Seizing Sanctimonium, a Primer

My latest painting, a large one (40 by 56″) , large at least for my studio, is at last finished!

Hurrah!

It has not been an easy birth, unbelievably having been started February of 2014.

Link below:

https://boondocksbabylon.com/2014/02/16/the-old-gods/

Between other paintings, my time in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and my own uncertainty , the painting often languished . And when I thought it near complete, and to my satisfaction, my last critique group, left me once again in the grip of  uncertainty. After nearly four weeks of being unable to paint (hence a stream of drawings) I at last regained my faith in this painting, finished it up,  and now consider it one of my best.

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Seizing Sanctimonium 

2016

oil on canvas

40 by 56″

The painting is undeniably complicated, visually and in its narrative; I think that is why my critique might have had some issue with it. But my interest in paintings often includes complicated compositions; I might be hubristic but my intention with this painting was to emulate in my modest way the elaborate tableaux paintings of Poussin. I studied them carefully, which is pleasurable work as he is one of my idols. I captured what I love about his paintings: the ability to stare at this painting and discover ever unfolding details. Bosch of course, another idol, also gives us that generous gift. But I think for many viewers, particularly those with the 6-second attention span, this painting will not please. I perhaps, to satisfy contemporary tastes should have left the painting in its initial planning stages; something several folks, had hoped for. I might have saved myself headaches and angst, but I would have been very unhappy. This painting ,in its finished state,makes me happy.

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(Initial stage of the painting, I do like it, I like the ghostly images; but I am not that sort of painter. I love a lapidary finish.)

The story behind this painting is complex and personal. It began after discovering the Gnostics, with the concept of the Demiurge,  a false god posing as a true god. Misleading the faithful down a path of sanctimonious righteousness . My demiurge, the bronze figure in the center is a sarcastic depiction of Christ the Church. If I were to change anything it would be this element . It is more cynical than I now feel , with our new pope, the blessed Francis, my relationship with the Church has become warmer, more loving . I know longer harbor the estranged hurt and anger I felt when I began this painting. But instead of erasing him, I felt it good to keep a record of my discontent.

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 The Demiurge, center flanked by details of the earth goddess Coatlicue, one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and the Axis Mundi.

Going counterclockwise , from upper left around, I will attempt to offer clues to the figures:

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My initial conceit for this painting was to utilize “bad” gods, unfortunate figures, maligned archetypes, to do battle with the smug and sanctimonious , be it the Church herself, the pompous evangelist down the street, ISIS, or that homophobic second grade teacher who shamed you for playing with the girls. That said, the upper left figures are depiction of the denizens of Xiblaba, the underworld of the Popol vuh. Next, descending in a very theatrically baroque manner is the savior Quetzalcoatl . Below, stands the accursed Judas ( noose still dangling) and the blessed Magdalene, clad only in her long hair, as per the archetype. Next to her, stands the familiar companion of the Other, the Scapegoat.

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The Scapegoat .

In the next quarter,  the Mesoamerican rain god Tlaloc sheds tears for humankind, he is attended by a companion vaguely reminiscent of the figures found in Teotihuacan, possessing triangular heads. Further back, the Mother of the Gods, the Aztec earth mother, She of the Serpent Skirt,Coatlicue, she hurries her son, the Great War god Huitzililopochtli into toppling their nemesis, the Demiurge, embodied by the Church that silenced them.

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Next to them is a gaggle of squawking birds, sure of themselves, confident in their noise, essentially those who I politically and religiously disagree. Next to them, well I guess that is me.

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In the third quarter, I placed a Boschian figure of no particular meaning, just an odd blue figure with a piscine phallic nose. Next , again, just vague figures, a Fire-god aflame with passion;  a herm to signify the supremacy of the fertile earth; another Quetzalcoatl, or perhaps a passive Ares, I don’t know. Basically he was hot and looked Poussin-ist. Central to this quarter are the Hero Twins from the Popol vuh, archetypes so dear to my heart. Although they are brothers, I have in a personal way , embraced them as emblems of same sex affection. They are fiercely loyal to one another, acting as one; Hunahpu (on the left) going so far as to sacrifice himself, hence the blood and unearthly pallor. His brother Xbalanque helps to resurrect his fallen brother. I have returned to the Twins time and again, in paintings, puppets and prints. I predict they will be with me until I pass into the Underworld myself. A quick click in the side panel,on the tab “Hero Twins” will lead you to other examples.

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 Floating above on a very smart cloud is my favorite figure of this painting, the dashing floral-tatted Herakles. Herakles is every sissy boy’s hero, and I just could not resist including him. He surely would fight the fight of the just.

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Herakles, plus a preliminary rendering.

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Rounding out the painting in the last quarter I have various moon gods, non specific, just pre Christian. Next to them stands an Earth Father figure. A softer kinder answer to the excesses of patriarchy. He is horned in his affiliation with old truths, old gods, old ways. He also reflects my evolving reintroduction to the Church, with the pope reminding me of Christ’s magnificent message. This figure is a tribute to that compassionate god. He may also be an incarnation of the great Maize-god, sacrificed father of the Hero Twins and of humankind , Hun-Hunahpu. It is through his death, we are born. Sound familiar ?

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Moon-gods, for you can never have too many!

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The Christo-hun-Hunahpu figure.

If I had any residual uncertainty concerning this painting, it was silenced by this painting being accepted into an upcoming show ( along with my jumping jack figures from a recent post). I’m thrilled the well regarded juror Peter Mays included this painting.

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The positive aspect of being unable to emotionally (post-critique) to paint for a few weeks was drawing. I’ve been drawing like mad, I’m sure I am  boring social media with my progress, but I feel I am gaining confidence and ready to begin a series of small panel. I think of them as Illuminations, intimate, needing to be contemplated. I am discovering, at heart,that  I am a religious painter. Unorthodox , unclear and ambiguous in my own faith, but I am compelled to make “icons”, depictions of universal archetypes. One of the new paintings will be of Jonah, this preliminary sketch, shows my intention.

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That’s it for now, I will post this little painting, only 8 by 10″ when I am finished. Until them, be well.

Genesis

Last evening I finished a new painting, Genesis. As is so often the case my inspiration was the Popol Vuh, the sacrifice and resurrection of the Maize God , the Hero Twins,  and the narrative of the Creation of Man.

An added inspiration was AIDS, I am of that generation where many of my friends and loved ones from my youth are now long since dead.  Not too long ago Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart was on television. My visceral reaction was of  a resurrected  fear, long suppressed, reborn at the sight of so many Spotted Men.    Those  past  days of Act Up meetings in NYC and Philadelphia; those handsome men speckled with death and anxiety; demonstrations on the street, at St. Patricks…; anxiety and selfish terror, would I be next?; and yet the excitement of activism, these  were all faded memories in my now relatively carefree life.  Until that film.

I was  confronted once again with that incessant gnawing deep within, a true existential crisis. So in a simple way, my Hero Twin Hunahpu, who is  traditionally depicted spotted, as he too encountered Death,  represents all those struck down. Somehow I missed the scythe, I bear witness like Xbalanque, Hunahpu’s brother in arms.

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Genesis

2014

oil on canvas

30 by 40 inches

My Spotted Hunahpu

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The inspiration for this painting is also from a previous painting, Primavera a relatively small water color. My friend, the incredible artist, Judithe Hernandez suggested I rework Primavera either in grissaile or as a larger composition. When in doubt I always choose larger. The original version:

Greco_Primavera-watercolor copy

Primavera

2014

watercolor on paper

In this painting there is a nicely perverse little subterranean flowering plant, symbolic of life in hostile situations; today my lovely little Stapelia-Carrion flower offered up a gorgeous maggot filled blossom. A Boschian treat if ever there was one.

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This morning’s Carrion  blossom, more on the way.

IMG_5478 2 My imagined Carrion Flower.

Tomorrow I return “home’, Philadlephia, to visit family of the flesh and those of brick, and paint and marble. Philadelphia is so architecturally rich: Furness, Richardson, Queen Anne, 18th c; plus the museums, I will be in heaven.  I think I will print out this “prayer card” of the Maize God , Hun Hanahpu to keep me safe.

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Be well, Lg

A Day ( and Night) of the Hero Twins ; NSFW, caution marionettes with naughty bits

My  Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque are now finished and awaiting proper stringing. I don’t anticipate too many problem,  my fingers crossed, but in the meantime I thought I would play around with the little mannequins. They are quite flexible and fall into clever and at times quite salacious positions. Good for them. 

IMG_4954Hero Twin marionettes

2014

Sculpey and metal and aluminum foil armature, paint, steel wool, string

12.5 inches tall

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They both have little necklaces, and bracelets and fancy boots; for naked boys they like to accessorize.

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A Tom of Finland pose if there ever was one. 

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For as long as I have been working with the Hero Twin archetype, their tongue twisting names have befuddled me. Xbalanque, of the jaguar spots is depicted in such a way as to exhibit his animal nature ; poor Hunahpu is spotted as a reminder of his time amidst the Dead.

Living in LA I see gorgeous tattoos on a regular basis, I was inspired by the local color in tagging my fellows; now at last I will be able to identify the Twins quickly and easily.

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I’m happy with the boots-yet another salacious shot.

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 End o’ day.

I will string them and I will record their movement, but for now they are at rest.

Be well, Lg

 

 

 

In Nomine Patris: Reclaiming the Old Gods

This triptych is part of my ongoing exploration of the clash between two  cultures, that of the Mesoamerican indigenous people and the conquering Spaniard Roman Catholics.  Time and again I am struck by the similarities between the two seemingly incompatible peoples. Their religious traditions revolving around sin, the fall of Man, redemption through blood sacrifice and resurrection bringing forth new life.

I wanted to explore these similarities, and differences through archetypal devices namely triptych construction, ecclesiastic, architectonic form, prayer cards and votive candles.  Working with traditions brought to (forced upon) native cultures I wanted to examine the notion of the old gods claiming the forms for themselves.  As if the priests of Tenochtitlan had not been slaughtered by the Spaniards but had in fact survived and adapted  Western  cultural norms for their own use. The following print In Nomine Patris might have been such a result of that cultural synthesis.

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On  the left,  one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu; on the right his brother Xbalanque;  in the center their father, the sacrificed Maize God, Hun Hunahpu.

Through his sacrifice, his redemption by the Hero Twins and his resurrection, maize is brought to Man.

 In Nomine Patris

18 by 27 inches

relief print on paper

My printmaking class is winding down, I’ve made a  drawerful of plates, many prints; even a few I  like.   I had hoped to close the semester with a more elaborate version of this triptych. Ultimately this print will be colored using the pochoir technique and enhanced by applied additions. But for now, as the semester ends, it will be chastely  black and white. 

Th following print, The Gates of Xibalba can stand on its own, but it is also designed to interact with the triptych as actual sacristy gates.

IMG_3878The Gates of Xibalba

relief print on paper

According to tradition the lords of the Underworld are devious, randy and stupid; I tried to capture that spirit.

The following is an artist’s proof of the assemblage of the triptych and the gates. I will need to figure logistics, shall it be flat, shall it be cut out like a toy theatre, it should certainly be colored. All must wait until I have access to a press next semester.

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The alignment of the sacristy doors to the sacrificed  Maize God was serendipitous; or the plan of the old gods.

In addition to the triptych I planned prayer cards, familiar to Roman Catholics world wide. My first is of the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu, sadly I misspelled his tongue-twisting name. As he is the god of maize, life and fecundity, once again an erect ear of corn seemed naughtily appropriate.

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Blesses Hun Hunuhpu (sic)

relief print on paper

Going from prayer card to votive candle seemed a natural evolution. Here in southern California votive candles emblazoned with Roman Catholic saints are ubiquitous , found not only in bodegas but in mainstream grocery stores, even Target. I thought it was time for the Maize God to have his  own moment to shine. More gods/goddesses to come.

IMG_3889I haven’t much business sense but I imagine this would sell.

Speaking of which I sold (fingers crossed)my first piece of work, a print, since “retiring”  from decorative painting.  I would still make work whether it sold or not, but having a buyer is confirmation indeed, I’m pleased and grateful.

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The votive candle in place amidst his Catholic friends.

With that good news I close, take care and be well,

LG

Final Painting of 2012, Resurrection of the Father

I have for several months been working on a rather large painting in between my printmaking assignments. I am afraid it has been treated a bit like the ugly step-child.

As I am now on winter break I was eager to give the painting the attention I thought it deserved. My intention was to create a simpler, more direct narrative. Working on a larger painting was far less challenging than my previous paintings; having spent 2o some years painting murals I am far more comfortable with big. Small paintings leave me feeling cramped, perhaps that may explain the somewhat less successful earlier paintings. I do know that I hope to continue with at least 40 by 50 inch format in the future.

I have called the painting The Resurrection of the Father, please pardon the terrible quality of the image.

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The Resurrection of the Father

oil on canvas

40 by 50 inches

The painting was inspired by my continuing fascination with the Popol Vuh narrative; in this instance when the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque retrieve the remains of their sacrificed father Hun Hunahpu. Working with my well worn maquettes I created a simpler composition than I have in the past.

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I did not fashion my Maize God as I have before, instead I took my inspiration from an early fertility figure found in the Columbia River region of western Oregon. I stumbled upon this treasure when David and I visited Portland Art Museum last summer, we were both enchanted by the priapic fellow. As we are planning to move to Portland in 2014 or so, he seemed a suitable totem for our mutual aspirations.

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Columbia River region

ca.1000-1500 A.D.

Basalt, 55 1/2 x 17 x 6 1/2 in.

source

I am now in the throes of another painting , readying for an interview with an art school in Portland and of course the upcoming Spring semester. I am also trying to enjoy the final hours of 2012. Wishing all of my blogging chums a very happy 2013! 

Until next year,

be well,

LG

“X” is for Xquic

Progressing forward on the Primer of New Spain.

As I mentioned last time I will be jumping about the alphabet. As I began with “A”, “X” seemed the logical choice. I chose Xquic, the princess of Xibalba. For those who have followed this narrative , and not been daunted by the tongue twisting names, you will remember she is the heroine of the Popol Vuh narrative. Having miraculously given birth  to the Hero Twins, I present her enthroned upon an “X” chair.

“X” is for Xquic
2012
watercolor on paper
16 by 20 inches

The following is a detail (as the image is rather small) of Xquic and her sons the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. As I progress in this series I continue to paint the Twins blue. There isn’t  a tradition for this, I just like the effect, an homage to Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

detail of Xquic and the Hero Twins

This may be the last post for a bit, trying to tie up loose ends as we are leaving for a brief Independence Day holiday. We are going to Portland Oregon, it seems such a pretty and progressive place; far different temperament and climate from oppressive San Diego. We are both excited to get out of Dodge.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

Update from the Underworld

It has been a bit since I last posted, it isn’t that I haven’t been painting, but I have been hesitant to post the progress.

Insecurity perhaps.

I had started a new painting in anticipation of a show in LA, a show I have participated in before devoted to work on paper. Most of my recent work aside from the maquettes have been oil on canvas. The following image is something I am considering submitting. I believe I am close to finished, perhaps some enhancements here and there, but for now, finished.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has repeatedly suggested to consider all work as a basis for another, scraps of random sketches proving a rich resource for more developed work. I believe him, most particularly when I see his own admirable sketches. Alas, my own scribbles are  often merely that, scribbles. But some do prove inspirational. The following painting was inspired by a very random “scribble-note” taken in a class devoted to Mesoamerican art and culture. That class has been the original impetus for this latest body of work devoted to the Popol huh;the admittedly  clumsy scribble  acting as a  guide for several paintings, this one in particular. 

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detail from Memories of Teotihuacan

In this image we have the Hero Twins redeeming the honor of their vanquished father the Maize God. The Lord of the Underworld taunts their valiant effort, but he will indeed suffer the consequence of his hubris. The mother of the Hero twins Xquic looks on.

detail of slain Maize God

As noted this is a detail of Hun Hunahpu, the slain Maize God. In actuality the sacrificial gash would have been horizontal for those nerdy enough to care upon such Meso-minutia.

The following is the sketch that I was speaking about.

I happily spent yesterday in LA, I know I have been trapped in the boondocks a bit too long when LA seems the epicenter of urban sophistication. Such snarkiness aside, LACMA is one of my favorite museums and a really marvelous show devoted to women surrealist living in Mexico is soon to close, for more info, follow this In Wonderland link. It was a truly spectacular show, Leonora Carrington is my new idol, I knew her work essentially from one painting at the Met; having experienced so many of her paintings I am a convert to her cult.

All praise Leonora!

Another show I was eager to catch was Children of the Plumed Serpent, the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl. It was as I had hoped spectacular. It was very rich in luxury goods traded amongst different Mesoamerican people, polychromed pottery, dazzling gold work, mind boggling micro mosaics. Stunning. This funny little fellow, a censer is crafted to resemble a scribe, I figured  visitors to this site would be tickled by his pen and little shell holding pigment. He is in remarkable shape, 30 or so inches,  a handsome little bugger.

Effigy Censer, Maya, AD 1200-1500

The following is a fragment of a censer, he is so grave and  impressive.  I was very drawn to him, he will feature somewhere , somehow in a painting or drawing .

Censer Fragment, Mayan, AD 1200-1500

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in my old hometown, I am happy to be back in the studio. My little pug-dog Rose was quite peeved with my audacity-how dare I leave her in the care of her nanny? all day!  It has taken most of the day for her to “speak ” to me again, I’ve promised her I will lock myself in the studio, a slave to painting and to pugs.

Take care and have a marvelous weekend,

LG