Of heaven and hell and somewhere in between

 

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I recently finished a painting Hadesville which I think might be my best painting thus far. I am not being immodest but the act of painting it was a joy and I believe the painting conveys that fact. The fact that friends, fellow artists, that I admire and respect were positive about the painting was very encouraging. I will make a separate post of the painting in the near future, but for now I have thoughts I need to process.

Recently a friend described my work as devilish, which made me chuckle a bit.  One can be forgiven thinking that by many of my paintings and much of my work in general. But I see my horned figures as primal beings, not solely associated with darkness and vice. I instead see them as a joyous  (if fiery) contrast to the sanctimonious displays of the self-appointed righteousness that has surrounded me for much of my life. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about devils and angels and I’m guessing it is affecting my work.

There seems to be, in this election season , quite a few devils posing as angels. Bill Maher’s recent conversation with Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager,  left me questioning who is on the side of darkness and who on the side of light : the potty mouthed liberal or the smug blonde who can’t besmirch her reputation with salty language yet can easily tolerate policies that will decimate civil rights to non-blonde, non-straight, non-Christian Americans.

I couldn’t help to be reminded of the glittering and duplicitous Antichrist, posing as virtuous yet possessing a craven soul as the pretty  Ms.Conway flitted and flirted her way through her conversation with Maher. I was left infuriated by how convincing and how appealing she may seem to a great many folks. From my perspective, risking hyperbole, the Antichrist is amongst us.

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Much of my work lately has been confronting the oppressive restrictions of the religious right, thus far Fundamentalist Christians but frankly anyway who adheres too closely and too literally to the Abrahamic traditions. In this morning paper, there was an article ( link below) concerning a literalist Christian couple feeling “outnumbered, isolated and unpopular” as our nation moves forward to towards progressive and secular ideals ; my response was boohoo and “welcome to the club”. These feelings of despair that they are now experiencing for the first time, feelings which have personally led me to innumerable dark days and suicidal moments in my youth and which in fact have led many queer kin (many so very young) to take their own life, leaves me with little sympathy for these so called Christians.

Let them have their heaven, I’ll take hell.

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This sense of the conflict between the so called diabolical and the celestial has even entered my dreams. I awoke today, in the wee hours of the morning, to record this dream:

I encountered  Lucifer and he ran a sordid, understocked bodega in the vast basement of a 19th c. building. The place was dank, damp and ill lit. There was very little merchandise and what he did offer was meant to appeal to the youngsters of the neighborhood , sugary soft drinks and prepackaged junk food. If the boys, for they were all boys, were lucky, they escaped with a bag of Doritos, but more often than not Lucifer pinched their cheek leaving behind a sharp triangular scar, a  Devil’s Mark. Some were so unlucky in their quest for a quick snack that they lost their eternal soul.

I did not interest Lucifer, for I was not some dimwitted boy but in fact an angel. more specifically an Avenging Angel. I didn’t immediately see Lucifer when I descended to his lair; the sordid shop was desolate, the  half empty shelves reflecting the dim light of the grimy basement window shafts, all was gray and ambiguous . I found a crackling flickering light emanating from a washroom and there , through the cracked open door,  stood Lucifer hunched over a scrub sink.  He was a stooped middle aged man, thin and balding as ashen as his bodega but from his ankles, thin as reeds , flames could be seen coursing through the sinew. I was witnessing the sulphur of depravity. His fiery emptiness coursing through his lower limbs. A few young boys descended  seeking their salty sweet empty calories, I tried to shoo them away, one heeded my warning but the other, stubbornly intent upon his tawdry treat, barely escaped Lucifer’s pinching embrace. As the terrified boy rushed up the flight of stairs the bloody “v” of the Devil’s Mark was plainly visible.  I approached Lucifer, and as if on cue we simultaneously spoke the same lines : “You are (I am) Lucifer, damned for eternity”. I turned to my unidentified companion , pleased and eager to display my pride in predicting what Lucifer would say.  Even Avenging Angels suffer from pride.

From that point on it became clear that these were pre-scripted lines and that we were in fact actors in some Mystery Play. We each had our role and we were playing them admirably.  With this new understanding Lucifer and the Avenging Angel ascended to street level, to a well lit shop, a typical 1930’s sort of place, all plate glass and checkered linoleum floors, perfect for a barber shop. I grabbed Lucifer by the shoulder, embracing him and declaring “this is what Good feels like , do you like it?” , as he recoiled from my “goodness” , an archetypal flag waving-Scripture quoting-gun loving  couple saunters into this empty shop.  Devilishly , just to tweak them , I faux-bugger him from behind ,   this time declaring “this is what Evil is, do you like it?”

He did and we fell onto a pile of Turkish rugs  giggling as they skedaddled out of Sodom and Gomorrah as fast as they could.”

I’m working now on a Hellmouth costume, all made of cardboard . A walking marionette/Mystery Play pageant wagon. I think, if I may be immodest, that it is going to be super. I will post the finished work upon completion but for now this image of the work in progress with my decidedly angelic dog Speck.

14440768_10210181421401592_1519083514061968665_nSpeaking of Hell and Hellmouths my mixed media assemblage Daisy’s Reliquary  (made for the unexpected death of my beloved pug Daisy several years back) will be part of a Dia de Los Muertos exhibition at Ave. 50 Studio here in LA, I’m very pleased and honored to have been asked to participate . Info concerning the October 8th opening follows, sadly I have two openings in northern California the same weekend and will not be able to attend. The link is : http://avenue50studio.org/upcoming-events-3#honoring-our-ancestors

1 Daisy’s Reliquary

Until next time .“Shanti! Shanti! you must not let anger possess you like that.””

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.

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

The Inept Filmmaker

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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.

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 Nit-wit god of Death, Mictlantecuhtli

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Standing at an unlucky 13 inches this little demon god delights me. My fourth marionette and I think my most successful . He actually functions and he came out pretty much as planned.

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Mictlantecuhtli

marionette

2014

” Sculpey” medium over wire and foil armature, acrylic paint

13 inches high

My intention had been to play off a painting I had made a few year back, The Alpha and the Omega. I think I got it.

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The Alpha and the Omega

acrylic and mixed medium on canvas

2012

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another inspiration were those crazy-assed demons that are always tormenting poor St. Anthony of the Desert.

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I’m happy with the face in the center of his chest, the gaping Hell Mouth, the cute little snake and the phallic schnozze. I’m also liking his little serpentine booties.  The gods of the Underworld were notoriously stupid, but this fellow is pretty snazzy.

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I have a deadline to meet so I will be painting a bit, but I will return to PuppetLand pronto.

Until then, be well, Lg