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.
Here’s a snapshot of the lantern, which I painted a week ago, but forgot to post. In the painting it’s representative of the element fire. (Water is the grail cup, earth is the square on the stone, air the hole in the other stone.)
I think Rich asked for a picture in one of his comments, so here it is, Rich. Thanks to everyone for commenting, by the way, I love the dialogue.
This is the first layer over the initial drawing. It needs some highlighting and lots of blending to get the soft changes in value and colour as light hits all those curving surfaces.
I didn’t have enough time to get anything done to Bombers today, so we’ll have to see how things go next week, with developing plans for the Geomantic Man painting, which I want to take to Vegas for the conference, and the gilding for the As the Crow Flies piece.
Here’s a radical change in the appearance of the painting. The sky approaches its completed state, needing a yellow / white moon and a glaze of Ultramarine blue, with some stars and haze to complete it. However, it will need a little care to smooth it out and soften some areas which are a little brushy. I’ll also put in some light, milky clouds lit by the silvery moonlight. Of course, the moon will sit in that light patch in the left where that orange circle was until quite recently.
The hermit is now seen in a pool of light, isolated from the desert surroundings, which seem larger.
I painted the first layer of the lantern over its initial drawing, getting the flat brass colour with a raw sienna and a touch of black, then some white to bring up the value a little.
I asked a couple of visitors about the yin yang, which didn’t seem to bother them, in fact one of them said they hadn’t noticed it was there – so that’s perfect, it’s a hidden secret of the painting now. Speaking of hidden secrets, I thought I’d emphasize the little peaks on the horizon that sit at 1.62 with a touch of moonlight backlight.
Here are a couple of old playing card hermits to compare to the Bombers painting I’m working on right now. Very different, but applying the same principles. The card version of the hermit appears to be weary and worn out, but he’s carrying the light with him. The card on the left is from the Marseilles deck, the one on the right is from the Rider Waite deck. My guy has clearly led an ascetic life, but he’s strong and clear-sighted. I think of the Christ in the desert as an archetypal hermit. The hermit of my painting models himself on him.
I’ve been toying with the idea of expressing the trinity still further by painting the yin yang onto the hermit’s circle, resulting in this present appearance, which I’m quite partial to. The yin yang has become as ubiquitous as a smiley face, so I was concerned that it would be a bit cheesy, but I think it works well in this context.
The yin yang is often thought of as a symbol of duality, which is an oversimplification. The symbol clearly illustrates how dualities inevitably merge into each other within a greater context. It’s created by scribing two half circles within a larger circle, bringing it into line with the Pythagorean concept of trinity as an instantaneous product of duality. It really is a poetic symbol.
I worked on the lamp, coins, knife and grail, bringing them into a state of readiness for my next effort. I almost got to the sky again, but I’ll have to get to it next time.
I painted the knife as a lock knife again, as I did in the Fama painting. I reallly like these knives and use one regularly in my daily life. As an object for painting, I think they’re great, a nice mix of wood and metal.
The lantern is modeled after one I’ve had in the garage for fifteen years. It’s a British coal mining lantern that runs on paraffin (called kerosene in the States).
I meant to mention that I marked the 1.62 ratio on the rod, and I’ll define that ratio still further when the white layer has dried completely. I thought I might try having one end black, the other white, and the centre section in grey, emphasizing the trinity.
I cleaned up the sidebar this evening, after I realized that the links hadn’t transferred over from the previous site. Please visit them!
I was irritated enough by the scrappy surface of the canvas in the sky that I scraped it all to knock off the protuding bits, then repainted with a light blue grey.
I added some cadmium red to the hermit’s hat, and scattered some dashes of it around the stones and into the mountains to give some unity to the painting. In natural light there is a lot of reflected colour that is almost unnoticable, but if you don’t make sure that there are a few hints of each colour elsewhere in the painting your eye will notice that something’s not quite right, so I always add a little of each colour into the general landscape even if the object is a minimal part of the piece.
I mixed a touch of cobalt blue with the flake white and added some of the slightly blue lead white into the stones which are really coming to life now. Using the same white on the circle has given me a bit more dimension as the warm and cool whites play against each other. Finally the megaliths got another cleanup to define the colour.
Putting a cobalt blue onto the grey sky really changed the nature of the painting, didn’t it. Next I’ll put a transparent layer of zinc or flake white over that blue to drop it back a bit. I’m not pleased with the quality of the surface at all, there are lots of bumps in the canvas there that I didn’t spot when I was preparing it. Letting the blue go into the mountains seems to have paid off, bringing them deeper into the background, while reworking the shadows, and adding some scraped on burnt sienna onto the sand is giving me some surface texture that I needed to find for the desert floor. I used a plasterers sponge with a rough top surface to give the paint a variable quality.
I added a layer of zinc white to the circle, and worked on the shadow of the white (ish) stones, then added white highlights to some of them to increase the sense of light coming from in front and to the left of the piece. Later I’ll need to add some blue into these stones somewhere to make them pop a bit.
Now the sky is grey almost all the orange has disappeared, giving a clear idea of how the painting will end up. The sky will end up blue, so I added in some cobalt blue pigment into a grey mix, so when I put down the next layer it will pick up the blues that are already in the grey. The rocks are now richly white, with the burnt and raw sienna layers vibrating through the flake white I used for it’s slightly transparent quality, and they will pop even more when I get the shadows deeper on the sides that are away from the sun. I’m dying to get the shadows of the stones back onto the rocks.
Definitely over the hump as far as that bad patch went. I had a fun morning getting some shadows laid down, with a strong frontal light implied by the long shadows falling behind the figure and stones. It really has laid down the objects to the ground and gives a nice depth to the painting.
However, I also put down a layer of raw sienna to bring some gravelly colour into the grey surface of the ground, and will need to repaint those shadows again shortly. The raw sienna works nicely a a basis for more work on the rocks, which will get a white glaze again. I expect to rework the shadows between the stones again, particularly the sides that would be closest the the light source, so that the contrast of the shadow is intensified where it’s closest to the light.
You’ll notice that the hermit has had a substantial shave! I thought about hermit archetypes and reconsidered what my image of a contemporary hermit would be. I decided to go for a more military appearance, reflecting the ascetic discipline of the hermit, not the “wild man” aspects of the type.
He reminds me a little of Edward Norton, the actor in American History X. I still have to get that face right.
The colour of the painting has gone a bit psychedelic again. This will settle down as the painting gets more layers added to it, but putting down these strata is really important as I build up the texture of the surfaces. When I scrape these rich layers with a knife later I’ll uncover some lovely rich colours that will make the finished surface vibrate.
I’ll have to get the shadows back in tomorrow, because I ragged quite a lot of them away when I was busy with the raw sienna layer, which was first painted, then mostly removed with a rag, giving me a crunchy texture to the paint. Having seen them and having the guides left after the rag work I did with the raw sienna is enough for today. The painting’s taking shape nicely.