St. Anthony of the Desert Revisited…once again

That darn anchorite keeps following me around, this time not so much in the desert but in a lush, abundant landscape inspired by the German Romantic painter Jakob Phillip Hackert (1737-1807). 

The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert in an Italian Landscape (after Jakob Phillip Hackert, 1778)
2020
Oil on canvas
24 by 36 inches

It wasn’t really my intention to once again return to Anthony and his desert travails, at least not yet (currently more immersed in fairylands, bogles, goblins and pixiefolk). But in my studio, kicking about and frankly in the way, was a practice landscape from a few years back. I’ve long admired German Romanticism, particularly the dramatic treatment of nature, most especially trees. In the hands of a master like Hackert, trees are major players, singular beings rich in personality. I had hoped to better understand how these landscapes/tree-scapes were constructed so I set about copying one of my favorites, Hackert’s Italian Landscape, 1778.

My copy of Jakob Phillip Hackert’s “Italian Landscape”, 1778

It was a gratifying experience, in no way was I able to match Hackert’s luminous original, but I did learn valuable lessons in light, perspective and composition. 

But then I had a painting that I wasn’t very interested in, wasn’t original, wouldn’t/couldn’t show, not particularly “good” and yet frankly too sentimentally attached to to just chuck. 

So I decided to make it my own by reworking it in my own way. I’ve seen artists self consciously take thrift store paintings (rather annoyingly, seems a bit stunt-ish), works they mockingly called kitsch, and adapt them to their generally ironic purposes. This sort of practice is close to being a kitsch cliche in its own right but it started the wheels turning .

I’m not an ironic artist, nor did I think my painting kitsch, although granted a rather poor copy, but I was excited to reimagine Hackert’s poetic composition, eager to populate his pretty world with my imps and daemons. In many ways old master Jakob acted (unwittingly) as my collaborator. This latest painting the happy result.

Portrait of Jakob Phillip Hackert (1737-1807) by Augusto Nicodemo, 1797

I hope he would have been pleased.

 

As my composition is visually dense in the Boschian/Bruegelian sense, details follow:

Detail
Detail
Detail
Detail of St.Anthony himself plus just a smattering of the gadfly temptations, oh, and his faithful pig.

This is the Master’s take, as you can see it is quite lovely, my copy so paltry in comparison. The wisest path was re-spinning  my inferior version in my own voice.

Jakob Phillip Hackert
Italian Landscape
1778
The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert in an Italian Landscape (after Jakob Phillip Hackert, 1778)
2020
Oil on canvas
24 by 36 inches

In the end I am pleased, I made room in storage, profited from past labors and have a new painting I like quite a bit. 

 

Jongleur de Dieu, Tumbler for God

Jason Jenn, from his March 16th 2019 performance of “Temptations in Fairyland”

Temptations in Fairyland , Jason Jenn’s site specific performance piece, which delighted  not one but two separate audiences last Saturday at MOAH/Cedar in Lancaster CA, immediately called to my my mind the Jongleur de Dieu, the prankster tradition of tumbling and juggling in order to best serve the Lord. Harking back to the early Church with Symeon the Holy Fool and his manic, mad pranks in which he cleverly  brought the Gospel to a feckless and indifferent world, this enthusiastic tradition continues still. In relatively contemporary times, the late theologian priest Henri Nouwen has been described by his biographer  Professor Michael W.Higgins as such. In referencing the trapeze artists The Flying Rodleighs and their impact upon the priest, Nouwen acknowledges his own place as a Holy Fool:

…the Flying Rodleighs allowed him to see his life as that of a Jongleur de Dieu, a Tumbler or Juggler for God. Although a medieval conceit-linked with courtly love tradition and the troubadours- the jongleur had a special, subversive and beatific function to perform.”

Genius Born of Anguish:The Life Legacy of Henri Nouwen, Michael Higgins

“Special, subversive and beatific” was indeed the “function” of Jason’s astonishing performance last weekend. Set in the middle of my Fairyland, I hadn’t known what to expect, I can say I hadn’t expected such a completely immersive experience-you simply have no choice but to jump onto Jason’s wild speeding train of boundless energy . I am a full throttle artist, I frankly do not know how to make art without giving my all; Jason is a brother, a comrade in this. His performance so complete, so fully committed to embodying Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony, my own Fairyland and his own very personal understanding of performance art and its place in understanding how best to be a human. We as enlightened, gifted beings kissed by an unknown, unknowable god, God, spirit, power, have struggled with this from the very beginning,  Jason, performing as the anchorite Anthony and as the ambiguously evil, delightful, seductive desert  companion Hilarion tackles this conundrum with wit, wonder and moving pathos.   I giggled between gasping, it was a dizzying, manic performance that delighted me at the moment and now a week later leaves me wondering how best to move forward.

 Deep, deep respect to you my friend , Jason,  your tribute meant so much to me.

 

With that said, some mementos from that performance (images for the most part from Jason’s Facebook page).

As the Anchorite with my “Robin Goodfellow
As the Anchorite.

Enter Hilarion!

The incredible body paint by his collaborator, the talented visual artist Vojislav Rad. I was so amazed by this clever pastiche of my own work , that for a moment , I tried to remember when I had actually painted it! 

Vojislav hard at work.
What a team.
The Tempter in the Seat of Temptation, the Anchorite’s Chair.
A moving closing.

It was quite a day, one of great honor for me. Thrilled to see Flaubert so wonderfully realized, delighted to see my own work so thoroughly understood and lastly, to better understand Jason’s work. I am not as familiar with the traditions of performance art. It has always seemed so ponderous, at times full of itself, Jason, through his quite serious merrymaking allowed me to see the joy and life in this art. Similar to my own work, Jason employs a light touch to weighty topics. In this, we are both Jongleur de Dieu.

The author with Pluton.

On a more somber note, Jason’s performance was the last outing for my little chihuahua Speck, who at sixteen, died this past Wednesday. May he be tumbling for God as I speak. Rest in peace sweet boy.

Much gratitude to MOAH/Cedar for providing a home to both  Fairyland and to Temptations in Fairyland, and to Robert Benitez for suggesting the concept initially. What great support from this wonderful cultural gem in the desert!

From left: “Robin Goodfellow”, Leonard Greco, Robert Benitez, Jason Jenn.

A reminder that I am hosting a life drawing session tomorrow at Cedar Hall adjacent to Fairyland. Props, funny hats and a naked fellow, what more do you want?

Links to Jason and Vojislav follow:

http://www.jasonjenn.com

https://www.instagram.com/vojislav.rad/

Jason Jenn, from his March 16th 2019 performance of “Temptations in Fairyland”