Monday, February 25, 2013

New Work

Well, sorta new, newly photographed anyway by Steven Bates of Art Documentation who does his usual fine job with my work.

Click on each image for a larger picture.

The Mountain Pass, 2011, oil on canvas, 22" x 35"

The painting is based on memories of trips to Colorado when I was very young, together with recollections of Balthus' The Mountain.

The Mountain Pass, detail

These figures are based entirely on memory and imagination.  The photos we took during these trips across mountain passes in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado in the early 1970s are all gone.  I took a few liberties.  We never hiked.  We always drove a four-wheel drive across.  I exaggerated the scenery a little, but not much.

The Mountain Pass, detail

An imaginary self portrait of the teen-aged me drawing in the high mountains, something I never did.  The wind was too strong at that height.

The Mountain Pass, detail


Mary Magdalene Meets the Risen Christ, 2012, oil on canvas, 24" x 24"

I made this painting for the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields, New York.

Mary Magdalene and Christ, detail

Mary Magdalene and Christ, detail


I'm making another series of paintings about the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz.  I made the first series of paintings about 12 years ago.  That first series of paintings had a kind of liturgical structure to it.  I've tossed that out and concentrated on Wojnarowicz less as a martyr and more as a kind of creative hero.   The series is ongoing and I'm not quite sure how many paintings I will end up with, or how it will end.

Painting David, oil on canvas, 2011, 20" x 30"

The Green Pterodactyl, 2011, oil on canvas, 20" x 30"

This painting is loosely based on the many paintings David Wojnarowicz made on the walls of the abandoned west side docks, in the old warehouses and counting houses.  He was one of many artists who worked there, famous and not.

Krazy Kat Landscape, 2012, oil on canvas, 20" x 30"

This painting is based on 2 things; David's love for the old cartoon Krazy Kat drawn by George Herriman in the early 20th century, and his love for driving through the deserts and mountains of the West.  David often compared the landscapes of the desert southwest to those in Herriman's cartoons (Herriman lived in Arizona).

What Is This Little Guy's Job in the World? 2012, oil on canvas, 20" x 30"

This painting is based on a passage by Wojnarowicz:

What is this little guy's job in the world.  If this little guy dies does the world know?   Does the world feel this?  Does something get displaced?  If this little guy dies does the world get a little lighter?  Does the planet rotate a little faster?  If this little guy dies, without his body to shift the currents of air, does the air flow perceptibly faster?  What shifts if this little guy dies?  Do people speak language a little bit differently?  If this little guy dies does some little kid somewhere wake up with a bad dream?  Does an almost imperceptible link in the chain snap?  Will civilization stumble?

What Is This Little Guy's Job?, detail

What Is This Little Guy's Job?, detail

What Is This Little Guy's Job?  detail

What Is This Little Guy's Job?, detail

The Backseat, 2013, oil on canvas, 20" x 30"

David Wojnarowicz had a lot of adventures on his travels, including sexual ones.  There was always a large element of risk involved in these encounters, usually from intruders or the police.  They frequently took place in the backseats of cars in remote places, in motel rooms, or in farm houses.  Sometimes David's partners were deeply closeted and isolated.  Usually they were other men who enjoyed casual sex as much as he did.

The Backseat, detail

The Backseat, detail

The Backseat, detail

The Backseat, detail


The old series I did about 12 years ago about David Wojnarowicz has been donated by its owner Jeff Goodman to the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

End of the World in Chicago

All 6 paintings of a series I did back in 2006 - 2007, The End of the World, will be on view at Out of Line Art Gallery in Chicago.  They will be included in the Peace, War, and More War show.

Rescue from the End of the World series, oil on panel, 2007

The show will include the work of 15 other artists from around the country.  I will be in Chicago for the opening, Saturday March 9 from 6 to 10PM
The gallery is at 2812 West Chicago Avenue.

A percentage of the sales will be donated to Veterans for Peace.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Standing Up to Bullies

Here's something that you almost never see on the New York subway, someone talking back to one of those so-called "preachers."

Many times I've had to suffer these bastards, and every time I suffered in silence.  How marvelous to see someone finally call them out publicly on their shit.  Watch and see where the sympathies of the other subway passengers are.  They are not with the self-appointed preacher of the Faith Once Delivered to All the Saints.

The subway preachers are nothing of the sort.  They are bullies.  For them, the Bible is a cudgel to beat people over the head.  Their message is nothing more than their own resentments writ large upon the cosmos.

This is what the struggle for gay liberation really looks like, especially the religious struggle.  The excruciatingly polite debates in synods and seminaries and in the comment threads of Thinking Anglicans are the anomaly.

I argued in a previous post that what the puritan and fundamentalist want most of all is revenge, to see their enemies humiliated and destroyed and themselves vindicated.  And finally, at least one man has had enough and calls one of them out on it.

And to those who cherish homophobia and the clobber verses as central tenets of the Christian religion up there with belief in the Resurrection and the Trinity, watch the reaction of the crowd on this video and consider that the writing is on the wall.  If you want to see who is to blame for your recent string of  defeats on this issue, then look in the mirror.

Hat tip to Joe.My.God.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Big Rocks Falling Out of the Sky

Warning, this is pretty loud.

The aftermath of the Tunguska event of 1908, believed to have been a huge meteor that exploded over central Siberia

Wolf Creek Crater in Western Australia

One of many impact craters visible in Quebec

Meteor Crater in Arizona

The leftover remnants of the creation of the planets fall to earth daily.  Usually they are very small, but sometimes they are big chunks that make an impact.  The earth and the planets were formed out of rocks and dust crashing together, and that process continues.  Let's hope that we continue to stay out of the way.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love on the subway in New York

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope Resigns

I'm very surprised.  I'm not sorry.  I don't expect his successor to be any improvement.  He could even be worse.

Pope Pius XIII anyone?

  Ciao Bebe!

I'm not expecting much, if anything, to change.  If there is dramatic change, then I expect it to be in an even more sharply rightward direction.  We could get a later-day Caraffa, a fanatic who excommunicates everyone and puts up barbed wire around the Vatican.  Not likely, but it is possible.  I think that alternative is much more possible than even the most tentative gesture to soften church pronouncements on women, gays, or sexuality.  I expect those very hard and unyielding views to continue to undercut the moral credibility of the church's otherwise commendable views on global capitalism, the impending environmental crisis, and especially on human rights.

I don't think JP II's or Benedict's policies concerning all the scandal and criminality in the church will change either.  I expect to see a continuation of policies that are more about institutional preservation and face-saving than about any kind of real reckoning with the harm done, and any real reform in the direction of openess and making shepherds more accountable to their flocks and to civil and criminal law.

I hear that Benedict plans to retire to an unnamed cloister immediately after his resignation takes effect on February 28th.  Dramatic certainly, though maybe not quite as dramatic as Emperor Chandragupta giving up his throne for the life of a wandering ascetic and then dying of starvation in a cave.  I've heard a few whispers that the pope's decision may be motivated by medical diagnoses indicating impending dementia.  Perhaps his decision was inspired by his very close experience of the seriously declining health of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II in his last years.


Hans Kung on the outgoing pope:
"During his time in office he has ordained so many conservative cardinals, that amongst them is hardly a single person to be found who could lead the church out of its multifaceted crisis."

Tip of the Papal tiara to Erika Baker.

I'm glad the old duffer is going, but I don't expect much to change; and if anything does change, then duck and cover. 


Excellent summation of Pope Benedict's reign and the current state of the Catholic Church by Stephen Bates of The Guardian:
Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic weekly the Tablet, said: "It has been a very troubled time. We have not got a Catholic church at ease with itself."
Indeed, the Vatican has seemed to be pressing hard in the opposite direction: into a cul-de-sac of conservative authoritarianism which neither inspires nor revives the mass of cradle Catholics, who are still deserting the church even in heartlands such as Spain and Ireland. Fifty years ago, governments in Catholic countries would tremble at the Vatican's displeasure; now they just wag their fingers back and press on with their plans for gay marriages or easier abortion. There is no comeback when the church has squandered its moral authority across the world over child abuse.
Tip of the Papal tiara to Lapinbizarre.


Garry Wills is deeply pessimistic that anything will change for the better in Rome.
Wistful Catholics hope that on this and other matters of disagreement between the church as People of God and the ruling powers in the church, a new pope can remedy that discord. But a new pope will be elected by cardinals who were elevated to office by the very popes who reaffirmed “eternal truths” like the teaching on contraception. They were appointed for their loyalty, as were the American bishops who stubbornly upheld the contraception nonsense in our elections.
Will the new conclave vote for a man who goes against the teachings of his predecessors? Even if they do, can the man chosen buck the structure through which he rose without kicking the structure down? These considerations have given the election of new popes the air of watching Charlie Brown keep trying to kick the football, hoping that Lucy will cooperate.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Painting and Orthodoxy

Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi (formerly The Last Supper),  1573

I've always found it odd that the Inquisition went after Veronese, a very technically brilliant artist, but not perhaps the most thoughtful.  He got dragged before the Tribunal over this painting, which the Inquisitors considered far too light hearted for a Last Supper.  They even threatened Veronese with more serious charges of heresy.  He was ordered to change the painting in 3 months.  Instead, Veronese changed a few details and figures here and there and changed the title.  No more was said and the matter ended.

And yet, the Inquisition never touched Caravaggio, a hustler, a thug, and a murderer from the Roman streets who brought that experience into his religious work.  Some people still find his religious work to be deeply unsettling, especially a painting like The Death of the Virgin showing not some glorious Assumption or Dormition, but a quite dead corpse laid out on a plank surrounded by grieving Apostles.

Caravaggio, Death of the Virgin Mary, 1606

The public was outraged by this painting.  Church authorities obliged the patron of the work, Laerzio Alberti, to remove it from the altar of a chapel in Santa Maria della Scala in Rome and to replace it with a less disturbing work by another artist, Carlo Saraceni.  This is the painting that stands on the same altar today.

And yet, for all the fury over Caravaggio's work, he never faced any Church tribunal.  When he did finally face a magistrate, it was not over any charges of heresy, but to answer for the murder of Ranuccio Tommasoni.

Caravaggio "John the Baptist,"  c.1600

I've always found it curious that whenever Caravaggio paints some nude Roman street boy as "John the Baptist" (in this case, his auburn haired model, apprentice, servant, and probable lover, Francesco "Cecco" Boneri), everyone starts speculating about his sexuality.  What's to speculate about?  Sure the written testimony says that Caravaggio had a mistress or two, but the testimony of the paintings clearly and unequivocally reveals that he really liked boys.  Maybe one of his mistresses posed for his paintings of a clothed Mary Magdalene, but he never painted them with nearly as much gusto as he painted nude Cecco either posing with a love-struck ram in the painting above, or wearing fake wings and sprawling with naked legs akimbo over emblems of worldly power and fame as a laughing Amor.

Caravaggio, Amor Vincit Omnia, c. 1600

And yet, Titian can paint Mary Magdalene wearing only her hair and showing her tits complete with nipples, and everyone takes his sexuality for granted.

Titian, Mary Magdalene, 1533

And Rubens can show boobs busting out all over in his religious work (even Our Lady shows some cleavage here) and no one seems to mind.

Rubens, Virgin and Child with Saints, c. 1640; this painting now stands over Rubens' tomb in Antwerp


Some scholars speculate that an older Cecco may have posed for the figure of Christ in Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus.  The resemblance is striking, round cheeks, auburn hair, pouting mouth; but, if Cecco did pose for this figure, then the painting would have to be dated much later than the 1600-01 date that is the consensus among most scholars.  The documentary evidence indicates that this painting was one of Caravaggio's earliest religious paintings, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a patron of Bernini (and would have been a major coup and debut for so young and unknown a painter at the time).  Based on that evidence, I think it unlikely that an older Cecco (or a younger Cecco that the very model-dependent Caravaggio somehow aged) was the model for Christ, but it's an interesting thought.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

So Many Anniversaries!

... and Grand Central Station turned 100 last night.  Since that commemoration will be going on all year, I'll do that one later.

Also, Rosa Parks turns 100 this year; it's the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and it's the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.  Anything I'm forgetting?


The Battle of Stalingrad ended 70 years ago today, an important milestone in a year filled with commemorations.

The victors; Soviet soldiers at Stalingrad.

The vanquished; a German soldier at Stalingrad.

The Battle of Stalingrad was probably the biggest single battle in history.  It lasted 6 months and cost the lives of a million soldiers.  Most historians now consider that battle to be the central turning point of the war.  Hitler's drive to seize the oil and gas fields of the Caucasus ended in catastrophe with devastating losses to the German military.  Hitler's war of aggression turned back on him and became a war of defense.  There is a growing consensus among historians that the central conflict of World War II was not Hitler's war with the Western powers, but with Stalin and the Soviet Union.  The War was at its bloodiest in Eastern Europe as Timothy Snyder forcefully demonstrates in his new history, Bloodlands; Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.  Hitler and Stalin committed their worst atrocities in the territory that included Ukraine, Belorus, The Baltic States, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.

The fighting in the east was ruthlessly brutal on both sides.  The German military, just as much as the Nazi SS, perpetrated horrific atrocities on the civilian population and played a very willing part in rounding up and murdering Jews.  The Soviet army retaliated brutally against any population suspected of sympathies with the enemy.  They also massacred soldiers and  partisan fighters who might threaten Stalin's imperial designs on Eastern Europe, especially in Poland.  General Georgy Zhukov, General Konstantin Rokossovsky, and other Soviet generals treated their men like so much canon fodder, indifferent to their lives or welfare, throwing waves of doomed men against German firepower.  Conscripts who retreated without orders or who broke and ran were shot by their fellow soldiers coming up behind them.

When the Battle of Stalingrad ended, the victorious Russians showed no mercy to the German invaders.  Thousands of German prisoners perished in Soviet gulags and many who survived were not repatriated until late into the 1950s.  Most of the German dead were left where they fell.  For decades, the steppe around Stalingrad (renamed Volgograd in the 1960s) was littered with the bones of German soldiers.

World War II is conventionally described as "The Good War."  Yet, I see little that was good about anything that happened in Eastern Europe.  I have a hard time describing as "good" the carpet bombing of cities like Rotterdam, Warsaw, Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, and especially the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I think of the Second World War as a necessary war.  I'm very grateful that the Russians won at Stalingrad and not Hitler.  We forget how close Hitler came to winning the war.  It is likely that without the Soviet Red Army, American and British forces could not have prevailed against the Germans.  Until Stalingrad, Hitler was winning, and everyone knew it.  I agree with Hannah Arendt when she said that a victory by Hitler would have been equivalent to a nuclear holocaust, the end of civilized human life.  He had to be stopped, even if it meant in the worst way possible.

Hungarian dead at Stalingrad

A wounded German prisoner of war with a Soviet soldier

Stalingrad Memorial decorated for 70th anniversary ceremonies