Neo Medievalism and the Approaching Dark Age

img_9344

As 2016 winds down I want to pause, taking the time to reflect upon what 2017 might bring, personally and aesthetically. I’ve had a long fascination with 1917, it seemed  such a dynamic period; the October Revolution will mark its centennial this year, as one example.

For me, 1917 seemed exceptional, society was on the cusp of modernity yet still rooted in what was the past. Values, aesthetic, cultural and artistic were changing at a rapid pace, yet still there were antimacassars on the back of velveteen settees, suffragettes were only just beginning to gather steam and art vacillated between DADA and academic treacle. It seems to have been a period of incredible potential, one faced an optimistic yet uncertain future.

I feel that way now, one hundred years later. Yet whereas 1917 was being propelled into the Jazz and later the Atomic Age, I’m fearful of being pulled back into the Dark Ages. I needn’t harp about the President Elect and the backward thinking regime he wishes to install. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my opinions and my anxieties.

img_8119

(source unknown, sorry)

 

My instinct is to crawl back into my hermitage, something I may very well do (although I do hope to participate in social activism as needed). While there I hope to work at perfecting an aesthetic that I think is working for me. My last large painting Hadesville felt to me to be my most successful yet ( it will get its first public showing this Friday at a pop up show in LA). I feel I am on to something and have been calling what I wish to explore Neo-Medievalism.

greco_3_wrk_1_2

Hadesville

I’m finding freedom in this aesthetic that I am honing , from the exploration of surface pattern to the quirky articulation of the figures. One of the elements of actual medieval/early Renaissance art that I love is the use of  synoptic narrative, where all of the action takes place on one plane; that just fascinates the hell out of me.

It’s incredibly liberating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_art#Synoptic_narrative

witchfever09-768x985
img_8163img_9280

I suspect the hermitage theme will preoccupy my studio practice in 2017. I’ve been obsessing about hermitages for years but now with what feels like dark winds blowing against my door, the inclination to withdraw into the anchorite’s cave has never been more pressing.

img_8630

Tucson Art Museum
Tucson Art Museum

12741926_10208216734685652_3617719422827826817_n

Source, ?
Source, ?

Of course , if I am to explore hermits, I can’t forget about Anthony of the Desert OR his pig!

img_8099

(Getty)

13882552_10209641010891667_3912046639990328654_n

boar-lacma-copy

(LACMA)

Our pig SweetTea may very well serve as a model.

 

 

img_7974
Sweet Tea at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary, Tucson AZ. Many pigs need sponsorship, please consider!

My interest in Neo-Medievalism was fueled by a recent trip to the Sequoia National Park , where the majesty of these ancient gods, some sacrificed by fire, some  promising hope for a new age, moved me deeply. This beautiful charred corpse is as crenelated as  gothic fretwork.

15135845_10210724427096395_7678041243085763309_nYet through the remains of a burnt trunk, new life.

15193592_10210724427336401_4606782265126548584_nI’m finished pondering what 2017 will bring, instead I must get to actual work. I will close with images that promise to inspire my pen. For a fuller appreciation I suggest listening to Hildegard, this link is to one of my favorite recordings of her vast body of work.

 

13512238_10209298833897456_3218639598302787422_n Now onward!

LACMA
LACMA
img_0068
source?

 

img_8115

img_8114img_8146img_7987

img_8380

This image, Dido?, her belly, so typical of this period , was an influence for the image of Gnosis in my painting Gnosis…and the Old Gods Were Pleased. The painting recently sold to an East Coast collector, thrilled about that but still a bit melancholy for I fear Gnosis has fled in these dark times.

Gnosis...and the Old Gods Were Pleased (private collection)
Gnosis…and the Old Gods Were Pleased
(private collection)

img_9066

To a new year, battle ready !

Adam

Adam is finished, and just in time for Krampusnacht!

greco_leonard_adam

Adam (the Minotaur)

2016

Painted canvas and rag cloth, embroidery floss, poly-fill stuffing 

Approximately 24 by 15 inches

Adam is to be shown in an upcoming Stitch Fetish show here in L.A., and as the name implies , the show focuses on salacious needlework. Right up my alley !

Happy Krampusnacht!

Blue Krampus!, 2014, relief print on paper , 9 by 12"
Blue Krampus!, 2014, relief print on paper , 9 by 12″

Slaughter of the Innocents

The Rape of Our Mother 2016 pencil on paper  24 by 36 inches
The Rape of Our Mother
2016
pencil on paper
24 by 36 inches

While listening to the dismal election news coming forth from my studio radio last week , I was busy at work on a drawing. The drawing was vague, more of an amusement than any specific concept. But as the electoral numbers came in, my panic rose, and the magnitude of what was at stake, all that I hold dear being seriously imperiled , the heretofore ambiguous drawing took a life of its own.

As the Bully rose in the number, my fears turned to those most vulnerable: women, POC , religious minorities, LGBTQ folk,  but most specifically the environment. If we were to being living in this profit-first-profit-only environment then kiss aside any slim progress made during the last few years. Good bye  Miami, hello hellacious droughts and rampant fires. Any sane regulation to protect our mute charges steam-rolled  by corporate greed and the rapacious machine of unregulated capitalism. All of those poor enslaved creatures in factory farms across the nation will be subject to the  same horrors found in the darkest most perverse Chinese market : animals skinned alive, brutally bludgeoned, callously scalded alive. A hell scene out of the imagination of Bosch, but the “sinners” are the innocent and the helpless.

My heart breaks at the potential exploitation of the earth and her children, all for some mad grasp at some lost imagined  American “greatness”.  So taking the advice of artists wiser than myself I channeled my nervousness and my anxiety into making this past week; this diptych one of the results.  I’m going to need to be hyper vigilant the next four years (gods forbid eight), and I expect my work will reflect the strange times we now live.  My colors for this drawing reflect my emotions, ugly, garish and harsh. By employing color wheel opposites  I tried to embody the split between Right and Left, the green and red expressing the tensions between the natural order and Man’s voluptuous greed. I have never employed such ugly coloring before and I doubt I will again. It has been too unsettling even working with them.

But then again, we live in unsettling times .

The Rape of Our Mother 2016 pencil on paper  24 by 36 inches

FAUX:DADA 100 Part 2; my submission

Hellmouth costume-marionette-mask for "No Exit"
Hellmouth costume-marionette-mask for “No Exit”

So I am participating in an upcoming group show which is an homage to DADA and the centennial celebration of its founding. The work thus far submitted looks marvelous , capturing the anarchist aesthetic of the movement.

Each artists self selects a work or artist  who they wish to honor by crafting a new work in homage. It looks and sounds like great fun.

My selection is of course theatrical and perhaps a tad neo-medieval (does that even make sense?). My inspiration was Pablo Picasso’s cumbersome cardboard costume designs for the Ballets Russes’ production of “Parade”. His fabulous costumes were so ungainly the dancers were unable to dance, let alone move with any grace. Hence the DADA aspect, art/non-art; a ballet without movement…how is that a ballet?

Yet it was. 

So I hoped to fashion my own cardboard contraption, equally cumbersome. A walking Mystery Play, marionette arms gesturing and inviting audiences to a performance of Jean-Paul Sartre’s incredible “No Exit” (if there was ever a more loathsome description of Second Empire interiors, I would be hard pressed to identify it). Sartre’s play is chilling and rip-roaring at the same time and I hoped to imbue my marionette-mask-costume with those attributes.

Its rather large, at least 50 inches in every direction, more when the arms start gesticulating. I haven’t yet been able to both wear it and have measurements taken- I will at the opening. The opening which is November 17th will be at a  fantastic gallery space here in LA; thus far every event I have seen there has delighted me. I’m really eager and pleased to participate in this.

The link to MuzeuMM is : http://www.muzeumm.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=30405&Akey=KWFHS9Y6&ajx=1

The following is Picasso’s incredible work, I’ve always loved his theatre work, encouraging me as a boy to play and experiment with the most pedestrian material: cardboard, tin cans, house paint, duct tape- especially duct tape! If nothing else, my homage is heartfelt.

It would be lovely if local folks could attend the opening and toast the greatness of DADA!

costume_design_by_pablo_picasso_for_serge_diaghilevs_ballets_russes_performance_of_parade_at_theatre_du_chatelet_in_paris_18_may_1917

Upcoming Open Studio

14937276_1141635655922287_1552414071464054411_n

Open Studio,  I’m part of the Arroyo Arts Collective’s 24th Discovery Tour. Northeast LA is a hotbed of artists,makers and oddballs: I’m happy to be part of this community and this year’s studio tour.

Visit me, drink my cheap hooch, say hello to the pups and pretend to like my paintings!

Sunday November 20th, 9:30 until 5:00 @ 1053 Colorado Blvd., unit H, second floor, LA 90041.

14657487_977273819067137_347713521942755126_n

14915403_1139916752760844_4329484066231216142_n

Pirate Jenny’s Trophies

 

 

This whole awful nonsense with Trump, his foul mouth and his belittling bullying tactics has brought up a lot of issues for me. I’ve said it before, but Trump, with his bravado, his swagger and impotent rage reminds me of my own bullying father and I just can’t bear to look at his piggy little face (my porcine friends please forgive the comparison ). When the stunning “p*ssy” comments were made public I thought of all of the women in my life who have endured such boorish , bullying and belittling treatment. My own sister, unbeknownst to me at the time, endured repeated childhood sexual assault by our neighbor, out-and -out rape and  perhaps more damaging, hideous psychological torment by this fiend who escaped unpunished back to India. He was a respected member of the community, a doctor I think and we were the oft-ridiculed white trash family of the neighborhood. My sister, a young girl, delightful, bright and eager to please, was easy pickings. To this day she suffers mental illness, I do not know if the abuse she endured is the sole cause of her afflictions,  but I seethe with rage when I see Trump’s smug, pursed lipped entitlement, he so reminds me of the tyrannical  behavior certain men of privilege can so easily  exploit. I grieve for my sisters, blood or not.

So as the awful details of Trump’s comments came out , and my women friends on FB opened up in such brave and powerful ways , I was reminded of one woman in particular who had suffered the oppression of men silently and yet harbored wickedly delightful schemes of revenge, the great Pirate Jenny!  David and I were traveling north to Sacramento and I packed a bunch of cd’s to pass the time. Amongst the treasures were recording by Lotte Lenya and Marianne Faithful of Seerbäuber Jenny (Pirate Jenny) from Brecht’s Three Penny Opera (link:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Jenny.)

Both artists captured the despair of oppression but also the spark of divine revolt, sometimes those fantasies are all that can sustain you during times of pain. I know from experience, a child of violence and abuse, how nursing revenge can thrill you into creative action. My father was one mean motherf*cker, but boy I created some truly fabulous faggy art as a young kid, duct tape, spit, glue and hubris are powerful weapons.

And in that spirit I decided to start crafting a body of work that would capture that moment, when after living her life in subservience, Jenny (Diver), barmaid, whore(?), ill-treated servant, has her revenge on all who have oppressed her.  As the groveling tormentors are presented to her , Jenny, now queen of the Pirates, has the power and it is thrilling: 

“In the midday sun a hundred men will step ashore
All tramping where shadows crawled.
They’ll lay their hands on men, hiding shit-scared behind doors
Lead them in chains here before this silent woman,
And they’ll say, “well, which ones shall we kill ?”
They’ll say, “which ones shall we kill ?”
Come the dot of twelve, it will be still in the harbour,
When they ask me, “well, who is going to die ?”
And you’ll hear me whispering, oh, so sweetly, “all of them!”
And as the soft heads fall, i’ll say, “hop-là!”

Hop-là indeed and from that inspiration I’ve decided to take what had been a studio folly, rag-doll making , into a large installation of all one hundred heads of Jenny’s “shit-scared” bullies! 

Trophy Head#62, 2016, painted rag doll, approximately 16" tall
Trophy Head#62, 2016, painted rag doll, approximately 16″ tall
Trophy Head #42, 2016, painted rag doll, about 12" tall
Trophy Head #42, 2016, painted rag doll, about 12″ tall

So I have three down and ninety seven more to go; suffice to say I needed more poly-fill. Needles sharpened, embroidery floss and paint brush in hand, I am on to a sissy-boy-doll-making marathon!  Given Jenny was a barmaid, each of the heads are made of used and NASTY dishrags, seems appropriate.

And although the work is essentially a feminist response to patriarchy and its abuses it can easily be understood to be a battle cry to oppression in all of its ugly manifestations: gender, sexual identity, race. For me another vital cause is the continued, and dare I say it, enslavement of animals for food,clothing, experimentation, even our base pleasure . What would it look like if animals had the upper hand (paw, hoof, wing) as our fair Jenny. I imagine a battle cry of ‘Hop-là” across every factory farm, every slaughterhouse and science lab.

Heads would be a-rolling!

In closing I thought I would include a few  videos of both Lenya’s and Faithful’s recordings, both found at the bottom of this post; both are excellent, Lenya’s is probably truer to the original intentions of Brecht, but Faithful drives me mad with her gravel voiced contempt, yet she is so vulnerable as well. 

I’m also enclosing a link to the lyrics Faithful is employing with such power, it is a slightly different translation from Brecht’s original, but it truly has visceral appeal.

Link: http://lyrics.astraweb.com/display/80/marianne_faithfull..20th_century_blues..pirate_jenny.html

My three complete “Trophies” will in the near future be employed as neo-baroque passementerie ( a pretentious way of saying decorative tassels) for my Orpheus’ Lament , a faux tapestry that will included in the Zoomanity show at ArtShare in downtown LA, opening festivities, November 19th. So if in town, take a peek!

img_7582

Orpheus’ Lament

2015

acrylic on un-stretched stitched canvas

59 by 93 inches

Have a great weekend and down with the patriarchy!

Hadesville…in living color

I finished this painting a few weeks ago but waited to post until I had it professionally photographed. My friend, the photographer Steve Daly just sent over this image  (and that of Seizing Sanctimonium) and I couldn’t be more delighted. So thanks Steve!

greco_3_wrk_1_2

Hadesville

2016

oil on canvas

56 x 34.5 x 1 inches

I mentioned the intent of this painting in the previous post but in a nutshell this foolish image sums up my feelings, if these are the folks in heaven, give me hell any day!

14291648_10154418478283936_6697630946175038211_n

This is the new image of Seizing Sanctimonium , again, I’m very pleased.

greco_3_wrk_2_2

Seizing Sanctimonium

2016

oil on canvas

56 x 40 inches

So these two are my retort against the smug and the sanctimonious who feel they alone hold the keys to the divine. From what I have born witness to the still seem to be struggling. I think I will stay on my path.

greco_3_wrk_1_2

 Some detail images follow:

14581487_1108490929258934_316781207879986777_n

14067593_10209826630052030_7680280672026195886_n

14264826_10209993709628915_4714655681655426736_n

14212048_10209903192406041_5961195263314161228_n

14291637_10209975663057762_1252275216625001303_n

14141682_10209864970410515_3551276126833444692_n