The Vision of Saint John: The Opening of the Fifth Seal (After El Greco), 2008 Oil on linen 72 × 62 inches
The Vision of Saint John: The Opening of the Fifth Seal (After El Greco), 2008
Oil on linen 72 × 62 inches

I’m a huge El Greco fan, as are many modernists and great artists in time. I love how his work breaks into abstraction, allowing his subconscious to leak through, and how, in the way that his figures look like they got lost in Photoshop and couldn’t find their way out, bring out the passion of what it was that he was thinking about, making him popular in the time he was creating works, as he was hired by the particular sect of Catholicism that wanted to transmute his passion for Christ to their world. El Greco comes from the Byzantine tradition of icon painting, where they truly felt they were channeling the entities they were painting, which was able to communicate through the paintings to the faithful. This particular painting was created for a hospital—from Revelations, it’s the section where those who died in Christ’s name arise again to heaven at the end of the world when a hole is ripped through another dimension. It was to give the residents of the hospital hope, and the main figure I believe was touching the hand of God, a section that had been cropped off in time in the original, but I feel I found here by following the strokes in the original. This was a painting that inspired many great artists—famously it was owned during Picasso by one of his collector friends and kept behind a curtain, and Picasso would go to study it. His Demoiselles D’Avignon is directly inspired by it—the figures in that work are not only emulate Iberian and African masks and styles, but by the figures in the center of this painting, originally patterned after wax figurines in El Greco’s studio. Jackson Pollack had also been directly inspired by it, copying at the Met how the undulating folds created an all-over type pattern.

Many secrets are in El Greco’s work, I think by a man who really so believed in the subject matter of what he was creating that unconsciously, in all the folds and undulations, his subconscious simultaneously transplanted figures, faces, and forms while his conscious mind rendered what it critically wanted—something I try to do in my own work. I have copied many of his masterpieces, but always wanted to climb the mountain of this one. To do it, I listened to the entire old and new testaments (unabridged) on audiobook while I worked, which was a pretty trippy experience. I learned much, and was surprised, never reading the entire Bible before, how much of it I already knew, through the storytelling of culture and all the inferences of it in many aspects of our world and how it has helped (or hurt!) to shape it. James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader was the narrator for the New Testament, but the scariest thing was Revelations itself, which gave me VIVID memorable nightmares (which I suppose was its intention). There is quite a history with this painting in general, and it was amazing to explore it, finding so much hidden faces and ideas literally hiding in the folds for all the world to see and discover. This painting is located on this wall at part of my reconstruction of a Last Judgment, inspired by Michelangelo, and is placed in the same section as his "Resurrection of the Dead" at the Sistine Chapel.