Sunday, June 28, 2020

Raft/Ship of the Medusa/Fools

If  I decide to output this as a digital print, it could possibly resemble this jpeg.


 I had this idea last August to make a pile of people like I had made a pile of snakes. So I generated a quickie "collage" in photoshop using old figure drawings and let it sit there until about two weeks ago.

This is the quickie collage.
Two weeks ago I finished my large piece and thought I would take a look at some of my ideas which sit in waiting on my hard drive in a mislabeled file called "Current".  I had an urgent need to work on this idea--even though lately I have been less figurative. You know what I think?  I think that when an artist has an "urgent need" to make something, they should listen to that voice.

The original painting "Raft of the Medusa" by Theodore Gericault, depicts the survivors of the wreck of the ship Meduse.  Read about it here!  It's a painting I have adored for a long time and I do not wish for anyone to compare my piece to that one as I am not capable (nor all that interested, to be honest) of that type of painting.  BUT, I did think I could contribute to the genre somehow.  (Of which genre do I speak?  Why the "shipwrecked on a life raft as a metaphor for life" genre.  That one.)

First: I did an actual pencil drawing with PENCILS.  I am sure you remember them. At this point, I have, like ten ways of drawing.  I doodle in ballpoint.  I mess around in Photoshop.  And I do the occasional meticulous pencil drawing. Please note: meticulous pencil drawings are NOT a necessary step in the stained glass design process.  You can make windows out of scrawlings on napkins if you so desire.
The pencil drawing looked like this:

Real pencil drawing!
Then I input that drawing into Photoshop by scanning it which was a P.I.T.A. because my scanner is 12" x 14" or something.  So I had to seam the thing together, but no matter--its not that hard.
And yes, Virginia, this will be a stained glass window someday, or that's the plan. I am thinking a black and white grissaile, assembled with lead, my favorite metal.  However, I tweaked it an that might end up looking something more like this:

(do me a big favor and picture a raft below them)
Apropos of burning urges, I wanted to do it in color too.  That entails separating each figure into a single Pshop document and "painting" it--in Pshop.
Which looked like this (once they were compiled):

Yes, I did love paper dolls as a child!
But that's not all! I should mention that when I first drew it, lightning struck and I had the sudden desire (and yes, this too felt urgent) to make it an endlessly repeating block.  This is not something that one can have a digital platform just do for you with the click of a button (or if there is an app for this, I don't know about it!) So, first I needed to make more figures:
The new figures were drawn on a separate page and put together in Pshop.

A note on the figures.  Yes indeed, if you are some sort of compulsive follower of my work you will recognize almost all of these characters from older stained glass pieces.  It amuses me to pretend they are real people who left my pieces, continued with their lives and perhaps at some point planned a reunion on a cruise ship where they could reminisce and relive the trauma of my having exploited their non-existent lives in one of my "Perils of Pauline"-style artworks.  Only to all get shipwrecked together and to re-appear in another window.  Cue evil laughter on my part: MUUHAHAHA!.  There's "Child Bride", "Persephone", "Sin Eater", "Andromeda" (who is now a POC) and some of the characters from "The Battle of Carnival and Lent".

As for the subject matter and why it might resonate for me at this moment?  I will let you decide if it does and how and why it does that.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty concerned with any attempt by ME to represent "HUMANITY"....but, I decided to try anyway. Its one of the more presumptuous parts of the artist's job description.  Plus, there's this irony about figurative art that ensures that it will always upset, offend, outrage people (which I think explains a lot about iconoclasm, a topic I would like to take a deep dive into at some point). Why is this?  Because figurative artists only have two choices and they both kind of suck.  Represent one's own self or represent The Other (any and everyone else who is not them).  I have always tried to dodge this catch-22 with what is a semi-viable third option: imaginary people!  But this piece is supposed to be human-kind.  So I had to depict people other than my own proxies.  I will sum this topic up by pointing out that humanity seems currently to be a writhing mass of fear, despair, confusion, rage and discontent.  As an artist, I hope, actually to present a venue for contemplation which is safe, "nice" to look at (or perhaps better stated that I deliberately provide aesthetic incentives for looking) and maybe a little humorous.  Not that there's ANYTHING funny about what we are contending with right now--because there  really isn't.  But art hides behind its fourth wall and the artifice is one of its best strategies to sneak into your consciousness and give people a platform to make actual change.  And aesthetics, including beauty and humor encourage active and sustained engagement with a subject that can be otherwise unbearable.

So, back to the technical hoohah: making it repeat sounds simple but its not--it took days on end actually.  So finally,  here it is: the perfect wall paper for your powder room or home abattoir.

Color version repeated four times

Black and white version repeated four times

Some details of my favorite sections

The Stockholm Syndrome section of the piece.

Character in this section include "Persephone", "Icarus" and the wresting guys from the lower left panel of "Battle of Carnival and Lent"

Monday, June 15, 2020

New piece

 Scroll down for written stuff.  Or just enjoy the pictures!

Title: “Over Our Dead Bodies”, Size 40" x 60" (approx)
Stained glass

So, this is an image of all the glass parts but its not actually assembled yet as I need a rebar frame made before it gets soldered together. But this is what it will look like.

I started working on this piece several years ago (that is true for all of them--there's a long lage between inception, conception and ejection)   I wanted to work with the "tree of life" idea. Who doesn’t enjoy a good “tree of life” image?  Apparently close to everyone!!

In the past few years, my work has been drifting inevitably towards something.  I am less interested in the female character which I am known for and the “decorative motifs” which occupied the background are coming into the foreground.  Now I feel I could have predicted this as for years the background was equally important to me as the foreground and as time goes on, its pressing the human figure out entirely. 
Why has this shift in my work happened?  Does anyone care?  Well, I am only speculating here but 1. Change is inevitable in any artists oeuvre.  Narrative, figurative, realist artists might get less so and vice versa.  2.  I am less interested in talking about me personally.  Those female characters were never ME, but boy, did I identify with them!  Now, I am older, and I have had time to grow weary of my own drama.

So, for the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in pushing the flora and fauna forward.  I made a black and white rough draft of the “tree of life” idea a while back, alongside pieces such as “Wild Life”, “Sky Life”, “Cross Pollination” (and these pieces grew out of “Anchoress” and others).  A “tree of life” seemed a logical extension of the idea and something worth exploring.
But what of the preponderance of excellent cultural examples?  What was I going to bring to the conversation?  Ugh, I hate artistic accountability!

Ever since the election in 2016, many artists shifted their focus to a more activist stance, for obvious and righteous reasons.  Although I would never claim to be a political artist, my work began to subtly address environmental issues.  “Beached Whale”, “Immigration Policy”, “Murdered Animal”, “Cross Pollination” for example.  As I worked on the tree of life image, it rapidly became about climate change.

I began calling the piece “Over Our Dead Bodies”.  That was intended to suggest what life on this planet will be like after humans die off.  Even though I feel a certain ambivalence towards my species, I have nightmares about the end of human-kind.  The upside is that our catastrophic meddling with the ecosystem will stop.  One way to see “Over Our Dead Bodies” is of a spectacularly vivid, lush resurgence of animal and plant life.

Then, along came the pandemic to provide the perfect frame of made in which to contemplate these ideas whilst the piece was actually being created. Taking long walks around the city I could see how fast nature begins to reassert itself!  It was pretty amazing and this in only a few weeks!  I saw a Downy Woodpecker!  An Ovenbird!  Kestrels! A Common Yellowthroat (not common in the city!)  There was noticeably less bus exhaust, clear azure skies, etc.  Will we take this lesson home after the pandemic? I sincerely doubt it.  But the respite was profound.  And it informed my piece.

I decided any tree of life worth its salt would most assuredly reflect its origins in the soil.  Although it’s pretty hard to discern, the underworld section has a “branch” pattern which is similar to the tree above.
A tree of LIFE must be predicated on the entire life cycle, not just the living part.