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.

Genesis

Last evening I finished a new painting, Genesis. As is so often the case my inspiration was the Popol Vuh, the sacrifice and resurrection of the Maize God , the Hero Twins,  and the narrative of the Creation of Man.

An added inspiration was AIDS, I am of that generation where many of my friends and loved ones from my youth are now long since dead.  Not too long ago Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart was on television. My visceral reaction was of  a resurrected  fear, long suppressed, reborn at the sight of so many Spotted Men.    Those  past  days of Act Up meetings in NYC and Philadelphia; those handsome men speckled with death and anxiety; demonstrations on the street, at St. Patricks…; anxiety and selfish terror, would I be next?; and yet the excitement of activism, these  were all faded memories in my now relatively carefree life.  Until that film.

I was  confronted once again with that incessant gnawing deep within, a true existential crisis. So in a simple way, my Hero Twin Hunahpu, who is  traditionally depicted spotted, as he too encountered Death,  represents all those struck down. Somehow I missed the scythe, I bear witness like Xbalanque, Hunahpu’s brother in arms.

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Genesis

2014

oil on canvas

30 by 40 inches

My Spotted Hunahpu

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The inspiration for this painting is also from a previous painting, Primavera a relatively small water color. My friend, the incredible artist, Judithe Hernandez suggested I rework Primavera either in grissaile or as a larger composition. When in doubt I always choose larger. The original version:

Greco_Primavera-watercolor copy

Primavera

2014

watercolor on paper

In this painting there is a nicely perverse little subterranean flowering plant, symbolic of life in hostile situations; today my lovely little Stapelia-Carrion flower offered up a gorgeous maggot filled blossom. A Boschian treat if ever there was one.

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This morning’s Carrion  blossom, more on the way.

IMG_5478 2 My imagined Carrion Flower.

Tomorrow I return “home’, Philadlephia, to visit family of the flesh and those of brick, and paint and marble. Philadelphia is so architecturally rich: Furness, Richardson, Queen Anne, 18th c; plus the museums, I will be in heaven.  I think I will print out this “prayer card” of the Maize God , Hun Hanahpu to keep me safe.

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Be well, Lg

showtime in puppetland

My marionettes are finished, now I find the task at hand of photographing them and hopefully in the near future making brief 13 second clips of their escapades. But thus far I have been hampered by having only two arms; awaiting the husband to act as studio assistant.

The image that follow are those I have managed solo.IMG_5191

Detail of the Axis Mundi against a fiery backdrop of Xibalba, the underworld.

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The Axis Mundi with the head of the slain Maize God

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Maize God

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The Hero Twins strung, ready to perform.

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They are incredibly photogenic, I feel I cannot take credit for them as they seem to have come forth on their own.

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The simple-minded God of Death, he also poses in a delightful way; he is quite a funny fellow.

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When I manage to score some stage hands I will post some tableaux , until that time ,be well, Lg

 

The Feast Day of John the Baptist

It is ironic that I am nursing an annoying head cold on the day one of my favorite saints lost his head; puts things in a bit of perspective.

I have loved John since boyhood, his severed head had been burnt into my consciousness at a very young age. My family had visited Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful Monticello and in one of the bedrooms was a painting of that awful moment when John’s head was being presented on a platter. The image burnt in deeply, I was so confused, had Jefferson executed John ?( I was quite young ), I knew he held slaves, a grave sin, in my wild imagination it could have been true. The head represented  tragedy,sacrifice, bondage , perhaps release. It terrified and beguiled all at once. I have never lost that fascination and I have returned to the subject over and over. One of my great pleasures in discovering the Popol vuh has been the intense similarities between the Maya narrative and that of the western Christian narrative. The Maize God loses his head in a similar act of sacrifice,  difficult to not see the similarities.

The following images are just some of my interpretations of the Maize God’s severed head.

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detail from a larger composition

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detail from a watercolor, “Primavera”.

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watercolor, “Resurrection of the Father, II “.

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its relief print companion, also called “Resurrection of the Father”.

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another watercolor called “Resurrection of the Father , I”.

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another relief print “Strange Fruit”

I have just finished,  or nearly so, my last marionette , that of the head of the Maize God ; rather uncomplicated really, all it has to do is ascend.

10505389_10203779570879330_6058090575455424152_n marionette of the Maize God.

I will need to take better images of the  marionette tableau when I am feeling better, but for now, have a happy feast day of blessed Jokonaan. 

john'shead copy

Primavera

I just finished up (for now anyway) a watercolor painting called Primavera.

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Primavera

2014

watercolor on paper

18 by 29 inches

Once again I draw upon the Popol Vuh and the sacrifice-redemption theme. The eternal fascination with the Life and Death cycle never seems to relent; the understanding that through death there is life. I am currently reading Zimmer’s collection of Indian “myths” ( offense term for a faith with current practitioners). But the Hindu grasp of this most elemental truth fascinates and brings a degree of comfort to what can be a deeply discomforting exploration. This painting tries to address some of this. Through the sacrifice of the Maize God, Humankind is born-man made of maize. I wanted to convey the visceral quality of this act, the maize shaft bursting through the actual flesh of our mother earth. Of course this is a very personal imagining with miscellaneous cultural references thrown in as I saw fit. But with Good Friday approaching it felt timely; the resurrected world is colored in Easter egg pastels. the underworld is rich and ripe with verdant greens and blood crimsons.

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above ground

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The Hero Twins below ground.

One element I enjoyed introducing into the composition was the very feline looking dog.  My recently deceased  (actually I put him down) daschund Buddy keeps appearing in my dreams. His appearance causes  me much conflict. We, I decided to put him down the day before we move back to Los Angeles. This decision has tormented me, for although he was 19 and his health was quickly, seemingly overnight, failing,  I still wonder if I put him down for my own convenience. He might very well have lived a bit more, I don’t know. He obviously haunts me but in the spirit of this painting he always appears in my dreamscape, first as deeply broken as the following photo indicates; but as the dream progresses he is fresh, new and reborn, happy and bouncy and beautiful.

I try to take that as a good omen.

All that rambling aside, dogs were believed to be guides in the Maya understanding of Xibalba, the underworld. The little  fellow I painted  was inspired  not by my sleek Buddy  but by a  chubby  ceramic “neighbor”  from Colima at LACMA. 

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detail

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Dog Wearing Human Face Mask

Colima, Mexico

Burnished red and orange slip

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

He is a delightful fellow, as was Buddy.

That is it for now,  I’m working on a few other paintings, seems to be the season for watercolors right now at least until my new easel arrives which will be strong enough to hold a hefty canvas. I will close with a photo of Buddy, be well Buddy.

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