Christmas in Los Angeles was nothing like the Wisconsin Christmases of my youth. On my return from six years in Vienna I found life in LA much like living in a foreign country. It was new, exotic, and invigorating. Warm weather meant bar-b-que’s, T-shirts and shorts, and year-round outdoor life. Compared to Vienna and Europe, culture in Los Angeles seemed to be stripped of history, a refreshing change from the rot and decay of the remnants of the Habsburg Empire.
This painting alters the Christ in the manger. Mary and Joseph, and wise men of traditional crèche scenes. The bar-b-que replaces the Christ child, but sends out light as does the son of God in Renaissance nativity images. Halos have become plates from which to consume meat. The center figure wears a shirt bearing images of Gauguin’s Tahitian idols and happy natives. In the background every house in Silverlake carries little twinkling lights, and the structure of the paint strokes makes the whole surface of the painting writhe. Ho, ho, ho!
Voluptuous! Your discovery and celebration of hedonism oozes from the painting.
The light and the colour and the modelling of form remind me so much of William Holman Hunt. There is the same, almost claustraphobic packing in of figures and with beautiful irony, this ‘religious’ imagery compares so much with Holman Hunt’s almost absurd depictions.
Like Hunt, these pieces had a very strong moral position, and were kind of preachy at times. Unlike him, I had a sense of humor about it all, and there is a satiric bent to the works. The color was a definite rebellion against the prevailing tastes of my colleagues in Vienna, who commented more than a few times that my color usage was ‘too American’, meaning too bright. Once in LA, there was no holding me back.
I sort of prefer your older work for the reasons you stated below. Sometimes in looking back , we are surprised by how much we knew. Not how much we think we know now.
Evolution just means change. I think most painters strive to make their next painting their best. Unfortunately it isn’t always just a matter of showing up for work. Theoretically we should "know " more as we get older, but painting isn’t just about knowing. Getting settled , comfortable , maybe successful, changes the dynamic. Painting can be a lot like a marriage and the early years are filled with hope & dreams.& love. Later we try to keep that early feeling but it often seems less instinctive, more routine. The sparks of inspiration sometimes feel like affairs from the norm. When I say I like your early work , I’m not saying I don’t like your latest. I’m just feeling something I can relate to more, that’s all. You were more alive, less controlled . I like that.