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The History Of Theology

Recently a patron asked me to explain the meaning of the image above. It is titled Theology and was completed over 15 years ago, but seems relevant now. This is an edited version of what I wrote and since it was originally written in one sitting, it jumps around chronologically like my mind does.

THEOLOGY

After I had received my MFA in 1992, I did not have a job and my wife was working full time as well as going to school. We had a brand new mortgage, a new baby and for several years I had been having recurring dreams about tornadoes that were inspiring paintings like the one below which was based on a print by The House Book Master called Death and the Young Man

At that time I was having physical and emotional problems that could not be explained. Many years later I would be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. But that is another story.

At the same time I was working on the tornado paintings, I started the painting below titled Portrait Of A Man Wearing A Red Tarpon.

That image was inspired by the painting below by Jan Van Eyck titled Portrait of a Man Wearing a Red Turban.

Many scholars believe that this painting may be a self-portrait (which is what I would like to think). It is technically virtuosic, and depicts a man that appears pensive, but proud. The turban may be an allusion to worldliness. During Van Eyck's lifetime, the artist was a respected professional.

When I graduated from college, I had an amazing and incredibly patient wife, a beautiful, healthy daughter and we owned wonderful house with an fantastic mortgage payment. I was having severe panic attacks and anxiety that never stopped. I very seriously thought I was going crazy.

I was adrift in a liminal space between school and work; between childhood and being an adult; and even between being a mother or being a father because I did not have a full time job and my wife was the one supporting us. I was a stay at home dad at a time when no one else that I knew was doing that.

I had started painting the Madonna and Fish images while I was in college and continued to create variations in which I substituted a fish for the Christ child. The oil painting below is based on the Leonardo painting called the Madonna Litta.

As I am sure you know, early Christians had used the fish symbol (the "Ichthus") as a way to find out if they were communicating with another Christian. Today this secret symbol is on the bumper of most Christian's cars. It has become a brand that declares what team you are on. Most of the Christians that I have quizzed do not even know about the significance of that symbol.

The Madonna and Fish paintings and drawings were my attempts at creating an iconic image that depicted what I believed to be the feminine nurturing conception of the religious experience. It was maternal and required an unquestioning acceptance of the literal religious symbol to transcend the duality of human existence. The Madonna holding a fish was also intended to point out the absurdity of the love of a symbol devoid of humanity. 

I then tried to depict the way that I believed most men expressed their spirituality and religious beliefs. At that time I believed that we men intellectualize religion and wear it like armor to protect us from evil and/or the things we do not understand or agree with. I have observed men to be more interested in ideas and ideologies than human life and when we feel threatened, or when we want something, we use religion as a weapon to attack those whom challenge our faith or stand in our way. 

I created several images exploring that idea including the one below titled Study for Theology. 

Theology.jpg

It was inspired by the Leonardo drawing below which had the warrior's disposition I was trying to reference and call into question.

LEONARDO da Vinci, Profile of a warrior in helmet, c. 1472, Silverpoint on prepared paper

LEONARDO da Vinci, Profile of a warrior in helmet, c. 1472, Silverpoint on prepared paper

But it was not until I had left the idea for a while and finished a series of work on the Icarus and Daedalus myth as well as reading the book The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner that the final pieces fell into place.

Theology is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, especially the study of God and of God's relation to the world. If God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, heaven is closed to us. We are separate from and cannot experience God directly except through death.  As far as I know, every religious text has been written by a human.

The drawing above depicts a man pointing to a piece of paper with instructions that illustrate how to fold an origami eagle. The man's image is based on Jan Van Eyck's self portrait. On top of his head sits a finch which, for me, alludes to Darwinism and the scientific method.

He is unaware of the real bird on his head and he is also unaware of the fact that the instructions that he confidently points to illustrate how to make a symbol for a bird and not a real bird. He has turned his back on the real world.  The environment, represented by the clear cut trees, is dead. It has been sacrificed to make the paper for his sacred text and for my drawing. The thing he worships, the eagle, has no place to live. As the world dies so does he. His scalp is as barren as the landscape.

The only things that break the boundry of his world are the finch, the origami instructions, and death (hair). Additionally, there are several things that I was thinking about that are probably not discernible to anyone else but me even after I explain them. For example; There are two steps intentionally missing from the origami instructions which is an allusion to the missing texts from the Bible. The wrinkles in the origami instructions used to look like a flower. The wrinkles around the theologians eyes are birds heads facing each other. His tie is an inverted tornado and anyone that has worn a tie knows that it is just a fancy noose. 

To emphasize the absurdity of this entire endeavor, the right hand corner of the window into the Theologian’s world is out of square and, instead, it is parallel to the wrinkle in the paper. The fact that the instructions to make the sacred bird refer to my last name is my acknowledgement and awareness that I, like any human, am limited to my own point of view which is based on the amount of information that I have at this moment in time. The eagle is also our national symbol and a symbol of patriotism and war which are diametrically opposed to the Christian conception of agape.

P.S. February 24, 2017 - The Madonna and Fish and Theology images represented the mother and father. Their child is Faith.

Faith    Charcoal on paper      1993

Faith    Charcoal on paper      1993

 

 

My Mother's Death, The Politics Of Hate And Pulp Fiction

This is a window into the Rube Goldberg way that my mind works.

I have had a really horrible year but I am very fortunate to have friends and family to support me. They have been here whenever I needed them and I know they will be there for me in the future as I am here for them.

That said, it has been incredibly difficult for me to grapple with the reality that many of the people I love and care for voted for a future that is the antithesis of everything that I believe in and what I thought they believed as well. Since I was born and raised in the Bible belt, most of my friends and relatives profess to be good Christians and on this Christmas day, it is those people that I am addressing.

I do not think that social media is the place for debate or contemplating any idea at any depth and that is not my intent. This is not an attempt to convince anyone that their choice was wrong. Instead, what follows is written to people I personally know that said they did not want to vote for the president elect, but did anyway.

It is the only way I can think to communicate how ripped apart I feel by your decision to support such a disgusting human being as the president elect. This train wreck of a rant began a couple weeks ago, but was put on hold when a series of events distracted me from my original purpose. 

Do not watch the videos if you have not seen the movies. There is psychological and/or graphic violence.

Like most of you I was shocked on November 8, 2016. But, unlike many of my friends, I was not sad; I was fucking furious! I was shocked that many of my family and friends bought into, or just plain ignored the race war nightmare scenarios painted by a terrifyingly thin skinned megalomaniac set on world domination. I was fucking furious that so many smart people voted to send a billionaire business man to "drain the swamp" that he owns and stands to make way more money from as president. The week after the election I wanted to send the Jew Bear to the front door of every single person that voted for the president elect.

Like most of you, I was shocked and offended by the fact that many of my family and friends voted for a person that openly hates women and I wanted them to suffer for their stupidity (women) and misogynist views (men). I have a really hard time wishing harm to any woman, but men.... I wanted every single man that voted for the president elect to suffer the agony of grabbing the Vagina Dentata. Of course, the president elect would be first in line for that gang bang.

But the thing that pissed me off the most was the fact that many of my family and friends insisted that they were not racist and that it was not their fault that there has been a huge spike in violent racist attacks and harassment since the president elect began his campaign. They insisted that they were not racist even though they voted for a man that openly encouraged the radical right's violence and has never apologized for his clearly racist and xenophobic rhetoric AND PROMISED he would implement policies and enact legislation and continue to encourage that same racist rhetoric. Every single time I saw my family or friends share or like a post on Facebook naysaying and denying a link or responsibility for the current state of affairs, I wanted to carve a swastika into that person's forehead. 

I did not post anything, or write anything in those first weeks of shock and anger. It stayed and simmered in my incredibly cluttered mind and as I tried to understand why intelligent people that I knew and trusted had chosen to repeat history, I grasped for logical explanations like the IllusaryTruth Effect and I slowly began to accept the fact that many of my family and friends were probably (hopefully) not able to acknowledge or even see their own prejudices. But, every time I heard one of them say that I had to give the president elect a chance because he won the election  ---> Butch: You okay? Marsellus: Nah man, I'm pretty fucking far from "okay".

Yesterday, December 24, 2016 I said good by to my mother. I was able to be alone with her one last time and thank her for my life, and her love, and her guidance. But, when I touched her beautiful cold skin for the last time, the overwhelming sadness I had somewhat successfully contained for the past month overwhelmed me. The grief burst from my chest and scraped my throat raw with its violence and intensity and I must admit that it has been hard to write, or even see through the blur of tears today. 

My world had already changed in every sense of that over used expression. Now the woman that gave me life is gone. Of course just her death would have had a tremendous psychological and potentially symbolic significance. But, by chance, her death is now linked in my mind with the death of my country. Or, to be less mellow dramatic, her death is now linked with the death of many of my dreams and the trust I had for many of my friends and family.

Those dreams have been replaced by a dystopian nightmare; A bad 1984 or a rehashed Hunger Games, where every day and with every cabinet appointment it gets worse. For example, the state that I live is literally no longer considered a democracy , the president elect actually said he did not need intelligence briefings and denied that there was a Russian hack and dismissed the overwhelming proof presented by US intelligence reports and yesterday a family member jokingly asked what was wrong with Carl Paladino's comments about the Obamas.

I am not a granola eating "damn libral" communist chasing utopian fantasies. I am just an average guy trying to come to terms with what just happened. Our next president won the election on a coded promise to "Make America Great Again" and a promise that he alone could fix America's problems. He has insisted that we wait and trust him to do the right thing. Anyone that has questioned his intentions or methods has been been mocked repeatedly with 140 characters, or has been attacked by his supporters, or worse.

On this religious holiday it has finally sunk in. OUR PRESIDENT ELECT IS A TERRORIST and if you are a Christian, as are most of my neighbors and many of my friends and family, I NOW understand your acceptance of his vision for the future. I NOW understand why you really could not vote for Hillary Clinton.

 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

I NOW understand why you applauded the idea of building a wall and bombing the hell out of your enemies because;

“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9)

Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and woman: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.” (Ezekiel 9:5-6)

“Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” (Isaiah 13:15-16)

I NOW understand your uncomfortable tolerance of me and for those that wish for compassion and equality for all humans;

“And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 13: 5)

I NOW understand why you have enabled and why you encouraged the terrorism of your enemies. It is because YOU ARE ANGRY or YOU ARE AFRAID.

I did not agree with my mother's politics, but she was the person that taught me to never follow the herd. She also never tried to tell me what I should believe. Instead, she encouraged me to question conformity. Throughout my young life, if I ever mentioned wanting to have something or said I wanted to do something because everybody else was doing that, she would reply, "If all of your friends were running toward the edge of a cliff, would you follow them to your death?".

On this Christmas day in 2016 I wish my friends and family peace and happiness, but I will not follow you over the edge of that cliff. I will not support a leader that uses fear and now very real threats of violence and intimidation as a weapon to terrorize the people of our great country. And, more importantly, I will not tolerate those that condone his rhetoric or actions.

On this Christmas day I challenge you to consider the following;

I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26)

I believe the passage above is the key aspect to being a true disciple of Christ. I literally just looked upon death, so these issues are weighing heavy on my mind. Each of us will die and we will take nothing with us when we go. To devote one's life to the accumulation of material wealth and power is useless. It is the antithesis of Christ's teaching. That idea is beautifully illustrated by the character Jacob Marley in the Christmas story Scrooge.

But the most import passage that the Christians that I know choose to ignore is;

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44)

Since I have gone this far down the rabbit hole with my rambling quixotic rant; and since we have already crossed into an alternative reality run by a xenophobic celebrity game show host, I do not feel guilty about throwing out one more strange idea.

Pulp Fiction presents an incredibly effective examination of a Biblicalesque conversion by using a very unusual narrative sequence (Here is the movie rearranged in the correct sequence) to emphasize the results of interpreting an event as a miracle. The scene below happens at the end of the movie and functions as a comparison of the characters alternative interpretations of the event. At this point, we, the viewers know that John Travolta's character, Vincent Vega is dead. He did not believe in the miracle and there is a wonderful allusion to his own death scene in the final few seconds of this clip. Remember that Vincent Vega died right after he took a shit.

Samuel L. Jackson's character Jules Winnfield experiences the same event as Vincent Vega, but sees it as a miracle and here is my strange idea; His character is a direct reference to the biblical conversion of Saul. I believe that Jules character is a combination of Matthew and Saul. The Apostle Matthew was a Roman tax collector before his conversion. Jules was a drug lord's money collector/hit man. Both were bad hombres. Saul experienced a miraculous vision and was converted. He became the Apostle Paul. I make this assumption based on the fact that the biblical passage Jules repeats in the scene below is not the actual passage Ezekiel 25:17, but instead, a mashup of several quotes.

We have seen both characters actions and the subsequent results of their beliefs/actions. We are, at first glance, left to decide if what happened was luck or a miracle. But I ask you to consider a diferent question; Would you be able to accept this murderer as reborn and forgive him of his sins? Would you welcome Jules, the black murderer, that clearly has been converted, into your life and into your home? 

I personally know someone that has made this conversion. He was a very bad hombre and has turned his life around. He is tortured and tested everyday and I try to be there when he needs support because he asked for my help. He has given up evil to follow Christ and has forsaken material wealth. Could you give up your possessions and wealth to devote yourself to an altruistic existence? I know that I am not strong enough to do that. "But I'm trying real hard." 

So on this Christmas Day, I thank my family and friends for their love and care. If you voted for the president elect, I have not come to grips with your decision. We are on the opposite sides of a terrible wall and it troubles me greatly that you support a terrorist and the antithesis of Christian values. But, I love you still. 

And I will challenge you to live by the passage that I live by;

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

I am a very small and insignificant part of an incredibly large and complex web of interactions and relationships. My opinions and actions do not affect that many people, but, I know that at any moment, I may become the tipping point or causal action for a cascading sequence of events that could change the world. And so can you. If there is a God, she courses through our veins at this very moment. I know with my heart and head that each and every one of us is a single cell in the body of that God, and that is the reason why such horrible people like our president elect thrive. He is a cancerous tumor spreading hate and fear into your heads and hearts. 

I, on the other hand, have this one life to live and my time is the most precious gift that I have to give.

So, I sincerely thank you for spending a few moments of your time with me and suffering through my cathartic rambling.

Now excuse me because "I'm gonna take a shit".  😜

When Digital And Traditional Painting Meet

The following entry is a description of the mixed media digital printing and painting process that I have developed over the past few years. I work in many different mediums including acrylic paint, oil, mixed media, and purely digital. This is a heavily edited version of a previous blog post (The Adventures Of Icarus Elck) about the methods I used to create 30 unique mixed media prints for the ECU faculty exhibition in 2011. 

There are now acrylic mediums that can be applied to 2D surfaces to make them receptive to high quality archival digital printing. Once printed, these images can be sealed with UV varnishes to stabilize the surface making it possible to paint or collage on top of the image without releasing or lifting the water based, pigmented inks used to print the digital image. What is unique about the process I use is that I am painting back into these images with traditional paint and then running the print/painting back through the printer, sometimes multiple times. This process is unpredictable and causes accidents that inspire me to change the image. 

At that time I was creating the work described below, I was using a cheap Bamboo Wacom tablet (which has been completely redesigned and now is nothing like what is pictured below). I now use a Wacom 13' Cyntiq.

If you would like to see a sided by side comparison of digital and traditional painting, the video below is by our MFA Alumnus Jonathan Peedin, and was used during a presentation in October 2012 at the Southeastern College Arts Conference in Durham, NC. where he spoke at the invitational panel "Technologists, not Technicians: Integrating New Media in Art & Design"


THE ADVENTURES OF ICARUS ELK

Tornadoes have consistently appeared in my work since I started dreaming about them on March 29, 1989. For many years the dreams were terrifyingly vivid and often bordered on lucid. In many of those dreams I ran from the tornadoes, as did the characters in my paintings and drawings. At that time, my intention for this particular image was to finally turn and face the tornado.

I had begun this pencil drawing

with the intention of drawing a character, based on the clip art image below, walking in a field of poppies. I have been developing a personal/universal avatar called Icarus Elck. The image below is the first iteration of that character and was not the direction I ended up taking. I chose this particular image because it reminded me of Faust, and the expression, as well as the song, Candle In The Wind. I also saw it as a visual metaphor for the way a psychiatrist analyzes dream content, or the way an academic/traditional oil painter might think about digital painting.

I tried to shoot reference shots, but quickly realized that the anatomy of the original drawing is incorrect and I could not duplicate it. If you do not believe me, stand in front of a full length mirror and try to recreate the pose exactly. I promise you that if you have children or a roommate, they will walk into the room the moment you do this.

I liked the obviously dated, black and white drawing, so I decided to just use the image exactly. In the Artworld, it is called "appropriating". In music it is called "sampling". When somebody does it to you, it is called stealing. :  ) Remember - Everything Is A Remix

I was not happy with the intestine like tornado in the original drawing, nor with the beginnings of the poppy field.

So, I scanned the drawing into the computer and edited out the intestinal tornado.

I wanted poppy fields for their link to tornadoes that I had grown up with and for their tie to mind altering drugs and the war in Afghanistan. 

I chose this iconic scene and edited out the characters as well as desaturated colors and mirrored the image. The black and white landscape that resulted reminded me of old postcards of tobacco fields in North Carolina.

cJzGXDAxmsdIdC5cXehi-KuRV0j2_cSefB6gOl2cgO0Xg65m9kSSzikyTA5bar8cy8aiKy1zlqvjCA=w880-h440.jpg

I introduced the man, and decided to add a few flowers.

Here are some early test prints.

At that time I was teaching myself how to use Photoshop and got carried away with layers and the digital drawing process. 

Believe it or not, I start every image by saying “This time I will not get obsessed with minutia.”

Below is a studio shot of some of the different versions at various stages of completion.

Here is a weird one that I like.

A shot of the actual printing.

My studio Friday, October 7, 2011. The day the paintings were due to the gallery.

The 30 best ready to be hung.

Installed.

This particular image has continued to evolve and change over the years and now that you have seen how it began, you can probably see how it is related to these images;

 

 

“God Bless America”

scotteagle_godblessamerica


The image God Bless America is intended to do what the statement “God Bless America” does. It appears to be a rallying cry and statement of unquestionable moral allegiance and righteousness. But in reality it is an amalgamation that just won’t fly. Picture in your mind what will happen when the eagle (America) takes flight. Christ (God’s moral authority) will be turned on his head and become an abomination.

Religion is an anchor for the soul in a world of chaos. Nations and states are arbitrary geographical regions and change frequently. “God Bless America “ makes us feel patriotic and morally just in our actions, but it is actually an incredibly selfish statement that says God loves my arbitrary geographical region more than your random geographical region.

What about the rest of the universe for God’s sake : )

I FINALLY HAVE A WEBSITE

A GREAT BIG THANK YOU TO ERIKA GIBSON for taking time away from her ceramics to put together a website that I could actually update all by myself at any time and not have to ask her to do it for me. I LOVE IT!  For some reason she seemed really happy to do this.      

Visit her WEBSITE and/or follow her on INSTAGRAM


ALSO, A GREAT BIG THANK YOU TO TODD COATS. He has devoted literally years to solving my impossible requirements for a new identity (why are you laughing?) and successfully created a branding that is the most amazing, huge, smart, and whatever other Trumpian adjective you care to insert here or anywhere. He has worked under such duress that it will deserve it’s own blog post.

Here he is teaching David Letterman how to use post-it notes.


INFORMATION ABOUT THE WORK. The titles for the groups of images refer either to the title of a consistent body of work, or to the idea driving the creative process behind the work in that group. For example The Search will be where I post my doodles. They usually begin with no conscious intent and simply evolve as I search for their meaning. The Found are images that have significant meaning to me. I will devote future blog posts to the explanation of some of those works.

Finally, this site is organic and will change. I am still working on the FENG SHUI-ing. So, if you have suggestions on how I can make your experience more zenful, please let me know. 

  1. ✔️ Encourage helpful people in your life by hanging a pleasant-sounding wind chime. 
  2. ☐ Place an energetic fountain near your front door.  
  3. ✔️ Clear the entryway to your home. 
  4. ✔️ Make sure your home encourages learning. 
  5. ✔️ Get rid of unwanted frustrations by fixing broken objects. 
  6. ✔️ Spice up your love life with plants in the bedroom. 
  7. ✔️ Position your bed to feel safe, loved, and great.
  8. ☐ Block drains to keep dollars from draining out of your pockets. 
  9. ✔️ Boost your career with a better desk position

 

 

 

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

WONDERBOOK
The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
By Jeff VanderMeer

I have been included in an amazing writing guide that uses hundreds of images by artists and illustrators as inspiration for creative writing.

I have 4 artworks used as illustration on seven pages, an interview and even a full page picture of my studio shelves.

Jeff VanderMeer,  award-winning author of The Steampunk Bible, has taken a completely new and wholly original approach to the writing guide, and created a manual that not only utilizes invaluable written information, but also teaches via scores of helpful and stimulating illustrations. Through an accessible, example-rich approach that emphasizes the importance of playfulness as well as pragmatism, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts advice about how to improve as a writer. The book is filled with more than 200 images and pictorial exercises that will expand the reader’s creativity. These imaginative and influential illustrations are sure to inspire the next generation of aspiring fantasy writers.

Read more…