This painting was from the first installment of the series "Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea," an installation juxtaposing in a deliberate sequence to create a poetic allegory of images, oil paintings of iconic figures from popular and political cultural history are exhibited along with images of animals that are truly endangered in our fragile ecology, next to pictures of vessels striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable storms, symbolizing an optimistic outlook that we can healthily triumph through the chaotic crises of our time.
In this work, Shirley Temple makes an appearance from the film The Little Princess as she dreams herself to be a benevolent leader as her character in the film makes a valiant struggle to overcome hardship. One of my husband’s and now my favorite films, Shirley Temple plays a character whose wealthy father leaves her a private school, only for her to lose everything when they believe the father, who went off to fight in a war, dies. She is then made to become a servant for the mean girls in the school, who treat her with contempt. Shirley Temple—being Shirley Temple—doesn’t make a fuss about their treatment of her, only wishes for the future, befriending the other servant girl at the school, and making constant visits to the Vet hospital to find her returning missing father, who she refuses to believe is dead. There is a terrific dream sequence, that this film still comes from, where she, playing a queen, protects the kind adults who protect and support her by admonishing the cruel school matron that subjugates her in real life, and is encouraged by the young couple’s love for one another—they save themselves by giving each other the kiss that the witchy matron accuses them of stealing. Shirley as queen then witnesses herself self-actualize, when she watches her doppelganger be the star of a little ballet. She wakes up to the benevolent mysterious neighbors gift of a warm breakfast and new clothes for she and her friend, which gives her the encouragement to continue to pursue her dreams, finding her father by the end of the film and getting to meet the Queen!
I love Shirley Temple, who in her real life was one of the most famous, wealthiest actors of her time as a child star, giving the nation and world hope through her bright spirit during the time of the depression, and later in life, becoming a benevolent Republican stateswoman, and one of the first celebrities to come out as having Breast Cancer, announcing it to the world and popularizing the idea to check and help cure the disease. She was a "Good Leader" in both her life and her art, and a model for many. Warhol always idolized her, and I’m surprised he didn’t make more images of her (if any?), and it was inspiring for me to paint her during our own recession, and she inspired hope in me as much as any audience member in her heyday.
I created this work as part of my "Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea" series—during the time for the national elections I thought we needed Good Leaders, because they were like Endangered Species in a world that was like a Ship at Sea. I think everyone can hopefully agree that we need endangered species not to be so endangered in our world, and if we can all agree that these animals, in general, are beautiful, sentient creatures that deserve to live in an unsoiled environment, that can be a common meeting ground that we can all converge to figure out ways that we can help to sustain the world and all the flora and faun upon it for us and future generations of the world. I love whales, and the idea of whales being these incredibly intelligent, conversing entities that are living in the world with us almost like underwater intelligent alien beings of their own watery kingdom. I went to grad school at UC Irvine in Orange County, and lived in Laguna Beach, which was beautiful, but also becoming polluted, and the art scene they were very proud of, becoming a little—while I don’t want to be hierarchal about art and taste—cheesy. One of the kings of populist art in Southern California is Robert Wyland, who has famously painted whales on murals, canvas, and other surfaces, and has his own series of galleries, t-shirts, and more. Not to say anything bad about Wyland—I think he has his own true mission in art, and I really believe in "art for the people," and while being perhaps truly about acknowledging animals within our marine worlds in order to save them, I felt my mission in creating art with animals was to NOT make cheesy art. How could I bring something intrinsically artful to a whale image? I chose one from the NY Picture Library that seemed unusual and to really strike me—something personal about it (as I grew up in Colorado, far from the ocean and Alaska, but the mountains in the background reminded me of this), and the incredible gesture of this Humpback Whale brought out his sentient agency, while creating a surrealism in the water and his wondrous body. I wanted to create a feeling of movement in how I micromanaged the aesthetic movements, and love painting water, as it becomes so abstract, my "left brain" can’t synthesize what it "should" look like, and becomes a complicated microcosmic map to project my feelings and inner mind upon, hoping it will break into otherworldly worlds. I grew up with National Geographic’s WORLD magazine for kids, and will always remember listening to a floppy record that came in the magazine one month, of Robert Redford narrating whale songs, and I would listen to its otherworldly voices and be transported, like I did while painting this image that I hope pays homage to their sublime mystery.
This painting was from a show entitled "Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea," an installation of paintings created in the spring before the election that Obama first won, where in the Bush years, I felt we need "Good Leaders" as they were like "Endangered Species" in a world that was like a "ship at sea." Juxtaposed in a deliberate sequence to create a poetic allegory of images, paintings of positive iconic figures from popular and political cultural history were exhibited along with images of animals that are truly endangered in our fragile ecology, next to pictures of vessels striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable storms, symbolizing an optimistic outlook that we can healthily triumph through the chaotic crises of our time. If even conservatives can hopefully understand why it is important to have whales and tigers roaming free on our Earth, hopefully they can agree that we need to take care of ourselves and our planet in order to survive!
Rogue Wave and the Stolt Surf , is a painting from a photo taken by a sailor Karsten Peterson of Denmark who describes himself as Sailor/Photographer/World Traveler/Adventurer on his website called "The Storm: Stolt Surf in the North Pacific, 1977." The site tells the story onboard the Chemical Tanker "Stolt Surf " that was voyaging across the Pacific Ocean from Singapore to Portland, Oregon of U.S. in October, 1977 and encountered a hurricane like storm. While in the midst of the height of the storm, as he tells it as: "The howling wind tears off the top of the waves, and sends it as a horizontal spray across the ocean covering everything in a white mist." Importantly, like the other maritime paintings that are included in the show, the boat survived the storm, as we as a nation have survived the recessions and recent atrocities like 9-11. Personally, as I was painting this at our cabin in Riverside California, I was thinking of my husband and I surviving the perils of our own lives, and achieving the successes of life and career that we have and being thankful for our own strength and endurance. I love the maritime genre of ships at sea, and of course Winslow Homer and especially Turner, and hope to be able to do something new in this great world of art—by working by way of allegory, and a contemporary scene of a chemical tanker that was at peril but arrived home safe, I could infuse into the life of the work all the meditation of what it means to me personally and politically to give it a life of its own.
This is an appropriation from a Currier and Ives Print of the same title, of one of the fastest ships of their time that went through a terrible storm and famously survived, to become one of the most famous ships in the world. This originally was in a show called “Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea”, because, on the ebb of the W era, I felt like we needed Good Leaders, because they were like an Endangered Species, in a World that was like a Ship lost at Sea. Luckily Obama became President, and I felt we were a little less lost at that point, but at the time, the ship seemed like America, strong and powerful, but without a great captain to guide us through the impending doom of the economic recession, and our discursive relationships with the other powers of the world that threatened us. But like this ship that made it, I felt that America would make it, and will continue to be one of the great countries of our moment and of history. Also maritime pictures are I think so popular as they are about freedom, of the boat becoming a proxy for the person who is looking at it, and it takes you on a journey to another place. One of my favorite paintings is the sailboat picture behind the couch at the beginning of the Simpsons, and I feel that it emulates that if you feel like your are stuck in the cul-de-sac suburbia of your Springfield, like the Simpsons, who might look at that painting as a symbol of freedom and escape, that looking at art can also be a talisman for transcendent journeys. After I painted this I was astonished to see that ironically, this image also makes an appearance in a horror movie staring John Cusak and Samuel L. Jackson called 1408 in a hotel room that becomes haunted in a surreal way, and they show the sailboat painting in the room changed to this—like the stretched paintings by Disney animator Mac Davis in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland! But the original Currier and Ives print I believe was about the hope for America to survive all storms like the power of the boat, and allegorically for me, if the boat could be like a person, that we can survive the trials of our life and come out the stronger for them, and perhaps still win at the end of the day! It was also interesting to make a painted image from a print, bringing out the colors of what could be a two-dimensional printed image into a three dimensional oil painted plastic world, that also hopefully carries with it the depth and dimension of myself, as I painted fervently through the work to help my own self into a better world of a more exalted plane through the act of painting it.
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Currier & Ives: Clipper Ship "Comet" of New York, 1852