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!
I am happy to say that I have finished my latest figure for an upcoming group show here in the Los Angeles with a theme of “Bad Girls &Outcasts”. I’ve made about five pieces for the gallerist to consider and this soft sculpture figure is my latest.
As I continue on this practice of “painting-sculptures” I find myself more and more drawn to the possibilities of figures in the round. The making of these figures being immensely gratifying.
This particular figure was directly inspired by a relief print I had made before crafting The Magdalene. Perhaps its gimmicky but that print will accompany the figure when she is presented to collectors.
As with much of my work one thing leads to another, this small print leading to another more complicated and I believe, more successful print, of the same subject.
It will also be presented at the gallery.
The Magdalene has been a figure of fascination since my boyhood, searching out her familiar red hair and raw tears in countless museum visits throughout my life.
Her renunciation of worldliness in order to be closer to the God who left her behind stabs my heart every time. I’m of course playing loose with history and church tradition, but that is the emotional effect, one of abject abandonment, that moves me so deeply . In many ways, she reminds me of Dido and her awful lament.
Of course, at least according to Church tradition, she is ultimately reunited with her Savior , often depicted ascending heavenwards garbed only in her anchorite-wild hair. This visual tradition of presenting The Magdalene as a Wild Woman is also extraordinarily interesting to me. She is in effect the corporeal equivalent of the divine other-wordly Blessed Virgin.
That old trope of Virgin and (Redeemed) Whore.
This resonates for me in that it allows exploration of the Old Gods and the New and how we , as a society , have tried to synthesize these elements in a cohesive and manageable way. I love both the BVM and The Magdalene, but personally, I feel closer to the latter.
Following are a few (unattributed) images of MM that I treasure.
(this is I believe, her reliquary , at least that what my what I noted)
Below is info concerning the show, if in LA, please visit.
After a rather arduous process I have at last finished my latest relief print depicting the “weird” sisters from Macbeth (actually any practitioner of ancient arts). It is for an upcoming show here in LA devoted to Bad Girls, and as witchery and pagan ways have beguiled me since boyhood (going so far as memorizing the witches’ lines from the bard’s play), I felt they were a worthy subject. I wanted to laud the women (and men) who have been maligned and persecuted in the past. I also wanted to, as in the middle sister, explore intersex identity. What I like about this print is that it recalls a stained glass window, a pagan stained glass window to ancient seers and prophets.
But I hadn’t anticipated such difficulty in the making. Perhaps it is a testament to my increasing skill in printmaking,but my expectations are now higher. And as with my painting practice, as I make progress, I also find myself more keenly aware of how to improve the work. In this case, after rather laboriously cutting multiple plates and running a rather sizable series of prints, after reflection , I just felt the print to not be up to par.
The cutting of the plate (s) above, and the enthusiastic running of sixteen prints.
And the lackluster results.
Having run the series on a Friday, by the time I returned on Sunday, the print seemed cramped and illegible. I have a high tolerance for density and visual information , but I found myself unable to read the image.
So back to the cutting table, the previous series essentially material for collage.
This new series is smaller (mostly because I have run low on good printing paper) , I was concentrating on making a sound image, not quantity. As it is, in a series of six, only half are in high enough quality to market. I had trouble with the density of black, too much “snow-flaking”, as in this blue version.
Given the small run and limited number of prints available, they are artist’s proofs. But I now feel confident that the next run will be a success. To ensure that success I may resort to a spell or two:
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Harpier cries “‘Tis time, ’tis time.”
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
Double, double, toil and trouble; (10)
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe (30)
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
[Enter Hecate, to the other three Witches]
O well done! I commend your pains;
And every one shall share i’ the gains;
And now about the cauldron sing,
Live elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.
[Music and a song: ‘Black spirits,’ etc, Hecate retires]
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
So its that time of year when one feels compelled to clear out the old and make way for the new. I hope in 2017 to begin afresh , adding printmaking to my studio practice. And while going through the stacks of prints in my archives I decided to try to move them along to happy homes. The following relief prints including handsome Huitzilopochtli are for the most part from 2014-2016. Ordinarily a one-block print (single color run) would sell for $100.00; this sale the same prints are 75.00 each, two for 100.00 (shipping and handling 17.00).
Thus far these are the prints available at that price. I give plate size,not actual print size. Plate size indicates the block I carve into; generally the following prints look handsome matted and framed at 12 by 15″.
If interested feel free to contact me directly at: email@example.com
Death & the Maiden, 2014, plate size 8 by 10″, series of 6, 5 available.
The Virgin of Guadalupe, 2014, plate size 8 by 10″, series of 4, 2 left.
Agnus Dei, 2014, plate size 8 by 10″, series of 6, 5 available.
The Eternal Cycle, 2014, plate size 6 by 9″, series of 6, 2 available .
The Great War God Huitzilopochtli, 2014, plate size 8 by 10″, 3 proofs on mulberry paper available.
Tlaloc, 2014, plate size 8 by 10″, series of 8, 4 available.
The Siren’s Call, 2016, plate size 8 by 10″, series of 7, 5 available (note, hand colored, slight variations).
Funny how three little four inch squares can get me all excited but when they are part of such a YUGE extravaganza , I can be forgiven. Follow the link to see what is available, some really fantastic work at stunningly affordable prices. Scoop them up while you can, all can be pre-purchased!
My thoughts at the moment are on all things piscine. I’m participating in an upcoming celebration of the Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the LA River, a costumed parade bash celebrating this once vital body of water. I’m helping with community puppet making and looking forward to that opportunity Apparently at one time trout was abundant in the Arroyo Seco; that is now difficult to imagine to this newcomer, the LA River is at times choked with debris, the tributary often a mere trickle. But one can hope through activism, awareness and frankly fun events such as the Fish Outta Water parade that the river will once again be alive with all sorts of wildlife.
The Virgin Queen Goes a Troutin’
houseplant and dumpster furniture
(This is from a piece of painted furniture from a million years ago, I was very young, living in Maine, peddling painted furniture to summering dowagers. This sold almost instantly to a lovely woman in Blue Hill.)
My attention is turned to fashioning a suitable costume and mask. I want the mask to be a relief print so I can make several if I wish . I would like for it to a personification of the Arroyo Seco (granted more baroque, more absurd). But what the hell. This quick sketch is the basis of where I think I want to go, simple construction, wildly ornamented.
I’ve spent the first part of the day brainstorming ideas for the masks, drawing literally on baroque ornamental cartouches. I’ve gone through a heck of a lot of paper, but I have whittled it down to three potential candidates.
I think this last one will be the winner. I want to make additional water critters and dangle them down from the watery beard. My new friend , the very talented Peter Hess ( see link: http://www.peterhessart.com ) designed the poster for the event. It is incredible .
In closing I just wanted to include some images taken a few months ago at the LA River. It is a favorite haunt of ours to run,bike or just walk the brats, and although it is not as conventionally romantic as an east coast river, it is rich with wildlife. Sadly much of that is gone, in preparation for El Nino , habitat has been damaged if not out right destroyed to facilitate drainage. We have heard rumors that the river was to be completely dredged of plantlife, further compromising sanctuary for the egrets, turtles, fish and other critters that call this oddball place home.
Nearly two years (January 24th specifically ) I started this small panel painting. Having been introduced to the saint through the Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ depictions of the holy man, I was then inspired by the late Seamus Heaney’s incredible poem of the saint and his feathered visitor ( Link : http://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/st-kevin-and-blackbird). But for some reason the inspiration waned and I stashed this little panel away until only recently, picking it up again last December. I believe he is now complete.
St. Kevin and the Blackbird
oil on panel
12 by 12″
When I started this painting a few years back I also carved a plate of the saint from which this painting is inspired. I believe it is the first of what is now becoming a dual practice, making a painting then a print (or the reverse).
I will now get back to a few other unfinished paintings; I always have far too many unfinished works, doodles and sketches of paintings I would like to make. Daunting at times. I am now enrolled in a life drawing class with the painter Jim Morphesis an artist I admire very much. Jim had awarded me a prize last summer for my painting Genesis and I was eager to thank him AND crash his course. Happy to say I have been added. So I am looking forward to that experience, a model at every class , always a luxury. Until next time, be well.
Last week I ran a proof for a new print inspired by the Sir Gawain and Green Knight narrative. Initially the print was going to be a multi plate affair, a technique I thought I had mastered somewhat. But after multiple runs I became increasingly dissatisfied with the results ; The Green Knight proofs were consistent only in their inconsistency: the colors were not aligning , the ink was spotty and “snow-flaked”. I strive to achieve consistency when I run a series, something that was drilled into by my instructor Jim. So I decided to turn to a technique that Jim was less than enthusiastic about, pochoir, or more simply , stenciling . Jim felt it not quite printmaking in some way, and I can understand his resistance. Yet, with this technique I was able to accomplish what I was searching for , color, color that was within the defining lines of the image. A certain degree of wonkiness in printmaking can be desirable but what I was producing just looked like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. This is the final artist’s proof of The Green Knight. He seems particularly suited to the winter holidays.
The Green Knight
pochoir-relief print on paper, artist’s proof
image size 8 by10″
The misalignment that frustrated me is apparent in this image.
I had far preferred the simple black and white print, yet he is the Green knight.
The pochoir process is satisfyingly craft oriented, I was able to utilize techniques and tools from my decorative painting career.
To now have a desk full of proofs is satisfying, I will run a series in the new year, brightening the green and using the darker buff. I am also going to utilize the pochoir technique when I run my recent print The Proposition. I hope to produce prints that are more vibrant AND aligned in the future . At the same time cutting back on production headaches as cutting stencils is far easier than cutting lino. My only new year resolution is to actually make and hopefully sell some prints, pochoir-relief prints may be the answer. Until next time, be well.