Drink in the lotus, Yodapillar. Breathe in its purity. Out of a mudhole it has grown. Now it floats, gently bobbing on the surface. “Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is!” Soon you will yourself blossom, emerging from a chrysalis, perhaps no longer in physical form. “Luminous beings are we… not this crude matter.” Eating the blossom, chewing on its petals, might speed up your transformation, temporarily boosting your power and expanding your vision, but after nibbling on the edge of the leaf you rear back, looking up while clasping the stem, and in reverence remember: Tat Tvam Asi.
This oil painting on linen canvas, large for me at 30″x 40″, I completed in 2004. On the back of the pew on the bottom left I signed my name backwards.
Through the Rose Window, its thin circular gold frame glimmering, sunlight softly shines, illuminating the altar space within, which with soil-brown molding around its base has a floor like a foggy looking-glass reflection of the night sky, stem and leaf green brick walls held together with petal-paste mortar and, rising above it all like the aura of a fragrant blossom, a luminous apse. Higher overhead an abundance of thorns crowd in as a reminder of the burden of consciousness, the sting and pain of thought, the hardship and suffering of mortal existence. The rib vault appears of living flesh, tending to sienna and ochre in tone where dense and hard, turning roseate where the webbing thins out and is stretched tight. This rib vault is like some sublime creature’s wings about to spread open, following in hypostatic union the open arms of Jesus on the cross. As the heart is in the mind: so the Son is in the Father, the smaller Physical incarnation contained within the larger manifested and blossoming Abstract. The Rose Window represents the eye of God. The mind’s eye of Jesus below, however, is the picture’s vanishing point.
Sub Specie Aeternitatis, the bustle of human beings in this overpopulated world resembles a swarm of insects.
The Rosary Beetles with heads reminiscent of skulls gaze through dark sunglass eyes at Jesus on the cross. The greenish tint of their skin suggests poison and envy but also nature and growth, hope and renewal. It’s unclear whether these Beetles are parasites feeding off a Host or are a vital and integral part of this organic and alive altar space. Do they pray for a return to their original form, having in the past been fully human? However they came to be there they now possess exoskeletons, outer shells, each with its own design, an extra pair of arms grown out of their sides, antennae wiggling from their faces, and mandibles protruding from their stretched mouths. Connected to Jesus on the cross suspended at the very heart and center, monk and nun Beetles, Cardinal, Bishop and Pope are all strung together by one long golden cord, which vibrates and hums, here pulled taut, there slackened, loosely but neatly looping where it changes direction, uncannily never becoming knotted or tangled.
The following pencil drawings I made before I began the painting:
Words don’t come easily to me. If only they flowed through me like a river from the ocean, but for long stretches I turn so dry and barren I become mute. Out of ruins and rubble I push each rough and irregular sentence like a boulder up a hill, exhausting myself trying in a clearing at the top to create my own place of worship, my own Stonehenge. There’s not so much freedom in words as we’d like to believe. I feel crushed under the weight of all their possible combinations and meanings. So many words tumble forth out of the confusion of ideas and make sense only loosely or by chance. Commonly used phrases are pushed around like the upside-down cups in a shell game still played after the ball has been lost. Insignificant words multiply and thicken around more substantial words, creeping like vines, proliferating like kudzu. One must hack through a jungle of cliches. I doubt any word exists undiluted and in its original power. Not one word exists so absolute that it never comes down and gets itself mixed up in the crazy affairs of human beings, including the word “God”.
I made this small oil painting back in 2001. To this day I revolve around the idea of the ground-rooted figure, organic but not fully human.
. . . . . . .
On the crown of this figure’s head in his budding youth is a design of dark green curved lines, indicating the undeveloped petals folded tightly within. He bows slightly to the side and raises his hands to his face, mittened fists held against his forehead, but not in a gesture of weeping or despair. It slowly dawns on him he’s growing, not suffocating in a body bag, that though the lines on the crown of his head cut deep, his face isn’t covered in bandages.
The top of his green outer-covering retracts from his emerging head like a pleated turtleneck collar. Behind two lids tightly sealed his vision feels around like fingers running over inscrutable braille and passing on in search of some edge or opening leading out to light. He endures the deepening curved lines on the crown of his head, the small areas in between them lightening as they swell into protuberances, like an invisible branding iron being pressed into his skull. Bowing under the pressure and tilting forward, he lowers his hands, mittened fists held together under his nose like a praying boxer before a fight he knows he can’t win.
His roots, turning arterial, worm their way through the soil, branching out deeper down, nourishing and stabilizing his upward striving. The turtleneck-like collar from which extends his neck and head splits along its pleats and forms into little leaves. Body stiffening upright, he pulls his elbows together toward his belly and, like a living hieroglyph trying to simplify its configuration, he splays out his forearms. His hands, springing open, then split through his mitten-like coverings and emerge yellowish green, fresh and luminous, but almost immediately on exposure to the light and air the human side of his consciousness begins more fully to awaken, a red tide rising within, swirling around, blood mixing with the sap in his body, manifesting as stain and blush around the folds and creases of his skin.
He begins to experience the suffering of flesh. Pain shoots up his roots, traveling through his body and, sharpening on ascent, pierces the orbs in his head like two arrows. On impact his lids crack open. The punctures left on his orbs, two small dark holes, could be mistaken for pupils. He tilts his head up to look into the sky, but he’s blind, only able to sense through the pain in his wounds. When he turns the palms of his hands outward to receive the Holy Stigmata, however, nothing happens. He sticks out his tongue.
The dark matter synthesizing within him, gradually transforming, swells at its peak into a new organ, which finally cracks the shell of his skull, splitting through the crown of his head. Emerging formed into three leaflets, blushing flesh-flaps conjoined, is a sign from the Demiurge, a vaguely obscene but strangely alluring blossom which at its clenched tip, the compact juncture of its unfolding, alternately resembles aortic valve and anus. Swelling further and reddening around its edges it resembles an eroticized wound within which all the colors of the rainbow seem to be held in thrall to the possible eruption of blood and feces.
His face completes changing from yellowish green to a blend of beige and peach now beginning to flush scarlet and crimson. Lids opening wide, his two orbs bulge, the punctures stinging, the two small hollows snaking down through his body, as folds of skin roll away from the blossom engorged and swelling further out of his head. He throws his hands up in foreboding of his approaching fate, but soon overcome by nature’s indifference, drawing his tongue back into his mouth, he resigns himself to the overall progression.
As if punctuation marks have escaped from the world of the printed page, risen out of their black coverings and float free in the clear blue sky, clouds with a life of their own, gathering and drifting, stream on in search of a new identity. They explore the limits of their possibility, from their soft and fluffy whiteness blooming orangish red, glowing yellow, blushing traces of rose. They appear fruity like orange rinds and silky like flower petals, until in epiphany, like a transubstantiated exclamation point finally finding its place, they drift down, converging on the engorged and swelling blossom, and absorbing not only its fragrance, putrid and sweet, but the tragic vibes coming from deeper within, transform themselves into a radiant but subdued halo.
At his glorious peak, just when he could be taken for some obscure religious icon, he gives birth to his own death. The blossom bursts out of the crown of his head, flowering, which blows a hole through the clouds. His arms are thrown askew like a warped sun wheel. His two orbs on stems spring out, wobbling like ridiculous wands; and his petals finally released, raw, pink and red-veined, flop like tongues out of his split open face. Once the orgasmic seizure has subsided, color begins to drain from his body, his skin turning pale, his olive green outer-covering being overtaken by brown, and he collapses to the ground, falling across the blades of grass. Dying on his side he faces back toward the stages of his life like the curved end of parentheses.
The Guardian by the altar steps, eyes displaced and in blindness seeming to see, is the hybrid spawn of Deities past, an amalgam outcast of earth, sea, and sky.
In what deceptively appears to be an Aztec warrior headdress, a poisonous stinger may be hidden, or maybe it lurks behind the Guardian’s back, the tail having pushed itself free from underground, coiling up, ready to unravel and strike any who without question tries to pass. Maybe that’s what the incarnate Whimsy full of mischief and fear who seems about to point is tip-toeing toward, and attempting either to sneak around or grab hold of in a bold effort to yank out the stinger for its collection of rare and strange things.*
The head of the Guardian acts as pivot and transition, upper body attached through it to the lower, the whole entity both parasite and host of itself like Ouroboros, the mouth at the intersection stretching and contorting, held together and blossoming through constriction into a new kind of mouth, as if mocking any ordinary mouth as unfit for expression. What the eye sees in this region cannot be adequately explained.
Out of a nest of hair which atop the Guardian’s head flickers like flames, a serpent’s body rises like a King Cobra from a basket, but it emerges tail first, a dragon shorn of wings and limbs but whose tail continues to be whipped around with uncanny control and precision.
Above the Guardian’s temples, the brow noble but honestly less so than that of Neptune or Jupiter, horns uncoil which actually are lively and muscular tentacles becoming long and slender at their ends, the thin and sharp tips surprisingly having feeling as fine and keen as nerve endings. When relaxed they undulate freely like streamers which flutter in the wind; but when willfully directed by the mind of the Guardian from whose head they come, they move in a mesmerizing rhythm around the serpent’s whipping tail, rising upward in a bizarre and ritualistic celebration and waving and whirling around like some primitive dancer in a trance doing crazy arabesques to the accompaniment of music never before heard.
Passing down through the mouth and seemingly emitted from it, the lower body of the Guardian resembles human form. The pelvis and legs, hidden from view, are planted firmly like the trunk of a tree. Since the stream winding into the distance has run dry but some water has been absorbed, on the torso fungus grows in places, little abnormal growths, while the skin in other places is worn quite through, revealing a tight network of veins and arteries which are more like the intricate roots of certain plants and herbs with magical properties but which in large doses are sickening and even fatal.
The Guardian holds and plays the word “ALIENATED” like an accordion, which when pushed closed seems like a breath drawn inward, and when pulled open arches like a bridge, an exhalation, the overall effect taunting and seductive.
In the foreground at the top of the altar steps, having just been buzzing all around, impudent and irritating, a Fly lands on the side of the altar itself, the slightly curved and elevated, sky-facing word “MIND”, while along the length of the altar’s curved top step, traveling from left to right, a Snail with horns extended, a kind of alien creature in its own right leaving behind a slimy mucous trail, creeps toward the edge barely faster than the hands on a clock face.
*A little backround story and description of the incarnate Whimsy tiptoeing in from the right side, sneaking around behind the Guardian: As an adult having evolved human features it bears some resemblance to “The Ghost of a Flea” which William Blake depicted in his marvelous miniature painting. In its first incarnation this Whimsy lived as a flea within the lines of the big spiral on the chest and belly of King Ubu. Nocturnal in habit, it spent much of its youth exploring the hills and valleys of King Ubu’s body, the funky nooks and crannies, often sliding down into the crack of his rump for fun; and as the sun rose it climbed back up to spend its days sleeping under a warm and sweaty roll of King Ubu’s fat or in the greasy depth of his bellybutton. One evening, so the tall tale goes, while itching and scratching himself and unable to find relief, King Ubu discovered down in the wild tangle of his pubic hair the young Whimsy lying on its back with one leg crossed over the other like some kind of poet looking up and contemplating the stars. This droll display of mimicry so infuriated King Ubu that he yanked out a clump of his own hair to get at the young Whimsy, which he then pinched up by its pollen-ball producing kilt and flicked like a booger into the world.
Since that time the Whimsy has survived in curious ways. It has learned to disguise itself in adaptation to the absurdity of existence on the shadowy margins. Tusks, or misplaced fangs, now extend out of its shoulders and curve up toward its head, the tips arching and pointing forward. In appearance now a gnomish nosferatu, its digits have grown long and slender with sharp little fingernails; and its face like a sarcastic joke in search of a punchline peers and sneers out from between parted layers of what appears to be a hollowed out onion worn like a cross between a bonnet and an old-fashioned aviator hat. Pointing upward from the top of that head-covering, stem-like and comprised of organic filaments with a string coiling around them, twisting and tightening them to a point, is some kind of horn, which provides direction and guidance to the Whimsy like some kind of pataphysical compass needle or divining rod.
Carried in the heart of the artist is a golden thread, vital and alive, which moves through one work after another, coiling and twisting like a snake, connecting spaces and bridging gaps in the weaving of an unseen but intuitively perceived tapestry. The golden thread seems at times to break off and be lost, but it’s there, often deep within and on the nether side of consciousness, burrowing and seeking its next looping and connecting link, which once found may swell into a leviathan swimming in the deep or flare up into a dragon flying in the air before narrowing back down to the thinness of a hair.