New painting: Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

I never really know how my work will be perceived, I try not to think about it. My work is earnest , often with a degree of what I hope passes for wit , but is never intended to be ironic . I work diligently and sincerely on all my work. Perhaps I am humorless, too dour , but I put my heart into the work.

So with this in mind I was taken aback by an emoji “comment” (is an emoji really a comment?)¬† made recently¬† on my Instagram page after having posted this recently completed self portrait. I really dislike facial expression emojis , I earnestly try to avoid them, trusting my command of language will properly convey my intentions .

Of all emojis the one I dislike the most is this one : ūüėā.

I find it infuriating. It seems to embody the moronification of society in general and Los Angeles particularly.¬† To garner public approval most everything needs to be a joke – a sarcastic , mocking joke laced heavily with irony is most desired . And so this painting was received. I must put this in perspective, it was a single post , by an artist who from his IG site we learn that his specialty is ‚Äúbig dicks and wet c#nts‚ÄĚ- so we are speaking of a quite the gentleman. But of course the gentleman in question possesses youth , is handsome , fit and talented in a Tom of Finland. He has well over ten thousand followers and to attest to his smug arrogance , follows no one in return . Oh , and he paints shirtless to better display his artfully paint be-speckled pecs.

I mention all this because my initial response to his puerile emoji comment was to be affronted. I even blocked him in my disgruntledness for a few minutes . But then I realized just how perfect this comment was for a painting, a self portrait, intending to skewer/reject worldliness . If I paint myself as a Holy Fool ,albeit in the self conscious irony I generally reject , I need to expect some hecklers . So from wounded-ness I now possess a degree of pride in having elicited a reaction from just the sort of shallow nincompoop Anthony sought to avoid.

 

This painting started out, as so much does, unintentionally. My daily studio routine generally starts with automatic drawing . I try to not focus on any particular reference material , or getting details ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ, just the free flow of ideas inspired from who knows where . Such was the case of this sketch made I am guessing close to seven years ago while living in San Diego – a difficult period in our/my life .

I hadn’t intended for it to be a painting let alone an allegorical self portrait, yet there was something about the dashed off drawing that beckoned further exploration. So a few months back I decided to revisit , revise the by now , quite familiar theme of St.Anthony of the Desert, his temptations and my appropriating his reality .

 

The painting went well nearly from the start , each element revealing itself to me , and in this period of plague isolation, quarantine an anchorite would find familiar and social unrest akin to third century upheaval , it felt a timely theme.

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

What follows are the details .

 

Seated upon a memento mori throne , I was inspired by a stuffed and stitched example I made awhile back for another Anthony inspired tableau- the circle continues .

The textile model.
A detail of the maker , painting Death as Death models offstage – I have a fondness for paintings within paintings. I also have a fondness for gilded satyr angels .

 

Detail of accompanying figures that I haven’t particularly explored the meaning of : Hirsute Giant, Druidboy and Millefleur Boy ( a favorite).

 

Yesterday’s automatic drawing shares the theme of the painting , a memento mori reflection prompted I know by personal concern . David spent much of this week in the hospital, heart concerns , a procedure was needed , we were of course concerned. It appears all went well, fingers crossed , candles lit , novenas uttered , he will be on his way to good health. He is resting now , Viola a lackluster nursemaid , but he’s home .

There isn’t an emoji to express my gratitude.

 

Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death
2020
Oil on panel
18 by 24 inches

 

Available Work

 

 

Stuffed Paintings, available!

 

There comes a point that an artist just needs room, and storing works gets rather expensive, with that in mind I felt it time to actively try to offer my work to potential collectors. The link below will allow you to browse oil paintings, watercolor paintings, acrylic paintings, drawings, soft sculpted Stuffed Paintings-I will post more as I go through my files.

If you have any questions¬† or requests for works not shown please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at neobaroque@mac.com, I’d be happy to chat with you.¬†

LG

Link can be found on side bar under Available Work and here:

https://boondocksbabylon.com/available-work/

Paintings, available!

Details found in side bar link Available Work

Details found in sidebar Available Work link

Adopt me!

 

St. Anthony of the Desert Revisited…once again

That darn anchorite keeps following me around, this time not so much in the desert but in a lush, abundant landscape inspired by the German Romantic painter Jakob Phillip Hackert (1737-1807). 

The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert in an Italian Landscape (after Jakob Phillip Hackert, 1778)
2020
Oil on canvas
24 by 36 inches

It wasn’t really my intention to once again return to Anthony and his desert travails, at least not yet (currently more immersed in fairylands, bogles, goblins and pixiefolk). But in my studio, kicking about and frankly in the way, was a practice landscape from a few years back. I’ve long admired German Romanticism, particularly the dramatic treatment of nature, most especially trees. In the hands of a master like Hackert, trees are major players, singular beings rich in personality. I had hoped to better understand how these landscapes/tree-scapes were constructed so I set about copying one of my favorites, Hackert’s Italian Landscape,¬†1778.

My copy of Jakob Phillip Hackert’s “Italian Landscape”, 1778

It was a gratifying experience, in no way was I able to match Hackert’s luminous original, but I did learn valuable lessons in light, perspective and composition.¬†

But then I had a painting that I wasn’t very interested in, wasn’t original, wouldn’t/couldn’t show, not particularly “good” and yet frankly too sentimentally attached to to just chuck.¬†

So I decided to make it my own by reworking it in my own way. I’ve seen artists self consciously take thrift store paintings (rather annoyingly, seems a bit stunt-ish), works they mockingly called kitsch, and adapt them to their generally ironic purposes. This sort of practice is close to being a kitsch cliche in its own right but it started the wheels turning .

I’m not an ironic artist, nor did I think my painting kitsch, although granted a rather poor copy, but I was excited to reimagine Hackert’s poetic composition, eager to populate his pretty world with my imps and daemons. In many ways old master Jakob acted (unwittingly) as my collaborator. This latest painting the happy result.

Portrait of Jakob Phillip Hackert (1737-1807) by Augusto Nicodemo, 1797

I hope he would have been pleased.

 

As my composition is visually dense in the Boschian/Bruegelian sense, details follow:

Detail

Detail

Detail

Detail of St.Anthony himself plus just a smattering of the gadfly temptations, oh, and his faithful pig.

This is the Master’s take, as you can see it is quite lovely, my copy so paltry in comparison. The wisest path was re-spinning¬† my inferior version in my own voice.

Jakob Phillip Hackert
Italian Landscape
1778

The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert in an Italian Landscape (after Jakob Phillip Hackert, 1778)
2020
Oil on canvas
24 by 36 inches

In the end I am pleased, I made room in storage, profited from past labors and have a new painting I like quite a bit. 

 

Playing with Paperdolls (& other works on paper)

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.

Leonard Greco
“The Siren & the Machiavels”
2018
Acrylic paint, cardboard, embroidery floss, feathers.

detail shots:

The Siren

The Machiavels

filtered, how does one resist?

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:

A is for Aladdin

B is for Baal

C is for Commedia (& Chinoserie)

D is for Death

E is for Egyptomania ( see last post)

F is for Faun ( & Flora)

G is for Greenman (& Ganymede & Griffin)

I will continue through with this alphabet and post upon its completion. For today, as it Sunday, household, not studio duties beckon.

Wishes for a good and creative week.

studio play

 

 

 

 

Playing with Dolls

I am currently focusing upon an upcoming  December residency with Shoebox Projects here in LA. The last month has been spent fashioning figures such as the comely fellows above. The figures, what I call Stuffed Paintings are essentially dolls, dolls play acting an existential tableaux that I have called Embodied. In the spirit of Neo-medievalism I am tempted to call the dolls  Mummers. The latest Mummer is the red figure in the foreground.

“Proserpina, Archdiablesse, Princess of Evil Spirits”
2017
Mixed media: thrift store fabric, recycled clothing, acrylic painted canvas, embroiderty floss, poly-fill.
48 by 21 by 10

Proserpina, Archdiablesse, Princess of Evil Spirits¬†is typical of the Mummers I have in mind for my revamped Mystery Play centered upon the trials and tribulations of the early Desert Fathers, most particularly, St. Anthony (and his legion of troublesome demons).¬†Proserpina¬†is also a bit of a gender play as are most of the characters. Gender role and “appropriate” performance¬† being explored and expanded upon.

Early conceptual sketch for “Embodied”, 2016

 

With Embodied¬†I am also eager to explore the concept of withdrawal from worldliness, so beloved by the early Desert Fathers yet so elusive, so prone to “failure”; I find myself, in this age of constant performance (social media, self-branding, creating content suitable to absurdly small¬†¬†attention spans) alluring and terrifying. I have struggled for the last few weeks to at the very least disconnect the Facebook app from my phone, but even that minuscule¬†rejection of worldliness leaves me anxious and insecure. How did this happen, and what shall I do about it? Can balance be found?

For now I am focusing upon my desert tableaux, my Mummers and perhaps costumes, perhaps even performance of some sort. The following are a few of the Mummers thus far.

“Pierott”
2017
Mixed media: recycled fabric, acrylic painted canvas, embroidery floss, poly-fill.
51 by 23 by 8 inches

Pierott¬†is perhaps the most emblematic¬†of the Mummers. As a¬† queer boy I was fascinated with the¬†commedia del’arte ,¬†particular Pierott, his melancholy and chronic heartbreak was both familiar and comforting. I knew the gist of the comedys and I attempted to recreate them in the little shoestring theater I set up in our suburban basement. All went well with my spit-and-glue scenery and costumes, the problem being actors (and an audience). Given that I was the eldest of six siblings I thought recruiting my siblings would be a cinch. I was wrong, they, my brothers in particular, balked at the faggoty-ness of it all (my father agreed with this ) and after several very lame attempts, the show did NOT go on.

My brothers to this day still mockingly gripe about my directorial bossiness; and I still feel hurt.

Stuffed Mummers, mute and obedient, would have been a better solution. 

“The Wodewose Quercus”
2017
Mixed media: recycled fabric, acrylic painted canvas, twigs, embroidery floss, fiber-fill.
54 by 31 by 8 inches

Al of the figures begin life as a sketch, sometimes just a random thumbnail drawing.

Sketch for “Quercus”

I find further inspiration from multiple sources,such as this manuscript illumination.

The making of¬†Embodied¬†is in itself a reaction against set gender roles. The stitching, the quiet needlework , historically determined to be women’s work is for me deeply enjoyable. Yet when I go to the craft and sewing emporium I feel conspicuously¬†male amidst a shop full of Glendale housewives. I catch myself (pitifully) trying to butch it up as I clutch my fistfuls of gaily colored embroidery floss and sparkly trims. Usually I chuckle at my own absurdity and proceed to the cashier. But the sewing, what may have been women’s work , is now mine as well.

I still have much to do, so much more stitching and painting and thinking and writing , yet I am determined to enjoy this time. To forgo  elusive perfection and instead allow the process to unfold, hopefully revealing new directions , new intentions or solidifying ambiguity.

This fellow is based upon a strange tale told by one of the Desert Fathers. Locked in his desert cell, the unrelenting sun pulverizing his devotion, he suddenly, lustilly desired a cucumber. One can sympathize but the symbolism is amusing. That figure is next on the sewing table.

Concept sketch for “Cucumber Boy”.

I also plan on a crucifix, this being the beginning of the Corpus.

Corpus with sketch

Thanksgiving approaches and we are preparing for our own desert holiday in Joshua Tree , we’ve never been there, so I look forward to being inspired.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Wodewose

I finished my latest figure last evening, what I had heretofore been calling simply a rag-doll, I am now calling a stuffed painting.

 He is called The Wodewose.

Greenmen (andGreenwomen), The Green Knight, Wildmen and the archaic form, the Wodewose, fascinate me. They are at once pure of heart and spirit yet unbridled, carnal, the embodiment of our bestial selves. No wonder they appear so frequently in medieval marginalia; amidst sacred texts, randy hairy beastie-folk cavort and beguile.

I’ve turned to the theme multiple times. After reading Simon Armitage’s excellent ¬†translation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” I was hooked on the theme, a¬†wondrously fascinating¬†archetype; ripe for seemingly endless re-interpretation.

The Green Knight
watercolor and pencil on paper

 

This latest work is in the round and I was able to more fully develop his fleshy-ness ( and hairy-ness thanks to some found faux fur).

The Wodewose
2017
Mixed media: recycled rag, acrylic paint, twigs, thread and poly-fill
Approx. 40 by 22 by 6 inches

I was inspired to employ the Wodewose-Wildman¬†archetype because of the¬†recent celebration of Beltane on May 1st. Rebirth, renewal, the “pagan” appreciation of unbridled spring. My figure has two ways of presenting himself in order to more fully keep in the step with the seasons.

The first being flacid Winter Dormant:

And the second, lively Spring Renewal:

“The Wodewose” will be part of my contribution to “Satan’s Ball”, a group show at Art Share LA that promises to be an:

“unapologetic embrace of the dangers, demons, burdens and temptations that beckon to the more sinful angels of our nature”.

¬†I would replace “natural” for “sinful”.

a link to ArtShare:

http://artsharela.org

I’m going to close with a few random images of Wildfolk that never fail to delight me. As I¬†leave for Pittsburgh¬†tomorrow and rain is¬†supposed to be¬†in order, I’m looking forward to a wild rush of greenery (and perhaps a few fauns).

Yet Another St. Anthony

My passion for the anchorite St. Anthony never seems to abate. Another¬†composition for perhaps another painting. I have many to choose from…

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Temptation of St. Anthony of the Desert

2016

pencil on paper

18 by 24″

Details follow:

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Anthony and his guardian Wodewose-Greenman

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Herakles and Ophelia

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The Green Knight

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.

gk2

 

The Green Knight

2015

pochoir-relief print on paper, artist’s proof

image size 8 by10″

The misalignment that frustrated me is apparent in this image.

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I had far preferred the simple black and white print, yet he is the Green knight.

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The  pochoir process is satisfyingly craft oriented, I was able to utilize techniques and tools from my decorative painting career.

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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.

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Orpheus’ Lament

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This morning I put the finishing touches on my Orpheus “tapestry”, a large, unbound canvas that I started during my summer stint at PAFA. It is my largest studio painting yet, when I was a decorative painter my work could easily exceed thirty feet or so ( and many stories off the ground) but my¬†studio¬†work thus far has been restricted by the parameters of my¬†work space. PAFA offered me four empty walls,¬†seemingly endless¬†possibilities .¬†

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Orpheus’ Lament

2015

acrylic on unbound canvas

59 by 93″

Due to the size of the painting (and my own ineptness) I cannot seem to adequately capture the entire image without some sheen and loss of detail, so I will post detail shots:

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(my homage to Redon and Fred Stonehouse)

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Merman, I like this fellow, he is rather sexy.

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This fellow, actually his eye, was the only element of this painting that was considered redeemable by the faculty critique at PAFA. Apparently I am still nursing wounds. Since leaving the program I have had quite a bit of existential angst , have I any right (or abilty) to declare myself an artist. My consolation has been to just work as honestly as I can, and see what happens.

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I listen to far too many podcasts while I work; for those who have enjoyed the podcast Welcome to NightVale , they might recognize the winged character watching over Orpheus.

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I like this fellow-frankly I like them all; hence the somewhat dizzying composition. They become family, I can no sooner eliminate them then I would flesh and blood friends.

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My only formal training is that from a Russian iconographer , that is abundantly clear by this character, who has become sort of a personal avatar.

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These two are inspired by Greenmen , the universal bond of man and the natural¬†world . That bond is¬†the basic inspiration for the painting, a favorite theme, one that has been explored many times over, Orpheus’ playing upon the lyre and so moving the natural world,¬†that all manner of flora and fauna gather at his feet. Trees uproot themselves and mountains roll towards him, all weeping at the bitter sweetness of his song.¬†This Roman mosaic¬†captures that moment¬†beautifully .

Roman mosaic depicting Orpheus Phrygian surrounded by the beasts charmed by the music of his lyre

¬†This large painting was first a simple watercolor of faun, but it provided unexpected inspiration when I found myself in Philadelphia without my usual “crutches”, namely my large resource library. A library¬†that is often a boon and sometimes a curse.

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While in Philadelphia I would often visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, passing by the monumental 17th c. tapestries designed by Rubens. The scale and the color palette provided much inspiration. I particularly admired how the waves were translated in the weaving.

IMG_6852All in all I am satisfied with this painting, I’m rarely (ever?) completely satisfied but when I feel I have gone as far as I can with a painting then I consider it finished…for the time being. I will go back to oils, but I was happy that I persevered with acrylics for this painting. With the weather here in LA now not so wretchedly hot I was better¬†able to manipulate the medium. When I left¬†Philadelphia I could barely look at this painting (or¬†the others I had started), but now I feel I absorbed what I could from the experience and feel I expressed myself as authentically as¬†possible . The final image is of the painting before I shipped it to LA.

aug 12th 2015

August 12th 2015

For those in the States I close with an amazingly appropriate Thanksgiving image. I feel as if I could have painted it. It is courtesy of the great artist Judith Schaechter and her ever-amusing Facebook feed. It is particularly appropriate to end with her in mind because she offered me such support and insight while at PAFA. A great inspiration and an incredible artist.

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The Foliate Man

As class winds down I manage to think of work on the horizon, specifically a large oil painting that I have been working on in fits and starts. The following is the body decoration for Herakles, I was delighted to employ my decorative talents once again. I wanted pretty and I received pretty.

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This is the sketch of the fellow unadorned.

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I think he will look swell, perhaps one day he will have a solo role. The following are a few sketches I made for possible paintings-essentially just getting ideas out before they fade into the ether. 

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A tree god inspired by a Juan O’Gorman painting ¬†I saw recently. and a coy Adam.

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Received happy news today , two of my favorite paintings were accepted for an upcoming exhibition celebrating gay pride month, held in perhaps the Vatican of Gaydom, West Hollywood . I suppose that proves, no matter how much I may protest , my work is just a little homo!

Will provide details later.

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