Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dibujos de Faunos y Minotauros

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso
Paris, 1933 - 1939

Even more than the paintings, I’ve always loved Picasso’s drawings, ever since Kay Ikonen gave me a book that recorded and documented all the ones he did over the course of a few years from 1966 through 1968.  It was called Picasso: his Recent Drawings, and I studied it intensely.  Following his trail of thoughts from day to day was a great example. This book taught me some things about the way an artist’s ideas develop and transform during a period of fascination and obsession with a given theme, how they might be dropped and resurface later.  Lately I’ve been looking at his drawings from the mid to late 30s concerning the related themes of two horned mythological figures with which he identified in that precarious time leading up to the second world war when aberrant creatures like myself were being rounded up and slaughtered by those in power.

Daw Kin Nwe (1951 - 2016) and her grandnieces

Rangoon Burma 2015

Ne Oo and I have lived together for twenty five years.  His sister died this morning and I was faced with the task of telling him.  When I was in Burma, a year ago April, I met her on several occasions, first at the duplex that he and his sister in law had built for her and his second sister (already deceased, and her half consequently occupied by her daughter,) and later at the family apartment downtown near City Hall.  When I first met her in her home she was watching her twin grandnieces, who were rather shy initially but compliantly posed with me as instructed.  When the two girls came with their mother into the city to pay us a visit, they were less guarded, especially after they were presented with a bag of pistachios.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Siren of Atlantis

Arthur Ripley & John Brahm 
Hollywood CA 1947      
with Maria Montez & Jean Pierre Aumont

Based on the same novel, L’Atlantide by Pierre Benoit, that also served as the basis for films by Jacques Feyder (1921,) GW Pabst (1932,) Edgar Ulmer (1961,) and Bob Swaim (1992,) this particular project was initiated by Seymour Nebenzal, who also produced the Pabst version.  Early on he approached Douglas Sirk, who didn’t want to direct it but did help structure the screenplay.  After Arthur Ripley completed his work, and it was poorly received by preview audiences, Sirk was again called in to save it, but he wanted no part of it, so the task fell to John Brahm, who spent a few more weeks reshooting parts of it.  When neither Brahm nor Ripley wanted credit for the direction, Gregg Tallas, the editor who was responsible for cobbling it all together, ended up the director of record.  It’s not a bad film, in fact it was one of Jack Smith’s favorites, and it is referenced repeatedly throughout his work.  The woman whom Jack worshipped, the film’s star, Maria Montez, considered it her greatest role and her finest performance.  It no doubt helped that her leading man was her very handsome and genuinely gifted husband, Jean Pierre Aumont.  Both Ripley and Brahm were very good at creating an atmosphere of delirium in their films, which serves the material they were asked to work with here.  At its best, the film has the quality of a half remembered dream.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bear Men & Bears

Dale Wittig, San Francisco CA
Acrylic on Canvas, June 2016

Sixteen black and white paintings, painted on a single large canvas and cut into strips, depicting South American, Mexican, Russian and South Asian men who identify as Bears, juxtaposed with Kodiak, Grizzly, American Black and Malaysian Sun Bears.

The Bear Men depicted are drawn from Internet photographs from various international Bear sites, particularly Indian Bears and Osos de Ecuador.  The images of Bears come from a series of specific searches focusing on Malaysian Sun Bears, Kodiak Bears, Grizzly Bears and North American Black Bears.  Right now quite a few species of Bears are threatened with extinction due to hunting, environmental devastation, territorial encroachment by humans and climate change. In bringing these two subjects together one may assume that I’m being facilely literal, simply repeating a visual pun for base amusement.  I was hoping, rather, to explore a poignant and possibly fragile identification with apparently universal appeal.