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I am a painter. www.StephenCefalo.com, http://twitter.com/#!/CefaloStudio

Monday, April 7, 2014

Furry Magdalene

In the days before literacy, the characters of the Bible had to be immediately recognizable by their particular attributes, and Mary Magdalene's attribute is of course her hair.  She is frequently depicted with an exposed chest, and often accompanied with a skull.  I've always loved, and been fascinated with the notion of Magdalene as being a Biblical Rapunzel, clothed in her hair, as she is often depicted.  Recently, however, I happened upon an image of Mary Magdalene growing hair, not from her head, but directly out of her body.  With some research I learned this was fairly common, and she was sometimes associated with the legends of "wild women", who were covered in fur.

Magdalene sometimes resembles Cousin It 
from the Addams Family, as in this medieval illumination.

Himmelfahrt Der Heiligen

Even some more conventional images of Mary as being simply clothed in her hair begin to matte to her body in an effort to reveal the human form underneath while also showing her famous attribute.  At first  I assumed that this was a slow evolution from Rapunzel to werewolf, but as it happens it is the earlier medieval images that first depicted her covered in fur, usually minus the face and neck, hands, feet, and breasts.  

Tilman Riemenschneider

It is likely that the later renaissance  images of Magdalene with long head hair matted to the body are a knowing wink to the antiquated images of furry magdalene, such as this 16th century painting by Rizzoli.  At any rate, they are great fun to look at.  I have done my best to accredit the artists when I could find their names.

Jacopo del Sallaiao


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vincent Xeus

If you will be in Southern California during the month of April, you won't want to miss the recent work of Vincent Xeus on display at Maxwell Alexander in Culver City.  The reception is this saturday, April 5th at 7 PM, and I wish I could be there.

I first met Vincent Xeus (pronounced "Zeus") at the Portrait Society Conference last year.  We were sitting in adjacent chairs while watching a painting demonstration.  I asked the customary question of "Do you have any examples of your work?"  Due to his young appearance, politeness, and humility, I was not prepared for the mastery and sense of vision I found, piece after piece, as I flipped through his camera roll.

With a name like "Vincent Xeus", you'd better be great, and Vincent does not fail to deliver.  I rarely come across a painter that displays both a solid skill set, as well as a unique sense of vision.  Some figurative artists in attempt to transcend the academic study, artificially graft in fancy elements of uniqueness, but Vincent's imagery never comes across as forced.  It is always refreshing to see work that defies categories.  His subjects range from touching portraits of individuals to images of mortality and alienation that might feel somewhat morbid if they weren't so much fun to look at.   While his work will doubtlessly appeal to fans of the "low brow" movement, I find an emotional and spiritual depth, as well as an optimism and sense of wonder that shines through across his otherwise black panels.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jeff Markowsky's Old Sketch of Me.

My old painting teacher Jeff Markowsky recently emailed me this old sketch he did of me next to rembrandt. I could not have prayed for a better instructor my freshman year.  Great guy, great painter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nicolai Fechin

Russian painter and draftsman Nicolai Fechin.  I love his vision of the human face and body.  His work is so full of love and grit.  To me these are painfully beautiful pictures.

A portrait of Boris Karloff.  That's right, from the Frankenstein movie.