Punk Duchess Print Giveaway

To celebrate my having moved to a new pad, I thought I would do a print giveaway! I chose “Varuca” which measures 11×14 inches and was printed by Mahan Gallery in Columbus, Ohio on matte fine art paper back in 2008. Aside from proofs, only 10 of these were made! She comes signed, numbered, and dated.

All you have to do is leave a comment and the winner will be chosen using a randomizer on Sunday the 12th at 6pm EST.

Varuca, Duchess of Scovelica (1512 – 1579)
First daughter to the 2nd Marquess of Terra. Married at the age of 14 to the Duke of Scovelica, her exotic looks and passion for horses made the rumors of her supposed Mongolian heredity popular within many social circles. Self-conscious about her height, she began wearing her hair in up in spikes as means to appear taller. This began a trend that would move in and out of fashion, for centuries.

You can read more about her, and her family, in my book.

It’s Actually Happening!

Pre-ordering is now live for my book on the Cooperative Press website! These will be available in December thru the usual outlets like Amazon, but I recommend getting in on the action early.

I’m happy to have just about everything in one place to share as one body of work, over 40 portraits, and putting together the family tree nearly made me cross-eyed. When you get it, you’ll see what I mean. There are actually quite a few characters that appear on the family tree that are yet to be painted! Looking through the layout, it strikes me this isn’t just an art book, but more of a fantasy/fiction novel with illustrations. I suppose it could go both ways — couldn’t it?

In case you were wondering, “Lady Justine” ended up as being chosen for the cover. You can view the whole press release here at Lee Joseph Publicity.

Finally, the Red Hot Chili Peppers Book!

One of my secret little side jobs that I’ve had for about 8 years or more, is transcribing interviews. While I seem to focus mostly on music, I’ve done it for fashion and design related projects too. Journalists and publishers find me, and I tackle this tedious aspect for them.

I was doing it for several writers at the LA Weekly, but my main squeeze was Brendan Mullen for both his oral history books (The Germs, Jane’s Addiction) and various articles. I tell you, working for Brendan made me a seasoned pro and very fast; you try transcribing interviews conducted by a Scotsman, using a cassette recorder, outside, with helicopters and garbage trucks going by! As hard as this could all be, I was so fortunate to hear interviews and interesting stories from everyone involved in the L.A. punk scene during the 80s. You could never say I was bored with any assignment, really.

The last project I had been working on for Brendan has finally come out! The Red Hot Chili Peppers book was incredibly interesting to hear, it was rounds of interviews. Friends, parents, producers, former dealers, and so on. Even if you never were crazy about the band, it is still an amazing story.

Brendan called me while I was in Boston on vacation asking for more help on another round of tapes he was sending me. He died of a stroke days later. The book was finished off by his partner Kateri, and this was not an easy undertaking. The thing I will miss the most is our phone conversations. They would go on for hours (which was typical for anyone talking to him) because we had similar ideas about so many things; I think I was one of the few women he knew who could gab as much as he could! There were times when he would visit my husband and I at our apartment in Hollywood, or we’d be at a party, and we’d blab on and on about music and politics for ages in a corner somewhere. I wish I had met him sooner than I did. He was a fixture in Los Angeles and always a character…


Twelve Years of Portraits

The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa: The Art of Arabella Proffer will be coming out this December. It won’t include all the portraits I have done over the last twelve years or so, but well over 40 of them including some family trees. The family trees actually started as a way for me to keep track of all the portraits even though not every character appears in it, but putting it all together did make me go a bit crossed-eyed, in fact, there are many portraits yet to be painted that appear in the family trees. I’ll get around to them eventually.

I think this series started with the idea of ancestor worship — as cultivated by the European aristocracy — because I was really making portraits on fake ancestors for myself in the beginning. I did a lot of peerage research and even tried to read up on the Almanache de Gotha, but it got so out of control that I decided to combine the “rules” of different countries since not all adhered to the same standards. Titles, who could marry whom, and things like the tradition of primogeniture — which gave way everywhere except for England.

I also did a lot of costume research (necklines, sleeves and such) to lend mild authenticity when I combine it with my own punk and goth designs. Really to me, Elizabethan fashion is super goth. I don’t know why goths today insist on Victorian garb, because Elizabethan is just as painful to wear, but embellished and designed more beautifully. And thus, from the Renaissance to the Rococo period, I think the punk and goth styling would have worked out very well for the upper-classes. Let’s face it, tattoos, piercings, hair dye, all cost a lot of money. I think it means something different today than it did in the late 70s and early 80s. The early punks and goths certainly didn’t have mohawks or do these things, but for a while these were symbols that you wanted to be seen as an outcast or a criminal. Now, everyone does it, and it has become almost normal rather than rebellious. So I think nobility and people of importance would have used these as status symbols — the fact they could afford it at all. I think the more tattoos, and the bigger your mohawk, the more influential you or your family are. It would have made sense, and when I started to combine the two in my paintings, I thought it looked right. I didn’t want to over-do it with the piercings and stuff, but I liked little hints here and there (a safety-pin, the ultimate punk accessory, an eyebrow ring, part of a tattoo being visible).

The duties to hold on to a place, a title, or any seat in office, and to responsibility to both the dead and future family members to hold tight and improve upon it.
The whole concept of nobility is something Americans tried desperately to get away from, and today it is sneered at in Europe for what it is: a system that is no longer relevant. It was all tied to agriculture, military, and serving the crown. It is a system that has mutated from the middle ages — being the most opulent and ridiculous in the 1700s — and was on a decline until it took the most heavy blow after the 1st world war. But as an American, I can’t help find it fascinating — as do most Americans. Nobility are hard to come by, almost extinct. Funny enough, through the ages they have something in common with any wealthy, political, or important person: they all are in debt.

When you read about these people there were common themes. They tended to be eccentric, or too serious; they were always unhappy; very rarely did anything end well; and no matter how lavish their lives were, something was always amiss. But in general their expectations and the course of their lives was rather predictable. I think this is why my writings are very often mistaken to be real — they sound like something that could have, or did happen. And that’s the point. I think I tend to make my females more independent and strong, however. I’m more interested in them because back through the centuries women were seen as idiots, gossips, clotheshorses and meant for nothing more than breeding — they had the same rights as mentally challenged people, pretty much. They weren’t even allowed to look after their own children if the father died, the oldest son could have his wardship sold since he would inherited the estate and the title. This was especially true in England.

Portraits instead of family photos are something I wish more people would turn to as something to pass down. Going to Europe and looking through old books, they were what I thought was normal — or should be normal. I asked my mom after my father passed away when we were getting a portrait done of him (in all seriousness) and she laughed telling me what bad taste that would be. I was 9, and didn’t think it was bad taste at all. I guess these portraits started as a way of me having my own little gallery of ancestors past. To me it would be no different from having photos out, and at least it can be considered an heirloom. Then again, having to put up with a huge portrait of a mother-in-law you hate in your home — I could see that being annoying. Again, it all goes back to ancestor worship, which I don’t think many Americans are interested in unless you come from well-to-do east coast stock or are of the old Southern aristocracy, and even then.

It’s a subject I’ll always explore and research for fun, and I don’t see this series ending anytime soon. We’ll see what the next twelve years brings.

Countess Christabelle Redux

I while back I re-painted a part of this piece I had finished years ago; only this week did I get around to photographing it with a better camera…

11×14″ oil on canvas. Christabelle, Countess of Veron (1612 – 1667) Second daughter to the 3rd Duke of Mollawray. Like her sister, Lexia the Marquise of Vienwray, she had a great penchant for spending and would marry late. She wed the Earl of Veron in 1645 who was twenty years her junior. Developing an interest in astrology, séances and the occult, she had her estate redecorated with astrological motifs and even converted her main parlor into a “room for the dead” in which to summon ghosts. She said she found the dead more interesting than the living.

New Portrait: Elizabetta the II

8×10″ oil on panel…

Elizabetta the II (1580 – 1639)
After the death of her older brother , the 2nd Baron Einar of Moravic, her newly titled family line had seemed to be near extinction before it had begun. It fell unto Elizabetta to carry on their now affluent and demanding way of life by marrying above her. Her presentation at court paid off, in the form of Henrik, the Deputy and Lord Chamberlain who proposed days later. This was treated more as a business transaction than romantic gesture; Elizabetta was held in near captivity at Henrik’s country estate with only her newly acquired and indomitable mother-in-law for company. Bound by rules, duty, and social codes that were still new to her, her mother-in-law set out to make the young lady worthy of her son’s position. The tedious and often cruel “lessons” her mother-in-law imposed helped Elizabetta to grow a thick skin and bloom into a grand dame in her own right. After 7 children (only 2 would survive into adulthood) she had become an exemplary Lady.

Funny I only painted and wrote this now; I did her parents and her daughter many years ago…