I was privileged to work on the museum exhibit Antioch ... a prosperous metropolis once home to as many as half a million people. Sheltered by its terrain and supported by its ecosystems, Antioch was a flourishing symbol of culture.
The series human rights is different from all the work that has come before, yet it is simultaneously a culmination of that which preceded it. Painted on dark, rich backgrounds, the faces and bodies are shown as if emerging from the darkness. It is not intended to speak directly to human rights in the modern, political sense, but rather it begs the viewer to think of the ideas of the human body as a source of power, particular energy, radiance, and inherent complexity. This work speaks from a place of survival. The bright lights on darkened surfaces call forth the dichotomy of both hope and despair, which goes far beyond life today and extends itself to the entire history of the human condition. Shown without any contextualizing clothing or hair, these figures do not belong to any era; they float in the darkness, a beacon of light and, simultaneously, a reminder of that which is lost.
The finger marks are clear in the form of the figures and the shadows surrounding them. This personal touch draws a poignant trace of personalism and specificity into an otherwise hauntingly ambiguous work. This work addresses all of humanity - this is not a mystical otherworld, it is drawn from a reality, and because it is my reality, it is my truth. This realization of the viewer is the final piece to the enigmatic puzzle of this work: it is the human condition to create, it is the human struggle to be polarized, but it is the human right to speak ones truth. To survive.
Today, I give homage to Elie Wiesel. Who won the nobel peace prize for his work with human rights. Who fought for peace, human rights, and simple human decency.
Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage?
-Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act I Scene VII
My Lady Macbeth can be seen in the Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts
A softness is known in the volume
The kiss of a kindred spirit
With the flash of a forgotten lash
None shall escape dry of tear
A whisper floats through the ether
She tells me tales of woe
But before I can ask her more
Her journey has continued
Here, Marilyn, is where you you put some text that talks about the series. I know that these are a sub-section of the Portraits series, but I think you talk about something in these portraits that should be highlighted. This idea of fading out of/into the background; the passing through space. I wrote something to help insire you.
Through these veins runs a softness - from my fullest of existence, I dream of reclining into myself. From my spine, this sliver of silk, shall crumple and fade.
It is thought to be the end, when the rose embraces the decay. Often shunned, trapped beneath the black plastic lid of a garbage can, the roses’ beauty is lost? Within darkness it will coddle itself, the new yellow tone invited: in passing it can produce its own sunlight. Silk will respire and expire, warp wilts and the weft shrivels, the petals immortalize themselves. The petals of the rose cry at their own beauty. What all claim as perfection is merely the concept. The manifestation is too often forgotten; only the patient are rewarded by time. Once the eye has adjusted to darkness, the light emerging from the wax is fabled to bloom into the petals of the rose once more.
Decay- an exquisite beauty
The leaving - perhaps the beginning
“Rumour is a pipe / Blown by surmises, jealousies, [and] conjectures” – Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2
Imagine yourself sitting by a table, at a dinner party in a friend’s home. Conversation flows, and you find yourself in a trustworthy companionship. As talk unfolds, a guest talks about a mutual friend and laughs. With no reason to assume misrepresentation, you take the guest’s words as truth and unknowingly absorb Rumor’s malignant tendrils. Kool-Aid drunk, with no alternative presented, Rumor breeds, ready to stalk her next prey.
While this account may seem overly poetic, the point stands that rumor and slander exist as hurtful actions within our world. Throughout my life, a common trait among my friends is that we have been bullied. Victims, we and our families, are far too familiar with this pain. According to the CDC, “Youth who report being frequently bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.” Furthermore, studies supported by the CDC show an increase of 24% in suicide rates from 1999 to 2014, a raise from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population. Whether correlation or causation, the facts are devastating. I hate knowing that my friends and I contribute to behavior that spreads fear in children’s hearts.
But the real problem is that children are not the only victims of this hatred. Bullies do not disappear when they graduate from high school. They climb the social and economic ladder with everyone else, and they feed the epidemic that has spanned generations. Rumor, gossip, and slander may be the more recognized names for “matured” bullying tactics, but the aim and the effects of the actions are the same: defamation and pain, with intent to destroy.
Some find themselves boggled at the phenomenon of such negative attributes resurfacing so regularly within our communities. Yet television, advertisements, games, magazines, and theaters lavishly indulge in tales of gossip and social ill will. Just check the tabloids next time you are in the grocery store. A main theme of entertainment has always been verbal contagion. Characters stir confusion and the audience chortles with rapturous glee. But in the real world when the audience laughs, victims do not get to walk off stage; they have to keep living their lives, attacked.
I am not stating my opinion on bullying. I am saying that bullying is empirically bad. With noted effects of bullying including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and poor social functioning, to argue in the case of bullying is amoral. Bullying can shorten, endanger, – and I have seen it firsthand – destroy lives. Age irrelevant.
Gossiping about the person who is not at the table is truthfully more dangerous than speaking it to his or her face, for they cannot join the conversation and have no opportunity for rebuttal. It is the person who is not even present, the person who is not even aware their name has been mentioned, the person who has no opportunity to share their side of a narrative; it is the most helpless person who is being slandered.
Sacrificing the absentee for one’s own personal gain is far from mighty. Yet this is not the consensus, for we are a people divided by our words against one another. We choose to brew anger and hurt. Communities from college campuses to small towns, cities, states, and countries spread lies and falsely label others. At a time when the world is brimming with hatred and mistrust, stirring new gossip for a petty triumph seems even more unnecessary than ever.
Perhaps the next social encounter could do without character assassination.
I dedicate this piece to Julian.
My drawings have always mattered to me. Their simplicity helps me to internally understand what is going on behind the marks, to understand process. And it is the process of making art that fascinates me most. The process begins with recognition, a trust in recognition. I first begin to make marks, varying pressures and tones—just drawing. If then I persevere, I see something personal, a clue, something that I recognize, and something that feels familiar and resonates unlike any other work I have seen before.
I leave the drawing alone. I leave the studio. I come back and spend time with it, getting to know it better. If it still surprises, I then look for more clues. Content begins to make itself known to me. The process becomes a communal experience. The drawing is giving me information: how to proceed and where to go. I am not interested in intellectual concepts. The work has to be experiential. I try to take significant moments in my life and draw them in a believable way. These drawings are pared down, just using mixed media.
The Guardian Series is one that is particularly difficult to attach an explanation. Everything, even from the name, to the images, inspiration, and effects evades concise description. When people first see these images they often think of the winged figures before them angels, but this conclusion is not the intent of the work. This work, like all my work comes from deep within me, inspired by my own experiences and manifesting itself within my work. When I set forth to make a new piece I give myself over to the process. I must let go completely, or the work will never go beyond the limitations of a conscious mind. It is imperative that I allow my work to flow forth from me quickly, overpowering the psyche. I trust this process. I have been doing it for years. When my whole body enters into the work and I am open to whatever is about to come forth that is when my work is able to be successful.
My Father lost his leg in Normandy during World War II. No one in our family ever talked about his missing limb, though I grew up surrounded by heavy wooden prostheses. (He insisted on keeping the old ones for some reason.) Wooden legs stood behind every door in our house, and they were always falling down unexpectedly. We would be eating dinner, perhaps, and one would crash like a giant redwood.
I didn’t like crossing the street with my father. He would hold on to me for balance and limp across, never fast enough for my taste. I would watch in a panic as the cars came toward us. We are going to die, I’d think. From the safety of the far curb, my mother would chide him: “Leo, come on. You can walk faster than that.”
My father was a salesman at a men’s clothing store and stood all day long at his job. Occasionally, I would glimpse him getting dressed for work, hopping across the bedroom to grab one of the legs leaning against the wall. He would start by putting a special sock over his stump, to make the leg fit better. Those thick, funnel-shaped socks were always drying in the bathroom, hanging in a neat row over the shower rod. I would see them every day as I got ready for school: a row of hand-washed socks with faded brown stains. I saw them so often I barely noticed them.
Years after my father died, I remembered those socks and the brown stains. How could I have been so oblivious? The brown stains were blood, so much that even my mother’s constant hand washing could never fully remove it.