“Good” Immigrant,”Bad” Immigrant

Tommy & Mary (anchorbabies?) 2017 oil on panel 8 by 8inches
Tommy & Mary (anchorbabies?)
2017
oil on panel
8 by 8inches

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.

image003

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.
December 10
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. 

img_8393-copy

 

 

Hadesville…in living color

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!

greco_3_wrk_1_2

Hadesville

2016

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!

14291648_10154418478283936_6697630946175038211_n

This is the new image of Seizing Sanctimonium , again, I’m very pleased.

greco_3_wrk_2_2

Seizing Sanctimonium

2016

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.

greco_3_wrk_1_2

 Some detail images follow:

14581487_1108490929258934_316781207879986777_n

14067593_10209826630052030_7680280672026195886_n

14264826_10209993709628915_4714655681655426736_n

14212048_10209903192406041_5961195263314161228_n

14291637_10209975663057762_1252275216625001303_n

14141682_10209864970410515_3551276126833444692_n

The Thinking Reed : From the Hermitage to the Underworld, the Quest for Gnosis

I’m putting together two proposals for a solo show, this is one of the proposals:

greco_resurrection-of-the-fatherwatercolor( 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.”

Pascal, Pensées

 

 

 
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
2013
watercolor on paper
18 by 24 inches

2- Gnosis…& the Old Gods Were Pleased
2014
oil on canvas
24 by 48 inches

3- Genesis
2014
oil on canvas
30 by 40 inches

4- Seizing Sanctimonium
2016
oil on canvas
40 by 56 inches

5- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
2013
oil on canvas
36 by 48 inches

6- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert
2015
acrylic on paper
11 by 14 inches

7- The Apotheosis of Sophia
2014
oil on masonite panel
18 by 24 inches

8- Jonah
2016
oil in panel
8 by 10 inches

9- Herakles and Telephus
2015
watercolor and graphite on paper
9 by 12 inches

10- The Temptation of St. Anthony (of the Desert) at the Baths of St. Mark
2016
sanguine pencil on toned paper
18 by 24”

11- The Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert (or , The Betrayal of the Pig)
2016
graphite and colored pencil on paper
18 by 24 inches

2 greco_gnosis_and_old_gods_pleased

3 greco_genesis

4 greco seizing sanctimonium

5 greco_temptation-of-st-anthony-of-the-desert (1)

6 greco temptaion-of-st-anthony-of-teh-desert7 greco_sophiathe-apotheosis-ofoil-copy8 greco jonah-20169 greco herakles10 greco the temptation of st anthony_bath of st mark11 greco the temptation of st anthony and pig

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.

Wish me well.

LG

The Siren’s Call…let them in

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, 2016, oil on paper, 8 by 10"
The Siren’s Call, 2016, oil on paper, 8 by 10″

The Siren’s Call 

2016

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.

13450090_10209238527229827_5172034020425095964_n

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.

13174071_10208947257668270_5654483925100838943_n

 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.

 

 

Jonah, revisited

Jonah 2016

Jonah

 2016

oil on panel

8 by 10″

Sometimes you think a painting is finished (or you want it to be finished) but there is a nagging voice telling you otherwise. Such was the case when I first posted this little painting , declaring it finished. But as soon as it posted, I felt it wasn’t . My doubt was confirmed, just a few hours after posting it , by a phone call from my friend the artist Paul Torres. Paul, with his usual courtliness let me know how much he LOVED the new painting , then just as quickly told me how the hell to improve it. I love Paul for that, the ability to ever so cleverly help me attain what I seek without crushing my spirit.  Check out Paul’s fantastical world at this link:http://www.paul-torres.com .

This is how the painting looked before Paul’s phone call.

greco jonah 2016

I’m thankful for my friends, lets just say that, particularly Paul.

Jonah

I just finished a new painting, a very small one, 8 by 10″. After having labored rather diligently over a large painting for so long, it was nice to produce a painting in relatively short time. I think its finished, I will probably go back and play with the contrasts , glazing and such, but for now…

greco jonah 2016

Jonah

2016

oil on panel

8 by 10″

The painting started as a quick sketch and I wanted to maintain as much of the sketches spontaneity as possible, I think I have- as spontaneous as one can be while working with essentially a single haired brush anyway.

IMG_8743

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.

IMG_8755

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.

img_4703

(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.

IMG_8758

 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:

IMG_8756

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.

IMG_8764

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.

IMG_8757

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.

IMG_8759

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.

IMG_8760

 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.

IMG_8761

Herakles, plus a preliminary rendering.

img_4705

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 ?

IMG_8762

Moon-gods, for you can never have too many!

IMG_8763

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.

13221402_10207867674602278_1662425812638005997_o

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.

IMG_8743

That’s it for now, I will post this little painting, only 8 by 10″ when I am finished. Until them, be well.