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.
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.
The terror of being unable to speak or prayer was the most horrible aspect of the dream.
It is when I have dreams like this that I wish the beloved was Jungian and not Klienian.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have switched gears just a bit, focusing on the Greek underworld of Hades instead of the Mesoamerican Xibalba.
It is most likely only a temporary distraction prompted by our having recently purchasing a beta fish which we named Orpheus. He is a handsome fellow blue, pink and red and he inspired the palette a bit.
This latest watercolor (on paper , 18 by 24 inches) depicts that moment when Orpheus is so very close to his goal, fleeing with fair Euryidice to the land of the living,alas he loses nerve,looks back and all is lost. It is a horrible story, made gorgeous by Gluck and countless visual artists.
Once again I try my hand at entering the visual conversation; once again I’m not sure what to think of the result.
My very dear friend Ken came to visit me this week, driving from LA to this underworld called San Diego. He felt I was depressed, for multiple reasons, but most particularly for my latest series of paintings. I’m not sure if I am depressed, but I do feel as if I am in a state of transition, a limbo not unlike that of Euryidice.
Difference being my limbo will most likely pass.
Doubt is imagined as a withered blue crone.
The following is a detail of the demon(ess).
The following is a detail of Mercury, reminding Eurydice she must return. I had forgotten Mercury was part of the narrative, happy he is as he is always one of the hottest gods around.
As I mentioned I was inspired by my beta fish for some of the coloring; but as I found myself painting the vegetation of Hades it began to resemble the Magic Rocks of my childhood. Those odd little bits of childish chemistry had somehow sizzled upon my decidedly unscientific little brain. Here they are popping out of the crevices of the underworld.
Although I had wanted to avoid hellfire, I hadn’t realized Magic Rocks came from Hell.
If interested and if you have 59 seconds to spare, follow this link for a video clip of Magic Rocks in action,
Well I must go, it is Memorial Day weekend, a big deal in that David takes off for any holiday he can. So I must prepare.
I have just finished this small painting (11 by 20 inches), in that it is watercolor and gouache it moved along pretty nicely.
The theme of Judas is one I want to explore. On Good Friday I did a study of the Deposition, I want to develop that image. Before I leave this earth I want to have painted at least one Deposition, all of my favorite painters have painted the scene,and I want to add my feeble version to that visual conversation. My thought is to add Judas to the scene, perhaps replacing the fair and lovely Evangelist John (perhaps not). The Theotokis will still be present, a mother’s love would never allow her to leave the side of her child; but adding Judas is my attempt to play upon the theme of Redemption. I am not speaking exclusively of Christian redemption but of redemption as understood by a humanist. “Everyman” as a wretch needing succor.
In fact I have painted my Judas not heroically as is my tendency but as “Everyman”; in many ways it is a self portrait.
I’m going to return to my oil paintings this evening, I have three going in various stages of completion. Judas will be on my mind, his frail humanity, his failures and his weaknesses. All attributes I understand and can relate to. I want to redeem this man, so hated that it is difficult to even bring him up (particularly amongst the traditionally faithful).
But I want to, as a boy I would secretly weep for him during the Passion service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
Today I was trying to ready some images of my maquettes for Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The making of the maquettes is great fun but I feel a certain hesitancy in posting the compositions, fearing they might not be just right.As we all know a composition is meant to be fussed with and developed. The compositions I submitted will most likely look very different when paint goes to canvas.
This is true with the painting I am working on now, the progression from maquettes, to sketches, to proposal rendering has seen my figures twist and turn until I feel relatively satisfied. I have a bit of work to do still but I am closer to vague concept I had in my head.
But for now, for tonight, I will just show unfinished snippets.
As I said, still working out details but closer to what I had imagined. The following is of the sacrificed Maize God. I’ve been enjoying painting the wild clouds of Xibalba, my years of decorative mural painting comes in handy at times.
As I mentioned I sent some images to Clive, one of the maquette compositions might soon be realized as a painting. It is an idea I have been toying with and sketching out for some time. It is the Resurrection of the Maize God, his sons the Hero Twins having redeemed his honor, the Maize God like a vibrant shoot of corn erupts forth with vitality ( and a certain degree of virility). With this grand gesture, Man has a chance to survive.
As can be seen it it a simple trinity composition, the Hero Twin Hunahpu to the left, his brother Xbalanque to the right, their father Hun Hunahpu front and center, savior like. The composition is loosely based upon a Late Classic Mayan bowl, the image is unfortunate, but one can get the idea.
Well that is it for now, a wonderful day, happy to have painted and composed my little cast of maquettes.