During the last year I was out in the world more as artist, re-evaluating touchstone inspirations and immersing in new aesthetic experiences. The work that I made continued to explore personal shrines and monuments, the idea of representing facades to my work, and mixed media.
I think the most important piece I made in 2016 was the large graphite and acrylic work on unstretched canvas, Groupies Of The Shrine Façade. I’d been determined to find better ways to make drawings on canvas, but specific grounds I used weren’t very stable. During an early summer residency at The Studios At MassMoCA, an unexpectedly short period of workspace time before open studios caused me to push a large scale graphite drawing with acrylic elements to a unexpectedly satisfying result. In this piece, small guardians/glamrockers of sorts ended up populating and protecting the flat painted façade of 19th Century standing clock cases. There is a quite monumentality to the totemic, neoclassical clock shapes. For me, the environment is a minimal shrine inhabited by a community of poised, vaguely mythological devotees and protectors.
In 1996 I first encountered an Acanthus thistle flower growing in the high pastures of the Catalan Pyrenees. I was then a resident artist at Centre d’Art i Natura in Farrere and began incorporating the flower in paintings before leaving there. The flower is called a Carlina in the Pallars Sobira region. Resembling a sunflower in some ways, but smaller, with pale thin petals, and incredibly thorny, Carlinas have ages-old folkloric and talismanic associations. The flower has reappeared in my workfrom time to time, but made a consistent comeback in 2014 beginning with Ice Cream In Mourning (Cherry Valley Daydream). Last summer I began a very large painting that presented a massive thistle plant covered with Carlinas. Even though these flowering thistles grow very close to the ground, I loved the idea of a kind of enchanted thistle tree. I was suddenly inspired to travel back to Farrera to get in touch with this flower again. It was one of the most essential and poetic things that I ever wanted to do. 2016 was the twentieth anniversary of both Centre d’Art I Natura and my first residency there and that had already been propelling me to return.
I did go back to Catalunya for five weeks and half that time was spent in Farrera. It was an intense trip in ways although I was constantly rewarded with the enchantment of new towns and museums and seeing other layers to long influential Catalan art forms such as uniquely stylized Romanesque fresco paintings.
Two works shown here could not have happened without this return to that region. Those are the acrylic painting on canvas, Façade of A Catalan Pilgrimage With Self-healing Bears and A Falling Flower, and the graphite drawing, The Singing Dream Façade (When Flowers Fell On Tarragona). Surrealism seemed possible as a daily occurrence during my first stay in Catalunya in ’96. When a bouquet of flowers fell from the sky in Tarragona. I realized that my pilgrimage of sorts was being uniquely rewarded.
The Singing Dream Façade (When Flowers Fell on Tarragona), 2016, Graphite on paper, 14 X 17 inches
Façade of a Catalan Pilgrimage With Self-healing Bears And A Falling Flower, 2016, Acrylic and graphite on canvas, 84 X 72 inches
Groupies Of The Shrine Façade, 2016, Graphite on canvas, 60 X 72 inches
Detail of Groupies Of The Shrine Façade, 2016, Graphite on canvas, 60 X 72 inches
Hiding Places In A Dream #2, Acylic, collage, and graphite on canvas, 72 X 36 inches
Award-winning Memorial Ice Cream Clock (Delta City), 2016, Oil pastel and black prismacolor on board, 10 X 12 inches
Untitled Memorial Drawing, 2016, Graphite on prepared canvas, 17 X 29 inches
Catalan Dream Memorial With Black Telephones, 2016, Art marker, India ink, and graphite on paper, 14 X 17 inches
Memorial Facade, 2016, Oil pastel on paper, 11 X 15 inches
Recent work evolve around ice cream shrines/memorials that are accented with award ribbons. As mentioned in my artist statement, ice cream royalty appeared in earlier work as a metaphor for grandiose, seductive awards that artists may feel entitled to or destined for. At present, heaped scoops of ice cream in kylix-style dishes are monumental sundaes. They are façades that read like large painted, plywood cut-outs and are hideaways for shrine groupies and studio ghosts. The addition of vintage clock faces to the complex, organic makes for rich baroque objects. The clock faces here are votive forms- like milagro arms, legs, and hearts- but are also recurring images in Pennsylvania German fraktur and early American illuminated birth records. As well, their presence is also an ironic attempt to exert control over time as if that’s something paintings can do. Veiled memorials (some mimicking weeping willows) give a nod to early 19th Century mourning-themed needleworks and watercolors made by New England schoolgirls. Veils promote secrecy, an element in my work, and are barrier like the jail bars in earlier works like The Veiled Shrine. The still-life element in the recent oil pastels gives a nod to my exposure to 19th Century American theorem paintings that were made using stencil techniques. Overlays of green zigzags create rhythmic migraine weather and/or could be the alarms of the clocks. Like jail bars and veils, they also form barriers, an electric fence, for the artwork’s viewer. These animated, geometric forms also refer to Art Deco and to playful, anxious painting styles of the Eighties.
The graphite drawing, Inventory of Power, may have some roots in my fascination with museum storage. That said, I see this scenario as sort of tongue-in-cheek "power place"- to borrow a term from Carlos Casteñada- or sanctuary that is inhabited by Xenaesque guards. Those characters have origins in the earliest work on this site.
Shrine To The Stoners and Bank Robbers Of My Youth, 2015, Acrylic, collage, marker, and graphite on canvas, 34 X 78 inches
Detail of Shrine To The Stoners and Bank Robbers Of My Youth, 2015, Acrylic, collage, marker, and graphite on canvas, 34 X 78 inches
Award-winning Memorial Clock With Auras, 2015, Oil pastel on board, 10 X 12 inches
Inventory of Power, 2015, Graphite on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Ice Cream Royalty, Five O'clock, 2015, Oil pastel on board, 10 X10 inches
Self-healing Bear Shrine With A View Of The Chateau, 2015, Art marker, collage, graphite, and India ink on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Memorial Ice Cream Clock (Gemini), 2015, Oil pastel on board, 10 X 12 inches
The Haunted Ice Cream Clock (Mescalero), 2015, Acrylic pn canvas, 41 X 40 inches
Shrine Time, 2015, Acrylic, collage, and graphite on canvas, 48 x 78 inches
These works elaborate more on ice cream royalty that first appeared in 2012-13 paintings and drawings. As mentioned in my artist statement, ice cream royalty is metaphor for grandiose, seductive awards that artists may feel entitled to or destined for. In 2014 the personage-like, multi-scoop cones are more monumental and façade-like. Marble monuments and veils (some mimicking weeping willows) give a nod to early 19th Century mourning-themed needleworks and watercolors made by New England schoolgirls. Veils promote secrecy, an element in my work, and are barrier like the jail bars in The Veiled Shrine. Zigzags, jail bars, and veils form barriers for a viewer and attempt to create secrecy. The zigzags create a migraine weather at times and refer to both art deco and playful, anxious painting styles of the Eighties. Continuing the element of shrine, the graphite drawing, Untitled (Catalan Dream), presents what may bea tortured santo for a patron saint of insomniacs. Snails and alpine thistles refer to times spent working in the Catalan Pyrenees where surrealism seemed to be the air.
Ice Cream In Mourning (Cherry Valley Daydream), 2014, Art marker on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Ice Cream In Mourning, 2014, Art marker, ink, and collage on paper, 17.5 X 12 inches
Meltdown On Paper (YOU And Hollywood), 2014, Art marker, collage, graphie, and Prismacolor on paper, 12 X 8.5 and 11.5 X 8 inches
Veiled Shrine, 2014, Art marker, graphite, and collage on paper, 9 X 12 inches
Ice Cream In Mourning (Pyrenean Dream), 2014, Art marker on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Hiding Places In A Dream, 2014, Collage and art marker on paper, 9 X 12 inches
Ice Cream In Mourning #2, 2014, Art marker on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Untitled (Catalan Dream), 2014, Graphite on paper, 11 X 14 inches
With the exception of The Leaking Closet, these works partly show my transition from fourteen years in Brooklyn to a very different vernacular and regional art history of central New York State. My work is getting tempered by a more classical folk art aesthetic as opposed to that rawer self-taught art that inspired me for thirty years. The graphite drawing, Yonkers Nursing Home Shrine, came for an imagined scenario of an artist from Mississippi staying too long in New York City and ending up, rather ironically, in a Yonkers nursing home. The large colorful paintings of this group coined the name, Ice Cream Royalty. The figures prominent in my earlier work had taken more of a back seat – they are literally hiding at times- and their extravagant fashion statements have essentially become the structure and facades of the shrines. There is a more text-based environment which presents sentiments such as love/hate relationships with certain cities, bon voyages to the spirits, and both sincere and melodramatic eulogies. The 2013 wall painting, The Leaking Closet, was commissioned for the Eaton company for its new headquarters in Beachwood, Ohio, near Cleveland. The imagery of ties and water drops was originally inspired by a leaking closet in my Brooklyn apartment that was not repaired for six months. Later I saw that this visual scenario hinted at family secrecy as well as the BP oil disaster that affected the Gulf of Mexico and my home state of Mississippi.
Shrine for Miss-Flea-Market-Becomes-Ice-Cream-Royalty, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 108 X 96 inches
Shrine for Ice Cream Royalty (Mississippi), 2013, Graphite on paper, 12 X 9 inches
Shrine For Ice Cream Royalty #3, 2013, Graphite on pap
Shrine for Ice Cream Royalty, 2012, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 84 X 132 inches
Yonkers Nursing Home Shrine, 2013, Graphite on paper, 9 X 12 inches
Shrine For Ice Cream Royalty #2, 2013, Graphite on paper, 9 X 12 inches
The Leaking Closet, 2013, Acrylic wall painting at Eaton Center, Cleveland (Beachwood), Ohio, 7 X 29.5 feet
Shrine For Ice Cream Royalty (In Loving Memory), 2013, Graphite on paper, 12 X 9 inches
Interview With The Shrine, 2013, Collage, art marker, and India ink on paper, 17.5 X 12 inches
Shrine For Ice Cream Royalty #4, 2013, Graphite on paper, 12 X 9 inches
Current shrine-themed works evolved from earlier themes that I saw associating Americans. With much idiosyncracy, scenarios presented dysfunction, style as empowerment, nature worship, anarchy, and Hollywood. The community in that work, shown here, finds a vehicle in fictional Delta City, where isolation gives greater opportunity for local superstars and homegrown fashion. It is a deprived, rural landscape where signs state DIRT FOR SALE. Delta City makes references to self-taught sensibilities and is a kind of hideaway for flamboyant, rebellious characters. Zealous, glamrock hippies, the Delta citizens possess unlikely talismans: souvenir clothing and jewelry, migraine auras, and candy-striped objects, including donuts and phones. Personal styles have a shrine aesthetic. Natural adornments, such as pine cones and snails, keep local myths and superstitions alive. Supernatural characters speak star language. Vintage telephones suggest the communicative ability of art and a potential for mischief. Delta City is also a metaphor for the family unit with its resident anarchists and history of secrecy, symbolized by semi-disguised participants. Delta City Jail is more of a community center made shrine-like by an adulating fan club. Hovering forms are zigzags, herringbone patterns and wavering lines that refer to migraine auras. These vibrating shapes, that relate to the striped objects and lightning in my past work, linger near my characters’ faces like Art Deco jewelry. In Migraine Party Line, flashes are similar visual disturbances, but promote “star quality” by resembling a paparazzi attack.
Souvenir City, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 85 X 108 inches
Drawing with SoHo Psychic, 2011, Graphite and marker on paper, 17 X 14 inches
Delta Dream Parade, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Memphis, Masks, Migraines, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches
Untitled (SoHo Psychic), 2011, Graphite on paper, 18 X 13 inches
Drawing with Ice Cream Award And Wig, 2011, Graphite on paper, 10.5 X 14 inches
Delta City Jail Shrine, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Leaking Closet (Migraine Weather), 2011, Graphite on paper, 13 X 18 inches
Flea Market Sunset, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 4 X 17 inches
Delta Jail Shrine, 2011, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 74 X 108 inches
Delta Citizen, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Migraine Party Line, 2011, Marker on canvas, 48 X 144 inches
Detail 2, Migraine Party Line, 2011, Marker on canvas
Detail 3, Migraine Party Line, 2011, Marker on canvas
Detail, Migraine Party Line, 2011, Marker on canvas
King and Queen of Migraine, 2011, Oil pastel on paper, 18 X 24 inches
Mississippi Hiding Place, 2011, Graphite on paper, 10.5 X 14 inches
Earlier versions of Delta Citizens began as flamboyant rebellious hippies at odds with tigers and lions in my mid-2000s work. Backwoods anarchists of sorts, they become disquised and maintain secrecy via overblown fashion statements. The randy punk-hippie community of Large Drawing With Phones And Donuts enjoy simple low tech pleasures. After finishing this piece, I was reminded of a 1948 Norman Rockwell illustration, The Gossips, that shows floating heads of townspeople raptly conversing on phones. Some of these works were made during a long residency at Camargo Foundation in France. An important part of that time was immersion in and enrichment from several art brut collections. Existing themes and characters expanded more unapologetically and uncensored. Half-baked, brash superheroes hang with flea market superstars. In It’s Raining Near Peppermint Memphis, a green-clad, Xena-esque character harkens back to heroic, problem-solving archer in my earlier work. In the same drawing, a mythological, self-healing bear appears and may also have positive influence. The acrylic painting, Delta Donut Day, was the first to suggest the bulk of a painting’s imagery was a façade; a more naturalistic character peers over the top of it. There is likely influence from my time spent as a scenic painter on indoor film sets in Los Angeles. Witnessing the artifice of filmmaking nearly killed my sense of cinema magic and it took quite a while to regain. I think the idea of the façade for me is also about the secretive, often incomprehensible Mississippi society of the 1960s that I grew up within.
Delta City You, 2009. Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Delta Jail Scene with Lightning, 2010, Oil pastel on paper, 32 X 42 inches
Delta Love, 2009, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18
Large Drawing with Phones and Donuts, 2010, Oil pastel on paper, 96 X 144 inches
Detail, Large Drawing with Phones and Donuts, 2010, Oil pastel on paper
Hi, I’m Cinnamon Coke, 2009, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Flea Market Superstars, 2009, Acrylic and collage on paper, 52 X 38 inches
New Looks and Accessories For The Delta Scene, 2009, Oil pastel on paper, 32 X 49 inches
Delta Citizens, 2010, Graphite on paper, 25 X 36 inches
Detail, Delta Citizens, 2010, Graphite on paper
It’s Raining Near Peppermint Memphis, 2009, Oil pastel on paper, 32 X 49 inches
Return to Arkansas, 2009, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Donut Day In Delta City, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 72 X 108 inches
Drawing Installation, Linda Warren Projects, Chicago, Left to right: Delta Duo, The Leaking Closet, Untitled, and The Marriage of Ávila and Memphis, All works are 2010, oil pastel on canvas, and 65 X 49 inches each
Marion Jail Fan Club, 2010, Graphite on paper, 33 X 35 inches
Detail, Marion Jail Fan Club, 2010, Graphite on paper
In the works, garish superstars of the Delta become combative superheroes, They appear more as in drag as they amplify style and disguise. Supernatural beings, like bird people and a green-tongues mountain spirit, are the former aggressive hippies who succeeded in attaining the power of animals and nature. In these works, striped objects (phones, donuts, military insignia patches, and clothing) mimic the tiger’s pattern as well as shimmering shapes associated with the migraine experience. A hand-held, stylized mountain is a talisman. Black lightning overlaying one painting foreshadows the zigzig marks that regularly appear in my present work. In The Rad, The Bad, And The Sad, a fierce, glitter rock hippie shouts formal star language in a canvas-spanning, horizontal display of tie-wearing Hollywood icons.
Drawing With Green-Tongued Mountain Spirit, 2008, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Drawing with Badges, 2008, Oil pastel on paper, 14 X 20 inches
Painting With Phones, Wigs, And Mountain, 2008, Acrylic and collage on paper, 38 X 53 inches
The Rad, The Bad, And The Sad, 2008, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 77 X 91 inches
Studio Ghosts, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, 92 X 92 inches
Painting With Black Lightning, 2008, Acrylic and collage on paper, 27 X 27 inches
Delta Duo, 2008, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 83 X 76 inches
Superheroes Of The Delta, 2008, Oil pastel on paper, 24 X 18 inches
Voluptuous, gender-bending, glamrock hippies become superstars of the Delta as they continued to speak star language in crowded unpeaceable kingdoms, antitheses of the earthly utopias envisioned by folk painter Edward Hicks. Expanded, home-made fashion statements become shrine-like. Mississippi is referenced in bullet-riddled STOP signs, bottle trees, triangular Delta symbols, and, in the corner of one painting, a bucket of lard. Snakeskin pattern and peppermint stripes relate to vibrating migraine auras. Souvenir caps and jewelry suggest a vague, low rent worldliness. Another mythical archer appears to save the day. A sash, which is a dominant form in my current shrine-themed work, appears in a painting (Wigs For Sale) for the first time. There is influence from the poses of rock bands on album covers that punctuated my growing up in the Sixties and Seventies. Some images I would pore over often, scrutinizing a myriad of hair styles and clothing details.
Untitled (Wigs For Sale), 2007, Acrylic and collage on paper, 47 X 35 inches
Memphis With Mountains And A Lime Sunset, 2007, Acrylic and collage on paper, 30 X 40 inches
Painting With Ram And Green Archer, 2007, Acrylic and collage on paper 22 X 26 inches
Star Language #2, Acrylic and collage on paper, 30 X 23 inches
The Delta Scene, 2007, Acrylic and collage on paper, 27 X 78 inches.
Superstars Of The Delta, 2007, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 91 X 98 inches
There are both supernatural elements and personifications of nature suggested in these works. Menaced by tigers, some glamorous, rapturous hippies speak star language, including a dispersion of small portrait photos of Hollywood celebrities. A magical green archer is mourned by lustful, flower child devotees. Several oil pastels on paper, set in Catalan landscapes, present nude voluptuous giants that personify or assume the roles of seasons or weather systems, including fog. In a related drawing, Star Language (Catalunya), some draggy revelers start to become constellations.
Drawing With Green Archer, 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 14 X 20 inches
El Temps (Catalunya), 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 20 x 28 inches
Star Language (Catalunya), 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 23 X 30 inches
Virgin Spring (Catalunya), 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 20 X 28 inches
Hangs-Around-The-Fort (Pallars Sobirá), 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 20 X 28 inches
La Niebla (La Panda), 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 28 X 20 inches
Star Language, 2006, Oil pastel on paper, 30 X 40 inches
These works brought both new imagery and early presentations of a memorial or shrine-like nature. 2005 saw a more defined version of the flamboyant, mean hippie that was partly inspired by various threatening individuals in the Mississippi landscape of my youth. In earlier paintings, this character’s persona was bouncing between assassinated, but serene Southern rockers and conspiring Biblical-looking characters at war with lions. Some of the exalted-looking hippie portraits were invented in an isolated, Mississippi cabin that my great-grandmother had lived in. The installation, Work In Progress, that I was invited to make at Mississippi Museum of Art, became a freely associative project that added an ironic fashion element to my visual vocabulary. Thrift store clothing was opened up and pinned to walls to find its most dramatic formal potential in the museum space. Adorned with badges, medals, shields, and award ribbons, the clothing elements became more special- even uniform-like. With the additional attachment of a loosely made-up portrait, each arrangement became a kind of personage. The overall effect was a community of them. Something about this environment was probably a digestion of 911. The flat, byzantine-like community of the installation, with ironic memorial overtones, brought to mind the formidable Mississippi hippies of my youth and the dead terrorists that were more in the public’s thinking then. Gloves here recall those that folk legend Casey Jones wore during his fatal train accident at Vaughn, Mississippi. As a child, I had the opportunity to try them on and that experience, along with meeting famous Tarzan portrayer, Johnny Weissmuller, was an early important connection with myth. The Tarzan connection, hunting experiences, and the concept of old-fashioned Biblical punishments likely fueled my scenes of humans versus animals or humans seeking the power of animals and nature. In Lick The Sun, an archer image- this one is collaged from a magazine cover- appears for the first time as both hunter and problem solver. In later works, the archer becomes a supernatural glamrock superhero. In the same painting, ferocious leonine hippies have consumed the spirit of the tigers and lick the sun in an ultimate communing with nature. The large geometric, pink shoelace in another painting is a precursor to the bold, floating zigzag forms in my current work. Here, the shoelace serves a visual pun as it holds the painting together formally.
Cabin Drawing, 2005, Oil pastel on paper, 13 X 17 inches
Lick The Sun, 2005, Acrylic and collage on paper, 44 X 47 inches
Mississippi Painting With Pink Shoelace, 2005, Acrylic and collage on paper, 52 X 61 inches
Drawing With Green Sun, 2005, Acrylic on paper, 37 X 52 inches
Reach For the Sky #2, 2005, Acrylic on paper, 12 X 16 inches
Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 2, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 3, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 4, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 5, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 6, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 7, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 8, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 9, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
View 10, Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
Work-In-Progress, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, 2005, Mixed media installation
Reach For The Sky #3, 2005, Acrylic on paper, 12 X 16 inches
Untitled (Mesopotamian Dream), 2005, Acrylic and collage on paper, 31 X 83 inches