COVID-19 has been quite the challenge for most of us. The idea of sacrificing the illusion of freedom in order to secure survival has been difficult for many in the Western hemisphere to accept for more than a few months at a time. Our forefathers have accepted such in times of war, but we have difficulties accepting that we are “at war” with The Virus — and that it is a result of “our own doing/undoing”. Here, I have chronicled some of my own perceptions, feelings and experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 challenge:
“Eternal Sleep — Mors Vincit Omnia”, 80 x 60 cm., oil on canvas, 2021.
One of the largest challenges for an artist is possibly that of deciding / daring to envision and portray oneself as dead. While Death itself is a fascinating theme for many artists, the psychological and superstitious reasons for not painting oneself as deceased keeps many artists in lockdown as regards trespassing and overcoming this mental and emotional hurdle. On ne peut pas vivre sa vie en ayant peur de la mort. Mais soyez assuré que la mort l’emporte sur tout, y compris la peur. You cannot live your life being afraid of death. But rest assured that death wins out over everything, including fear.
Choosing a COVID-19 Vaccine — the Three Prisoners Problem”, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm., 2021.
From 1957 to 1980, Martin Gardner had a monthly column in Scientific American magazine where presented mathematical games. One of these games was the Three Prisoners Problem. Here is the problem explained in Wikipedia:
“Three prisoners, A, B, and C, are in separate cells and sentenced to death. The governor has selected one of them at random to be pardoned. The warden knows which one is pardoned, but is not allowed to tell. Prisoner A begs the warden to let him know the identity of one of the two who are going to be executed.
“If B is to be pardoned, give me C’s name. If C is to be pardoned, give me B’s name. And if I’m to be pardoned, secretly flip a coin to decide whether to name B or C.
“The warden tells A that B is to be executed. Prisoner A is pleased because he believes that his probability of surviving has gone up from 1/3 to 1/2, as it is now between him and C. Prisoner A secretly tells C the news, who reasons that A’s chance of being pardoned is unchanged at 1/3, but he is pleased because his own chance has gone up to 2/3. Which prisoner is correct?”
In this 24th self-portrait I create a new problem and dilemma: given the known and unknown information regarding COVID-19 vaccines today, which vaccine do we choose in order to better survive the pandemic?
Here the images resemble cut-outs that are cocooned within a violent and haphazard mass of white noise. The questions are many, and the possible consequences are yet unknown. Should I take a vaccine, or not? And if so, which vaccine is the right one (and the safest) for me? The whiteness promises hope and security, but the internalized drama is almost overwhelming. The seemingly unfinished background of the painting is by no means uniform. The sharp edges from the palette knife reveal both urgency and random underlying patches of darkness, both of which threaten to challenge the assurance of science. The message is clear: “Time is short. Humanity is at a crossroad. Choose your fate, and live or die with the consequences.”
This raw, figurative painting is a significant update (if not a re-interpretation) of the original surrealistic exercise in “Flying Pope” by Ban’ya Natsuishi. The painting pictures myself in a self-portrait, looking up toward a skeptical and pouting Pope Francis who is flying high overhead — in the heavy fog-ladened and snowy Winter sky — while gazing nervously down at The Plague/COVID-19 Reaper, who is partially-concealed in shadows … lurking, and ready. The painting exhibits social distancing, as all three protagonists are deep within their own thoughts and concerns, but well aware of one another. One can wonder why the Pope has no one in his hot air balloon. But his job is perhaps not to save lives or souls, but rather to communicate the Love and Blessings of God Almighty to us … regardless of our individual fates. The ice-crystallized and sometimes violent brushstrokes of the white Expressionistic background voice a hurried sense of panic and trauma, but yet with a sense of being trapped in a padded cell, or in a vacuum — with a sense of helplessness not unlike that of experiencing a train wreck in slow motion. The effect is a disassociation between the figures, and from the Viewer to the protagonists. The figures capture the eye, but the only one who looks back at the Viewer is The Plague Reaper, whose blackened eye sockets are a real danger for the careless, and for the overly curious. The blank expanses in between the figures make the painting feel at once both unfinished and yet complete; it is an unfinished symphony — that can never be final. While the heavy abstract fog may perhaps impair our visibility immediately, we do not need to use our eyes to know that The Last Word is but an oxymoron; or thought expressed all too quickly. And that the apprehensive silence of the white expanse tells us much more Truth than the protagonists ever will. One thing is certain, the freezing cold ice crystals thickening the air and the three protagonists huddling within their own individual consciousness give little immediate sense of hope or solace.
“La enfermedad necesita soledad …
y demasiada soledad genera enfermedad.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
Painting: “Don’t Ask!”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm., 2020.
Painting: “The Scream” / “Isbad”, 60 x 80 cm., oil on canvas, 2020.
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Psycho”, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm., 2021 is a new self-portrait — no. 22 in the series.
This self-portrait explores many questions, including the suggestion that a degree of psychosis can be a defining element in creative genius, as well as containing hints of visual processing abnormalities, visual stimulation, perceptual aberrations and hallucinations, color preferences and phobias, and moreover the difficulties in identifying a «psycho»; who most often looks “normal”, and whom many interact with — some even on a daily basis. With the preponderance of mental illness, a worldwide change of Consciousness, and increasing tolerance for being “different” than the norm, being «a little psycho» is becoming the «new normal». More and more persons are owning up to their extrasensory perceptions (ESP), clairvoyance, encounters with extraterrestrials, speaking in tongues, hearing voices from Spirit Guides, automatic writing, painting and composing. Some artists (such as myself) get ideas and “coaching” from guides (both known, and not). It is not always easy to sign some of my own paintings because sometimes they (works of Art) literally paint themselves due to the energies that join in the process. It is perhaps understandable that some psychotic persons refer to themselves as “We”, rather than in the first person (I).
What colors are persons with varying degrees of psychosis attracted to, and repelled by? Can one identify a psychotic artist through his/her visual art? If we feel drawn to art created by artists with a degree of psychosis does that mean that we (the Viewer) also have such leanings?
Here I use my own image (a self-portrait) because I see myself as a mirror and a filter — through which I process my environment and my interactions with it. Every painting that I create is a part of my own image, and my own mirror/filter. As a co-creator of my World and all its realities and psychoses, I am condemned to own those creations.
Thus, it is not mere support of persons with degrees of mental illness that prompts me to say: “Je suis psychopathe”.
«Winds of Hell», 65 x 90 cm., oil on canvas. “Les vents de l’Enfer”, 65 x 90 cm., Huile sur toile; basé sur les six faces par lesquelles nous percevons la mort — La mort en tant qu’ennemi, La mort en tant qu’étranger, La mort en tant qu’ami, La mort en tant que mère, La mort en tant que voleur et La mort en tant qu’amant. 💀💀💀💀💀💀 Writing about Death is not foreign to me, but I have only approached the theme once before in my paintings. Thus, I have made a new painting about Death (which for we who survive others becomes a personal Hell for a time). And regardless of how we see Death, the Hell of loss is still there gnawing away at us … underneath the masks we put on to shield ourselves and others in our grief. 💀💀💀💀💀💀
Here is my first painting about Death:
Soul evacuation, oil on canvas, 100x150x8 cm.
THE HOPE (The Vaccine).
This is the final painting in my COVID-19 painting series chronicle. While all «endings» of pandemics are qualified — due to the ever-present possibility of re-occurrence or new viruses/new mutations, the survival and future of Humanity is dependent upon science, technology, perserverance … and, of course, abstractions such as Hope. Hope is a universal conceptual archetype — not necessarily directly connected to any known entity or individual … and it is therefore represented here as a visual abstraction in the intellectual and sense-oriented «feel good» category — expansive, yet ordered; spiritual, yet not confined to religion; and inspirational, yet mysterious.