Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Second Wojnarowicz Series in its Current State

Steven Bates who has photographed my work for many years paid a visit to my studio recently and took pictures of 8 of my recent paintings from 2013 to 2015.  Most of them are from the new series of paintings that I am working on about the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz.
Instead of showcasing only the new work, I'm showing the whole Wojnarowicz series in its current state.  I plan to finish with 15 panels and 10 of those are now finished (actually 9 since I plan to do one again this summer).  I've decided to leave open the possibility of adding more panels to the series in the future.

All of the paintings in the series are oil on canvas, 20 inches by 30 inches.

Painting David, 2011

I don't have a definite order in mind for the series, but I've always considered this one to be first.

David's Dad, 2013

David Wojnarowicz came from an abusive household with a violent alcoholic father.  His father beat David and his brothers and sister with a baseball bat, fired off guns in the house, and threatened to kill his mother at least twice.  The police were regular visitors to the family home.  David felt especially vulnerable as his homosexuality manifested itself.
David found solace in those days and for the rest of his life in the small creatures of ponds and streams.  He considered himself to be particularly lucky to find a green snake.

"What Is This Little Guy's Job In The World?"  2012

This painting is based on this text by David 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?

Hustled, 2013

David Wojnarowicz ran away from home for good around the age of 15, and like most young gay runaways, made a dangerous living hustling.  He lived out on the streets for a few years as he writes about in Seven Miles a Second and in The Waterfront Journals.  He was raped and nearly murdered twice according to his own accounts.

I'm not really happy with this painting.  It has some nice parts, but doesn't add up very well.  I plan to make another version this summer.

Krazy Kat Landscape, 2013

David Wojnarowicz loved traveling through the desert and mountain landscapes of the west, first by hitchhiking and later by renting a car and driving aimlessly and alone. Wojnarowicz, like many other artists of the 20th century, admired George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip which ran from 1913 to 1944. Wojnarowicz compared the western landscapes that he saw to Herriman's cartoons. Herriman himself spent most of his life in California and traveled frequently in the west, especially in Arizona, looking for inspiration for his comic strips. The composition of this painting is loosely based on stills from some of John Ford's western movies.

Here is a sample of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comic strip.

I originally finished this painting in 2012.  I repainted it extensively after my own western travels in 2013.  Here is how the painting looked in 2012 photographed by Steven Bates.

The Backseat, 2013

During his travels, Wojnarowicz had many sexual encounters that he wrote about in "The Waterfront Journals" and other books. They were part of the thrill and adventure of traveling for him. He writes about these encounters and how he always was wary of discovery, especially by the police since homosexual hook-ups were still illegal in most states (in Missouri you could get 5 years in the state penitentiary, and that really happened to some people).

The Green Pterodactyl 2011

David Wojnarowicz was a regular at the abandoned West Side docks on the Hudson river in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. The docks, once a very busy port between inland agriculture and industry and maritime shipping, lay abandoned and crumbling from the early 1960s on. The ruined warehouses and offices became a gay cruising ground in the late 1960s. Wojnarowicz was one of many artists who painted on the walls of the old dock buildings. Those paintings are now known only from photographs. The old docks are now all gone.

A pterodactyl painted on the walls of the West Side docks by Wojnarowicz photographed shortly before the buildings were destroyed in the late 1980s.

A detail from another painting by David Wojnarowicz from the West Side docks, also now destroyed.

Painting Fire, 2014

Another painting based on David Wojnarowicz's paintings in the West Side dock ruins.  The painting within this painting is a composite of several works by David Wojnarowicz.

Here are 2 paintings by Wojnarowicz that are quoted in this painting.

The Lazaretto, 2014

This painting was inspired by a collaborative installation piece that David Wojnarowicz participated in with other artists in 1989. A lazaretto is a quarantine hospital in a port city intended to isolate possibly infectious patients. The first lazaretto began in Venice (where the term was coined) in the 14th century after the Black Death.
Wojnarowicz and the other artists chose the word lazaretto to describe the isolation, fear, contempt, and malign neglect that AIDS sufferers felt in those days. Wojnarowicz had already lost many friends to the disease and would himself succumb to it. The figure in the Tina Turner wig is based on a memory of mine from many years ago of a young man I saw at a party in Tina Turner drag who upon closer inspection turned out to be covered with Kaposi's spots.

"When I Put My Hands On Your Body...", 2015

This painting is based on this text by David Wojnarowicz:

“When I put my hands on your body on your flesh I feel the history of that body. Not just the beginning of its forming in that distant lake but all the way beyond its ending. I feel the warmth and texture and simultaneously I see the flesh unwrap from the layers of fat and disappear. I see the fat disappear from the muscle. I see the muscle disappearing from around the organs and detaching itself from the bones. I see the organs gradually fade into transparency leaving a gleaming skeleton gleaming like ivory that slowly resolves until it becomes dust. I am consumed in the sense of your weight the way your flesh occupies momentary space the fullness of it beneath my palms. I am amazed at how perfectly your body fits to the curves of my hands. If I could attach our blood vessels so we could become each other I would. If I could attach our blood vessels in order to anchor you to the earth to this present time I would. If I could open up your body and slip inside your skin and look out your eyes and forever have my lips fused with yours I would. It makes me weep to feel the history of your flesh beneath my hands in a time of so much loss. It makes me weep to feel the movement of your flesh beneath my palms as you twist and turn over to one side to create a series of gestures to reach up around my neck to draw me nearer. All these memories will be lost in time like tears in the rain.”

New Paintings 2016 -- 2017

Stray Dogs in Moonlight 2017

Hustling 2016

Hustled (2) 2017


In addition to the Wojnarowicz series there is this painting from 2014, The Mountain, painted in oil on canvas, 24 inches by 30 inches.

And finally a self portrait from 2014


My Facebook page for my art just hit 600 likes today.


JCF said...

As a series, I think these are SENSATIONAL: that's the overview, before I quibble w/ bits.

"David's Dad": DW in this pic looks like he has the mumps...or maybe he's got an adult head on a boy's body. The effect is just off.

In "The Backseat", is that David on the bottom? It's kind of confusing, that the two guys look so similar. Maybe you could disambiguate them a little more? [I think somebody would rock a 'stache!]

Still think "Lazzaretto" girl should have (visible) manicured nails. On her deathbad, down to her last cent, these are the things she'd fight for.

My only problem w/ "When I Put My Hands On Your Body" is that I'm not viewing it w/ a third eyeball. So beautiful!


JCF said...

"Krazy Kat" is SO much better now! I'm glad that your 2014 trip---in addition to meeting Yours Truly---contributed your artistic gift! :-)

JCF said...

"Krazy Kat" is SO much better now! I'm glad that your 2013 trip---in addition to meeting Yours Truly---contributed your artistic gift! :-)

JCF said...

Whoops, didn't realized I published that first (wrong date) version. You can delete if you wish.

JCF said...

"The Mountain" reminded me of something (other than Mt Rundle, Banff, Canada---I've mentioned that before), and I've just remembered what it was.

About 10-15 years ago, I remember reading about a group of Iranian girls climbing a mountain (on a trail: not a technical climb) in Iran. One of them said that when they got high enough, it's was like All.The.Rules. imposed by the mullahs and Revolutionary Guards just fell away. Head coverings came off, skirts were hiked up. Frivolity and laughter. In the thin mountain air, they were FREE. That's what I sense in your painting. <3

Counterlight said...

Thanks JCF!