I haven’t posted in a bit, but my hands have been busy and so has my imagination. I’ve been making, clarifying and meditating upon the theme of Re-enchantment. I’ve mentioned before that my childhood was far from halcyon, more precisely grim in the lower case. Yet in spite of the anxious tension I was quite frequently in a state of wondrous enchantment. I had the good fortune to have a beguiling and magical woods behind our suburban home. A solitary boy, I spent hours in quiet delight, there was simply so much to explore : salamanders, bullfrogs, carnivorous pitcher plants, skunk cabbage, blankets of velveteen moss, fungi galore and most delightfully sweet and wise box turtles. Truly, who needed humans when such fairies and imps kept you company?
That enchantment has slipped a bit in my golden years, I stumble upon it now and then, in the garden, with my animal friends, but most especially in my studio (my studio is my sanctuary) but if I were honest, a great deal of my time is spent in pursuits far from enchanting.
Hence this interest in re-enchantment, in my work, in the studio and in my life. I am actively searching for the extraordinary in the quotidian, mindful and appreciative of the minor miracles of the day-to-day, the unfurling of the hairy leafed begonia, the topaz gold of a hornet, the diamond trail of the garden slug. My seven year old self was well aware of these delights, I’m in the process of being reacquainted .
In that spirit, a new body of work is emerging, I’ve coined it as Fairyfellers (inspired by the fantastic Victorian fairy painter Richard Dadd). Fairy-telling is my aim, visually expressing that wonder found in the gentler, enticing realm of toadstools, ferns and tadpoles.
The following are examples of some of my labors:
Much of my time has been spent just sketching out re-enchantment, my studio journals are full of spontaneous bursts of wonder.
This figure of the Mandrake Titus was inspired by my visit to the V&A, in particular the heraldic, near life-sized Dacre Beasts.
In particular the heraldic banners, I’m wild for banners in general, these beasties compelled me to design and stitch up my own.
The Mandrake’s cape was inspired by a detail from my latest painting (previous post). Cross pollination of ideas , across mediums, is a common occurrence in my studio.
Further experiments in “stuffed paintings” resulted in this elfin trio of Fairyfellers: Rufus, Derrick and Seamus.
I’ve also been busy working further upon paper-doll making (as fairyfeller an activity as you can imagine).
The last image of the daisy loin cloth betrays a bit of self censorship, increasingly I am re-evaluating how much nudity to portray. Not so much out of prudery, but I’ve heard myself described as a “penis artist”, and that isn’t my intention or interest. In this case I think the work is improved by the discretion, plus it is more playful; playfulness a key element of re-enchantment.
So far that is it in the Fairyfeller realm, more fairyfellers are on the way. Right now however I have returned to painting , stitching is hard work, my fingers begin to ache and the fabric and needle pricks have caused some damage to my fingertips. So for now this fairyfeller is at the easel.
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.
I have been hard at work on my contributions for the group show “Bad Girls & Outcasts” at Cactus Gallery . Earlier last year my friend, the talented Ulla Anobile had conceived of the theme and had invited me (and the marvelous Mavis Leahy) to participate. Initially it was to be the three of us, but given the interest in the theme ( perhaps in large part due to our current political climate ) , Bad Girls are all the rage and many fine artists are now participating. It should be a very exciting show, Cactus Gallery always gathers together diverse artists and I have no doubt this will be an exceptional group of makers.
For my part I’ve focused on a few of my favorite archetypes: the brazen femme fatale; the sinner/saint; the vengeful goddess and of course, witches. I worked in a variety of techniques: fiber art, painting, drawing, and relief printing. The following images are the results of my love affair with all girls bad, wonderful and misunderstood.
Happily, as I finished up yesterday, I did one final drawing of The Magdalene, as a study for personal reasons, not for the show. After posting my studio progress on Instagram I was pleasantly surprised to find that a collector for the drawing. I’m not yet ready to part with the drawing but I’m telling you, Bad Girls are all the rage!
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.