The Unconscious , Tapping Trauma

 I am working on a series of pieces for an upcoming group show devoted to the maligned women of history , folk tale and myth . The show is called “Bad Girls”.  There are plenty of so called Bad Girls to choose from and I’ve selected a few that have resonated over the years : Salome , Mary Magdalene, the three crones from “Macbeth”. 

My studio progress which had been going well has been interrupted a bit ( even this post , ordinarily made from the comfort of my studio , is now made from my IPhone at my breakfast table . 

My little dog Rose is very sick . We nearly lost her over the weekend and her recovery is arduous and fraught with worry . My time and my emotions are occupied with her recovery . 

That said , I did manage to bring all the pups to the studio yesterday and put in a few hours . Rose’s whimpering abating , the anti anxiety meds kicking in allowing me some time to  focus. 

What I focused upon was the Mesoamerican moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, link below :

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyolxauhqui#/media/File%3ACoyolx%C4%81uhqui.jpg

According to the legend this unfortunate goddess for reasons complicated by patriarchy and misogyny,  is mutilated beyond recognition. Forever memorialized in the monumental disc bearing her image found now at the Templo Mayor museum in Mexico City . She is a powerful figure.

 I worked rather feverishly yesterday as I knew my time was limited before Rosie became restless again needing my attention and the result thus far , is the corpus of the goddess found above . I myself was struck by the pathos of the being . 

As usual with my dollmaking I hadn’t filtered my emotions for mechanics; the figure emerged on her own . And after I held her broken body and posted her image online , only then , over dinner with my husband ( the psychotherapist) did I realize that my Coyolxauhqui was in fact Rosie.

 This should have been obvious , Rose has an amputated rear right leg and now a near lame right arm- she is essentially an invalid . That the doll is nearly life sized to my sweet pug is also an unconscious similarity. 

I’m of course completely absorbed with Rose’s needs , we both are . David , a medical doctor’s son is particularly adept in assessing in a calm cool manner; but he has his own work , patients of the human sort wrestling with their own traumas . 

As the artist with a more flexible schedule, nursing is for the most part, my duty . I’m so happy she is alive I am grateful to have this second chance . But it’s hard , she cannot eliminate on her own , fights me ferociously over her bitter pills and the whimpering, not consistent, but when she does whimper , it breaks my heart in half . Believing myself to be impotent , useless .

 This is Rosie yesterday , a better day ( after a fraught night ) , shopping for new bedding and nursing paraphernalia. She loved the attention , her tail wagging with enthusiasm.

 Today, after her follow up at the hospital ( it’s predicted to be a lengthy recovery , six months or so of this schedule), I plan to head to the studio and meet my other  obligations to the show , my work and to myself .

 The following images are of my progress thus far: 
Wish me luck.

Update, finished! and Rose is steadily improving!

“Coyolxauhqui Reassembled “
2017
Painted recycled fabric , feather, polyfil , thread , spit and glue

Tenochtitlan Toyland

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.

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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!

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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.

 1-Rape of Tenochtitlan
1-Rape of Tenochtitlan
2-detail from Primer of New Spain
2-detail from Primer of New Spain
3-Hero Twin marionettes
3-Hero Twin marionettes
4-Paper-dolls from Xibalba
4-Paper-dolls from Xibalba
5-Selfie Booth
5-Selfie Booth
6- Tlaloc Tapestry design
6- Tlaloc Tapestry design
7-Welcome to the Xibalba Dollhouse
7-Welcome to the Xibalba Dollhouse
8-Huitzilipochtcli Rag-doll
8-Huitzilipochtcli Rag-doll
9-Xibalba Variety Hour
9-Xibalba Variety Hour
10-prototype example
10-prototype example
11-Walking Puppet
11-Walking Puppet
12-Installation Schematic
12-Installation Schematic

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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.

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The Rape of Tenochtitlan

 

Rape, the very word causes you to pause. I ruminated upon even using the word “rape” for this drawing, but no other word fully expressed the Conquest of New Spain by the Old. The use of the word rape is relatively common in Western art, one refers to the Rape of the Sabine Women and of course all of those frothy depictions of The Rape of Europa , a pink cheeked maiden astride gorgeous twinkly eyed white bulls. I wanted to play upon that theme and the word rape is an integral element of the concept. In this case Europa is doing the raping. 

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The Rape of Tenochtitlan 

2016

colored pencil on toned paper

18 by 24″

I’m gathering my thoughts, both visual and verbal, concerning  a project focusing upon Mesoamerica in general, Tenochtitlan specifically. But the historical elements are superficial in many ways as  I am primarily interested in identity  and perception , how one empire can so thoroughly misunderstand  one another , New Spain vs. Old Spain.  How we continue to misunderstand one another, be it racial tension, gender conflict, cops vs. Black Lives Matter, queers/straights, Muslims, you name it, if it ain’t “us” we become all paranoid and defensive (check out the GOP convention in Cleveland at the moment to confirm my assertion).

I’ve been fascinated for some time  by the intersection of cultures and what is gained and lost in the process. Although  I am not the first and I certainly will not be the last, I hope to add something personal to that conversation.  Drawing back in time, when even the most basic images of what is now Mexico City were ominously romanticized and barbarized,  they were oozing with biased  fodder for our imagination, fueling our fascination with the  pornography of violence:  the perverse fascination with human sacrifice and  the seemingly  never-ending ghastly spectacle of the Aztecs. To the conquerers this New Spain was in fact a New Jerusalem, ripe for conversion, once they came to heel that is.  To drive home the message of this new and terrifying place, the images were depicted through the prism of Classical antiquity , as the  temple image below suggests.

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Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722) – Illustrations de Histoire de la conquête du Mexique ou de la Nouvelle Espagne

I am now eager to explore this cross cultural disconnect in an upcoming series of work in which I play upon the theme of courtly entertainment, toys and baubles meant to amuse an aristocratic audience, all presented to the Holy Roman Emperor from the New World by none other than the reviled/beloved Malinche. And as my brain is driven fundamentally visually, sketching out vague concepts is the most pragmatic approach.

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As is usual with my approach, whatever floats across my field of vision will often find itself incorporated into my work. The other day while visiting LACMA I encountered a beauty, a small ceramic depiction of the Maize Goddess. She was Mayan in origin, and although diminutive she possessed all of the grace of a Tanagra figurine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanagra_figurine

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I was happy to place this lovely lady into my composition.

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Another inspirational happenstance,  though less elegant, was when my publicist Kristine posted an image of this drawing in its unfinished state and accidentally added a filter of rainbows and stars. In what would have been in any other circumstance appalling  to me , was in this instance, just what I needed. Of course fair Europa would feign affection, declaring undying affection to get at that gold lurking behind Tenochtitlan’s fiery skirt.

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As I drew my mind wandered back to my visit to Mexico City, how as soon as we entered the city, I felt I belonged there. I was wistful reminiscing about the ancient art that seems to reach out from the very soil,defying the Church, defying the State, defying Time.  This detail is drawn from loose memory of a visit to the National Anthropological Museum.

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I’m going to continue to draw upon these fascinating resources, albeit in my own ways. I feel no more compulsion to depict the divinities of Mexico as they were by indigenous peoples than I would feel obligated to depict Christ in a Byzantine manner. The following are a few beauties found at the Museo Templo Major, literally pulled from sacrificial ground. That just fascinates me.

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I’m going to close with my handsome husband taken at the Casa Azul for no other reason than it was a really marvelous day and a really marvelous memory. 

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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.

New Moon, New Painting

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Last evening I attended a New Moon celebration(see previous post), great fun, but during the day I was at  hard at work on a new painting. I made good progress, perhaps Artemis was on my side.

I had posted on the painting ( as of yet untitled) previously HERE, but it has languished in the studio gathering cobwebs. I have since dusted it off.

The following images, mostly preparatory renderings are the fruits of my labor.

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 Blocking in the painting, oil on canvas, 40 by 56″

The painting is complex, an array of Old Gods toppling a sanctimonious New God. The following are character studies, graphite on paper.

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Judas Iscariot

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 The Magdalene and her Scapegoat

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a New Moon God

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a Sun God, helmet now omitted

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a host of  Mesoamerican Old Gods

So that is it, busy at the task at hand. I have a few smaller paintings in various stages of completion, but this painting should take me through the summer when I begin the summer critique program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art- I cannot wait, just check out the cast room, the largest collection of first casts outside of Europe.

Heaven!

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ONE wing of the cast collection at PAFA

So a new day, a new moon, a new painting, wish me luck.

Be well,

Lg

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Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth

My esposo so rarely asks anything of me, he supports my work in every sense , so when he made a request for me to paint a portrait of the “Eater of Filth”, the Aztec goddess Tlazoltéotl, I could hardly say no. I introduced David to this fierce goddess when in Mexico City , reading aloud the words of the great Mexicophile , Alma Reed’s and her description of Tlazoltéotl :

” Primarily an earth goddess, Tlazoltéotl, “Eater of Filth”, alone among the female deities had a moral significance, since in eating refuse, she was believed to consume the sins of mankind, leaving them pure.” ( The Ancient Past of Mexico, 1966).

 I knew this would resonate with my beloved, for aside from Roman priests and the sacrament of confession, few professions aside from his own(psychoanalysis) are able to break through the wall of darkness and allow the  pure light of renewal into one’s soul.

He asked for a portrait of this patroness of sinners, of purification and of curing, of misdeeds and of childbirth and of renewal.

And unofficially, of psychic renewal.

 This is it.

For my darling, Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.

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Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.

2014

oil on panel

18 by 24 inches

My depiction of this great goddess was in a great part inspired by the well known depiction such as the one that follows. We in fact have a silly clay whistle of her, purchased at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, sitting on our dining room sideboard.

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  In this image she is giving birth to one of the maize gods; again, a symbol of rebirth.

According to the Miller/Traube Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico, she is often depicted with a broom to represent her ability to cleanse; I thought a dainty dust rag more fitting for my goddess. I’m not going to psychoanalyze my own painting, why the amputated semi- aborted men? I do not know.  I do know I chose butterflies, an almost universal symbol of the soul, some to be set free and to flourish and some to be crushed to their death, at her whim.

This seemed fitting for this goddess who we all most confront at some time ; the Aztecs, according to Reed, would make offerings and auto sacrifice to her upon their death bed. But as my own psychoanalyst interpreted recently, this great goddess of redemption, this “Eater of Sin”, needs our sins to survive as much as we need her for redemption.

Be well,

Lg