Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm designing a mural that deals most importantly with right and wrong choices. This image from Mirrormask has given me the idea to cover part of the wall with keyholes.

Horace- Ode 4.9b

This is the second half of Horace's Ode 4.9 in honor of Lollius (a general). These words resonate deeply with me as I've explored who I am recently.

25 Before great Agamemnon there lived a host
Of heroes, now submerged in the endless night
Without our tears and nameless all, for
Lack of a consecrate poet's praises.

30 There is but little difference between mere sloth
And manly worth deprived of its true report.
I shall not leave you unadorned in
Writings of mine, nor permit your many

35 Accomplished labors, Lollius, such a doom
In bleak oblivion. Yours is a soul possessed
Of prudent foresight, steadfast both in
Times of good fortune and times that waver,

40 A good and faithful man who maintains the rule
Of upright conduct over expediency,
Declining bribes of wicked men and
Fighting their hordes to prevail against them.

45 A man of vast possessions does not, by rights,
Deserve the name of fortunate: we reserve
That term as more befitting one who
Uses the gifts fo the gods with wisdom,

50 Enduring all the harshness of poverty
And worse than Lethe dreading dishonor, one
Who for the sake of cherished friends or
Fatherland feels unafraid of dying.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo:

No more muffled drums!
Uncover the drumheads!

Plant your flag in an open field!
No more timid peeking around.

Either you see the beloved,
or you lose your head!

If your throat's not ready for that wine, cut it!
If your eyes don't want the fullness of union,
let them turn white with disease.

Either this deep desire of mine
will be found on this journey,
or when I get back home.

I will search for the Friend with all my passion
and all my energy, until I learn
that I don't need to search.

The real truth of existence is sealed,
until after many twists and turns of the road.

As in the algebraical method of two errors,
the correct answer comes only after two substitutions,
after two mistakes. Then the seeker says,

"If I had known the real way it was,
I would have stopped all the looking around."

But that knowing depends
on the time spent looking!

Just as the sheikh's debt could not be paid
until the boy's weeping, the story we told in Book II.

You fear losing a certain eminent position.
You hope to gain something from that, but it comes
from elsewhere. Existence does this switching trick,
giving you hope from one source, then
satisfaction from another.
It keeps you bewildered
and wondering, and lets your trust in the unseen grow.
You think to make your living from tailoring,
but then somehow money comes in
through goldsmithing,
which had never entered your mind.

I don't know whether the union I want will come
through my effort, or my giving up effort,
or from something completely separate
from anything I do or don't do.

I wait and fidget and flop about
as a decapitated chicken does, knowing that
the vital spirit has to escape this body
eventually, somehow!

This desire will find an opening.

There was once a man
who inherited a lot of money and land.

But he squandered it all too quickly. Those who inherit
wealth don't know what work it took to get it.

In the same way, we don't know the value of our souls,
which were given to us for nothing!

So the man was left alone without provisions,
an owl in the desert.
The Prophet has said
that a true seeker must be completely empty like a lute
to make the sweet music of "Lord, Lord".

When the emptiness starts to get filled with something,
the one who plays the lute puts it down
and picks up another.

There is nothing more subtle and delightful
than to make that music.
Stay empty and held
between those fingers, where "where"
gets drunk with "nowhere".
This man was empty,
and the tears came. His habitual stubbornness
dissolved. This is the way with many seekers.
They moan in prayer, and the perfumed smoke of that
floats into heaven, and the angels say, "Answer
this prayer. This worshiper has only you
and nothing else to depend on. Why do you go first
to the prayers of those less devoted?"

God says,
"By deferring my generosity I am helping him.
His need dragged him by the hair into my presence.
If I satisfy that, he'll go back to being absorbed
in some idle amusement. Listen how passionate he is!
That torn-open cry is the way he should live."

Nightingales are put in cages
because their songs give pleasure.
Whoever heard of keeping a crow?

When two people, one decrepit and the other young
and handsome, come into a bakery where the baker
is an admirer of young men, and both of them
ask for bread, the baker will immediately
give what he has on hand to the old man.

But to the other he will say, "Sit down and wait awhile.
There's fresh bread baking in the house. Almost ready!"

And when the hot bread is brought, the baker will say,
"Don't leave. The halvah is coming!"

So he finds ways of detaining the young man with,
Ah, there's something important I want to tell you about.
Stay. I'll be back in a moment. Something very important!"

This is how it is when true devotees
suffer disappointment
in the good they want to do,
or the bad they want to avoid.

So this man with nothing, who had inherited everything
and squandered it, kept weeping, "LORD, LORD!"

Finally in a dream he heard a voice, "Your wealth
is in Cairo. Go there to such and such spot
and dig, and you'll find what you need."

So he left on the long journey,
and when he saw the towers of Cairo,
he felt his back grow warm with new courage.

But Cairo is a large city,
and before he could find the spot,
he had to wander about.

He had no money, of course, so he begged
among the townspeople, but he felt ashamed doing that.

He decided, "I will go out at night
and call like the night-mendicants that people
throw coins into the street for."

Shame and dignity and hunger
were pushing him forward and backward and sideways!

Suddenly, he was seized by the night patrol.

It so happened that many had been robbed recently
in Cairo at night, and the caliph had told the police
to assume that anyone out roaming after dark
was a thief.

It's best not to let offenders go unpunished.
Then they poison the whole body of society. Cut off
the snakebitten finger! Don't be sympathetic
with thieves. Consider instead
the public suffering. In those days
robbers were expert, and numerous!
So the night patrol grabbed the man.

I can explain!"
"Tell me."

"I am not a criminal.
I am new to Cairo. I live in Baghdad." He told the story

of his dream and the buried treasure,
and he was so believable in the telling that
the night patrolman began to cry. Always,
the fragrance of truth has that effect.

can restore healing power, and prune the weary boughs
to new life. energy of passion is everything!

There are fake satisfactions that simulate passion.
They taste cold and delicious,
but they just distract you and prevent you
from the search. They say

"I will relieve your passion.
Take me! Take me!"
Run from false remedies
that dilute your energy. Keep it rich and musky

The night patrol said, "I know you're not a thief.
You're a good man, but you're kind of a fool.
I've had that dream before.

I was told, in a dream,
that there was a treasure for me in Baghdad,
buried in a certain quarter of the city
on such and such street."

The name of the street
that he said was where this man lived!
"And the dream-
voice told me, "It's in So-and-so's house.
Go there and get it!'"

Without knowing,
he had described the exact house,
and mentioned this man's name!

"But I didn't do
what the dream said to do, and look at you,
who did, wandering the world, fatigued,
and begging in the streets!"

So it came quietly
to the seeker, though he didn't say it out loud,
"What I'm longing for lived in my house in Baghdad!"

He filled with joy. He breathed continous praise.
Finally he said,
"The water of life is here.
I'm drinking it. But I had to come
this long way to know it!"

-RUMI translated by Coleman Barks

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting Out of the Boat pt. 1

I was married 2004 and then divorced in 2006. When you're married many parts of your life are assumed to be planned out and when you become divorced many of those things are not.

My mother raised me with the sensibility to consider all of my options and think about my decisions. Over the course of my life, I've determined that I was actually learning how to be indecisive. When I left my former wife, I consider that decision to be one that was made by me and for me. I began to open my eyes to the many years that I let other people make decisions for me; college, where I lived, who I dated... I felt as if there was a whole life that I was filled with that was not what I made, that I had really only had the executive power of line-item veto, that eventually led to me pissing everyone off all the time because I was only partially interested in their agenda.

Life became very lonely. I dissipated into escape. Days were spent curled up in bed and nights out drinking myself to forget. I would go up and down and each time down would be lower than before. Sadly, this is how my best friend died a few years ago. She literally drank herself to death. I recognized that I was beginning to follow that same path.

I heard a Tim McGraw song "Live Like You Were Dying" and realized that I had to start doing the things that I've always wanted to do. I didn't know if I would die that week or when I was 115, but I needed to start living. It took a few days for me to build up the courage to make the decision, but I knew I've always wanted to live in Chicago. I decided on a Friday in June, and on Sunday a friend bought 2 paintings... I was on a bus Monday morning with 2 bags, 400 bucks ($500 more wired soon) no friends waiting for me, no job ahead of me, never been to Chicago, no house lined up...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tommy Nevin's Pub

40 characters of Irish history in a likeness of Tommy Nevin's Pub. Approx. 20 x 40

Monday, February 8, 2010

Death of Sardanapalus

by Eugene Delacroix (1827)

This painting changed my whole view of "traditional narrative" painting. It changed my life. When I saw it, I just HAD to know what it was about... It wasn't angels and togas and everything I thought I knew about from the Masters... This is a gritty painting. It has drama! When I paint I want others to have that same feeling of "Wait, this isn't what I've seen other painters do, what is it about?" I want the viewers to be drawn in; pulled in.

Some notes I've found about this painting:

Invited to one of the director's evening reception, Delacroix put on his "best coat and best white cravat... I really imagined the man was going to offer me the Croix d'Honneur"; but instead he "came over to me and gave me a proper scolding."

In 1862, Baudelaire writes, "My dreams are often filled with the magnificent forms that move in this vast painting, marvelous as a dream itself. Sardanapalus seen again, is youth recaptured. At what distance back in time does the contemplation of this painting put us! ...Did ever any painted figure give such a vast idea of the Asiatic despot as this Sardanapalus with his braided black beard, who dies on his pyre, draped in his muslins, in a feminine pose? And all this harem of such brilliant beauty, who could paint it today with such fire, such freshness, such poetic enthusiasm? And all this sardanapalesque luxury that shines in the furnishings, in the clothing, in the harness, in the vessels and the jewelry, who? who?

The Hero w/ a Thousand Faces

by Jospeh Cambell (1st Edition published 1949)

It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.

The over-arching storyline for the Hero Myth:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I've become increasingly interested in medieval allegory. A great deal of my research is going to start focusing on--

Pilgrim's Progress (1678) (1684)
Faerie Queene (c.1588)
Le Roman de la Rose (1237)(1277)
Piers Plowman (c.1370)
Orlando Furioso
Decameron (1349-51)
Divine Comedy (1308-21)
Canterbury Tales (1386-1400)
Morte 'd Arthur

Sunday, February 7, 2010


The Magnificat is Mary's song of thanksgiving and praise for the mighty act that God had wrought in her and for the salvation that has been given to Israel.

(Canticle of Mary)

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)

46 And Mary said:

My soul glorifies the Lord

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me--

holy is his name.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their

inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped the servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,

even as he said to our fathers."

Misty Edwards "My Soul Longs For You"

The Canticle of Mary echoes the song of Hannah (I Sam. 2:1-10) speaking of God's redeeming work and foreshadowing the fulfillment of his promise of exaltation of the lowly through the ministry of Jesus, with a confidence of faith.

To confess that God is our Savior means that we will not look to some other power for salvation. God may use any process, but the basis of our trust, hope, and commitment should be clear: God is our Savior. The title should never be limited to our confession of Jesus, as though it did not apply to God. All that Jesus does in the Gospel of Luke to effect salvation, he does according to God's purpose and intent. In Jesus, therefore, the role of God as Savior is transparent.

Delirious? "Here I Am, Send Me"

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Holy Family

I'm a religious person. It's appropriate I should make some religious art. Before Christmas I painted with underglazes on ceramic bisque tiles the Nativity.

The Nativity 1st appeared in Art after the middle of the third century.

It is a simple recognizable scene with complex overtones. Typical iconography presents the Christ child illuminating the manger and faces with a halo of light, Joseph depicted in a secondary position, Mary admiring and worshiping baby Jesus, and angels forming a harmony of spiritual and earthly presence. It is a tender scene of the Holy birth revealing the love of God, unearned and total.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Notes From the Underground

Dostoevsky's "Notes From The Underground" was conceived and executed as one magnificent satirical parody of Nicolai G. Chernyshevsky's, textbook of behavior for the younger Russian generation, called What Is To Be Done? (1863). What Is To Be Done? follows rational theory of man is innately good and amenable to reason. "Notes..." attempts to undermine these doctrines from within by ridicule by imitation. Dostoevsky's Underground Man follows that man is evil, irrational, capricious and destructive and not by reason but only faith in Christ could ever succeed in helping him to master the chaos of his impulses. Man's greatest self-interest is to do exactly as he wants: it is his freedom to act against his own self-interest if he so chooses and Dostoevsky further proports the notion of humankind's most capricious whim is dearer to him than any rationally prescribed "self-interest".

I follow this article with an explanation of game-theory; and it is this thread of thought that influences my current series of drawings "Notes From The Underground: A Middle Age Dissadent". Images of labour, political scenarios and social dilemmas that emphasize the context of our dissent from organized cooperation in the face of self-interest despite the end result being a sabotage of long-term advantage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tragedy of the Commons

How is that teaspoons gradually disappear from communal areas of offices?

Garrett Hardin defined the scenario in 1968 as the Tragedy of the Commons. In Game Theory it is reported than there is wider acceptance and interest in mathematics and statistics when it has an illustrastive name. In the case of the Tragedy of the Commons:

...exerts its destructive power whenever some of us cooperate for mutual benefit but others see that they could do better for themselves by breaking the cooperation (in game theory parlance, defection or cheating). So they can, until everyone else starts thinking the same way, when the cooperation collapses and everyone ends up worse off through following the logic of self-interest.