Temptation on the Mount (King Kong and Fay Wray battle the Giant Taradactyle), 2006 Oil on linen 46 × 58
Temptation on the Mount (King Kong and Fay Wray battle the Giant Taradactyle), 2006
Oil on linen 46 × 58

This originally was from Kings & Queens, where I wanted to present images of people and scenes that truly had a positive impact, that showed, during those turbulent times, what good models could be for a world, in a slightly elegiac mood as if they could be the Seraphim Angels in heaven. Of course King Kong wasn’t necessarily "all good" but as an anti-hero of sorts, he was an amazing creature that you had empathy for, largely due to his animator, the amazing Willis O’Brien, one the first stop-motion animators that helped to invent the method by way special effects were done in movies, then and still today. A burly man and ex would-be wrestler, I really feel that he was able to make his "sculptures"—his dolls and puppets that sometimes he himself would create—by empathizing himself with those puppets, infusing in him, as any great artists of emotional and narrative depth, with his thoughts and feelings, memories and allegorical relationship to all of his magical characters. He himself looked a bit like Kong, and I feel probably never "got the girl," and he used his wrestling know-how to create the famous battle between Kong and the dinosaurs, more importantly, his character was able to emote his feelings towards Fay Wray, and make you care about the monster, his compassion for her, but not the angry humanity that ripped him from this world to enslave him and exhibit him—take his agency and have it reified into Capital, which has its obvious allegorical power to mean so many things. With that slippery slope in mind, here I’m equating via the title to the masterpiece by Duccio at the Frick, one of my favorite paintings of all time, that is suggested by this scene, where Christ is casting out Satan, rejecting him and his offer of "all the kingdoms of the world" if Christ will worship him, as he stands in a symbolically miniaturized Siena. Although I didn’t set out to reinvent this incredible work by way of the pulpy Kong, as I was transmuting the black and white image from one of the scenes that most haunted me as a youth, a similar palate occurred, and I couldn’t help thinking that the Pterodactyl was an evil character who was out to get Fay Wray (or specifically in this image the doll O’Brien created to depict her character!). The world of Kong and Skull Island was inspired by Gustave Doré, who was most known for his illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, and it seems to me that they are elevated above an Inferno—hopefully Kong could also be like Virgil guiding the Ann Darrow character to more civilized haunts, protecting her from evil and casting out those who might harm her. Or she could be like an angel who is in admiration of this messiah-like character who protects those who trust in him from eternal harm. It was a fun painting to do—ultimately, painting can be all about alchemy, and I hope that I was able to bring this world (and the liminal spaces in the rocks and wings) to life in a similar manner as O’Brien was able, in his own micromanaging of making slow, specific, and controlled gestures, his animations to an audience that would be forever moved by his moving images.