Category Archives: Uncategorized

Love Is More Than Words

Over the years I’ve visited the theme of love in my work oh… a whole heckuvalot. It takes all sorts of forms:  forbidden love, unrequited pining, burning lust, chaste adoration, playful affection, and in several paintings it’s all about maternal tenderness. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m releasing a limited edition, signed & numbered print of my painting “More Than Words.”

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Being an Addams Family geek I decided to place Morticia and little baby Wednesday in Morticia’s greenhouse, where she was often found snipping the roses off her thorn bushes and feeding meatballs to her carnivorous plant/pet Cleopatra (featured in the upper left). Succulents from my own garden appear in the foreground because my obsessions tend to creep into the paintings. (Hello red foldy fabric, again!)

The sale will go live on Monday, May 4th at 9am PT (note: that’s Pacific Time, not PM if you’re squinting at your phone), in my Big Cartel shop: click right here to preview and bookmark!

Who Are The Real Monsters?

It’s possible that as a bit of a misfit kid I related a little too closely to the plight of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Watching Boris Karloff’s version of the creature being hunted, it seemed all too clear to me who the real monsters were. Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus” and James Whale’s brilliant “Bride of Frankenstein” touched me on an almost cellular level, and I’ve been trying to change that story in my art for years, to create a happier outcome, a real future for those characters. It’s also been pointed out to me recently that these paintings track changes in my life —

The Frisky Years…

"The Honeymoon" Acrylic & enamel on tin, 21 x 16 inches

“The Honeymoon” Acrylic & enamel on tin, 21 x 16 inches

Developing Healthier Hobbies…

"The Gardener" Oil on wood panel, 10 x 8 inches

“The Gardener” Oil on wood panel, 10 x 8 inches

Building A Family…

"Sew Much Love" Oil on wood panel, 17 x 14 inches

“Sew Much Love” Oil on wood panel, 17 x 14 inches

"Song of Birth: The 3 Magi" Oil on panel, 24 x 32 inches

“Song of Birth: The 3 Magi” Oil on panel, 24 x 32 inches

And Having Fun With Your Mate…

"Date Night" Oil on wood panel,, 15 x 24 inches

“Date Night” Oil on wood panel,, 15 x 24 inches

So yeah, you don’t have to look too hard to see that this is a common theme in much of what I do — “fixing” things that I perceive as wrong, things that have rankled around inside me since I was a child. (Another example, my seemingly endless desire to see Catwoman and Batman together.)

In my painting series Monster Ballads, I was thinking a lot about “Monsters: They’re Just Like Us!”  I painted things like Dracula relaxing on the beach moonbathing, monster friends celebrating a birth, and a series of martyr paintings because I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that so many of these creatures got a seriously bum rap. (Dracula did not appear in the martyr series because I felt that his path was a bit more self directed plus he seemed to wholly enjoy his state of being, as opposed to Frankenstein’s monster who got disinterred, hacked to bits, sewn up, and then pretty much reviled every moment of his waking life.)

As I mentioned in my last post (“Of Brides and Breaking Wheels”), paintings of martyrs often showed them with the thing that transformed them into a martyr (“a person killed because of their religious or other beliefs”), or sometimes there would simply be a visual clue. In the case of Saint Lucy, artists had a lot of options to choose from:  she was sentenced to be defiled in a brothel (but the guards couldn’t move her, even with a team of oxen), they heaped wood around her for a nice roaring fire (but she wouldn’t burn), and so they finally killed her with a sword. (Tell me again who the real monsters are?) One has to wonder, if one can do so without being utterly blasphemous, why so many of these saints seem to be under amazing and wonderful protection from all forms of harm right up until they suddenly aren’t. Around the 15th century a gruesome addition popped up in her story: torture by eye gouging, tho’ some stories say she did it to herself to deter particularly ardent suitors who admired her peepers. This story begat some of my favorite martyr images —

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi, carrying her very odd and anatomically incorrect orbs (and looking at us with her miraculously regrown ones).

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi, carrying her very odd orbs (and looking at us with her miraculously regrown ones).

And this, one of my absolute favorite paintings of all time for sheer weirdness — the eyes being held like a little flower bud, while Lucy looks at them (with her again miraculously regrown peepers) with what is clearly an “Ew!” face.

Saint Lucy by Francesco del Cossa

Saint Lucy by Francesco del Cossa

When I painted Frankenstein’s monster as a martyr, I gave him a daisy, which was a shout out to this:

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And he’s holding a tiny windmill in his hands, because (spoiler alert!), things do not go well at the windmill.

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Each painting in this series has a messenger bird, who travels between the worlds of the living and the dead kind of like a supernatural carrier pigeon. In this piece it’s a raven, a bird which is usually not portrayed in a very flattering light in art, possibly because of the simple stigma of being black (aka “evil”), but being carrion eaters certainly didn’t help. Spotted casually pecking bits out of corpses got the idea into people’s heads that they were mediators between life and death. (In Swedish folklore they are the ghosts of murder victims.) Crows get painted with this tar brush too, you’ve all heard the term “a murder of crows” by now.

"Song of the Raven" Oil on wood panel, 24 x 14 inches

“Song of the Raven” Oil on wood panel, 24 x 14 inches. The little snow capped mountain in the distance is a nod to the ending of Shelly’s story.

In my deep need to share the love of Halloween, this week if you want to bring a monster to your home (“Friend!”) you can, in three different sizes of throw pillows —

frankie_pillowYou can get these goodies right here! 

And lastly, in honor of those who’ve lost their heads to love, science or an executioner’s blade:

Darkling I Listen…

I call him LL Scrub Jay. He’s a Western Scrub Jay that hangs out in the necto-plum tree outside of my studio, and I feed him peanuts from time to time. He and his buddies turn up in my “bird a day” sketchbook (full disclosure, I don’t always have time to draw a bird a day, but I try).

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I’m pretty sure the neighbors think I’m bonkers but when I do my pathetically bad scrub jay call he usually shows up for a few nuts, and this makes me feel like we have a “relationship”, which resulted in this painting:

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Flash forward a bit to when I was asked to contribute a piece to the show “Boxes of Death 5”, in which artists are all given a 2′ high wooden coffin to paint/alter/play with. The blank casket arrived on my doorstep at about the same time that I read an article about how Western Scrub Jays have funerals. When one finds a dead comrade, they start up a loud screeching call — but not to warn other jays away, to gather them around. The assembled birds all perch near the dead bird’s body and screech together for as long as 30 minutes. (You can read more about this right here.)  That’s when I decided I would create a funerary piece about LL.

First step, paint it black.

First step, paint it black.

In my paintings I’ve often toyed with the idea of an animal kingdom where the critters have dragged elements of human culture back into their world, and pondered what sort of things they might take a shine to and value. With the idea of “pouring one out” in remembrance of a fallen friend, I decided the background for the piece should be hand-painted labels from Olde English 40 oz bottles — as close to “gold leaf” as a bird might be able to scavenge.

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Which started to come together something like this (with the help of my studio assistant, who feels there should be massive amounts of feline hair in everything I do).

This is about the point where I was starting to really regret the decision to hand-paint a bunch of beer labels.

This is about the point where I was starting to really regret the decision to hand-paint a bunch of beer labels.

What other sorts of embellishments might a bird have access to? Years ago when we were picnicking in Joshua Tree, we shared some scraps with a scrub jay, and once he’d had his fill he flew off to rustle around in a nearby bush. He returned to us and dropped a small shiny object in the middle of our picnic — it was a small brass 9mm shell casing. I can only imagine he thought it was a fair trade, that we would appreciate this piece of shiny human stuff. Or he was trying to give us a clue (like Lassie, “Bark! Bark!” “What Lassie, little Timmy is trapped in the well?”) to some nefarious crime, but we didn’t follow up on it. We were busy moving to San Francisco from New York. Remembering that bird holding the metal shell casing in his beak, I decided the coffin needed bottle caps, which I’d been saving for gawd-only-knows-what-project, and which I went to friend Phil Horton’s machine shop to drill.

Yes I absolutely am the kind of goofball that dresses up like Rosie the Riveter to go work in a machine shop for the day.

Yes I absolutely am the kind of goofball that dresses up like Rosie the Riveter to go work in a machine shop for the day.

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Sorted by color so I could create a pleasingly "random rhythm" pattern

Sorted by color so I could create a pleasingly “random rhythm” pattern

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My studio assistant needed to make sure everything had enough hair on it before I photographed it.

My studio assistant needed to make sure everything had enough hair on it before I photographed it.

(The back)

(The back)

And the finished piece!

And the finished piece!

“Boxes of Death 5”, with work by 50 artists, will be traveling for a series of four one-night-only openings — try to catch one if it’s in your neck o’ the woods!

PDX Antler Gallery -10/3
SF Gauntlet Gallery – 10/8
LA The Chun – 10/11
SEA Piranha Gallery – 10/17

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“Boxes of Death is an art exhibition where 50 artists are each given their own coffin to do with what they want. The idea spawned from Kane Quaye, a famous coffin maker from Africa. His philosophy was that a coffin should not just be a pine box, but something that represents the person inside and their life. Each artist in the show uses the same coffin canvas format to create their own artistic statement surrounding the preconceived notions and ideas of the coffin shape. The people in the show have a chance to step out of their comfort zone and faced with the idea of death, react to it.

The result is a visually compelling installation contrasting repetition and individuality. Boxes of Death showcases artists from the farthest reaches of the continental US as well as some international artists and highlights an incredibly diverse range of creative backgrounds.

Sponsored by Rudy’s and Juxtapoz, co-curated by Roq La Rue, the 2014 Boxes of Death tour show has grown to include 50 artists and has evolved into a four stop tour. The artist roster includes world renowned painters, illustrators, graphic designers, motorcycle builders, tattoo artists, assemblage masters and print makers.”

You can find out more about the show right here:  Boxes of Death 5

Sometimes I’m The Last To Know…

Google Alerts kinda failed me here — apparently a couple years back when one of my paintings (“Chill Quill”) was used as the cover for Madlib’s Medicine Show 11, it made a “Best Album Cover” list, dropping in at number two (just behind Wiz Khalifa’s “Rolling Papers”).  Jeff Jank, the art director over at Stones Throw Records, did a beautiful job — the LP cover isn’t cluttered up with type and design frippery.

Madlib Medicine Show 11

Madlib Medicine Show 11

But if you pick up the CD you get a great little booklet that Jeff designed with an additional three full color reproductions of paintings from my “Into The Woodz” series.

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On top of all that, it’s beat heavy, super smooth ear candy, crafted with humor from a deep musical sea:  “hip-hop productions, remixes, beat tapes, and jazz, as well as mixtapes of funk, soul, Brazilian, psych, jazz and other undefined forms of music from the Beat Konducta’s 4-ton stack of vinyl.”

You can read the Top Ten list right here

And pick up your very own copy of either the LP or CD right here

And if you don’t know from Madlib, check this out! 

With A Song In My Heart

"Song In My Heart" oil on wood

“Song In My Heart” oil on wood

Come on over to Varnish Fine Art this Tuesday for the festive holiday bash “A Song In My Heart”, celebrating the phenomenal work of Visual Aid and its positive impact in the lives of artists living with illness.  Earlybird tickets start at $36 (use code SONG): http://songinmyheart.eventbrite.com/  (Tickets will also be available at the door.)

This is the last week to catch my show “Making A Better Yesterday Today”  and the VIP reception will feature signature cocktails, wine and fabulous passed hors d’oeuvres that are a palette for seasonal and sustainable goodies, followed by an array of addictive desserts. I’ll be doing a chatty “artist’s talk” walkthrough of the show at 6:45pm — my voice is still a bit shot from yakking it up in Miami at the art fairs but come listen to me croak and wax on about art, love, pop culture, and nekkid ladies.

Dress code?  Wear whatever makes you feel fabulous, from cowboy boots to stilettos.  Call Visual Aid @ 415-777-8242 or email Executive Director Julie Blankenship for more information: julie@visualaid.org.

See you there!

Doin’ Cartwheels

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That’s how happy I was when I read this absolutely terrific interview by Keith Dugas in Cartwheel (well it was either do a few cartwheels or maybe a Snoopy dance).  Keith asked some great questions that got me thinking, everything from making paint to artists’ rights.  Read on right here to get some inside scoop on the new work for my upcoming show at Varnish Fine Art, as well as some “it’s almost like you’re there” shots of the studio.  Enjoy!

Shinkansen Conspiracy

Lots to catch up on, lots going on, but if you’re in the Bay Area you will not want to miss the opening this Friday of Shinkansen Conspiracy, a group exhibition presented by Last Gasp. Featured artists include: Rogelio Martinez, Mark Bode, Isabel Samaras, Lee Harvey Roswell, Mark McCloud, Shawn Barber, Justin Green, Michael Hernandez de Luna, Clayton Bros, Jennybird Alcantara, Wilfred Satty, Kevin Taylor, Nicole Buffett, Junko Mizuno, Nora Rodriguez, David Choong Lee, Henry Lewis, Jay Howell, Don Ed Hardy, Doug Hardy, Horitaka, Hal Robbins, Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Paul Mavrides & Kyotaro.  

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Opening reception w/ DJ Captain Kerf from 5pm till late, Friday July 6th, 111 Minna Gallery, conveniently located at 111 Minna St, San Francisco, CA.