The Feast Day of John the Baptist

It is ironic that I am nursing an annoying head cold on the day one of my favorite saints lost his head; puts things in a bit of perspective.

I have loved John since boyhood, his severed head had been burnt into my consciousness at a very young age. My family had visited Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful Monticello and in one of the bedrooms was a painting of that awful moment when John’s head was being presented on a platter. The image burnt in deeply, I was so confused, had Jefferson executed John ?( I was quite young ), I knew he held slaves, a grave sin, in my wild imagination it could have been true. The head represented  tragedy,sacrifice, bondage , perhaps release. It terrified and beguiled all at once. I have never lost that fascination and I have returned to the subject over and over. One of my great pleasures in discovering the Popol vuh has been the intense similarities between the Maya narrative and that of the western Christian narrative. The Maize God loses his head in a similar act of sacrifice,  difficult to not see the similarities.

The following images are just some of my interpretations of the Maize God’s severed head.

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detail from a larger composition

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detail from a watercolor, “Primavera”.

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watercolor, “Resurrection of the Father, II “.

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its relief print companion, also called “Resurrection of the Father”.

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another watercolor called “Resurrection of the Father , I”.

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another relief print “Strange Fruit”

I have just finished,  or nearly so, my last marionette , that of the head of the Maize God ; rather uncomplicated really, all it has to do is ascend.

10505389_10203779570879330_6058090575455424152_n marionette of the Maize God.

I will need to take better images of the  marionette tableau when I am feeling better, but for now, have a happy feast day of blessed Jokonaan. 

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the Hubris of the Gods

I have been reading Heinrich Zimmer’s Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (edited by the great Jos. Campbell) , and in my reading I have gained insight into the visual symbolism of an art and culture that I  have admired but knew absolutely nothing about. I have also been introduced to creation myths (there are MANY) that have piqued my curiosity. One such tale is set in the great cosmic ether from which all life springs forth. In this space without time, this “infinite ocean of all seeds, all the potentiality of subsequent evolution…” the great god Vishnu is found, “Vishnu, the anthropomorphic embodiment of this fluid of life, is floating…in and upon the substance of his own essence.” I imagine this god  very pleased with the situation  that he finds himself; Zimmer goes on to describe him as”…radiant with the steady glow of his blessed energy.” In this blessed field of energy and intruder enters and disrupts the self worship of dear Vishnu; for Vishnu perceives a “sudden…luminous apparition”, the great demiurge Brahmā. The four headed ‘fashioner of the universe” seems less impressed with Vishnu, asking “Who are you? How did you originate?”. A cosmic pissing contest ensues, our two great gods thrashing it out ( in the most refined way)  concerning who indeed fashioned  whom.  All this divine ridiculousness comes to a halt when the supreme Shiva bursts upon the scene in his “towering lingam crowned with flame”-nothing denotes authority like a gigantic phallus breaking through the ether of time and matter.  Shiva does eventually set matters straight, but that is another painting.

This painting depicts the moment before the priapic intrusion. 

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Hubris of the Gods

2014

watercolor and gouache on Arches paper

17 by 24 inches

The spouse-man was surprised by this painting’s  color way , I don’t feel it unusual as I have been thinking of a painting composed of primary colors for some time. Months ago I clipped an article with an image of smallpox that I thought was just beautiful. This painting ,dealing with creation set in nothingness, seemed a good plus to try it out.

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My desire with this painting, which is the same when I tackle Mesoamerican narrative, is to resist imitating the original visual source material . As much as I love traditional depictions of Hindu gods , it seems inauthentic for me to utilize them .

Plus, it isn’t really very interesting.

I saw Vishnu as smug, frankly hot as hell, very pleased with his own fecundity.

Brahmā I saw as more reasonable and modest. Again I wanted to resist the traditional depiction of this four-headed creator god. Instead I wanted to utilize his very creations, that of the water, the sky, the earth and lastly humankind.

I’m happy with the painting, a pleasure to once again work with speedy watercolor. I switched off because my large easel suddenly gave up the ghost. I resisted replacing it for some time, bandaging it along the way. But at last it could no longer be repaired. I broke down and purchased a wonderful new easel , all metal construction, very Teutonic in its simplicity and precision-the Klopfenstein ProEasel II  ( link: HERE ).

I’m tickled, this was my first day using it; such a delight not to have to use two pairs of pliers to raise and lower the canvas ; such convenience, and a pretty blue as well.

IMG_4776If you need an excuse to buy a new easel, I would easily recommends this one.

Well must run, return to my real world, far removed from the realm of the gods. Dinner for the husband is the only grand creation myth going on this evening.

Until next time, be well,

Lg

Primavera

I just finished up (for now anyway) a watercolor painting called Primavera.

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Primavera

2014

watercolor on paper

18 by 29 inches

Once again I draw upon the Popol Vuh and the sacrifice-redemption theme. The eternal fascination with the Life and Death cycle never seems to relent; the understanding that through death there is life. I am currently reading Zimmer’s collection of Indian “myths” ( offense term for a faith with current practitioners). But the Hindu grasp of this most elemental truth fascinates and brings a degree of comfort to what can be a deeply discomforting exploration. This painting tries to address some of this. Through the sacrifice of the Maize God, Humankind is born-man made of maize. I wanted to convey the visceral quality of this act, the maize shaft bursting through the actual flesh of our mother earth. Of course this is a very personal imagining with miscellaneous cultural references thrown in as I saw fit. But with Good Friday approaching it felt timely; the resurrected world is colored in Easter egg pastels. the underworld is rich and ripe with verdant greens and blood crimsons.

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above ground

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The Hero Twins below ground.

One element I enjoyed introducing into the composition was the very feline looking dog.  My recently deceased  (actually I put him down) daschund Buddy keeps appearing in my dreams. His appearance causes  me much conflict. We, I decided to put him down the day before we move back to Los Angeles. This decision has tormented me, for although he was 19 and his health was quickly, seemingly overnight, failing,  I still wonder if I put him down for my own convenience. He might very well have lived a bit more, I don’t know. He obviously haunts me but in the spirit of this painting he always appears in my dreamscape, first as deeply broken as the following photo indicates; but as the dream progresses he is fresh, new and reborn, happy and bouncy and beautiful.

I try to take that as a good omen.

All that rambling aside, dogs were believed to be guides in the Maya understanding of Xibalba, the underworld. The little  fellow I painted  was inspired  not by my sleek Buddy  but by a  chubby  ceramic “neighbor”  from Colima at LACMA. 

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detail

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Dog Wearing Human Face Mask

Colima, Mexico

Burnished red and orange slip

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

He is a delightful fellow, as was Buddy.

That is it for now,  I’m working on a few other paintings, seems to be the season for watercolors right now at least until my new easel arrives which will be strong enough to hold a hefty canvas. I will close with a photo of Buddy, be well Buddy.

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Back To Class, First Proofs

The Fall semester began this week and one of my courses is Printmaking III- I cannot believe how quickly time has flown. I am still very much the novice, but I do feel I have a better grip on this elusive medium. This first week of this semester I have focused upon two plates : one a relief print on lino ; the second an intaglio drypoint on copper.

I am determined this semester to achieve a better grasp of intaglio , I find it so challenging. The following are early proofs, the lino being the more successful of the two.

IMG_4098 Redemption of the Father

Artist’s Proof # I

relief print,lino on paper

plate 10″ by 12″

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 St Anthony of the Desert

Artist’s proof # II,

drypoint, copper plate, 6″by 8″

As I said the intaglio needs a lot of work. Given that I am determined to work solely in drypoint for this print, the “burrs” are causing me some trouble. I will this weekend rub them out, adding more marks as needed. This is when I wish I had a home press, I am burning with a desire to resolve this problem NOW!

But I must practice patience,  taking deep Ujjayi  breath. Printmaking is not an immediate art, at least with out a home press.

The inspiration for the relief print, which is close to complete, is the following watercolor ( a VERY immediate medium ). 

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Redemption of the Father

Ariadne’s Thread

The latest in my ongoing fascination with the Minotaur/Theseus theme…

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Ariadne’s Thread

watercolor on paper

11 by 18 inches

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detail of yet another randy blue demon, the Minotaur

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detail of Theseus

that’s it for now, heading back to oils for the remainder of the week and on Tuesday back to printmaking, the semester begins!

Until next time, take care,

LG

Icarus

I was recently asked by a friend to enter work in a group show, the show is based loosely upon the theme of disability.  Given my friend had fashioned a lavishly eccentric wheelchair as the centerpiece of the show, I figured I had some creative wiggle room.

My interest was in exploring the very notion of disability and society’s need to “fix” the disabled. This I felt to be a touchy subject, one in which I hadn’t any authority to assert as I am not disabled. I do have a very dear friend who spent much of her life with a disability which later in her life was rectified by surgical procedures. But from listening to my friend I gathered the stigmatization of her condition and the  (over? ) protective concern her parents felt for her, imposed limitations ,physical and emotional, far beyond the constraints of her actual condition.

 In this image I wished to depict the disabled as a beautiful youth who lacked the  conventional wings of his society. I also  wanted to express the complexities of society by using harpy like figures, uncomfortable, a bit haughty, awkwardly watching as he falters.  I have found myself in this position, it has only been with maturity that I have found the will to  greet a wheelchair bound person in the eye. That is a sad fact.

In this image the youth does stumble, his prosthetic feathers have done him little good. Has our attempt to fix him only broken him?

I haven’t clarified all of my thoughts concerning this image or the topic, it is still evolving. Please consider Icarus to be an evolving discussion within my head.

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Icarus

watercolor and gouache on paper

18 by 24 inches

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detail of Icarus and his soul-spirit

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detail of Society

Of course it isn’t much of a stretch to consider Icarus to be an allegory  of other folks that make society squirm, gays, women, people of color, the list goes on an on.

Note to self : stop pigeon-holing.

Until next time, take care,

LG

Argle Bargle

IMG_4011In honor of today’s extraordinary, dream-come-true , heady Supreme Court ruling AND Grumpypotomus Antonin Scalia’s strange and archaic rant, I quickly cobbled together this silly water color.

Argle Bargle  right back at you Scalia!

For my friends outside the US, the link that follows explains the Argle  Bargle reference,Argle Bargle link.

Well now David and I will not be the strange marital exception in California, Prop 8 is dead, DOMA is dead, and dinosaurs like Scalia have to die out sooner than later.

Hoorah for justice. 

Until next time, take care,

LG

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Our wedding cake , prior to the passage of Prop 8 , July 3rd 2008.