I’ve been thinking about the Twelve Gnostic Confessions of St Bartholomew the Lame for a little more than a year now. The idea came to me as I was dwelling on a way to artistically describe what had been happening in my personal life as I was passing this one attractive pile of lumber in the hardware store where I work. Art supplies and lumber inspire me, like many artists, and being a particularly guilty individual I felt like I needed to do some artwork that was, at its essence, about atoning for my sins. I couldn’t make the story literal though because that would be too easy, and I hate work that hits you over the head with a message-sledgehammer. Which is why I choose St Bartholomew as my avatar.
St Bartholomew’s initial claim to fame was being a great Jewish scholar who early on recognized the divinity of Jesus and who Jesus appeared to early after his crucifixion in Jerusalem. Batholomew later in his life performed missionary work it is said as far as Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and Armenia. Batholomew’s own crucifixion, which interested me most for this particular series, happened apparently because the saint had the temerity to convert a great king’s son. And so for this offense, he was flayed alive, beheaded and crucified upside down.
Here’s some historical depictions of flayed and martyred St Bartholomew’s that I used as inspiration for this series so far.
While I can’t claim any great connection to Bartholomew because of my religious devotion to Christ, or scholarly knowledge of the Torah (and would like to make that point really explicit for the devout out there); I can relate to the feeling at least emotionally of being flayed or stripped of all dignity. And so I set about the task of creating a series of 12 works divided into 3 chapters. The first chapter showcases creatures representing inwardly-directed maladies (vanity, sloth, deceit, gracelessness/lack, or gratitude). The second chapter so far as I have thought about it will display forces of nature channeling character-flaws that affect others outwardly such as misanthropy, greed, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness. The third chapter I’m still working on but I think it will deal with foolhardy-resolutions towards behavioral change. The gnostic confession or deeper spiritual meaning for each “flaw/sin” is the art the viewer sees. So the whole painterly endeavor is a type of catharsis where the artwork itself is the reveal. It’s my hope that as an exercise this series can help me close a turbulent chapter of my life while teaching me to endure yet another.
There’s an elaborate formal procedure that I have come up with to develop these works that I will write about in my next post. Here’s the second work in the Gnostic Confessions series:
I found myself listening to some old-black-man music again this week mostly at home once I got back from the studio. Old black man music is my term for music by black male crooners of yesteryear, mostly slow jams, which are usually designed to put you in that certain lovin’ mood. I like this genre of music mostly because it relaxes me and I try to ignore the amorous vibes unless I need to pay attention to them for some other reason. One of my all-time favorites in this personal genera is Lenny Williams’s “Cause I Love You”, which I often fantasize singing karaoke. The other one is Maze and Frankie Beverly’s “Can’t Get Over You”. Here are the YouTube videos of each song.
Because of the pandemic, I will not be able to go to the Vermont Studio Center this year. Fortunately, I formally postponed my admittance until May of 2021 and preserved my scholarship for that time so I will be able to attend then barring some unforeseen issue. I hope the pandemic abates by then. In place of going to Vermont, I decided since I had the time off from my job anyway, and my studio building is deserted except for us very few permitted artist-tenents and emergency staff, that I would have my residency here instead. I’ve set up a very robust schedule of painting for myself over the next month. I don’t think I will do quite as much work here as I would do if I were around a bunch of inspiring and intimidating artists I think I will do a lot on my own since the pandemic means I will be alone and undisturbed. I think I will start off by doing a Puppet Pal Friend series of drawings, followed up by a planet painting, another Gnostic Confession pieces, the final three Maxatawny Stitzer works, and possibly begin work on a larger landscape of the Grand Tetons that I’ve been thinking about for a little while now. I will certainly blog about my progress regularly since I have more time now to write and think. Until then, do be well.