Sometimes we just need a reminder to stop taking ourselves, and life, so seriously. Paul Reubens and his beloved character, Pee Wee Herman, remind me to embrace life, joy and playfulness. I tried to capture that essence with this Saint, using bold colors and stylizing it in a less ornate and realistic way than the previous ones. I think it’s also important to mention that his arrest in the 90’s reminds us that Saints are human and imperfect. There’s not much more to say about this painting other than, “I know you are, but what am I?”.
Mixed-media on paper, 11″ x 14″, 2018
I could not paint St. Robert without also painting his counterpart, British Goth Goddess, Siouxsie Sioux. They both entered my life at about the same time and their music and personas helped me connect with a darker, deeper and more meaningful side of life and myself. The front-woman for Siouxsie and the Banshees made an impact on me because she embodied strength and power and made a striking impression with her combination kabuki/silent film star makeup and torn clothing with bondage gear accessories. During the 80’s when things were especially superficial, she wailed about somewhat macabre topics such as wearing animal fur for fashion in, “Skin” and about the death of the people of Pompeii in the first song I ever heard by them, “Cities in Dust”:
“Hot and burning in your nostrils
Pouring down your gaping mouth
Your molten bodies blanket of cinders
Caught in the throes
Oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh your city lies in dust, my friend”
The saints series that I have been working on combines the imagery of Catholic prayer cards and people who have influenced me and helped me to assimilate early on. Prayer cards are a huge part of my upbringing and my parents still give them to me to this day. They are intricately detailed and feature a certain saint on the front, and a prayer on the back and are given to loved ones for special as well as everyday occasions. There are saints to protect you when you travel for example, and each one has symbolic items connected to that saint. Since I was named after an Italian saint who was martyred in 125 AD, I revised this painting to work as part of the series because I always felt it was incomplete.
This one is a very sacred Saint for me. From middle school through tenth grade I had THE WORST “best friend”. She ridiculed me, introduced me to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and then ran away from home with the boy I was dating and slept with him (yeah, he was a loser too). Looking back I wonder why it took me so long to move on from that relationship, but I can’t regret it completely because she also introduced me to the music of “The Cure”, a British band from the early 80’s that changed the trajectory of my life monumentally. Up until that point I had only been exposed to mainstream, top 40/pop-music and some barely edgy dance music. The Cure’s lyrics were dark, yet romantic and the orchestral arrangements were haunting and melodic. I had never heard anything like this and I was at a point in my life where I was really struggling because I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere- even within my immediate family. Their lead singer, Robert Smith, was one of the first to embody what is now referred to as a Goth look, which was very different at the time. He wore (and still wears) smeared red lipstick, all-black clothes, and heavy dark makeup, which portrayed a somewhat spooky persona to those who did not delve any further into the meaning of their songs or took the time to listen. They embodied the image of darkness and “ugliness” and put it out front for everyone to see, which either was welcoming to the misfits like me, or made people deeply uncomfortable. Their style and sound helped me escape and find a place where I felt safe and like I finally belonged. They carried me through some of the most difficult years of my life and also opened the doors for me to explore many other dark bands and artists that I connected with. I have been modeling my Saints series after Catholic prayer cards, and for this one I based the design on an antique Dutch funeral prayer card which was all black and white. For this one I used primarily black, silver and gold ink and embellished it with metal accents and a tiny bit of bright color for his lips and the heart.
2018, Mixed-media on archival paper, 11″ x 14″
If Molly taught me how to be the all-American, good girl, then Winona helped me connect to the darker side of life. She began to gain popularity and make movies at a time when I was in high school and going through some really difficult family issues. The characters she played were often troubled, quirky and cynical teens that I resonated with; from Lydia in Beetlejuice to Veronica in Heathers. While I emulated Molly, with Winona, I began to see the value of individuality and appreciation of the things that are different. In the painting, I chose to depict her in a pose similar to other works of Catholic art that portray “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa” in which the saint wrote about a dream she had where a male angel who seemed to be on fire, pierced her several times, very violently with an arrow and the pain was so agonizing that she woke up moaning. To her it was symbolic of the love of God, but some have interpreted it to have sexual connotations. That’s a whole other subtext, but for my purposes, I felt that the imagery was a fitting way to represent the agony, intensity and drama of teenage pain.
St. Winona- Patron Saint of Teenage Angst, 8″ x 10″, mixed-media on paper, 2018