The Temptation of St. Anthony (of the Desert) at the St. Mark’s Baths

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After the Orlando massacre a few weeks back I have been giving thought to my past, particularly my youth and what a miracle it is that I am here today. Lets say the theme of  Memento Mori is my day to day soundtrack of late. 

My youth was a turbulent period, my parents were furious at my being gay and  they regularly changed the locks after tossing my  meager belongings out onto the lawn.  Their  flashes of temper left  me homeless for periods of time, sometimes a few days, sometimes weeks. Often I would just float around , I had a large car, a Chevy Impala, it was an ugly beast but it was commodious; frequently it sufficed as the roof over my head.

This was the early years of the 80’s and with the little cash I scratched together  I would head north; NYC beckoned me away from that shit-hole in NJ.  And like many suburban gay boys I  fantasized about that city, I picked up copies of the now defunct Soho News, the Village Voice, Interview magazine, fantasizing about this paradise only a train ride away. I imagined living in this fantasy  loft, with beautiful pine floors and expansive windows, “artistic” furniture and of course Boston ferns. Boston ferns were not negotiable .

But of course that was not my reality, I was poor and  not that cute in a city of incredibly beautiful people and my only real companion was an on again- off again drunk drag queen named Leo, her drag name Leonora- perfect Lenny and Leonora.  What a pair we must have made.  

Leo was only six years older I have just discovered but gosh, I thought he was so mature, so experienced. He had BEEN to Broadway, had been  to the Met(both the opera house and the museum), the ballet, he knew everything . He was an introduction to a level of sophistication I hadn’t imagined. On our first encounter he bought me the cast recordings to “Dreamgirls” and “Evita”,both spectacular hits. I hadn’t a stereo or even a home at that point but they were totems of a life I so desired.

But Leo as sophisticated as he was, as genteel as he was, was also very familiar with the sordid (yet exhilarating) aspects of the city. We went to the nightclubs if they were free, the lights flash now in my memories , one blur after another. But what Leo enjoyed most was going to the baths. And really they were perfect, they were cheap, all you had to do was buy a towel and you were in…for hours, until dawn. Leo would buy his towel, often if he was flush, buy mine as well, kiss me goodbye, tell me where and when to meet up, and off he went. I can remember still how he draped his towel, he tucked it up well over his chest, inching it as if he had breasts, pushing them together to imitate  a cleavage he didn’t possess . I often wondered what the hell he was doing, here in this hyper masculine world , here he was sashaying like some peculiar version of Marilyn Monroe. Yet he was popular.

I was not, I was an invisible boy, goofy, plain and confused . Also I was exhausted. What I often found myself doing was falling asleep. I wasn’t deliberately chaste, I just wasn’t chased. So as I was too broke to buy drinks and afraid of the drugs around me, I found myself falling asleep in the oddest of places, the orgy rooms of the bath houses. I think my unpopularity saved my life. Leo would be dead in less than a decade, and so would pretty much anyone else I knew in this strange  wonderful new world. But I survived, and that , I have been thinking about of late. How when I was a young kid,as young as many of those kids in Florida,  how I desired  to attract the attention of the  many beautiful gods  that surrounded me, only a few feet away yet I remained invisible. I was lucky.

That is what I wanted to capture in this drawing, that confusion, that dizzying excitement, the pagan energy, that now is only a shadowy memory. Elusive as a lost soul.

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The Temptation of St.Anthony (of the Desert)in the St.Marks Baths

2016

sanguine pencil on paper

18 by 24″

It is of course a dense image one full of meaning but what is most significant at least to me is the image of the saint, who resembles a younger me, the clown like figure in the lower right; the skeletal figure in the mask is my dear friend Leo soon to be almost as ruined as this figure I depict. 

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I haven’t much from that period, the LP’s Leo gave me our long gone, the cliched pink flamingo statuettes he bought ( even though I essentially lived in a car) long broken, but I still have the post card from The New Saint Marks Baths, it captured the glamour and excitement of that place then and now years later, it still does .

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An odd bit of ephemera to a period long past.  I can’t think about it anymore…

Have a good Independence Day

Of Vermin and Fig Leaves

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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.

flea without

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea 

2016

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. 

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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!

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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. Antonio Canova. Italian. 1757-1822

Antonio Canova

Venus and Mars 

1822

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.

Without the fig:herodias

and with:

E.430-1972 Salome, Plate IX- Enter Herodias from a portfolio of 17 plates; by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98); published by John Lane; English; 1907. Line block print.
E.430-1972
Salome, Plate IX- Enter Herodias from a portfolio of 17 plates;
by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98);
published by John Lane;
English; 1907.
Line block print.

Both are delightfully perverse, horny candle sticks and dear Oscar as master of ceremonies. Source:http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1110742/enter-herodias-a-portfolio-of-print-beardsley-aubrey-vincent/

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 beautiful Litany to my Heavenly Brown Body. I need to research Aguhar more thoroughly but felt it a fitting close to this post.

Mark Aguhar, %22Litanies to My Heavenly Brown Body%22

Official Portrait and a god

Getting around to photographing my self portrait doll, plus Jumping Tlaloc who has been hanging idly upon my studio wall. Poor fellow is itching for some action.

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Self Portrait of the Artist as a Paper Doll

2016

watercolor,acrylic and graphite on paper, brads, strings

approximately 40 by 25″

IMG_8687Jumping Tlaloc

2015

acrylic on cardboard, brads and string

approximately 42 by 30″

Tempus fugit…or Self Portrait of the Artist as a Paper-doll

IMG_8578 I’ve just finished this self portrait paper doll, I was eager to see it in action and it is indeed a gangly silly fellow. Tomorrow he travels to school for our final life drawing  project which was initially called Tempus fugit (but that apparently proved too difficult a concept for the millennials in my class so it became simply one concerning  movement and speed). I knew instantly what I wanted to capture, my ever present, frantic desire to make up for lost time as an artist,  fighting frantically against time (and ultimately, death). I also knew I wanted it to actually move.

Hence a play upon the Victorian jumping jacks, a passion since boyhood. Playing upon the jumping jacks also allowed me to actively engage the comments made at my last critique that the figures in my paintings  looked like paper dolls.

So what if they did! I love paper dolls , I  have always loved them and in some way, conscious or not, they have emerged.

So I plan on intentionally embracing this notion, exploring my own self loathing, my internalized homophobia, my weird body issues, issue after issue, and a self portrait paper doll seemed an excellent place to start . I have inserted commedia figures into my work before as personal avatars but now that I have an actually maquette and  I can draw upon it for aid in compositions ( more gratitude to Clive Hicks-Jenkins for introducing me to maquette making).

Now that class is over I can concentrate on paintings that I have in process and paintings that I have in my head. Better jump to it, Tempus fugit!

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Tempus fugit or Self Portrait of the Artist as  

2016

watercolor on paper, graphite, acrylic, brads approximately

26 by 40″