I thought it might be interesting to have the texts and some images from the exhibit posted here for people who couldn’t make it to the show.
The Alchemical Theatre
(20″ x 16″) Pieces of a demolished theatre, poplar, gold
Saddened by the demolition of the old Little Theatre I took pieces of the building, gilded them and mounted them in boxes. The ten pieces of the building help to preserve the memories of the many events that were rehearsed and performed in the building. The destruction of the old gives birth to the new.
The Aviator’s Dream
(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas
There are three mythical events happening in this painting: the loss of Amelia Earhart, the fall of Icarus (his winged father Daedalus to the left), and the destruction of the World Trade Center. The ivy growing over poor Amelia suggests the passing of time, and possible reconciliation, while the rose alludes to the blood of Christ, the timeless love and healing offered by God.
As the Crow Flies
(dimensions vary) Oil on canvassed panel, 77 birch panels, amalgam leaf
The first step of the alchemical work is to locate pure examples of the elements, burning them to reduce them to their core constituents. This process is called the nigredo, because the material is reduced to black ash and dross, while the pure essence is distilled and separated. In alchemical symbolism black birds are one image describing this process. I have used them here to illustrate my spiritual journey, in which I have attempted to find my role within God and do away with the dregs of life in favor of trying to understand that universal mind: like the recreation of the prima materia this is ultimately impossible, but worth the journey.
(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas
The painting alludes to the hermit in the desert, a mystical person in search of universal truth. In his circle, the hermit is surrounded by the four elements, air, earth, fire and water, while he has the pillars of duality on either side. His gesture to the earth and sky refer to the alchemical principle that what is here on earth must correspond to what is in the cosmos, while the staff reminds us that wherever God is in relation to the creation, there is a spiritual relationship between us and him; the third part of any duality. Look for the divine ratio.
(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas
The stones in this painting are laid out on the ground in the shape of a cross, while there are two pieces of paper attached to the foreground megaliths. Sharp-eyed observers will see the names of the two prime manifestoes of the Rosicrucian order written on them. The objects on the rock suggest a modern date, but the setting is archaic – the suggestion is that the ideals of the reforming Christian mystics are true in the past and the future.
The Reluctant Death of Modernism
(59″ x 53″) Oil on Canvas
An allegorical painting about the end of the modern era. Andy Warhol’s soup can lies crushed and broken on the desert floor, while a pregnant woman contemplates her child, wondering what to expect.
(18″ x 11″) Oil on oak panel
Holed stones have been used for thousands of years for sealing agreements, making promises and binding marriages. Looking through the hole in a stone is said to make it possible to see into the other world, usually invisible to mortals. The stones are also used for making wishes, so you are invited to make your wishes here.
(Dimensions vary) Oil on canvassed panel, clay cups, beeswax, string, electric motor, stone
Small cups show up repeatedly in British Neolithic gravesites and sacred spaces. I chose to make a mound of these roughly made grail cups as a cairn, suggesting that many people have come seeking the mystical grail, and left their personal grail behind, realizing that the true grail is a spiritual discovery, not a material object. The search dates back thousands of years and at heart it’s a search for union with God, looked for in every age and country.
Self-portrait with wafer
(29″ x 16″) Oil on canvas
The communion wafer is in the shape of the circular monad, the Pythagorean symbol of God.
(22″ x 14″)
The initiate sleeps before waking.
Singer (Study for a crucifixion)
(36″ x 24″)
The singer ululates at the death of Christ.
Invitation to a lynching
(65″ x 71″) Oil on canvas
What do you do with the crucifixion? This painting places you, the viewer, into the crowd watching as the death of the Christ takes place. Which person do you most resemble?
The models for the twenty-seven figures in the painting are all in it twice, except one. It took seven years to complete. After a year and a half of work it was removed from the stretcher bars and stored on a roll in a closet until this summer, when it was re-stretched and completed.
A Neolithic Wedding
(54″, 42″) Oil on canvassed panel
One third (the right hand panel) of a planned but never completed triptych, the painting shows a mother and daughter on their way to a wedding three thousand years ago. The two women are our ancestors, passing the open tomb of their own forebears. We owe everything we are to our ancestors, who survived through dangers that would kill modern humans in a moment. The other two panels were to show a father and son on the left side, and a shaman at centre, all set before a Neolithic chambered cairn.
I didn’t publish a picture of the complete Fama including the golden highlights.
I added some golden highlights into the hair of the man, and touched the edge of the bowl with the same. It makes the illusion that the setting sun is catching the edge of the hair and lighting it up. I’ll drop these areas back just a touch because they’re a tad too bright, but they’re the right thought.
Once that touch of glaze is on, I really am done. Really.
I picked up Fama from Rich’s home this morning, where it had been tucked away after a show last month when I was unable to pick it up myself. Once I got to the studio I put it on an easel next to the Aviator’s Dream and noticed a distinct lack of background in the painting in comparison to the other painting, so I immediately set to it with a black glaze emphasizing the shadows of the two people, created a seascape with an island, then added some nice long shadows falling from the megaliths and deepening the shadow on the right.
I’m just delighted with this. Emphasizing the contrast made so much difference to the piece. Mike Adams came in while I was singing along to David Bowie, I think I was doing a very bad electric guitar imitation at the time. We got to eat lunch together and talk about painting.
Here’s the painting as it was when I picked it up this morning. What a difference a day makes!
While I was at it I lightened the sky of the Aviator’s Dream with a glaze of Zinc White because I didn’t like the way Daedalus’ wings were dropping out into the background. I added some shadows which have brought the ground to life, giving me deep darks that contrast nicely with the Cadmium Yellow and Red iron Oxide highlights that I have scraped onto the sides of the rocks with a pallette knife.
This was a good day in the studio. Picasso once said “Inspiration does exist, but it must find us working.”
Here’s the Aviator’s Dream as I left it this afternoon. I’m increasingly dissatisfied with Amelia’s face, it’s really not vibrant enough, and there are some odd measurement issues that I’d like to resolve. I’m happy to have dropped the ivy back with a black glaze. Since this seems to be the day for art quotes, I thoroughly agree with the Rococo painter Boucher, who said “the world is too green and badly lit”.
Here’s the finished piece, shot from the front.
Today I sold my red haired mermaid painting to Jean Amador, a well known Southern California architect designing environmentally friendly buildings, making use of clever lighting and spatial arrangements to cool them without wasting power.
I’ll miss my maiden, but she’ll be in a good home with people who love her, surrounded by water and reflections.
I’ve returned to the studio and brought boxes of paint and some stretcher bars to re-stretch the crucifixion painting and to take stock of where the “Aviator’s Dream” stands. It seems to me that I need to get some ivy painted into the foreground in order to complete the composition, then I’m done. I also need to get to work on the new pieces for the CSUCI show.
The boxes of paint came from the closet in my home studio where they have been my secret stockpile of oils that I purchased years ago when I made a series of portraits of the rapper Master P. I have at least two more crates full of quart cans. I made a lot of money on commissions from rap stars and invested in several thousand dollars worth of good studio oil paint, hoping to never run out of paint again. Of course, now I’m running out of paint. Curiously, the ones I’m running out of are not the ones that I expected to need, because the way I paint has changed since then. I have plenty of bright colours that I seldom use any more, but I’m low on blacks and browns.
You can catch a glimpse of my Master P. paintings in the MTV Cribs video visiting the No Limit general’s house.
Meanwhile I realized that I never posted a decent picture of the completed Fama painting. It’s on display at the Hillcrest Centre in Thousand Oaks right now, so I’ll head over there at some point and take some decent pictures from straight on.
I have a show coming up at Studio Channel Islands at California State University Channel Islands in a gallery that used to be a padded cell. It’s entirely made of cast concrete, so it’s a booming vault of a space that should be great for performed elements of the show. I’ll exhibit a combination of paintings and sculpture from the Cabinet. I hope you can come to the reception. We’ll be doing at least one performance piece in the space while the exhibit is on, watch this space.
I imagine that the bowl in the Fama painting contains ash remaining from a process like this.
I’m putting in the last details on the Fama piece, simultaneously working on the numbers paintings. Two photos here to show where things are going.
I’ve added in some knifed on lead white highlights with a lovely transparent iron oxide laid into it while it’s wet to set the highlights back into the underlying flesh. I love the transparency of the oxide as it lays over and into the white.
Here’s an earlier shot of the same face, prior to the blue glaze and highlighting:
I’ve been working in the studio, continuing the glazing of Fama. I added a French Ultramarine glaze so that the figures pop out from the background more. Next step will be to add some highlights into the skin of the man and woman on their left sides, a golden glow to pick up the setting sunlight, probably using Raw Sienna, a little Naples Yellow and some Titanium White.
I love the rich darks the Ultra blue gives me. I painted the entire canvas with a fairly dense glaze, then lifted it off with a large rag, working fine detail with a smaller rag to bring highlights back.
Here are a couple of detail shots of the piece as it is right now.
This piece was mostly laid in with a palette knife after an initial figure painting with brushes. I like to use a #4 filbert for the first rendering.