Why?

Posted in Otto Dix on April 17, 2013 by babylonbaroque

In the aftermath of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, “why?” is the constant refrain from my mother-in-law smugly snug in her Fox network cocoon.

Why, as if we, the “blessed”, are  somehow miraculously immune from the horrors the world bears witness to day in and day out.

I am just as smugly content in my own cocoon; the very day  of the bombing I was reading that morning’s New York Times and blithely by-passed an article concerning a bombing in Somalia, 2o left dead. Yet this domestic act of terrorism does hit home and it does hold my (our) interest , self absorption one of our lesser sins.  This self absorption was stunningly reported in today’s NYT, when interviewing a participant, the New Hampshire native reflected “It’s heartbreaking to not cross the finish line, you train so hard for this, …It’s sad, but I’m safe.”  although I am happy she is indeed safe I would prefer for her to express gratitude, her concern about having not finished a race seems indelicate given the grief experienced by  so many.

What has struck me as singularly painful is the amount of amputees these jerry-rigged pressure cookers created. Although not at all cavalier, three reported deaths seemed  to me at the time to be less devastating- we after all, bore witness to 9/11.

But the  subsequent images of amputees: the pain, the pale bloodless faces, the kindness of stalwart by-standers, these images touched me deeply. In pondering this current  horror, I instictively turned to a master at depicting pain, Otto Dix.  

Dix as many know, was a fervent chronicler of the unpleasant , the ugliness of man; he was also an expert at depicting the amputee, often as a criticism of war and its excesses. On an unconscious level I turned to Dix and of course found numerous images, disturbing, awful, yet human. I will not post them all, the link above provides a full catalog of his work, but this one, from 192o, The skat Players is a personal favorite.

the-skat-players-1920.jpg!Large

Otto Dix

The Skat Players

1920

Oil and collage on canvas

Staatsgaleries, Stuttgart

The following link from MOMA gives an insightful analysis of the work, MOMA link .

This will pass, but  in the mean time I hope to carefully and thoughtfully take every act of terror personally, or to at least read the full article. It is the least I can do.

Until next time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

Into the Mouth of Hell

Posted in 19th Century, Atget, Chicanna, Hell Mouth, l'Enfer, Mantegna, Montmartre, Parco dei Mostri, Xieng Khuan on April 12, 2012 by babylonbaroque

The notion of Hell Mouth has been on my mind, Holy Week has just passed, Christ’s descent into Limbo, often referred to as the Harrowing of Hell being first and foremost. I also happen to be working on a series of painting in which the Gates of Hell feature more or less rather prominently. To see examples of the progress check out my studio journal Boondocks Babylon, link in sidebar.

My most direct inspiration for Hell Mouth being Andrea Mantegna’s depiction of Christ’s descent into darkness.

Andrea Mantegna

Christ’s Descent into Limbo


1468

Frick

Another inspiration, one I have turned to time and again is the monstrous gates at the Parco die Mostri.

Incredible beyond belief.

In my research, collecting various reference materials I soon came to realize Western Christians weren’t the only ones depicting the entrance to the Underworld with such ghoulish excess. Examples could be found in Asia, most specifically outside of Laos at Xieng Khuan, often referred to as Buddha Park. although not ancient, I believe built mid-century, they draw upon an outlandish tradition, clearly delighting in the creation of such demonic follies.

One may also turn to Mesoamerica at the Maya site of Chicanna. At the site “monster mouths”  had provided a dramatic backdrop for ceremonial processions, now marvelous photo opportunities.

For those not familiar with Mayan architecture the details can be puzzling given the geometric stylization, I suggest enlarging the image (all of the images for that matter). The eyes and teeth will become visible as you examine the complex design ;the visual puzzle it part of the pleasure I find in Mesoamerican art.

But I must confess the Hell Mouth that touches my heart the most is the architectural pastiche found in Montmartre at the sublimely bizarre cabaret l’Enfer. The entrance captured below by Atget.

facade of l’Enfer

photograph by Atget

The excessive sense of fun is such a pleasure , Philippe Jullian in his indispensable Montmartre tells us that the facade is essentially cardboard and plaster- but what wondrous paste.

The above image is terribly small, but if you are interested more  images can be found at this link.

I’m particularly delighted by this interior image, I snagged it from the wonderful blog Haunted Lamp (see sidebar) quite some time ago and I have treasured it  ever since.

In case you haven’t had your fill of fin de siècle smoke and mirrors check out this video clip bursting with vintage posters and publicity shots. I’m tickled by it .

As is so often the case this blog acts as  a great organizing tool for my ideas and interests;  I am so pleased that so many readers have shared these interests.

Until next time,

take care,

Babylon Baroque


That Other Gaelic Saint-Brigit of Kildare

Posted in Brigit of Kildare on March 15, 2012 by babylonbaroque

As the feast day of St. Patrick is fast approaching , I thought it a good idea to remember that Ireland has not one but three patrons. The familiar Patrick, St. Columba (perhaps another post) and dear Brigit-Brigid-Bridget (feast day Feb.1).

print of the saint by Currier & Ives

I start with this very sentimental image as it is in my own collection of saints. I have owned it for years but for some reason I have never before realized/remembered she was the patroness of Ireland. Reading the NYT the other day, an article concerning an outburst of thefts, holy relics being the target , I was relieved to hear that the “Mary of the Gael’s” jawbone was indeed safe and sound ,only the reliquary was stolen.

Good news I suppose.

Looking up from the paper I began to view my now familiar Bridget with new  sense of appreciation.

Saint Brigit of Kildare

Brigit of Kildare (451-525) is best known as the foundress of a school of art known for its metalwork and illumination. The school is most remembered for the Book of Kildare, now lost to time. We do of course have the familiar Book of Kells, so I will include an illumination of the Madonna and Child essentially because it is lovely.

For more info concerning Brigit, check out this link.

click to enlarge

With that, have a very happy Saint Patricks Day!

Until next time,

take care,

Babylon Baroque

For the Love of Bats

Posted in Bats on March 8, 2012 by babylonbaroque

You may have seen this video clip, but I hadn’t until this evening when my dear friend Eleanor emailed  a link , quite large and glorious link I might add.

Alas I am having trouble accessing the larger format, but the enclosed link is still pretty spectacular.

Aside from the sheer breathtaking beauty of  hummingbirds and iridescent bees, the bats are what blew me away. A long time lover of the little winged buggers, the close-ups in this clip are stunning. The mama bat with her kitten (?) is frankly too much. Delightful beyond measure.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks E!

Beginning Anew

Posted in Babylon Baroque, Boondocks Babylon on February 29, 2012 by babylonbaroque

I have for some time felt a terrible ennui concerning posts, truly struggling to find points of interest and the words to express them.

The truth is I am entering a period of reflection, I find myself  more and more interested in MAKING, instead of discussing (at times pontificating) about what has been made. My blogging friends , Thom of the marvelous Form is Void and the very fine artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins have offered splendid support in this arid period. As have other readers, I appreciate that.

Clive in particular has offered wise advice, if you are not interested in yakking away ,why not post the progress of your work?

I had thought of that before, and I have from time to time posted snippets of my work. But I confess a hesitancy. When I have posted work the response has from time to time been quite vitriolic, I was shocked by the harshness. I am self taught/self learning, it is often a rough road for me. I struggle with how things “ought” to look, my desire to emulate work that I so enthusiastically admire and a constant fear that the sand is slipping away so very quickly.

At times it is crippling, the harsh critique, even when warranted- which most likely it  was- only added to the chorus within my head. For that reason, I have hesitated to take Clive’s advice and emulate his own delightful Artlog.

But I have now decided my timidity is hampering any opportunity to record my progress, to explore other options and to openly engage with others. For many (most) of my readers the new blog Boondocks Babylon will be of little interest. It will be a space devoted to personal reflection, my struggles in the studio and day to day concerns. I really ought to make it a private blog, but I have developed friendships through Babylon Baroque and wish to extend an invitation to those readers to pop in from time to time.

Babylon Baroque will continue, the posts may be less frequent, but my interests in art and culture will  surely be piqued once again ; I will reserve this blog for established art.

For now,  Boondocks Babylon will keep track of my own daubs.

Until next time,

please take care,

Babylon Baroque

Garnier Opera House, Paris

Salome cast in Greenery-Yallery

Posted in 19th Century, 20th century, Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, Salome, Uncategorized on February 15, 2012 by babylonbaroque

We recently had the good fortune of catching the final performance of the San Diego Opera’s production of Salome. As I really am only familiar with our dear minx by way of Oscar and Aubrey I wasn’t sure what to expect.

source

I was delighted, most particularly with the lead soprano Lise Lindstrom, she gave a marvelous performance. As is so often the case I was drawn to the sets and costumes, in particular her gown in the final scene. It was, I declared with great bombast the perfect yallerish, Oscar would have adored the color. Unfortunately yallerish is incorrect, a quick Google search for the word provided only my own blog as the source, I have made MANY references to the word, all of them incorrect. I feel a bit of a fool.

The correct word to describe this Aesthetic Movement staple is Greenery-Yallery. First termed it appears by the witty duo Gilbert and Sullivan for their production of Patience in which they mercilessly lampoon lily- wristed blue-and-white china lovin’ aesthetes with utter abandon. 

“A pallid and thin young man

A haggard and lank young man

A Greenery-yallery Grosvener Gallery

Foot-in-the -grave young man!”

This 1882 greeting card illustrates the sort of fellow perfectly.

Source V&A

Wilde did of course make ample use of the color yellow, there is his poem Symphony in Yellow.

The drawing room at Tite Street was described as having dazzled in “greenery-yallery” effect 1909 source 

And of course there was that notorious yellow book found on Wilde’s person at the time of his arrest; alas it was not THE Yellow Book so loved by the “foot-in-the-grave” set.

Yellow Book, volume 3, October 1894

My only real disappointment in the San Diego production was the executioner of Blessed Jachanaan. In my fantasy he would appear as that bit of stellar beef ( Duncan Meadows) from the Royal Opera House production .

Unfortunately he was a rather chunky fellow with bad posture, quite a let-down.

Duncan Meadows, Royal Opera House production of "Salome"

 source : Feuillton

For a snippet of the final scene with the minor deity( and his mighty sword) check out this clip

The Duncan Meadows “lead” so to speak was from my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.Clive not only is a most impressive artist,but a blogging wiz, he kindly walked me through the compexities of WordPress.

Although I have been blogging for quite some time, I must have become rusty ( or WordPress has become more persnickety).

I thank you friend, a fresh day and a constant  visit to “save draft” seems to be the trick.

Knowing that once again I may post freely is a tremendous relief. I am now posting far less frequently than I have in the past. I hope my readers understand that my life is now often spent in my Hermitage ( my pretentious little studio); posting is becoming less and less a priority, but when the spirit and time allows I will indeed be back.

I am touched at the swelling number of followers, perhaps I ought to give it all up for good if the number of “hits” is any indication of activity when I am so very fallow.

Wishing all a “utterly charming” day!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

Saint Anthony, the Abbot of the Desert

Posted in Georges Melies, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Saint Anthony the Abbot on January 17, 2012 by babylonbaroque

As today is the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot, I thought it best to honor him with this image of the poor fellow bedeviled by temptation.

The painting, now at the Kimball Art Museum is by the ridiculously young Michelangelo, 12 or 13, frankly all terribly depressing ; for more details read this 2009 New York Times article

Michelangelo Buonarroti

(1475-1564)

The Torment of St. Anthony

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Once again faithful Vasari provides clues to this wonder, to Vasari’s glee the young fellow made a “perfect pen-and-ink copy” of the Martin Schongauer original. Working from a copper engraver the ambitious boy had purchased on his own, he dazzled his contemporaries and secured “considerable fame”. Not content to sit on his laurels (something I would be all too willing to do), the young Buonarroti quickly began a colored copy, according to Vasari:


“…in order to copy some of the strange looking demons in the picture he went along to the market and bought some fishes with fantastic scales like theirs.”

Detail of “fantastic scales”

source, NYT, click for more details

Given the blessed abbots desire for solitude, I think he makes a wonderful patron for artists; I am deeply drawn to images of the saint happily ensconced in his charming hermitage, a decorative skull comfortably placed on his rustic worktable. Perfection.

This weekends paper had an article concerning solitude and creativity, it only confirmed my own beliefs; if you wish, check it out with this link.

Those familiar with my blog know my penchant for George Méliès, I wasn’t going to replay this St. Anthony clip, but since I saw Hugo this weekend I really could not resist. It is incredibly delightful and funny.

For those inclined to something less irreverent, here are two prayerful clips, less fun but…

and

I will now close, must dash off to the gym, then lock myself in my hermitage; I happen to have a skull- fuschia, with glitter.

Anthony would have approved.

Happy Feast Day Saint Anthony!

Take care,

Babylon Baroque


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