Progress continues, albeit slowly, on Michael Murray’s commissioned painting, “Bird Bacharach 2” — the more I think about it, this may end up being a working title. It seems this painting may be more in keeping with the Hideous Birds painting I completed a year and a half ago. My roommate, Jocelyn, came home the other night to find me painting in the kitchen; she took some photos, which I’ve included here.
Bird Bacharach 2 in progress.
Bird Bacharach 2 in progress.
Bird Bacharach 2 (detail).
My rediscovery of Bird Bacharach inspired me to revisit him again — this time in full colour. This painting is for my good friend, the organist Michael Murray, so continuing the idea of a bird with a giant organ stuck to his back is somewhat appropriate (at least I hope it is; there are some musicians who would rather not have any reminders of what they do for a living! Michael doesn’t strike me as being that sort of person, though). Anyhow, I thought I’d post a photo of it now while things are colourful and festive — it’s about to get a whole lot darker…
I was digging through my portfolio the other day and came across an old drawing of mine from 2001. It was originally for a poster for a concert I was playing with tenor Troy Topnik and organist David Strakauskas — hence the ridiculous organ pipes protruding from this poor bird’s back. In a month or so I’ll be releasing a CD of Bach sonatas for flute and organ, this time with my good friend (and founder of the Vancouver choir musica intima) Michael Murray. I think this image may very well become the cover art for the new disc. It kinda makes me want to dig around a little more and see what else is lurking in the forgotten corners of my room….
Last night I put the finishing touches on “Where the Wyrm Dieth Not”, commissioned by my friend and colleague, the pianist Corey Hamm. You can read about how this project came into being in my previous post from Nov. 12, 2012 (I think it’s funny how I proclaimed that the painting would be finished within the week — my, how time flies…).
I’ve begun work on a new commission for the Vancouver-based pianist Corey Hamm, who recently recorded The People United Will Never be Defeated! by the American composer Frederic Rzewski. Corey requested that I provide the cover art for the forthcoming CD. Comprised of 36 variations, Rzewski’s virtuosic warhorse was written in 1975 as a tribute to the struggle of the Chilean people against a newly imposed repressive regime. Many of the recordings of this work that I’ve come across feature cover art that emphasizes the political overtones of the piece — but while most of these make sense, I wouldn’t call any of them particularly attractive. After weeks of poring over images of crowds, political demonstrations, and reading up on Chilean folklore and mythology, I decided to go an entirely different route.
I wanted the “people united” to be musicians. These musicians you see in the foreground of this painting are, in fact, caricatures of the percussionists from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s opera Samstag aus Licht. They are all different, each comprised of various real and imaginary instruments (except for the cyclops, who merely wears his instrument as a hat). But what force could unite them? Obviously, the act of playing together would be the most appropriate metaphor for unity through diversity, but I wanted something a little more visually powerful, something that not only unified the musicians, but protected them as well. The initial sketches toyed with a two-headed dragon, a giant she-wolf shaped like a piano (which looked *terrible* — talk about sketches that will never see the light of day!)… but in preparing for this painting I came across a quote from the Bible (Mark 9:48): “Where the wyrm dieth not, and the fire is never quenched.” This seemed in keeping with the spirit of Rzweski’s piece (both the political message as well as the utter ferocity of the piano writing). So I began looking at “wyrms” (also known as salamanders): creatures that were, throughout history, associated with elemental fire… the fact that this “wyrm” shares a resemblance to a childhood pet — specifically an eastern spotted newt named Sam — is, of course, entirely coincidental.
Anyhow, the painting is only about two-thirds complete (I’m presently having a conundrum with the piano keys). But overall I’m pleased with how it’s progressing, and expect to have it finished by the end of the week.
The Hideous Birds actually began as an old draft that I came across while cleaning my room a couple months ago — back when the earth cooled I was a member of a woodwind quintet, and I think this painting had originally been meant as a poster image for one of our concerts (I’m pretty sure I had abandoned it because one of the five birds is so much larger than the other four, and I didn’t want to create the impression of a hierarchy in the quintet). My rediscovery of this sketch coincided roughly with the death of Maurice Sendak, one of the most influential artists of children’s literature in the 20th century. Given that Sendak was also gay, it seemed fitting that the Hideous Birds — infused with a Sendak-esque grotesqueness that I find to be both sad and noble — should be resuscitated for inclusion in the 2012 Queer Arts Festival here in Vancouver. This painting, along with another recent work, More Subtil Than Any Beast, will be on display at the Roundhouse Community Centre, from July 31st – August 18th.
My last painting, whose working title was “Fox Wedding”, has been renamed: “More Subtil Than Any Beast”. One of my students actually pointed out to me that the painting reminded her of the Temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden — which never occurred to me while I was painting the piece. The title is taken from the King James Bible, Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”