During the end of January this year I was asked at the last minute to participate in a body painting event that was being held at a local lounge/nightclub, the Native Lounge http://nativelounge.com/ in San Luis Obispo. I had a very vague idea of what was involved with this entire month long event event, entitled "Embodiment". My friend had been invited to participate, and only within hours of the opening of the show I was asked to come down and to select a model. I had been holding down the fort in my friend's art supply store on a very slow Thursday, working on bird studies for a painting, so I decided that if I was going to paint on a body, I would paint an owl. Apparently there was a surplus of male models (no surprise here as all of the participating artists were men with the exception of one girl). I walked into the vacant surf supply/painting studio now converted to model headquarters /almost nude body painting space. After announcing my presence a very young girl, Brandi, with long, wavy tendrils of red hair asked the two male models to take their shirts off. I had to choose between the two bare-chested men who were standing before me. One had pecs that were larger than any of the females present and tattoos that distracted me from concentrating on my human "canvas". My attention immediately turned to the other model, Christopher. His warm smile and engaging attitude won me over immediately. I proceeded to paint my Eurasian Pygmy Owl over his body. In the depths of the sweaty, barely clad bodies being painted, I did a full owl on his back, then an owl face on his chest. After the fact I was informed by my "friend" that the theme of the night was "Urban". I guess that owls are urban now.
Three Thursdays following the "Urban" body painting night were held at the Native Lounge. The second was "Surf", the third was "Student", which I attended as a guest of my friend and New Times reporter Glen Starkey, and the fourth was the "Finale". I was invited to participate in the Finale and fortunately was able to go through the entire process from the selection of models to being able to hear the theme of the night. The Finale's theme was "The Dark Arts" as a special guest/magician was to wow us with some incredible, death defying performance. I had planned to create an exotic type piece, something Ganesha-ish, so when I discovered that the theme was to be the Dark Arts my vision suddenly shifted towards India's favorite dark goddess of creation, Kali. I chose out of all of the bikini clad models Sharai, a large-eyed, sweet girl of twenty-one. I began to imagine her reaction to what I was going to transform her body into as I painted demon heads and skulls all over her bod. Thankfully Sharai was totally open-minded and up for what I did. I had hoped to paint more than one model that day but what I thought would only take four hours turned into eight plus. She looked amazing as so many of the other models did. One of the most interesting participants that I met during this event was Brittany App, photographer extraordinaire. She was covering Embodiment for London's "Skin Deep", http://www.skindeep.co.uk/a tattoo magazine. Brittany not only was shooting photos and writing, but she painted a body, then modeled for the Finale. To my delight and excitement Brittany has included my piece with Sharai as Kali in the May, 2010 article!
Photographs courtesy of Richard Fusillo and Brittany App
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Lying here on this lazy, stormy Sunday I am contemplating how I am to find time and space to create more work. My life at this moment is in "transition". I am currently renting a lovely room in a flat occupied by four other people, none of whom are painters. Painting in oils in my space is out of the question, so I have resorted to painting outside. There is a sense that I am a bit of an oddity in this household of extremely nice people, all of whom are involved in some facet of holistic health. A yoga instructor, a therapist, and students of Chinese medicine and massage therapy. I have been offered free acupuncture treatments which I am ecstatic about! Everyone here has been nicer than I had expected, but I do not think the fumes of oil paints would be enjoyed nor appreciated.
I seized the opportunity the other afternoon of zero appointments and sunshine to paint outside. In the company of at least four neighborhood kitties and a massive amount of Calla Lillies I set up my paints, brushes and canvases on a makeshift table in the backyard of our Haight-Ashbury flat. I began a series of mini, five by five inch paintings last year. I have drawn inspiration from botany, the flow of plants and somewhat of a bright, Pop-like palette. Generally I create a pair, but as a whole each small painting works with the others. These are number thirteen and fourteen, "Orange Incubo" and "Flutter Orange" . I find these patterns to be very easy on my eyes.
I had to finish after a few hours as my sandaled feet were numb from the marine chill whipping over Golden Gate Park into our hood. I don't know if the kitties have exactly accepted my intrusion into their garden but I am hoping that they will eventually warm up to me. Our weather has not been very Spring-like, but typical for San Francisco. Sunny but chilly. Outdoor painting is best done in warmer weather which I am hoping for.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
In the era of TMI's and cyber voyeurism I totally had to jump on the bandwagon. I have a lot to say, and usually too much, but at this moment I will try to restrain myself and keep this short and sweet.
Last August I was living in the town of my birth, San Luis Obispo, California. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Luis_Obispo,_California
Long story as to why I wound up back there after many, many years of living in San Francisco and planning to move to Italy. Hello??? SLOtown??? (I will spare everyone from the long and languid description of my misery in the approximately one and a half year that I was there, at least for now) I met another artist who was a transplant form a different urban area. Through him I heard that there was going to be an "I Madonarri" festival in the Spanish Plaza next to the old Spanish Mission. I asked my new artist friend how he would feel about collaborating on a piece for this crazy chalk drawing event. My idea was to bring our two very different styles together, his being very Pop and mine of a more traditional nature. As I had been working with images of birds in my more recent work, I felt that incorporating some feathered creatures (hybrids) into traditional Madonna images was a strong concept. Well, my trip to Brooklyn to visit my beloved cousin and her man coincided with the "I Madonnari" event, so my new artist friend and I decided to create a painting together. This was my first experience in a long time painting in this style with acrylic, as I am an oil painter. My collab partner only uses acrylic so what could I do?
My ideas grew as my partner and I discussed the work. So many feelings and ideas were flowing through these pieces. Some related to my personal spiritual history as a Catholic, others to my relationship with painting and the history of painting. Botticelli has always been one of my strong inspirations. I admit that these were not my first delving into the world of hybridization of his paintings. I have also had a history with working with eggs and there is quite a bit of symbolism associated with them. Something about a raven has haunted me since childhood. I had a nightmare at a very young age and most likely it was associated with Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell- Tale Heart". The bird reference in that story was to a vulture, but for some reason I had associated it with a Raven. Poe did write a poem entitled "The Raven", but I have always had a special talent for being discombobulated by things. As I have grown I have developed a huge fondness for Ravens and Crows. If possible I would love to have one as a pet. Free to do what they want, but they could be my friend.
~Birds have cross-culturally been a traditional symbol of the transference of souls and immortality. The egg is a universal symbol of life, even at times a symbol of the Holy Virgin. The Dove is a symbol of peace. The Dove is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit descending on Christ, as depicted in many artists works. The Dove/Christ baby is a complete hybrid of this concept. The Raven is symbolic of intelligence; often times depicting things we prefer not to hear. The animal physiognomies were not terribly difficult to create. The baby Jesus being cradled lovingly by the Virgin with the upraised hand signifying a blessing transferred easily into a cradled dove/human child. Ravens/saints/ the Holy Virgin surrounding and adoring the newborn Christ infant are a menacing image to some, but as in life we are all guided by our own personal interpretations and senses~ excerpt from my artist statement 2010~
Six months and three paintings later I no longer have a collaborative partner but I definitely learned a lot from the experience. I thoroughly enjoy working with other people and feel that this was an interesting period of growth artistically for me. As it is Easter weekend and the time to celebrate pagan fertility rituals this is the perfect time to present these paintings. Happy egg hunting everyone! Buona Pasqua tutte!!!