have personally led me to innumerable dark days and suicidal moments in my youth and which in fact have led many queer kin (many so very young) to take their own life, leaves me with little sympathy for these so called Christians.

Let them have their heaven, I’ll take hell.


This sense of the conflict between the so called diabolical and the celestial has even entered my dreams. I awoke today, in the wee hours of the morning, to record this dream:

I encountered  Lucifer and he ran a sordid, understocked bodega in the vast basement of a 19th c. building. The place was dank, damp and ill lit. There was very little merchandise and what he did offer was meant to appeal to the youngsters of the neighborhood , sugary soft drinks and prepackaged junk food. If the boys, for they were all boys, were lucky, they escaped with a bag of Doritos, but more often than not Lucifer pinched their cheek leaving behind a sharp triangular scar, a  Devil’s Mark. Some were so unlucky in their quest for a quick snack that they lost their eternal soul.

I did not interest Lucifer, for I was not some dimwitted boy but in fact an angel. more specifically an Avenging Angel. I didn’t immediately see Lucifer when I descended to his lair; the sordid shop was desolate, the  half empty shelves reflecting the dim light of the grimy basement window shafts, all was gray and ambiguous . I found a crackling flickering light emanating from a washroom and there , through the cracked open door,  stood Lucifer hunched over a scrub sink.  He was a stooped middle aged man, thin and balding as ashen as his bodega but from his ankles, thin as reeds , flames could be seen coursing through the sinew. I was witnessing the sulphur of depravity. His fiery emptiness coursing through his lower limbs. A few young boys descended  seeking their salty sweet empty calories, I tried to shoo them away, one heeded my warning but the other, stubbornly intent upon his tawdry treat, barely escaped Lucifer’s pinching embrace. As the terrified boy rushed up the flight of stairs the bloody “v” of the Devil’s Mark was plainly visible.  I approached Lucifer, and as if on cue we simultaneously spoke the same lines : “You are (I am) Lucifer, damned for eternity”. I turned to my unidentified companion , pleased and eager to display my pride in predicting what Lucifer would say.  Even Avenging Angels suffer from pride.

From that point on it became clear that these were pre-scripted lines and that we were in fact actors in some Mystery Play. We each had our role and we were playing them admirably.  With this new understanding Lucifer and the Avenging Angel ascended to street level, to a well lit shop, a typical 1930’s sort of place, all plate glass and checkered linoleum floors, perfect for a barber shop. I grabbed Lucifer by the shoulder, embracing him and declaring “this is what Good feels like , do you like it?” , as he recoiled from my “goodness” , an archetypal flag waving-Scripture quoting-gun loving  couple saunters into this empty shop.  Devilishly , just to tweak them , I faux-bugger him from behind ,   this time declaring “this is what Evil is, do you like it?”

He did and we fell onto a pile of Turkish rugs  giggling as they skedaddled out of Sodom and Gomorrah as fast as they could.”

I’m working now on a Hellmouth costume, all made of cardboard . A walking marionette/Mystery Play pageant wagon. I think, if I may be immodest, that it is going to be super. I will post the finished work upon completion but for now this image of the work in progress with my decidedly angelic dog Speck.

14440768_10210181421401592_1519083514061968665_nSpeaking of Hell and Hellmouths my mixed media assemblage Daisy’s Reliquary  (made for the unexpected death of my beloved pug Daisy several years back) will be part of a Dia de Los Muertos exhibition at Ave. 50 Studio here in LA, I’m very pleased and honored to have been asked to participate . Info concerning the October 8th opening follows, sadly I have two openings in northern California the same weekend and will not be able to attend. The link is :

1 Daisy’s Reliquary

Until next time .“Shanti! Shanti! you must not let anger possess you like that.””



I’ve been struggling with the flu for well over a week, in spite of my first ever flu shot, I succumbed sometime during my recent trip back East. I find the flu to be a memento mori ( although it could be argued that everything is a memento mori to me). I wallowed lavishly in misery. But for the last few days I have been able to pull myself off the fainting couch and  put the finishing touches on a painting I have been working on for the past few months, Persephone.




oil on canvas

24 by 36 inches

As is so often the case, my inspiration for the painting was yet another literature course, this time, World Mythology. We were focusing upon the Greeks, with a translation of the Homeric Hymns (c.600 B.C.E.) by Andrew Lang, link to text HERE. The opening passage was so beautiful, particularly as read by my professor, that I knew a painting was to be found amidst the flowery prose: 

“Of fair-tressed Demeter, Demeter holy Goddess, I begin to sing: of her and her slim-ankled daughter whom Hades snatched away, the gift of wide-beholding Zeus, but Demeter knew it not, she that bears the Seasons, the giver of goodly crops. For her daughter was playing with the deep-bosomed maidens of Oceanus, and was gathering flowers—roses, and crocuses, and fair violets in the soft meadow, and lilies, and hyacinths, and the narcissus which the earth brought forth as a snare to the fair-faced maiden, by the counsel of Zeus and to pleasure the Lord with many guests. Wondrously bloomed the flower, a marvel for all to see, whether deathless gods or deathly men. From its root grew forth a hundred blossoms, and with its fragrant odour the wide heaven above and the whole earth laughed, and the salt wave of the sea. Then the maiden marvelled, and stretched forth both her hands to seize the fair plaything, but the wide-wayed earth gaped in the Nysian plain, and up rushed the Prince, the host of many guests, the many-named son of Cronos, with his immortal horses. Maugre her will he seized her, and drave her off weeping in his golden chariot, but she shrilled aloud, calling on Father Cronides, the highest of gods and the best.”

I was also inspired by the type of synoptic composition that the Roman’s excelled in, found  often on sarcophagi relief carvings, and silver work; where the narrative just tumbles forth every which way, paying little heed to logical time sequence or proportion. I love the puzzle of guessing what the hell is going on . This detail from a Roman beaker (1-100 A.D.), recently on view at the Getty Villa in Malibu is typical of the sort of compositional puzzle I am speaking of.

VEX.2014.1.10: Beaker with Isthmian games - ROLLOUT

 I set aside for myself the task to include as much of what I loved about the Hymn to Demeter into a relatively small canvas, playing upon the logic defying  compositions of our dear Romans.

First off, there is  “slim-ankled” Persephone , “deep bosomed, low slung hips”, such sexy play of words. Everytime I read the Greeks ( I just finished the Iliad) I am reminded of their absolute love of fleshiness. I wanted to capture that with Persephone.


detail of Persephone

A character I found curious was that of Hekate, she of the “shining head-tire”, who witnessed the soon-to-be abduction (once again,  logical narrative sequence  be damned); she and Phoebus Apollo are the only two to see what the hell went on , and the mad with terror Demeter turns to the “daughter of Persaeus”.

I love the passage of Hekate, serene and separate from the madness of lust, “thinking delicate thoughts”.


 Hekate “thinking delicate thoughts”

Demeter, in her afore mentioned terror is described as having “tore the wimple about her ambrosial hair, and cast a dark veil about her shoulders”. I admire how that description alludes to her complete withdrawal from god and man and how in time, Mother Earth herself will suffer the consequence.


An interest of mine is how the Greeks, and later Blake , would anthropomorphize natural elements such as mountains, streams, clouds, turning them into sentient beings. I wanted to play with that as well. This mountain shudders as to what will come.


Another mountain harbors the “deep-bosomed” playmates of Persephone , who cowardly run off, abandoning our heroine.


The text describes how Hades, Lord with Many Guests ( yet no bride) seduces the “fair-faced maiden”. As Persephone gathers flowers, Hades seduces her with the floral mother load of all flowers, for there “wondrously bloomed the FLOWER, a marvel for all to see, wether deathless gods or deathly men”.

A handsome youth should  sufficiently beguile dear Persephone.


Of “deathless gods”, many feature in this tale of sacrifice, redemption and rebirth, yet Prince Helios, the glorious Phoebus Apollo is always a delight to render.


As is the Father of Gods, the supreme Son of Kronus. Homer in the Iliad repeatedly reminds the reader how shifty this great god is , that only a fool would rely upon the Dark-browed god’s word. Persephone soon learns this harsh lesson when her cries for salvation fall upon her father’s deaf ears. He too busy collecting accolades from man:

” But he far off sat apart from the gods in his temple haunted by prayers, receiving goodly victims from mortal men”.


Frankly, Zeus just reminds me of any number of sexy, cocky Italian guys I have known in my day!

But I suppose in many ways this painting focuses not on Persephone but on Hades (first image). In some ways it turned out somehow “redeeming” the rape into an act of rectifying desperate loneliness. When the three great brothers were dividing the Universe, Hades certainly received the short straw. Zeus in his hubris received the heavens and earth, Poseidon the azure sea, but poor Hades, the dank Underworld-and without a bride. Apollo himself tells the bereaved Demeter, that although he shares her sorrow for her loss, she should see the sacrifice in a brighter light, that Hades is a god worthy of Her divine daughter:

“But, Goddess, do thou cease from thy long lamenting. It behoves not thee thus vainly to cherish anger unassuaged. No unseemly lord for thy daughter among the Immortals is Aidoneus, the lord of many, thine own brother and of one seed with thee, and for his honour he won, since when was made the threefold division, to be lord among those with whom he dwells.”

That may very well be  posturing , defensive, patriarchal bullshit, but still, worth considering lonely Hades position.

But for now, I am finished with the Hymn to Demeter.

Be well, Lg

The Nit-wit god of Death, Mictlantecuhtli


Standing at an unlucky 13 inches this little demon god delights me. My fourth marionette and I think my most successful . He actually functions and he came out pretty much as planned.






” Sculpey” medium over wire and foil armature, acrylic paint

13 inches high

My intention had been to play off a painting I had made a few year back, The Alpha and the Omega. I think I got it.

Greco_AlphaOmega copy

The Alpha and the Omega

acrylic and mixed medium on canvas



another inspiration were those crazy-assed demons that are always tormenting poor St. Anthony of the Desert.

DAE-93008297 - © - DEA / G  DAGLI ORTI

I’m happy with the face in the center of his chest, the gaping Hell Mouth, the cute little snake and the phallic schnozze. I’m also liking his little serpentine booties.  The gods of the Underworld were notoriously stupid, but this fellow is pretty snazzy.


I have a deadline to meet so I will be painting a bit, but I will return to PuppetLand pronto.

Until then, be well, Lg

The Harrowing of Hell Concludes

Just a brief post, for those who know my current domestic situation , my home-life has been less than halcyon.  David and I moved to San Diego to  better tend to his mother. It  would be safe to say it has been less than rewarding. After mutual agreement amongst all parties we are moving along.

All I can say is Hallelujah!

Although we had made plans to move next June to Portland we are now heading back to Los Angeles, a move that makes me very happy. I’m excited to be back in a liberal , enthusiastic and forward looking environment with a vital arts culture. Plus David’s practice is in Beverly Hills and we will actually be able to have dinner with one another every evening-I’ve really missed that.

 Our new home is walking distance to LACMA-heaven after the cultural wasteland of East County San Diego. I’m saddened that our well laid plains to the Pacific Northwest have been stalled but perhaps the old gods are directing us to follow the light of LA.

In the throes of dissatisfaction with my personal situation I made this unkind doodle of the mother-in-law (with her evil cat MaryLou)-I know a puerile prank, but hard to resist.

IMG_4143Catnip from Hell

My petulance has subsided and my newest demoness is softer and gentler, she is  part of a study for a large complex painting I plan on starting  when I settle in.

IMG_4144study for upcoming epic

I’m up to my ears in packing supplies and puppies eager to play  with empty boxes. I am making grand progress, almost 80 boxes just for our books. The following image shows that even Our Lord and Savior is safely packed and ready for His new digs.


Christ in a Box

I most likely will not be posting until after the dust has settled in our new home. It all seems like such a fresh start,  just moments ago  I sold our second car as it is a difficult to park in our new neighborhood and the bus line stops almost at my front door. I have been giving lip service to a greener way of living, now I am giving it a shot.

Wish me luck!

Until next time, take care,