Seizing Sanctimonium, a Primer

My latest painting, a large one (40 by 56″) , large at least for my studio, is at last finished!

Hurrah!

It has not been an easy birth, unbelievably having been started February of 2014.

Link below:

https://boondocksbabylon.com/2014/02/16/the-old-gods/

Between other paintings, my time in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and my own uncertainty , the painting often languished . And when I thought it near complete, and to my satisfaction, my last critique group, left me once again in the grip of  uncertainty. After nearly four weeks of being unable to paint (hence a stream of drawings) I at last regained my faith in this painting, finished it up,  and now consider it one of my best.

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Seizing Sanctimonium 

2016

oil on canvas

40 by 56″

The painting is undeniably complicated, visually and in its narrative; I think that is why my critique might have had some issue with it. But my interest in paintings often includes complicated compositions; I might be hubristic but my intention with this painting was to emulate in my modest way the elaborate tableaux paintings of Poussin. I studied them carefully, which is pleasurable work as he is one of my idols. I captured what I love about his paintings: the ability to stare at this painting and discover ever unfolding details. Bosch of course, another idol, also gives us that generous gift. But I think for many viewers, particularly those with the 6-second attention span, this painting will not please. I perhaps, to satisfy contemporary tastes should have left the painting in its initial planning stages; something several folks, had hoped for. I might have saved myself headaches and angst, but I would have been very unhappy. This painting ,in its finished state,makes me happy.

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(Initial stage of the painting, I do like it, I like the ghostly images; but I am not that sort of painter. I love a lapidary finish.)

The story behind this painting is complex and personal. It began after discovering the Gnostics, with the concept of the Demiurge,  a false god posing as a true god. Misleading the faithful down a path of sanctimonious righteousness . My demiurge, the bronze figure in the center is a sarcastic depiction of Christ the Church. If I were to change anything it would be this element . It is more cynical than I now feel , with our new pope, the blessed Francis, my relationship with the Church has become warmer, more loving . I know longer harbor the estranged hurt and anger I felt when I began this painting. But instead of erasing him, I felt it good to keep a record of my discontent.

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 The Demiurge, center flanked by details of the earth goddess Coatlicue, one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and the Axis Mundi.

Going counterclockwise , from upper left around, I will attempt to offer clues to the figures:

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My initial conceit for this painting was to utilize “bad” gods, unfortunate figures, maligned archetypes, to do battle with the smug and sanctimonious , be it the Church herself, the pompous evangelist down the street, ISIS, or that homophobic second grade teacher who shamed you for playing with the girls. That said, the upper left figures are depiction of the denizens of Xiblaba, the underworld of the Popol vuh. Next, descending in a very theatrically baroque manner is the savior Quetzalcoatl . Below, stands the accursed Judas ( noose still dangling) and the blessed Magdalene, clad only in her long hair, as per the archetype. Next to her, stands the familiar companion of the Other, the Scapegoat.

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The Scapegoat .

In the next quarter,  the Mesoamerican rain god Tlaloc sheds tears for humankind, he is attended by a companion vaguely reminiscent of the figures found in Teotihuacan, possessing triangular heads. Further back, the Mother of the Gods, the Aztec earth mother, She of the Serpent Skirt,Coatlicue, she hurries her son, the Great War god Huitzililopochtli into toppling their nemesis, the Demiurge, embodied by the Church that silenced them.

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Next to them is a gaggle of squawking birds, sure of themselves, confident in their noise, essentially those who I politically and religiously disagree. Next to them, well I guess that is me.

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In the third quarter, I placed a Boschian figure of no particular meaning, just an odd blue figure with a piscine phallic nose. Next , again, just vague figures, a Fire-god aflame with passion;  a herm to signify the supremacy of the fertile earth; another Quetzalcoatl, or perhaps a passive Ares, I don’t know. Basically he was hot and looked Poussin-ist. Central to this quarter are the Hero Twins from the Popol vuh, archetypes so dear to my heart. Although they are brothers, I have in a personal way , embraced them as emblems of same sex affection. They are fiercely loyal to one another, acting as one; Hunahpu (on the left) going so far as to sacrifice himself, hence the blood and unearthly pallor. His brother Xbalanque helps to resurrect his fallen brother. I have returned to the Twins time and again, in paintings, puppets and prints. I predict they will be with me until I pass into the Underworld myself. A quick click in the side panel,on the tab “Hero Twins” will lead you to other examples.

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 Floating above on a very smart cloud is my favorite figure of this painting, the dashing floral-tatted Herakles. Herakles is every sissy boy’s hero, and I just could not resist including him. He surely would fight the fight of the just.

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Herakles, plus a preliminary rendering.

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Rounding out the painting in the last quarter I have various moon gods, non specific, just pre Christian. Next to them stands an Earth Father figure. A softer kinder answer to the excesses of patriarchy. He is horned in his affiliation with old truths, old gods, old ways. He also reflects my evolving reintroduction to the Church, with the pope reminding me of Christ’s magnificent message. This figure is a tribute to that compassionate god. He may also be an incarnation of the great Maize-god, sacrificed father of the Hero Twins and of humankind , Hun-Hunahpu. It is through his death, we are born. Sound familiar ?

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Moon-gods, for you can never have too many!

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The Christo-hun-Hunahpu figure.

If I had any residual uncertainty concerning this painting, it was silenced by this painting being accepted into an upcoming show ( along with my jumping jack figures from a recent post). I’m thrilled the well regarded juror Peter Mays included this painting.

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The positive aspect of being unable to emotionally (post-critique) to paint for a few weeks was drawing. I’ve been drawing like mad, I’m sure I am  boring social media with my progress, but I feel I am gaining confidence and ready to begin a series of small panel. I think of them as Illuminations, intimate, needing to be contemplated. I am discovering, at heart,that  I am a religious painter. Unorthodox , unclear and ambiguous in my own faith, but I am compelled to make “icons”, depictions of universal archetypes. One of the new paintings will be of Jonah, this preliminary sketch, shows my intention.

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That’s it for now, I will post this little painting, only 8 by 10″ when I am finished. Until them, be well.

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.

Today’s Progress: The Great Demiurge

I feel I am finally nearing the finish line on a large painting I have been working on. Today’s segment being a demiurge character (part of a long complicated personal narrative that I will go into at some other time). A demiurge being understood as a false god, or as Webster asserts:”in Gnosticism and other theological systems, a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual.”

With  the false Christians (who one would hardly call ‘heavenly”) in the GOP espousing such ugliness to win their party’s nomination this evening, finishing my own false idol was  particularly satisfying.

With that, I clean my brushes and head home, good night.

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Puppetry on Easter Sunday

David and I are experimenting with my marionettes, I’m looking forward to bringing more focus to  the project after I finish with this intensive class (two essay assignments this week alone).

I certainly am learning from experience. The marionettes are essentially quite cute but a bit clumsy-actually their puppeteer is the clumsy one. But they do photograph well, as is befitting fellows “born” in LA I suppose.

The following are some images taken from this afternoon’s “shoot”:

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We obviously have a lot to learn concerning production value…

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Happy Easter!

LG

On Bosworth Field

Part of my studio practice lately has been to work with  acrylic on the weekend, putting to canvas images as spontaneously as possible. This practice benefits from my readings which often serve as an inspiration. Having just finished Richard III, the following is a result of this new and at times challenging experiment .

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On Bosworth Field

2015

acrylic on canvas

16 by 20″

 Richard III offers many scenes of pathos, violence and questionable morality, often with great wit, Richard is a very funny fellow. But only one scene inspired me to put it to paint ,Act V, scene 3.  Set on Bosworth Field, on the eve of battle, Richard is in his tent; his enemy (and future king Henry VII) Richmond is in his. Richard when he needs to be as steely and as brave as he ever has been ,is set upon by the ghosts of all those he  has slain: Prince Edward, Henry VI, Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan, the young princes, Hastings, Lady Anne and Buckingham. Quite an assembly and each rattles his slumber with the curse “Despair and die”. With that joyful tiding they depart, leaving Richard rattled and  in despair;they then  head to Richmond’s tent offering him the blessing of “Live and flourish! “. One can guess the outcome.

So this is that pivotal moment, and the one I chose to depict- with many liberties taken, the young princes are far from boyhood.

I’m not sure what I think of this painting and it has taken a certain degree of will and courage even  to just post it. But my discipline with this studio journal  is to post work even when I am unsure about it. I may go back to this painting, soften it, creating a more subtle surface with oil . I’m not sure, I might very well just shove it in the closet with the other forlorn paintings and drawings I have made. There is enough within the painting to justify not just chucking it, which is my usual inclination. It might inspire something in the future as this following sketch did for this very painting. I made the sketch after having read the remains of Richard III had been authenticated a few years back. I based the drawing upon the skeleton as it had been found. At the time the crooked skeleton seemed to validate the hunchbacked myth but that seems to have been disproven.

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If I am unsure of the painting I am sure of Richard III, its an incredible play.

Now onto Othello.

Be well,

Lg

New Moon, New Painting

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Last evening I attended a New Moon celebration(see previous post), great fun, but during the day I was at  hard at work on a new painting. I made good progress, perhaps Artemis was on my side.

I had posted on the painting ( as of yet untitled) previously HERE, but it has languished in the studio gathering cobwebs. I have since dusted it off.

The following images, mostly preparatory renderings are the fruits of my labor.

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 Blocking in the painting, oil on canvas, 40 by 56″

The painting is complex, an array of Old Gods toppling a sanctimonious New God. The following are character studies, graphite on paper.

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Judas Iscariot

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 The Magdalene and her Scapegoat

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a New Moon God

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a Sun God, helmet now omitted

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a host of  Mesoamerican Old Gods

So that is it, busy at the task at hand. I have a few smaller paintings in various stages of completion, but this painting should take me through the summer when I begin the summer critique program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art- I cannot wait, just check out the cast room, the largest collection of first casts outside of Europe.

Heaven!

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ONE wing of the cast collection at PAFA

So a new day, a new moon, a new painting, wish me luck.

Be well,

Lg

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Calling Juanito

It seems fitting that today,  on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that the City of Angels should have the blessing of rain. It is a gloriously blustery day as I snugly make this post. Gracias.

As today is her feast day I wanted to make a print to honor the event , the vision of Our Lady by Juan Diego back on Dec. 12th 1531. There are countless images of the Virgen yet I felt emboldened to create my own. It was tempting to make yet another sweetly naive woodblock image of her, but I wanted my own  image, one conceived from my own  perspective as a white middle aged gay guy from the East Coast, not  at all able to claim Latino heritage (although my husband is half Mexican) yet respectful and enamored by the culture.

So this is the result, in several color ways.

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 Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe

Dec. 2014

4 color relief print on paper

image size 8 by 10 inches, print 9 by 12

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2 color relief print.

I think I like this approach the best and I will play with it some more. I like how Juan Diego’s  guardian angel appears ethereal, more of an apparition.

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Artist’s proof

My intention with this print was to implement the motifs that recur frequently within my work,  namely the queer elements, in this case the Hero Twins as played by Juan Diego and his Aztec Guardian Angel. I loosely borrowed elements from the codices in creating the angel. There is a vague and historically inaccurate reference to a New Fire Ceremony in the background, a nod to the “pagan” past. 

My intention was for it to appear as if the Old Gods were giving their blessings to the New.

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Have a great feast! Thanking Tlaloc for the rain!

Lg