My “ Stories,” are so-called because each combines and, in some
cases, re-imagines narrative elements from one or several fables, folk tales,
myths, legends and histories. Earlier works are loosely inspired by pre and early -renaissance treatments of biblical
or mythical accounts, which often depicted elements with disparate scales,
casually, chronology, geography, and even narratives as though all transpired
in the same time and space within the four corners of the painting. Lately, I have chosen a simpler narrative approach, attempting to capture just one moment or element from the source narrative and allowing that one facet of the story to evoke the whole narrative.
At Least We All Agree on Flapjacks
is a cockeyed look at two
divergent fables of the American frontier and its natural resources –the legend
of Paul Bunyan the lumberjack who was fictitiously responsible for denuding the
Great Plains of all its timber and the contrasting, mostly authentic tale of
Johnny Appleseed, who traversed the American West planting apple trees for
City Streets are a Maze to a Country Boy is my take on the Greek myth
of Theseus and the Minotaur depicting, in the foreground, Theseus in mortal
combat with the Minotaur (in my re- telling, just a bull) in the center of a
labyrinthine Minoan cityscape and, in the background, the vengeful God,
Poseidon, blowing Theseus’ black-sailed trireme towards the backwater town of Athens
and his ill-fated father.
Ride Boldly Ride takes its title from an
Edgar Allen Poe poem entitled El Dorado. In this painting, I depict a weary conquistador unknowingly passing-by
the fabled city that is his quest.
“When Will We Three Meet Again?” are words spoken by three
witches in the introduction to Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. Here, the witches are three quasi-historical women who rose
to power in a man’s world only to be branded witches or the like - Joan of Arc, Pope Joan and the Pharaoh
Hatshepsut, also thought to be the biblical Queen of Sheba.
Neptune and Ariel is my quirky reimagining of
the Mermaid yarn inside a giant aquarium.
Grendel’s Den is my speculation that the ancient text of Beowulf is a hyperbolic corruption of a still more ancient
oral saga of Vikings defeating the last surviving Neanderthals in the remote wilds
Pandora’s Bus deliberately conflates
competing views of how humankind first encountered sin - Natural Selection, the
Serpent in the Garden of Eden, Pandora, etc.
The Founding of Rome is a deliberate conflation of
elements drawn from several Roman foundation stories, Virgil’s Aeneid,
the epic of the fugitive Trojan warrior, the legend of Romulus, Remus and
the she-wolf that nursed them, the storied Rape of the Sabines, the guiding
hand of the patron-Goddess Juno, and my own more down-to-earth view that it was
feats of engineering – concrete, arches, aqueducts and paved roads that made
Rome the capitol of a vast empire.
Scheherazade 2012 is my vision of how the raconteur of 1001 Arabian Nights might appear if she were spinning her
tales in modern Iran: in chador to a mullah rather than a Shah, but with
polygamy and the threat of beheading still literally and figuratively in the
This Train is Bound for Glory captures the triumph and
tragedy of two giants of railroad lore preserved in folk songs (and, hence, a
folk singer occupies the center:) In the foreground John Henry besting a steam
hammer, on the left, then collapsing from a burst heart, on the right, and, in
the background, the record-setting Casey Jones’ locomotive, on the left, and
its deadly crash on the right.
Eve & Lilith in the Garden depicts the newly self-conscious
Eve (having partaken of the fruit – pomegranate is a more likely choice than
the traditional apple) with Adam’s first wife, according to Jewish tradition,
the fiery, independent and shameless Lilith, posed before the menorah-shaped Tree
of the Fruit of Knowledge.
Esther and the King Play Chess is a reimagining of the
Megillah, the Old Testament Book of
Esther, as the ancient Persian game of chess played between Queen
Esther and the Persian King Ahasveros, (a figure customarily assumed to be the
great Emperor Xerxes.) with pieces representing themselves as king and queen,
the evil Haman as a bishop, Mordechai as a knight and Jewish courtiers and the
palace guards known as “the immortals” as pawns. Note that the Queen, protected by the Knight, has the King
Pecos Bill Tames the Twister One of the feats of legendary cowboy, Pecos Bill, was the
lassoing and riding of a cyclone.
Typically this feat is depicted with Bill mounted astride the cyclone as
if riding a bucking bronco. In
this painting I imagine that Bill’s wild ride was inside the twister.
Oedipus Outwits the Sphinx (Again) The sphinx as a sentinel,
guarding the entry to the ancient Greek city of Thebes, shown in its
mountainous setting, then, as the modern town remains to this day. In the
original story, the Sphinx required Oedipus to solve a riddle in order
to gain admittance to Thebes. This
time, Oedipus smirks as he shows the angry Sphinx that he has solved her puzzle
(the rubik's cube.) Oedipus is
perhaps better known for having unknowingly sleeping with his mother and
killing his father – note the tattoo.
Song of the South The African American folktales
popularized in Uncle Remus are now known to be adaptations of trickster fables
imported from West Africa along with the slaves. Of course, the animal characters had to be changed to suit
the new environment. Hence, in this
painting, the old African slave remembers lions, hyenas and monkeys; but his
young audience imagines Br’er Bear, Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit.
Lots of Fun at Finnegan's Wake This painting is based on a traditional Irish folk tune, "Finnegan's Wake," that tells the tale of Tim Finnegan, a hod carrier by trade who, having imbibed too much, fell from a ladder to his death. At Tim's wake, a fight broke out. In the course of the brawl, whiskey was spilt on the bier, miraculously reviving Tim. James Joyce used Finnegan's Wake as a metaphor for the cosmic cycle of life, death, and resurrection to introduce his stream-of-consciousness novel by the same name.
The Last Business Lunch parodiesThe Last Supper by retaining DaVinci's composition and characters but depicting Jesus and his Apostles as busness people in the modern dress.
The Unstoppable March of Science or Once a God, Pluto isn't even a planet anymore takes the recent demotion of the Planet Pluto as the starting point in a meditation on what befalls the gods when the heavens are full of skyscrapers and astronauts.
ROXANNE Roxanne was Bactrian princess and storied beauty when a chance encounter led to her marriage to Alexander the Great. Alexander and his mount, Bucephalus, are depicted in the background.
BIRTH OF THE BLUES It is said that Robert Johnson, widely acknowledged as the first “blues” musician, sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to play guitar so well.
THE SELKIE Scottish, Irish and Faroese folktales include many stories about Selkies, beings who morph from seal to human by shedding their skin.
EMBLA EMERGES Embla Emerges depicts the first woman of Norse mythology who was said to have emerged from a Rohan tree. Scandinavians are the ethnic group with the highest percentage of redheads. Here, the Rohan's red berries dissolve into Embla's red hair.
THE CHANGELING The Changeling refers to an ancient fairytale concerning fairies that switch human infants. The older tale was incorporated by Shakespeare into his Midsummer Night's Dream. King Oberon and Queen Tatiana are shown relaxing in crown of roses worn by their changeling.
OPHELIA Ophelia is a character from Shakespeare, the would-be lover of Prince Hamlet, who, after having been spurned by Hamlet and blaming herself for his madness, falls from a willow tree and drowns in the brook below. Or did she take her own life?
FINN MCCOOL HURLS THE ISLE OF MAN One of the Irish folk hero’s greatest achievements was hurling a huge hunk of Ireland at a giant on the opposite, English shore. It falls short and becomes the Isle of Man.
NARCISSUS OBSERVED This painting depicts the doomed love of the forest nymph Echo for Narcissus (for whom the flower is named.) Narcissus loves only his own reflection in a pool of water.
ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE Orpheus, most perfect musician, ventures into the underworld to rescue his love, Eurydice. Hades is so moved when Orpheus plays his lyre that he release Eurydice on condition that Orpheus not look upon Eurydice until they have both reached the surface; but, not hearing Eurydice’s footsteps, Orpheus glances backwards and Eurydice is instantly whisked back to Hades.
FEE FI FO FUM Jack and the beanstalk was my daughter’s favorite folktale. Here, Jack escapes the giant’s grasp with the goose that laid the golden egg under his arm.
FLIGHT OF THE FAIRIES Fairies are everywhere in the lore of many cultures. While reflecting on that, an image came to me and I painted it.
EXCALIBUR In some versions of Arthurian legend, the Lady of the Lake, a sorceress, bestows the sword Excalibur upon King Arthur and, later, when Arthur, nearing death bids Sir Belivere to throw the sword into the lake, it is retrieved by her hand.
SACAGAWEA : MADONNA & CHILD It is easy to forget that while escorting Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery across the unexplored vastness of North America, Sacagawea was also nursing a newborn infant.
QUEEN OF THE NILE The first and only female Egyptian Pharaoh as she appeared in life merges into how she was memorialized in death.