Currently I am on a sabbatical in Europe. Okay, it is not a sabbatical but more of a retreat, to conjure ideas and see where I am going to take my work and my installations in the future, to secure funding and put together better visual records of completed projects. I also wanted to go through my voice archives and put together videos from images and voice work I have done over the years.
I miss the States and wish everyone a Very Happy Thanksgiving.
Europe is cold and feels even colder after I spent considerable amount of time in Florida and California over the last couple of years. But as in New York, cold always stimulates the mind as there is no urge to be outside and move about.
Here are two pieces I did over Thanksgiving three years ago. For the first one I used the back of a Nordstrom catalog I got in the mail:
Another piece with a Thanksgiving theme is called I have everything. It is a digital collage over a photograph of me wearing a paper dress .The other strong theme here is Occupy and the effect the movement had on me and the way I viewed New York city. I have everything was completed shortly after NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park.
The paper dress I am wearing is a 30 x 40 inches mixed media piece. It is a painted over Giclee print of my Lucasfilm W2 and scraps of paper collage:
You can listen to the voice piece about I have everything here:
I drew the Flying Tree during my failed attempt to go to Tibet, Nepal and Mt Everest Base Camp. I had already obtained Chinese visa, bought anti-diarrhea drugs, waterproof rainwear and wool underwear, arranged for a sidecar trip around Beijing, a trip on the train to Lhasa and a 4 wheel drive across the Tibetan Plateau.
Couple of days before the trip the results from my physical exam blood work came in and it turned out I was severely anemic. My doctor recommended I do not go on the trip as it involved high altitude -I panicked and never went. I spent a couple of days crying.
I closed the doors to my studio and drew for three weeks straight, all my dreams flowed out, into and with the ink. Flying Tree was one of the drawings I completed during that time.
I dedicated the Flying Tree to my late grandfather Spas who passed away September 28th, on the day I was supposed to hang the Tree in a gallery in downtown San Francisco. He was just like the Old Man and The Sea, he made fish cakes and raspberry wine, he grew large tomatoes. All my friends and my brother’s friends came to see him at his house on the Black Sea. He used to say a Macedonian soldier never turns back – just 180 and forward.
Eventually I learned that in Hindu religion, in the beginning mountains had wings.. they were cut off by thunderbolt. The Flying Tree was the foothills of my Govardhan, the imaginary mountain I needed to climb instead, perhaps to ascend mentally first before taking my body there. Ultimately, I gifted the “Flying Tree” to an anti-cancer benefit a former colleague of mine organized at Pixar.
As part of my some kind of series I am creating short videos using photographs I shot. They sound and look like the mood of the moment I took the photograph.
Going to Rome was one of the most exciting experiences in my life. Rome is not exciting the way Las Vegas is exciting. I went to Rome on Christmas and after spending Christmas eve waiting for the Pope to come out and give us a blessing, after spending the whole night in front of St Peter’s cathedral, walking across the dark city, all the way from St Peters to my hotel.. I slept through all of Christmas day and woke up in the evening to find out Rome was completely empty. There was nobody outside. Everyone was either at home, out of town or held up in their hotel room waiting for a dry morning.
There was nobody on the streets of Rome, it was raining, little bit, on and off. I went to see the Colosseum. It was the most serene and peaceful place to be. With the Colosseum raising out of the darkness with its 2000 years of existence. Colored in yellow and blue. I would end up not visiting it during the day.
Here is my little dance to the tune of a Bulgarian folk song – I am preparing several canvases the traditional way. I stretch my own raw linen, size it with rabbit skin glue and prime it with several thin coats of lead oil, which I let dry for two weeks between coats. The tricky part with lead is that it is toxic so I dress up hazmat fot this little dance.
I get attached to the materials I work with – I have been a life-long computer geek, a brush geek, a linen geek, a paper geek. After all, for a time – you and the instrument in your hand become a one in the pursuit of a work of art, or simply of work. Knowing what we now know of the micro-world of particles, the simple act of commanding an object is a miracle.
My grandfather was an oil painter and a successful businessman, very skilled in the technique of Intarsia. He was very active in Bulgarian society prior to 1944 and was nominated, as part of a delegation of the Bulgarian trade elite, a godfather to King Simeon II of Bulgaria. He lost almost everything and escaped barely with his life during the communist revolution of 1944-47. He escaped execution with the help of a friendly lawyer but watched in terror from his house’s terrace high on the hills – the muzzle flashes of executions of many of his friends and colleagues. He was later sent to labor camps, was registered in the communist party’s archives as an enemy of the state and was not allowed to work for the rest of his life. Growing up I remember a very strange man living in my grandparents’ house – he was installed to spy on my grandparents’ activities and was there for almost 20 years. As a kid I was kept ignorant of the family history and only learned things piece by piece after my grandfather passed from a heart condition shortly after the Chernobyl incident. I vividly remember, however, my grandpa listening to the BBC and the Voice of America, a highly illegal activity at the time.
Grandfather at Union Club – Sofia, 1938:
I always keep at least one of grandpa’s works in sight. Here is my “wet” studio where I handle more toxic processes – I just laid first coat of Lead Oil primer on newly stretched linen canvases and also dry an underpainting created with genuine Chinese Vermilion ( the very toxic Mercuric Sulphide ). And grandpa’s landscape Intarsia of the old capital of Bulgaria is hiding behind the printer box waiting to be hung: