The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me, I’m trying now, not very successfully, to collect myself. Between the move into a new space, multiple shows and now an inferno has set upon the City of Angels, I find myself quite discombobulated. Now that I have a semblance of internet (thank you Hotspot, whatever the hell that is), I feel less adrift.
To procrastinate, I’m enclosing a few images from recent shows, “Satan’s Ball” at Art Share LA and more recently, this last weekend’s “Fairyland”, my solo show at Ave. 50 Gallery.
A pleasant surprise was meeting the photographer Stephen Levey who took some excellent images of my work. I was quite delighted to see how he captured the moodiness of my figures.
I’ve tried for some time to capture my first “Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert”, Stephen, seemingly effortlessly, snapped a great image.
The preparation for the opening of “Fairyland” was daunting, with packing up the old studio, moving into the new and all the details that go into a transfer from one place to another, I was rattled. Particularly grateful to Dan Fernandez who handled my installation expertly.
In the end it all came together and the opening was just splendid…hot as Hadesville , but splendid.
I was so touched by how many of my friends stopped in, in spite of a plethora of competing openings, in spite of the gallery’s rather isolated situation and in spite of the terrible heat. In spite of that , the support was thrilling. Thank you my friends, friends I’ve known for awhile and to the new ones I’ve just met.
Art making is isolated work but it is the community one finds that encourages and delights. I’m pretty delighted at the moment…in spite of fierce Apollo.
As what had been a very delightful sanctuary becomes barren and littered with bubble wrap and pugs , I wanted to make one last post from my creative home of the last two years. Although eager to settle into larger digs, I will miss this place (particularly its excellent air-conditioning ).
This is proving to be a busy moment in my life. The movers arrive this Saturday and that evening I have an opening , Satan’s Ball, a perennial favorite -I have five pieces in that show. I may be pooped after the move but looking forward to being part of the festivities at Art Share LA. Then my solo show Fairyland July 8th. Frantic, daunting, exciting.
I was delighted to be notified that my drawing The Rape of Our Mother had been accepted into the Brand 45 Annual National Exhibition of Works on Paper. I was particularly excited because the juror was Leslie Jones, Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA- my submissions were unmistakably drawings in that old fashioned way and I having her validation was important to me.
I had failed to mention that my painting Hadesville won 3rd Best of Exhibition at CEDARFEST 32, at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA.
I was beaming with a goofy grin.
The day after the award ceremony Facebook rather magically reminded me of what the painting looked like a year ago.
This “memory” popped up.
And a year later:
Packing has produced some novel still lives that I am eager to figure into compositions for new paintings, this being the most successful :
I’m at the end of my packing , I receive the keys to the new studio tomorrow morning. Much more to do but very eager to get back to work, be it stitching, drawing or painting, perhaps a relief print of two as well.
I finished this painting several weeks ago, but needed to step away from it a bit, literally and figuratively. It is a large painting and that is the direction I would like to take with my studio practice. This painting is in many ways the impetus for my moving studios. I’ve simply run out of room at my charming current studio.
But this has been a long journey, nearly two years, from bringing what had been a seemingly simple response to Christina Rossetti’s incredible poem of the same name, a simple pencil sketch, to this large canvas.
Before heading off for Philadelphia in the summer of 2015 I made this sketch, dashed it off really.
I was entering a summer program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and I hadn’t really any concept of how to focus my time. Materials needed to be shipped and I felt overwhelmed logistically. Plus I suffer emotionally from being separated from David and the pups.
I’ve posted before about the PAFA critique program, at times bitterly, but in hindsight I realize how unprepared for the experience I actually was. I now feel, a few years later, that I could approach the experience with more confidence and intentionality (is that a word??).
Perhaps some other summer.
Without a real game plan I decided pretty much on board the plane that Goblin Market was to be my next project for the summer. Part of what I had hoped for with the critique program was to loosen up mentally and creatively, and my little sketch , which I had so enjoyed drawing, would launch me in the right direction. Or so I hoped.
The following are some sequential images of its making.
I pause here because this is where strife began between me and the program director , she insisting that this was a finished work, and I insisting it wasn’t. I envisioned a more polished painting and she wished to “free” me from what she perceived were constraints . Again, in hindsight, I feel I could now express my intentions with more clarity, but at the time I felt crushed and confused.
I persevered but warily.
This image is where I left it at PAFA, unable to finish , I rolled it up, threw it on the plane and allowed it to languish in my studio. I tried avoiding it frankly. Then, in 2017 I decided I needed to face the painting once again.
I’ve tweaked it a bit since this next image, but I now believe it to be finished…for now.
I have a solo show coming up in July, its a small show ( Goblin Market will most likely make its debut), a gallery within a showroom I enjoy showing in. I am excited. It is my first solo show and in many ways it is a clarifying experience.
I’m grappling with what I want to say as an artist and as a person . What is my contribution in this dialogue of life. The window we are given is open ever so briefly, and as I feel I have only just recently entered into myself, I desire to do so fully.
My show will be called “Fairyland”. It is a concept I wish to explore in depth; I will be putting together more extensive proposals for other solo shows, so this show in July is the model.
The following is a revised statement for “Fairyland”:
“At this stage of my life, off center of a century, I am grappling with ways in which to express my “being-ness”. Unable to avoid the “who am I “ question any longer, I find myself ,as a visual artists reaching beyond my usual studio practice of oil painting into diverse disciplines including figures in the round.The figures are essentially dolls, and are fashioned by fully embracing the pre-conceived sissy element of this art. It is in this extension of my practice that I am exploring, at this late stage, my identity as a queer and terrified man; the specter of the pansy boy I was, being given new voice in my latest ongoing project “Fairyland”. It is in this new series of projects , where paint, needle and thread give expression and validation to a long suppressed self loathing.
The very name “Fairyland”, a word once delivered with bloody blows transcends beyond with a message of empathy, compassion. pride, and I hope , humor. Reclaiming the fairy has been empowering. The art I attempt to create is intended to express the spirit of furtive repression breaking free.”
As the installation of our new president fast approaches and memories of the ugly divisiveness that the election stirred up, my thoughts turn to many things. First and foremost perhaps is immigration (the environment a close second when it comes to nail biting). What on earth does it mean to be an “illegal”, why we disdain some groups and laud others. What will happen to the undocumented?
Is it really so simple an issue that some folks entered “properly” and others enter through sheer will power, pluck and with a great deal of risk. I tend to think it is more than that. I often turn to my own immigrant stock grandparents who by the time I was a child were pretty much considered “good immigrants”.
And they were.
My grandparents were hardworking, ambitious and proud to be part of the fabric that makes this nation what it is . But so are the Mexican-American folks in my own neighborhood, many I suspect might have less than legal status. When I encounter the generosity of my neighbor up the hill, offering up a gorgeous platter of tamales , I am reminded of my Calabrian grandfather and the delight he took in a shared meal. When I see the diligence and pride my housekeeper Laura puts into her work, I am reminded of my Slovak grandmother; who felt no task too menial to not do well.
Then why? Why this difference in perception? Family lore was my grandfather was conceived on the way over to Ellis Island, that now seems apocryphal, but would he have been considered an anchor baby? It’s all very true that they entered “legally” , but must it be so arduous to be part of this great experiment? I wish it weren’t, we seemed to have been on a path of fairness. Now I fear a terrible regression.
As fate would have it I was notified of a group exhibition specifically addressing this heated issue. I was very eager to participate and this small painting will be part of the “fabric” of that show. I couldn’t be more delighted. My anxiety might not be lessened, but at least I was kept busy. In such times, that is all I hope for. If you are in LA please try to attend.
walter maciel gallery
2642 s. la cienega blvd.
los angeles, ca 90034
Co-curated by Monica Lundy
7 January – 4 March 2017
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 7th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Walter Maciel Gallery is pleased to present With Liberty and Justice for Some, featuring the work of several contemporary artists who have been invited to create portraits of immigrants to the United States. The show is a statement on the many fears surrounding the announcement of our new president elect and a powerful response rejecting the presumed policies that threaten to disrupt basic civil rights.
A Change is Gonna Come
I’m closing with this image of my grandparents, if they were still alive , the would be over a century old.
I finished this painting a few weeks ago but waited to post until I had it professionally photographed. My friend, the photographer Steve Daly just sent over this image (and that of Seizing Sanctimonium) and I couldn’t be more delighted. So thanks Steve!
oil on canvas
56 x 34.5 x 1 inches
I mentioned the intent of this painting in the previous post but in a nutshell this foolish image sums up my feelings, if these are the folks in heaven, give me hell any day!
This is the new image of Seizing Sanctimonium , again, I’m very pleased.
oil on canvas
56 x 40 inches
So these two are my retort against the smug and the sanctimonious who feel they alone hold the keys to the divine. From what I have born witness to the still seem to be struggling. I think I will stay on my path.
I’m putting together two proposals for a solo show, this is one of the proposals:
( cover: The Resurrection of the Father , 2013)
The Thinking Reed: From the Hermitage to the Underworld, the Quest for Gnosis.
“Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows none of this.
Thus all our dignity consists in thought. It is on thought that we must depend for our recovery, not on space and time , which we could never fill. Let us then strive to think well; that is the basic principal of morality.”
This dignity is our greatest gift and our harshest burden, this awareness of how absurd our very existence is. Bird, beast or fish are oblivious to their insignificance ; we alone must confront this existential dilemma . We are left to comprehend this miracle we have been given, a gift given with the cruel understanding that it endures for only the blink of a god’s eye. We must then live this life fully , and as Pascal demands, ponder deeply and “strive to think well”
It is this Thinking Reed which I wish to examine with this body of work. Begun in 2013, it consists of drawings, relief prints, watercolor and oil paintings, drawn from a number of sources: the Popol vuh of the Quiche Maya to Flaubert’s Temptation of St.Anthony. These narratives are re-examined through a queer prism , reclaiming the canon as a gay man living in the 21st century. Of varying sizes they depict a quest for “think(ing) well”, a search for gnosis -self knowledge.
The collection will include approximately 10 -12 pieces, work I envision hung salon style; in the ideal world, against a rich background (I will need to ponder the logistics of that desire). As per gallery preference, ultimately I leave that up to the jurors and the gallery, however the Center Room might prove an intimate setting well suited to the intricacy of the work. Much of the work is completed and ready to be hung; in the instance of enclosed drawings, they may be translated into a painting, a tradition which is part of my studio practice.
The works are as follows:
1- Cover: Resurrection of the Father
watercolor on paper
18 by 24 inches
2- Gnosis…& the Old Gods Were Pleased
oil on canvas
24 by 48 inches
oil on canvas
30 by 40 inches
4- Seizing Sanctimonium
oil on canvas
40 by 56 inches
5- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
oil on canvas
36 by 48 inches
6- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
acrylic on paper
11 by 14 inches
7- The Apotheosis of Sophia
oil on masonite panel
18 by 24 inches
oil in panel
8 by 10 inches
9- Herakles and Telephus
watercolor and graphite on paper
9 by 12 inches
10- The Temptation of St. Anthony (of the Desert) at the Baths of St. Mark
sanguine pencil on toned paper
18 by 24”
11- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert (or , The Betrayal of the Pig)
graphite and colored pencil on paper
18 by 24 inches
My second proposal is more conceptual and I would rather keep it under wraps until it comes to fruition. This one however consists of work I have posted before.
My work is rarely overtly politic, but with the reckless nationalism of a certain candidate and now the UK’s vote to exit the EU, driven by its own nationalistic impulses , I felt compelled to express my dismay with a new painting.
Hence The Siren’s Call.
The Siren’s Call
oil on panel
8 by 10″
It is another tiny painting but as is my want, I have packed it with meaning. I had hoped to capture, with my comely Siren (initially I was channeling Betsy Ross but she is as tarted up as Marie Antoinette, I cannot resist ostrich plumes) the seductive qualities of our nation (and the UK). The elusive essence of what drives disparate and desperate people to our shores to rebuild, renew and reinvent themselves.
I would NOT be here if Europe’s “trash”, my Calabrian grandfather’s folks and the Slovak’s on my grandmother’s side hadn’t been allowed entrance. David and I are researching our geneology through Ancestry. I come upon these gorgeous names of my great and great-great grandparents, hailing from shitty villages in southern Italy. We even discovered my great grandmother’s photo, I only saw her once but I recognized her immediately. And you know what? She looks Mexican! We hear all of this terrible inflammatory language directed at our southern kin and yet their struggle:to get here, to settle in and to prosper, is really the same struggle my southern Italian endured ( many folks to this day still revere the “white” northerners, another issue altogether ) . My grandfather’s people didn’t assimilate easily, language barriers were a challenge and the public disdain must have been humiliating.
Yet somehow they persevered and became part of the weave. I understand the fear of loss, a loss of perceived power, prominence and position. But it is ultimately self destructive. I’m hoping the fearful and the vitriolic come to some understanding of empathy and don’t leave those who want entry drowning in the waves as my poor little bird.
This painting started out as a relief print. That is becoming my practice more and more. And now that I have finished this painting, I think I might make yet another version of the first series, which is illustrated below.
I still hold hope that we can Pope Francis and his plea for compassion:
“Often, however, such migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution.
In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need.”
His message on Sept. 3rd 2015 on World Day of Migrants and Refugees. With that , have a good weekend.