“Embodied:St.Anthony & the Desert of Tears”, a new video

Detail , “The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert”, 2018, oil on panel

My mixed media installation work Embodied: St.Anthony &the Desert of Tears, was recently documented and a video made. The link below is the  result. The incredible music by Thom Ayres of Arcanta provides perfect accompaniment .

Concerning the work, my thoughts and intentions :

Embodied:St.Anthony & the Desert Tears, my latest mixed media installation  is inspired most significantly by Gustave Flaubert’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony” (1874). The richness of detail and illusion that Flaubert evokes almost suffocates the reader in its voluptuous beauty. Flaubert himself was inspired in great part by Brueghel’s own phantasmagoric depiction of the tormented hermit. I wish in some way to allude to that dizzying yet exhilarating experience.

As a young boy Flaubert witnessed a marionette performance of “The Mystery of St. Anthony”.  From that point on, “St. Anthony accompanied Flaubert for twenty-five or thirty years”, as the philosopher Michel Foucault has written. Flaubert returned to the anchorite time and again until completing the work in 1872.   This is not an easy read, dense, at times over-ripe, seemingly more chant than prose; Foucault describes the work as an “overcrowded bestiary” with “creatures of unnatural issue”.

It is this “overcrowded bestiary” I wish to evoke with Embodied, wishing to populate the tableaux with a parade of bewildering, complex “creatures of unnatural issue”. These hybrid embodied beings represent not simply base impulses but our own deep struggle to live a fully expressed life.   For when I tackle such fraught topics as sin, temptation and redemption, I am looking beyond the typical biblically inspired admonition (such as Lust or the other Seven Deadlies). I am more interested in the quotidian, seemingly insignificant distractions that prevent us from embodying our truest selves. In essence, what interferes with your being authentic?  What is your demon? Who, what shadows your path?

I’m particularly interested in exploring how the tools of modernity – social media, the self-commodifaction through “branding” oneself, the pursuit of relevancy— all hinder full true self-expression, perhaps even censoring it or rendering it mute. Foucault describes Anthony’s temptations as “…false gods resembling the true God….” I argue that false gods lurk in the inky alleyways of a frenetic and rapacious contemporary society.

The mystic Thomas Merton in discussing the Desert Fathers insists, “they did not reject society with proud contempt, as if they were superior to other men”, but instead were seeking the fullest expression of their purpose. Throughout our lives we are given signs which point us (or call us) in the direction of our authentic purpose, so as Merton reminds us: “…whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe”.

I will do that “thing”, clumsily, distractingly, awkwardly, but like Anthony, sincerely and with purpose.

A link to Thom’s work, he is so talented and generous.

The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
2018
Acrylic on paper
11 by 14 inches unframed
Detail , “The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert”, 2018, oil on panel

 

 

New work: The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert

My relentless fascination with the blessed anchorite continues:

Leonard Greco
“The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2018
oil on panel
18 by 36 inches

My enthusiasm for this hermit continues to delight me, so much so, stumbling upon a friend’s FB feed , I found the perfect hermitage.

Dream hermitage.
Leonard Greco
“The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2018
oil on panel
18 by 36 inches
detail, Herakles in tears from “The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert

 

Lost to the World…

St. Kevin & the Blackbird
Oil on panel
12 by 12 inches

This is how I have been feeling of late.

Lost, ill at ease, not of my own society, but not unhappy. In fact delighted and productive.

 I am seeing an analyst ( a Jungian, and such a fine match) who has been acting as my Charon in the Underworld of my existential ambivalence. One of the loveliest aspects of my treatment is his frequently suggesting  music, literature and poetry (frequently German and French) that might shine light on my shadow inked  path.  Touchstones that he thinks will resonate with me.

And they do.

Charon
Attic
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

He recently sent me a link to Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen performed by Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau. It was extraordinary and I needed to share in gratitude.

By Friedrich Ruckert, set to music by
Gustav Mahler. One of Mahler’s 5 “Ruckert
Songs.

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

==== English translation by Emily Ezust ====

I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world’s tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song!

 

Such terrible beauty.

My doctor also suggested I read Mary Oliver’s reflection upon Mahler’s magnificent Lied.

Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen
by Mary Oliver, from the House of Light

Today is
Gustav Mahler’s
birthday, and
as usual I went out

early into the sea-green
morning where the birds
were singing,
all over but mostly

at the scalloped edges
of the ponds
and in the branches of the trees,
which flared out and down,

like the clothes of our spirits
patiently waiting.
For hours I wandered
over the fields

and thinly thing that kept me company
was a song,
it glided along
 with my delicious dark happiness,

my heavy
bristling and aching delight
at the world
which has been like this

forever and forever-
the leaves,
the birds, the ponds,
the loneliness,

and, sometimes,
from a lifetime ago
and another country
such a willing and lilting companion –

a song
made so obviously for me.
At what unknowable cost
And by a stranger.

(I copied this by hand, trusting I made no errors).

Link to book:

http:/https://books.google.com/books?id=MwVgdA0WynkC&pg=PT25&lpg=PT25&dq=Mary+Oliver+ich+bin+der+welt&source=bl&ots=X7iRPjbSGm&sig=9dyMvHbYctqQl9na1rys5f3T9Dk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwisnf-msKfZAhUliOAKHb7rAG0Q6AEIOTAC#v=onepage&q=Mary%20Oliver%20ich%20bin%20der%20welt&f=false

With that , I leave you to live in your song.

Memories of a Splendid Evening

Last evening’s reception for Embodied:St.Anthony & the Desert of Tears was gratifying in many ways . Most especially in the support shown by my wonderful friends and fellow artists . The art community in LA is a generous one , I am exceedingly grateful for that .

But also in where this residency has brought me , I feel as if I am on a landing , creatively speaking , and about to ascend with a stronger conviction and more focused intention.

I thank Kristine Schomaker and her ShoeboxProjects, which offered this residency to me . I also thank Kristine for these marvelous images . Amidst the hubbub I didn’t take one image . So again, thanks Kristine!

With that said , let the mayhem be fondly remembered.

I love this image of Kristine, really working my hat .

 

My friend , the excellent photographer Stephen Levey took these images , I particularly like the one with my talented friend Bibi Davidson and our demonic love child .

 

Our wonderful friend Jodi Bonassi , another great artist , was working the hat as well !

Always lovely to see my friend Randi

And miraculously , our dear Malka Nevidi , yet another amazing artist, arrived near closing . Thank goodness. But all good things must end , we’ve packed it all away , down to the crisp white walls , ready for new inspiration. Filled with much gratitude… and now, a head cold .

Of Faeries & Daemons

Detail from “The Reflection of a Harsh Super Ego”
2017
Mixed media

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me, I’m trying now, not very successfully, to collect myself.  Between the move into a new space, multiple shows and now an inferno has set upon the City of Angels, I find myself quite discombobulated. Now that I have a semblance of internet (thank you Hotspot, whatever the hell that is), I feel less adrift.

 To procrastinate, I’m enclosing a few images from recent shows, “Satan’s Ball” at Art Share LA and more recently, this last weekend’s “Fairyland”, my solo show at Ave. 50 Gallery.

“The Wodewose”
2017
Mixed media
Image by Stephen Levey

A pleasant surprise was meeting the photographer Stephen Levey who took some excellent images of my work. I was quite delighted to see how he captured the moodiness of my figures. 

“Adam, the Minotaur”
2016
Mixed media
Image by Stephen Levey

I’ve tried for some time to capture my first “Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert”, Stephen, seemingly effortlessly, snapped a great image. 

‘The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2013
oil on canvas
36 by 48 inches
Image by Stephen Levey

The preparation for the opening of “Fairyland” was daunting, with packing up the old studio, moving into the new and all the details that go into a transfer from one place to another, I was rattled. Particularly grateful to Dan Fernandez who handled my installation expertly.

Mr. Fernandez

In the end it all came together and the opening was just splendid…hot as Hadesville , but splendid.

The artist with “Goblin Market”
The artist with “The Reflection of a Harsh Super Ego”.
The artist with what matters most, his loving and supportive friends.

I was so touched by how many of my friends stopped in, in spite of a plethora of  competing openings, in spite of the gallery’s rather isolated situation and in spite of the terrible heat. In spite of that , the support was thrilling. Thank you my friends, friends I’ve known for awhile and to the new ones I’ve just met.

Art making is isolated work but it is the community one finds that encourages and delights. I’m pretty delighted at the moment…in spite of fierce Apollo.

With my dear friend Kristine Schomaker , founder of Shoebox PR; call her, really!

 

 

 

The Magdalene

 

“The Magdalene”
2017
mixed media: painted recycled fabric, embroidery floss, artificial foliage, polyfill
approx. 26x19x6″

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.

The Magdalene, 2017, three plate relief print on paper, series of five

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.

Neo Medievalism and the Approaching Dark Age

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As 2016 winds down I want to pause, taking the time to reflect upon what 2017 might bring, personally and aesthetically. I’ve had a long fascination with 1917, it seemed  such a dynamic period; the October Revolution will mark its centennial this year, as one example.

For me, 1917 seemed exceptional, society was on the cusp of modernity yet still rooted in what was the past. Values, aesthetic, cultural and artistic were changing at a rapid pace, yet still there were antimacassars on the back of velveteen settees, suffragettes were only just beginning to gather steam and art vacillated between DADA and academic treacle. It seems to have been a period of incredible potential, one faced an optimistic yet uncertain future.

I feel that way now, one hundred years later. Yet whereas 1917 was being propelled into the Jazz and later the Atomic Age, I’m fearful of being pulled back into the Dark Ages. I needn’t harp about the President Elect and the backward thinking regime he wishes to install. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my opinions and my anxieties.

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(source unknown, sorry)

 

My instinct is to crawl back into my hermitage, something I may very well do (although I do hope to participate in social activism as needed). While there I hope to work at perfecting an aesthetic that I think is working for me. My last large painting Hadesville felt to me to be my most successful yet ( it will get its first public showing this Friday at a pop up show in LA). I feel I am on to something and have been calling what I wish to explore Neo-Medievalism.

greco_3_wrk_1_2

Hadesville

I’m finding freedom in this aesthetic that I am honing , from the exploration of surface pattern to the quirky articulation of the figures. One of the elements of actual medieval/early Renaissance art that I love is the use of  synoptic narrative, where all of the action takes place on one plane; that just fascinates the hell out of me.

It’s incredibly liberating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_art#Synoptic_narrative

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I suspect the hermitage theme will preoccupy my studio practice in 2017. I’ve been obsessing about hermitages for years but now with what feels like dark winds blowing against my door, the inclination to withdraw into the anchorite’s cave has never been more pressing.

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Tucson Art Museum
Tucson Art Museum

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Source, ?
Source, ?

Of course , if I am to explore hermits, I can’t forget about Anthony of the Desert OR his pig!

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(Getty)

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boar-lacma-copy

(LACMA)

Our pig SweetTea may very well serve as a model.

 

 

img_7974
Sweet Tea at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary, Tucson AZ. Many pigs need sponsorship, please consider!

My interest in Neo-Medievalism was fueled by a recent trip to the Sequoia National Park , where the majesty of these ancient gods, some sacrificed by fire, some  promising hope for a new age, moved me deeply. This beautiful charred corpse is as crenelated as  gothic fretwork.

15135845_10210724427096395_7678041243085763309_nYet through the remains of a burnt trunk, new life.

15193592_10210724427336401_4606782265126548584_nI’m finished pondering what 2017 will bring, instead I must get to actual work. I will close with images that promise to inspire my pen. For a fuller appreciation I suggest listening to Hildegard, this link is to one of my favorite recordings of her vast body of work.

 

13512238_10209298833897456_3218639598302787422_n Now onward!

LACMA
LACMA
img_0068
source?

 

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This image, Dido?, her belly, so typical of this period , was an influence for the image of Gnosis in my painting Gnosis…and the Old Gods Were Pleased. The painting recently sold to an East Coast collector, thrilled about that but still a bit melancholy for I fear Gnosis has fled in these dark times.

Gnosis...and the Old Gods Were Pleased (private collection)
Gnosis…and the Old Gods Were Pleased
(private collection)

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To a new year, battle ready !