A Portrait of The Artist as a Grown Man (Video and Text)

This post includes the video and text version, the art displayed on the easel in the video, and an exclusive 48-second look at my new atelier at Montecinos in Barcelona. Enjoy. Please click to SUBSCRIBE.

A Portrait of The Artist As A Grown Man 

(A Stream of Consciousness with Apologies to James Joyce)

I did not want to become an artist, that is, becoming someone misunderstood, apart, and out of the “normal” pattern of life. That I experienced everything more deeply than other kids my age I was unaware of. The discrepancy between myself and others only dawned on me as I grew older.

If I had had an ounce of common sense, I would never have acquiesced to becoming a child minister. Or to a childhood marriage (’til death do you part, fuck that) with someone whose family was the polar opposite of mine. Mine, a family strict though loving and kind, the other rife with abuse and anger. Both childish decisions resulted in horrific disillusionment and consumed my youth and early adulthood. 

The first quivering words and brushstrokes I finally put to paper after five decades of life were the expressions of a wounded child: pain, isolation, loneliness, guilt, fear, and shame. The process of honestly putting down words and paint was equivalent to giving myself a purifying or figurative cleansing of body, mind, soul, and spirit—a purgation, a catharsis. At long last. 

Spewing words and paint, I longed for a joyful, wildhearted, sensual life. Ever the idealist, I did not want my freedom to come at the expense of others. Unfortunately, that is impossible when one is grown and encumbered with the shackles of youthful choices. Sowing one’s wild oats as a grown man rather than a young boy is a recipe for disaster and devastation. Alas, in my youth, the institutions of life (family, church, education, and culture) did not allow excitement, adventure, and sexual relationships. 

I wanted to encourage not to dissuade, to heal not to wound. I wanted to change the world, to free the imagination of humanity once and for all. Without the support of friends, without a companion imaginatively unified, the freedom of the imagination becomes a solitary prison. 

A true artist creates in part, to throw off the chains accumulated because of a false way of life—in my case, religion. I was trying to recapture my innocence, yet, at times, all I seemed to accomplish (by writing, by painting) was to inoculate my known world with a virus of my freedom, sensuality, and introspection. However, this artist would not have placed a word or brush on paper if I did not have the courage (or foolishness) to attempt to live out the wildness of my dreams. 

I do not want only to write or paint: I want the world to be a place in which I can live the life of my imagination. The primary benefit, I think, that the act of creation offers is the courage to symbolize and refute the false teachings that separate me from my true self.

An honest work of art, if it accomplishes anything, serves to remind, to redeem, and set us dreaming, of the wholeness of being. Which is to say, the holy grail, the treasure within. The artifact may not be understood; but rather, accepted or rejected. When I was younger, if accepted I was encouraged; if rejected I was dissuaded.

Perhaps that is why Spain has seduced me in the autumn of life, its sensuality, curiosity, intimacy, and free thinking. It is a place that exudes my essentials, where uncensored words and symbols have a meaningful relation to real life, where one can sit unclothed in public, watching the passing show, and think one’s most honest and naked thoughts. Every person, when naked and unashamed, becomes exposed and defenseless to themselves, and becomes capable of experiencing profound revelations.

For example, I have come to see that I have myriad feminine virtues, but I was forbidden, and therefore afraid, to acknowledge them to myself. I thought being strong sexually meant I was a virile man, but now, I realize I am more of a woman than a man. My sexual virility was a symbol more feminine than masculine, a power that religion and the patriarchy dared not allow me to use. It was too sensual and provocative for a medieval Jehovah and his authoritarian patriarchs. 

I no longer need to prove myself a man by exploiting the powers of seduction. Women are not fooled by that sort of strength and charm. Women, even when subjugated physically, are always masters of the situation. A woman may be enslaved, sexually, and yet dominate the man. I’ve always had a harder time being a “man” but did not know why. Dominating another doesn’t interest me. I would rather listen, serve, encourage, and empathize. I am a highly sensitive person.

I no longer wish to censor my finest impulses, my deepest longings. I no longer wish to feel heartache when I read lines or see brushstrokes created by the hands of masters and recognize them as my own, as the tender dreams that I stifled because I lacked the freedom to believe in my feminine self, my unique powers, my own criterion of truth and beauty. What almost aborted me in my beginnings, what almost proved to be an epic tragedy, was that I could find no one who believed in me implicitly, either as a binary person or as a sensitive artist and free thinker. 

As a grown man, captivated by discovery, I read Stephen Dedalus’ sensitive and sensual encounter with the long slender bare legs, delicate as a crane, thighs, fuller and softhued as ivory, bare hips and breasts soft and slight, the eyes, the face: the wonders of mortal beauty. I exclaimed in harmony with his soul, Holy Fuck! an outburst of profane joy. The honesty, transparency, sensuality, and profound beauty of the human body imprinted into my soul that day for ever.

As a skeptical grown man, I began to paint like an innocent young boy: body, eyes, face, breasts, genitalia, big and small, female and male. Nude self-portraits, all. Nakedness, full-bodied and whole, wooed me and my fragmented being leaped at the call. To write and paint, yes, and LIVE! Unashamed without censors, without the endless rules of god and man; to love, to lust, to desire, to dare to recreate the wildness of my deepest fantasies. My secret archetypes, symbols, my call to adventure, crossing the threshold of my hero’s journey.

The day of that reading, a wild angel appeared to me as well, the angel of mortal youth and beauty, an envoy from nature, and threw open before me in a flash of ecstasy the gates of all the nuances of body and soul. And I heeded their call. On and on and on and on!

Now, I do not wish to be a cynic in my old age, an embittered, disillusioned artist, pretending nothing enchants me any longer; thoroughly sentimental, shallow, soaking my wounded emotional system in alcohol and drugs in order not to fall apart at some unexpected moment.

No, by all means, I want to go on creating. I believe that art can transform the hideous into the beautiful. Art is painful, tedious, illuminating, and softening, and if we are lucky, in some blissful moments, hardening. If I don’t die in the attempt, the creative work may transform me into a resilient, serene, equanimous, and transcendent human being. I will continue to live for others, yet, hopefully, when I have lived long enough, I will discover something beyond what religion calls life—god forbid—to pleasure and know my self.

Praise or rejection has paled with age. The only time I receive due reward is when someone comes to me burning with a flame which I fanned in a moment of unexpected communion. Honest criticism means nothing: what I want is unrestrained passion, fire for fire. I hope to always be trying to fan the fires of my true self; with the people I love,  only an instrument for me to practice on, and me for them. 

Finally, I wish to be young again, now grown. Peter Pan enjoying forbidden intimacies with Tinkerbell and her friends, spewing fairy dust everywhere, and in my private times, encouraging other hope less grownups (prospective lost boys and girls or both) to search for their true selves, their wholeness. 

And, goddamn it, don’t even think about sending me back home, or school, or church, or confession, or office, or to some god you happen to believe in and think could save me. I am proud to be a lost boy and a lost girl all rolled into one happy whole reprobate. If I could paint a portrait of me as a young binary person, it would be this portrait of the artist as a wholly masculine and feminine grownup encouraging others selflessly and enjoying pleasure selfishly in the autumn of life. Safely nestled amid the seductive breasts, the twin peaks, of Barcelona.  

“Fixation” Original Watercolor (Click image to see more)
A quick and exclusive tour of my new atelier at our home Montecinos in Barcelona.

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