“G”is for Gold

It isn’t an original thought to believe that New Spain was built upon a foundation of stolen gold; the Spanish lust for what the Aztecs called teocuitlatl is infamous. What is perhaps less known is the Aztec belief that gold was the excrement of the gods; although of value, gold paled next to the luster of jade and the sparkle of the quetzal feather. That said, what was wrought by the Aztecs was of such wonder that the great Albrecht Dürer (the son of a goldsmith) exclaimed upon seeing the golden booty:

“Also I saw the things which were brought to the King from the New Golden Land: a sun entirely of gold, a whole fathom broad; likewise, a golden moon, entirely of silver, just as big ;likewise, sundry curiosities from their weapons, armor, and missiles; very odd clothing, bedding, and all sorts of strange articles for human use, all of which is fairer to see than marvels. These things were all so precious that they were valued at a hundred thousand guilders. But I have never seen in all my days that which so rejoiced my heart, as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects, and I marveled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands. Indeed I cannot say enough about the things which were there before me.” (source:Mary Ellen Miller’s The Art of Mesoamerica). 

Alas these “artistic objects” that so thoroughly enchanted Dürer were melted down for the crass value of their base metal.

With that in mind I present “G” is for Gold; the acclaimed metalwork rendered in my own particular  Babylonian Baroque style.

“G” is for Gold
18 by 11 inches
watercolor on paper

My figure of the enthroned Motecuhzoma II was based upon a sketch from a recent life drawing session. The young model was particularly louche , this suggestive pose seemed appropriate for the last Emperor of Tenochtitlan. But upon completion I realized with the addition of an obviously camp head-dress the emperor now had a closer affinity to  Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey (the notorious “Dancing Marquess”) than a noble King.

Oh well.

The Dancing Marquess – Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey

I am now back home from a far too brief holiday, busily catching up, posts to follow.

Until that time,

take care,

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

“A” is for Axis Mundi

As is consistent with my temperament , when faced with a rather daunting task (in this case an alphabet primer), I start at the beginning and soldier on. Hence, “A” is for the Axis Mundi.

In Mesoamerican culture, the Axis Mundi, essentially the World Tree, is  situated at the center of the Earth. It is truly a  cosmic being, with its branches kissing Heaven and its roots finding their way to the bowels of Hell. Traditionally the World Tree is thought to be the glorious Ceiba tree, the link provided is well worth a glimpse or two. I remember this beautiful tree from our time living in Ft.Lauderdale. It is a perfect tree for me, close to nude save for ferocious thorns;instead of pedestrian foliage , the Ceiba rewards visitors with fabulous orchid-like flowers, often hot pink. It is quite simply a stunning tree, no wonder it is the national tree of modern Guatemala.

All that said, I did not depict the fantastic Ceiba, I chose instead an odd little tree that we have fallen in love at the Cactus Garden of Balboa Park here in San Diego. I don’t know what this curious specimen is, we haven’t located an identification plate, but I will research further. What is apparent is its great age, probably pushing a century mark, which is curious as it is a very tiny little tree.

This is my interpretation of the odd little charmer.

“A” is for Axis Mundi
June 22nd 2012
watercolor on paper
9 by 16 inches

And this is the tree as we know it.

Axis Mundi @ Balboa Park, San Diego

To give a sense a scale, here is the dear tree with David’s equally dear Aunt Lydia, a wee little woman, 5’2″ or so.

Aunt Lydia @ the Axis Mundi

I’m working through the alphabet, I think I will be more random than my initial inclination if for no other reason than aesthetics. Given the scope of the endeavor, there is bound to be stylistic progression as I delve forward. I think the primer will possess a more consistent aesthetic if I jump about. That said, “H” is drawn out, Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God. I will present that when complete.

I think this will be a fun ( and exhausting) project, I have been fantasizing about the frontispiece. My conceit is a primer of New Spain to be presented to Charles V, I want the frontispiece to be full of that overblown false modesty and groveling  found in  period documents.

Well until next time,

take care

LG

Fateful Encounter at the Axis Mundi at last…

Back in March with a batch of “paper dolls” (my mother-in-law’s description of my maquettes) in front of me,I created a composition that I thought might be suitable for a painting. The painting ,to be part of a cycle devoted to the Mayan creation myth, the Popol vuh. Working from the above mentioned composition I  set about creating some sketches; discovering I enjoyed certain elements of each, I came up with what is now (for now) a final composition .

The scene depicts the moment in the Underworld Xibalba when the freshly sacrificed Maize God, Hun Hunahpu is placed upon a calabash tree (some interpretations mention the tree as the World Tree-the Axis Mundi). The orthodox depiction of the scene is one in which only his head is placed amongst the branches; as I have a difficult time resisting the full form, I took some liberties. Mayan scholars take heed.

With our hero dangling like strange fruit, the Xibalba princess Xquic searches out this forbidden treasure (sounds familiar?). The Maize God upon encountering the Princess spits into her hand (subtle romantic move on his part) and from this spittle the Hero Twins are miraculously conceived , one more virgin birth in the canon of world mythologies. It is this scene I depict, one where the infant Hero Twins float between their parents; soon the Princess will depart the gloom of the Underworld for the sunshine of the living earth. A new adventure will begin for all of the characters.

Fateful Encounter at the Axis Mundi
2012
oil on canvas
20″by30″

 The following is a detail of the Maize God,

detail of Maize God

This is of the Hero Twins, my inspiration was the many early Renaissance depictions of the Annunciation in which the Christ Child is depicted as this wee little babe floating within a nimbus of light.

detail of the infant Hero Twins

And at last, the Princess ( with her demonic cousin Ralph).

detail of the Princess and cousin Ralph

With that I close, having attempted to depict an epic tale of wrathful demon-gods,  a virtuous savior, a virgin birth and heroic infants on a rather limited 20 by 30 inch canvas.

I am now working on a primer, a primer of New Spain. The first letter of course being “A”, will be devoted to the Axis Mundi. So far it looks like it will be handsome.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

Memory of a Night Terror

The other evening, more truthfully morning, I had one of those bone chilling nightmares that if they were not so horrifying ,would be exhilarating . I generally have vivid dreams, and I maintain a lackadaisical dream journal. But this dream,occurring  in the wee hours of Monday morning , shook me awake with a scream;shaking, I swiftly found a piece of paper to record the awful experience.

Upon awaking the next morning I was determined to record the wretched scene as a watercolor  ( a medium that seems well suited to dreamscapes, just ask Blake).

The note may seem incoherent but it is what guided me through the painting:

A woman has been killing little boys in their sleep, attempts had been made on my own life as well.

It became apparent the old crone ( a recurrent character) was the Mother and she was killing the boys.

I went to bed reciting “Father watch after me” over and over.

She entered nonetheless and I kept repeating over and over but I was silenced.

Vultures had landed all over my bed.

She was some Egyptian goddess of death, God was the father.

Night Terror

 My prayers were for naught. My belief that the Lord would watch over me was for naught.

I woke with a scream that scared the dogs.

 In my notes the vultures were specifically identified as Egyptian in style, I vividly remember their shadowy forms.

detail of vultures, Night Terror

The terror of being unable to speak or prayer was the most horrible aspect of the dream.

Silencing

It is when I have dreams like this that I wish the beloved was Jungian and not  Klienian.

With this cheery post I depart.

Wishing all vivid dreams.

LG

Sacrifice and Redemption

I finished this painting last week. Certain elements of the painting are experimental, most specifically the use of canvas cutouts applied to the canvas. Inspired by Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ use of maquettes, I created figures and attached them to the canvas.

It was frankly a naive understanding of how to use Clive’s technique; I have since come to better understand the actual approach. I confess  I would not suggest my version, it was a bit cumbersome, difficult to remedy errors.

But in the end I rather like the finished painting, a little  macabre puppet theatre devoted to the Mayan Underworld.

Sacrifice and Redemption
2012
oil on canvas
40 by 30


  

  

In this admittedly theatric depiction we witness two acts. On the left the Maize God Hun Hunahpu is sacrificied by the treacherous Lords of Xibalba.  The Maize God’s head is placed upon the proscenium, in the Popol vuh  it is placed upon the upper branches the calabash tree.

On the right, the celestial ball payers, the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque redeem their fathers honor. 

The following are details of the Sacrifice and the Redemption. In the sacrifice, the snakes pouring out of the torso are a reference to the Mesoamerican tradition of portraying spilt blood as snakes.That really is a very clever idea, I can imagine streams of blood seeming as frightful as venomous snakes.

detail of the Sacrifice of the Maize God


detail of the Redemption of the Maize God by the Hero Twins.

The following is a detail of the Lords of Xibalba.

For now that is it. I am finishing up another painting from the Popol vuh series, plus one devoted to Perseus and Andromedus, yes a male Andromeda. In what my friend Clive refers to as gay revisionism I am claiming this much loved theme for my gay self.

This painting, Sacrifice and Redemption caused one of my professors concern in that it might offend Chicano machismo sensibilities. She felt I should reconsider the nudity. I cannot, I see almost all of my characters in the buff, through a quasi Classical perspective. I was taken aback by her suggestion, particularly as she holds a Phd in Renaissance art history.  But there you go!

Take care, LG

I realized after making the post the head of the Maize God had become clipped, I confess I may very well be the worst photographer ever. I intend to remedy that by taking a class in the Autumn. Until that time, patience please.

Sacrifice and Redemption

Screaming Into The Wind

I have just finished this oil sketch (18 by 24) of Philoctetes, post snake bite, post festering wound and most pitifully, post abandonment by his brothers in arms. There a several variations on how the snake came to bite the master archer, but what seems consistent is the fact that the stench from the wound proved too great an ordeal for his comrades to endure. In a startling act of betrayal, they abandon our hero on the island of Lemnos. Alone with a painful wound, Philoctetes’ rage festers.

It is this moment I chose to paint, one of impotent anger and resentment. 

Philoctetes
oil on cardboard
18×24

I painted this image on cardboard, a material I really enjoy painting on. The lushness of oil color on pedestrian cardboard really satisfies some aesthetic instinct. I love how the oil glides upon the surface, canvas no matter how fine, snags my brush. I love panels, but they are costly , with cardboard I can screw up with very little anxiety. I’m eager to try copper panels, as was the tradition during the Renaissance , but I know nothing about  their preparation. Until that  time, cardboard is readily available.

I was keen to keep this painting a simple sketch, I did not labor over a drawing in order to prepare. I am trying to be more free ( more brave?) and just lightly pencil my idea and begin the sketch.  There are of course flaws, most particularly concerning anatomy, I do not have a model, save my own reflection. It is quite difficult to twist and turn and sketch away. I have tried snapping an image of myself, but all I come up with is some sort of sordid image in front of the mirror.

Hopeless really, I need a model, must work on that.

I love to put together extensive preparatory renderings but at time that becomes burdensome. I decided Philoctetes could survive the experiment, he has been through a great deal already, one more trial could hardly cause much harm.