I am preparing my annual entries to a works on paper show here in LA and in so doing focusing my studio time with that more ephemeral medium. In particular, paper dolls, which have long held an interest, harkening back to my fussy sissy boyhood. Fond , forbidden moments snipping away ; this drove my father to fury and violence ,so now, in revisiting this artform, I do so with emotion and gratitude.
My studio complex is an industrial space, and in the recycling bin can be found beautiful clean , rather low grade sheets of cardboard; all for the taking. And taking I have been doing. Large scale paper dolls, and larger planned, have occupied my work table. One of the problems I and others have encountered in working with paper-dolls , is a sense of durability. Inherently ephemeral, how does one strengthen such fragile material. This low grade cardboard (yet free!) has an unsightly edge that I find distracting and unfinished. My solution, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to employ yet another sissy art ( and equally infuriating to Pater) , stitchwork. By a simple stitch of embroidery floss , I strengthen and add an exciting line of color. I confess a certain pride in this, and stitching cardboard is immensely gratifying, not unlike popping those addictive sheets of packing bubbles. I recommend trying it to relieve stress.
My latest trio of paper-dolls are completed but more are planned, this grouping, the largest figure about 36 inches tall, is called The Siren & the Machiavels.
In addition to my paper-doll making , I continue my daily drawing practice. In the same spirit of the nursery, like paper-dolls, another staple of childhood, the ornamental and instructive alphabet:
I will continue through with this alphabet and post upon its completion. For today, as it Sunday, household, not studio duties beckon.
This is one of two proposals I recently submitted for a solo show… boney fingers crossed. The first, The Thinking Reed is pretty much ready to hang; this one resides mostly within my head and deals primarily with perception and the problems that arise from appropriation and misappropriation.
Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain
My proposal for “Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain” is a theatrical concept room, an installation piece that essentially represents a nursery from hell. My concept which employs painted and constructed assemblages, cardboard and papier-mâché figures, marionettes and paintings on paper also incorporate an interactive element in which to engage the gallery viewer.
The nursery in question is that of the Infanta Margaret decorated with imagined booty from New Spain. By utilizing commonly found construction materials, I wish to poke fun at consumerism and the incessant quest for novelty. To achieve this end I plan to make a plywood Selfie Booth, fashion a series of cardboard jumping wall puppets , even introduce a live performer encased in a walking puppet of my making. There is also a faux didactic element to this installation; I’ve painted a series of watercolor illustrations for an alphabet primer of New Spain that completely misses the mark in comprehending these vanquished people. From encouraging the use of hashtags for my proposed Selfie-booth, to passing out crayons in which to color pastiches of Baroque wall hangings, I wish to engage the viewer, reflect the past and hold up a mirror to the foibles and vanities of our current society.
My work is always narrative based and whether expressed through two dimensional or three dimensional works, I seek to tell universal stories and explore universal truths. With this installation I wish to employ every weapon in the arsenal. Paintings, sculpture and interactive engagement are part of my concept; I wish to create a sense of Gesamtkunstwerk, but instead of a Wagnerian Valhalla, I instead wish to create a dark and funny depiction of our seemingly unquenchable thirst for power and privilege.
Much of this work is still in the conceptual stage, so I have provided preparatory drawings to illustrate my intentions. I have also, when available, enclosed images of completed elements such as marionettes, paper dolls and pages from the aforementioned Primer of New Spain. I have also enclosed an itemized page providing details concerning my concepts and anticipated materials for the elements which make up the whole of Tenochtitlan Toyland; they are numbered to correspond with the images. Concerning which gallery I would prefer I have submitted a scaled rendering of the show situated in the W Gallery; of course that decision is up to the gallery. Given that much of the work is site specific I would appreciate, if I were fortunate enough to be selected, a later date in 2017 for the opening. Given my themes of consumerism and toys, a slot close to Christmas would be devilishly delightful!
An Itemized List Concerning Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain
1- “The Rape of Tenochtitlan”, 2016, colored pencil on paper, 18 by 24”.
The initial impetus behind this concept.
2- Pages from my alphabetic primer The Primer of New Spain ; letters A, B, C and D shown. The entire alphabet will represented .
Materials: watercolor on paper.
3- My marionettes of the Hero Twins. These marionettes are part of a body of work that includes other puppets and doll derived from the Popol vuh, that will be incorporated into the concept as a whole.
Materials: Sculpey modeling medium, armature, paint.
4-Part of a collection of paper dolls that I have been working on over the last few years. Some of the dolls are nearly life-sized, some conventionally sized.
Materials: watercolor, graphite, on paper, brads.
5- The Coatlicue Selfie Booth , given that Aztec goddess Coatlicue (and her war god son Huitzilipochtli) is quite a fearsome presence, she is an amusing choice for a selfie cutout . I would actively encourage the hashtag #teotoyland while visitors snap away; both ridiculing social media and exploiting it.
Anticipated materials: self supporting painted plywood cutout.
6- My proposal includes four “jumping jacks”, childish amusements of the Victorians, the difference being, as is the case with this depiction of the rain god Tlaloc,my offerings would be considered inappropriate for the nursery by most sane people. I imagine including three other Aztec gods including the aforementioned war-god Huitzilipochtli. Each will be placed behind a baroque inspired “tapestry”, that with crayons provided near by, I would hope gallery visitors would color in. I imagine an interactive experience, as with the selfie booth.
Anticipated materials: paint, cardboard, string, brads; tapestries, enlarged renderings with crayons provided.
7-The Templo Major, the heart of Tenochtitlan, home to the primary altars of Tlaloc and Huitzilipochtli , scene of countless human sacrifices and terrible battles , could not be a more inappropriate inspiration for a dollhouse; yet I propose just that concept . The installation would include rag dolls of gods, priests and their unfortunate victims. I anticipate quite a few hearts.
Anticipated materials: Painted wood and or papier-mâché construction, lightbulbs, mixed media as yet undetermined.
8- One of the aforementioned rag dolls, in this case, Huitziliopochtli.
Materials: rags, thread, paint.
9- A Meso-american television complete with vignettes from the creation myth , the Popol vuh. It would include the aforementioned marionettes.
Anticipated materials: painted wood and or papier-mâché , lightbulb , mixed media elements as of yet undetermined.
10-A prototype of #9, the Meso-american television.
Materials: painted wood, mixed media.
11- Mictlantecuhtli (Lord of Xibalba) parade marionette. A walking interactive puppet depicting the major god of the underworld . Once again introducing an absurd interactive element into the nursery concept. I hope the performer to be most fetching.
Anticipated materials: chicken wire armature, papier-mache, dowels, string, wire, paint.
12- Schematic of my proposal within the Wubdemann Gallery; drawn 1/4” scale.
Well, that’s it. I’m not sure which worries me more, being rejected or actually having this proposal accepted and going mad putting it all together! Wish me well please.
As I attempt to develop some sense of presence of myself as an artist, I find myself turning to social media. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or this studio journal, I am becoming increasingly aware of what is and what is not appropriate to post. As much of my work depicts nudity, posting full-frontals has the potential of censorship.
My latest paper doll-jumping jack Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea is unabashedly nude. The nudity was a big “fuck you” to the bigots and the nasty folks who hate us , particularly important after the Orlando massacre. Queers have been treated like vermin for so very long, by fashioning myself as a flea I embrace what they find so vile.
That sort of righteous anger is all well and good but will it work on my Instagram feed?
Hence the fig leaf.
Now for the sans fig leaf.
Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea
pencil and watercolor on paper, brads and string
22″ high by 16″ wide
He is a funny character, when he jumps he twitches awkwardly, I like him a lot, just not sure which I prefer, the figged figgy or the unfigged (we call fleas “figgys” in our house).
A problem with nudity is of course not new and I had my encounter with censorship a few years back when the city of Encinitas CA refused to hang my painting Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased unless the female character was made more discreet – for some reason the male junk seemed a-ok.
Gnosis and the Old Gods Were Pleased
An artist I admire quite a bit , Milo Reice ( link to his site: http://miloreice.com/MiloReice/intro.html) who I discover happens to be a neighbor, has explored censorship and the fig leaf archetype in his own work. In his words concerning the following image :
“A detail of a recent work of mine where I was lampooning censorship- underneath everything is thoroughly painted – the appliqués held on with magnets”
A brilliant solution to a vexing problem by a magnificent artist. Check out his website above!
Of course there are times when foliate discretion adds to the allure as in Canova’s hunky Mars, who in this 1822 sculpture Venus and Mars. One rarely encounters such provocative undergarments outside of a go-go boy club.
Venus and Mars
But so it, perhaps an ostentatious fig leaf is in order. If so, I am in fine company. My boyhood hero introduced a ridiculously over sized fig leaf to the ephebe valet in his Enter Herodias ( from a Salome folio, first published in 1894) after there was criticism to the boy’s boy-bits. Not sure which image is more profane ; not to mention the grotesque fetus-like attendant with his enormous boner.
I want to close with a beautiful prayer to the queer and the unwanted. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting the internet was awash with support and queer empowerment . This prayer by Mark Aguhar, who apparently killed him/herself ( I believe the author was transgender) wrote this beautifulLitany to my Heavenly Brown Body.I need to research Aguhar more thoroughly but felt it a fitting close to this post.
I’ve just finished this self portrait paper doll, I was eager to see it in action and it is indeed a gangly silly fellow. Tomorrow he travels to school for our final life drawing project which was initially called Tempus fugit (but that apparently proved too difficult a concept for the millennials in my class so it became simply one concerning movement and speed). I knew instantly what I wanted to capture, my ever present, frantic desire to make up for lost time as an artist, fighting frantically against time (and ultimately, death). I also knew I wanted it to actually move.
Hence a play upon the Victorian jumping jacks, a passion since boyhood. Playing upon the jumping jacks also allowed me to actively engage the comments made at my last critique that the figures in my paintings looked like paper dolls.
So what if they did! I love paper dolls , I have always loved them and in some way, conscious or not, they have emerged.
So I plan on intentionally embracing this notion, exploring my own self loathing, my internalized homophobia, my weird body issues, issue after issue, and a self portrait paper doll seemed an excellent place to start . I have inserted commedia figures into my work before as personal avatars but now that I have an actually maquette and I can draw upon it for aid in compositions ( more gratitude to Clive Hicks-Jenkins for introducing me to maquette making).
Now that class is over I can concentrate on paintings that I have in process and paintings that I have in my head. Better jump to it, Tempus fugit!
Tempus fugit or Self Portrait of the Artist as
watercolor on paper, graphite, acrylic, brads approximately
A filmmaker friend has expressed interest in filming my marionettes , the making of them , performing with them, our exploring the Popol vuh narrative, etc. This all sounds like great fun. So in my naive enthusiasm I decide I’m going to explore stop-action filmmaking. After all I have a bunch of articulated maquettes to play with. How hard can it be?
Tedious , certainly, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Well it ain’t easy.
I purchased an app for stop-action, that has helped certainly, but so much more to figure out. The following clip is one of my first experiments: Mictlantecutli, the Not-so -great Hunter.
Inept, but at least very short…this is even shorter .
The First Kiss
This will obviously NOT be a career change anytime soon. But it is fun. I want that sense of play in my life in general, which often in my devoted studio practice can seem elusive. Particularly once I have committed to a large canvas. Such is the case at the moment, I’m working on a large oil, that I enjoy painting ; but it is daunting, a commitment of time and energy. Dabbling with stop-action is a welcome distraction. I will in time master editing, lighting, buy better tools (a tripod perhaps)…but for now, I’m playing.
My friend and mentor, the very talented artist, Clive Hicks-Jenkins (link to his site) inspired me to work with maquettes some time ago. He thought that the flexible little paper mannequins would aid my compositions.
They have, but they have also become a joy unto themselves.
I make them because they bring me pleasure. I recently found myself inspired to craft an uber-maquette of the great rain god Tlaloc. I figured since he was such a flexible fellow he would make a fine mechanical doll, a Jumping Jack or if you want to be fancy, a pantin. My Nana would bring me German-made pantins as a boy; this mega Jumping Tlaloc brings me the same joy although he is considerably larger than my childhood playthings, he measures at 41″.
acrylic on cardboard, brass fasteners, string
41 inches high
There is a certain degree of elaborate stringing to make the fellow “jump”, but once strung he is quite lively. Below you will find the great god in his relaxed state.
As I experiment with depictions of the rain god, I have been dressing him in a fearsome mask. But under this fearsome exterior one finds a gentle god. Seems reasonable given he brings forth rain and life. I was inspired by this colonial image of Tlaloc.
And his mask is based upon traditional depictions typically found on vessels.
I need to paint the brads still and make a few adjustments with paint and string, but he so delighted me, I was eager to post the fellow.
After I figured out the logistics of pantin-making I stumbled upon this handy-dandy template. Pretty much the same as my own but thought I would share it.