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Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #1 

Nine weeks (and thirty lost pounds) into my recovery period from two cardiac artery uncloggings, I've finally managed to get back to doing my own Taoist-inspired gargoyle relief sculpture/paintings. Today I used the digital camera to take pictures of those pieces I've managed to more-or-less complete. Thanks to Adobe Photoshop, I can then crop out the basic figure from the stained wood framing and thus cut down the image size a little bit. I don't know if this makes the images look better, worse, or just the same. Anyway, I've attached some *.jpg image files to make up for not having posted much here recently. I've pretty much used up all the living room wall space that Carol will let me have for my gargoyle gallery, so when I've finished painting four other sculpted white-on-white pieces, I'll have to start thinking about other rooms to adorn/vandalize. Everyone needs a hobby, or so I've heard it said ...

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Reply with quote  #2 
yea Mike, I'll take the third guy from the left ,upper row, please. There's a guy with heart. Let's call him Wolfman Jack in honor of one of the greatest blues players I have ever heard. Tell me KB wouldn't you be pleased to meet that guy on a dark night? He smile would brighten up any alleyway. His face also reminds me of the late Warren Zevon and his hilarious song Werewolves of London. I really like all of the gargoyles but he is a standout. menten el trabajo bueno Mike. I've downloaded them to me screen saver too.
Reply with quote  #3 
I think he might have just applied to rent my empty room, Stan.  So I'll let you know if he's as bad as he looks, provided I find out. 

I see Dubya and Cheney in the second GG from the left in rows 1 (top) and 3 (bottom), respectively.  My faves are the leftmost and rightmost in row 1.  Your gargoyles have that oriental touch, Mike.  And I'm impressed with their looks on the upload, generally.  Don't think the wood frame will mind being supplanted with a graphic line.  You sure do nice work, and may all your demons be duly exorcised thereby.

So glad you are feeling better, again.  Thanks to Carol and your doctors, to whom I am deeply grateful. 
Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #4 

Our good buddy Don Webb asked me if he could display some of my gargoyle images (with accompanying text) on his Bewildering Stories web site. I agreed but wanted a bit of a delay while I figured out a signature and something to say about the culture-specific gargoyles I've seen here in Taiwan and how they inspired me to try some artwork myself while looking into gargoyle and grotesque sculptures generally. I haven't gotten the signature and text issues quite worked out, but I did suffer a small fit of poetic pathology the other day which I call, naturally, "Gargoyles and Grotesques." I've attched the Adobe *.pdf file below.   

Attached Files
pdf Gargoyles_and_Grotesques.pdf (7.54 KB, 12 views)

Reply with quote  #5 
Michael, I've been feeling run ragged by goings-on & doings here to do with April Poetry Month and ordinary stuff such as getting into that time-sink, Facebook! Lor' he'p us'ns who's gits into quicksand.

Well, I'm really glad I followed a whim to look in on the old board and find the hardy trio still at work. BUT, HEY! HANDSPRINGS & HALLELUJAS for that terrific set of gargoyle masks, and BIG BLESSINGS for that poem about 'em! Perfect capture. Really crafty. Ooooooh Wow-eey. (Now, I know you're so semanticly (yes, that's how I spell it now) sensitive you may imagine I'm being snidely ironic. NOT TRUE. I'm vastly delighted, doubly so that you've worked a vein other than political. The verses so display your mark.

My response is heightened, I suppose, by what I see around here. I sat in workshop last night over in Alamo with several friends and acquaintances, all bright people, but their work was of very low intensity, as if they want to do art without hard craft.

Cheers all around.

Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #6 

Thanks for the kind words, Bob. I hope everything continues going well for you and your many poetry projects. As for that whole Facebook and Twitter stuff, etc., I haven't even considered bothering with such time-consuming distractions. I can't even keep up with constructing a little web site of my own -- just some basic primitive HTML coding in a bare-bones text editor like Notepad. In any event, I prefer dealing with people who can read and write and wish to improve at both, so I rather doubt that anything I put up on the web will ever gain much of an audience among those who can't seem to function without someone else showing them moving pictures and reading out loud to them what the moving pictures supposedly mean.

As for the gargoyle/grotesque relief sculpture-paintings, I started trying my hand at producing these decorations going on three years ago. After fixing up and painting our downstairs living room, I had loads of empty wall space, even after hanging up eight of my mother's fairly large paintings that I brought with us when we moved to Taiwan. Mom always liked Asian art and decor, so I thought I could honor her memory (inexpensively, of course) by doing some of my own Asian inspired art work to hang alongside what she had collected in her own lifetime. Of course, what I start out to do often ends up somehow perverted by something in me that I cannot either explain or excuse. My wife Carol has the real artistic talent and training, though, and yet -- in spite of that -- she keeps encouraging me to just do what I do. If nothing else, she says, we have the only home in Taiwan where people can see these original "things," as my younger brother Jack calls them.  

To provide a little more background on the inspiration for this recent hobby of mine, I've included below a few more photographs of the kind of examples I've seen here in Taiwan. Three of the pictures show my favorite kind of grotesque relief sculptures: something hinting at the maniac; not at all "cute" or simply colorful; and faded by both time and neglect. Normally, these relief sculptures sit so high up underneath the side roofs of Taoist shrines that the local people seldom ever take any notice of them. But I do. Usually I have to use a 200mm telephoto lens to get anything like a close enough shot to use as reference for my own efforts. In comparing these photos with the pictures I posted previously, you can possibly even figure out which two examples below served as the inspiration for which two rather different outcomes above.
The fourth picture below represents a true gargoyle, which in this case disguises a water pump for a little pool at an outdoor restaurant on one bank of the Love River here in Kaohsiung. I haven't yet used this gargoyle for reference in producing something of my own, but I may do so in the near future. As my research into these things has revealed:

"The word ‘Gargoyle’ shares a root with the word ‘Gargle; they come from ‘gargouille,’ an old French word for ‘Throat.’ A true gargoyle is a waterspout. An unusual carved creature that does not serve that purpose is properly called a ‘Grotesque.’ … In modern times the word Gargoyle has become the accepted generic term for all manner of grotesques, griffins and chimeras."
                                             -- Walter S. Arnold, Sculptor/Stone Carver

So, technically speaking, I have only done "grotesques" to date and have not actually tried to spruce up or conceal a real drainpipe behind a fanciful sculptured disguise; but I suppose that one of these days I may get around to the challenge.

More on the poem in a later post ...

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Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #7 

As promised/threatened above, Bob, I will now continue my response to your comments about my poem, "Gargoyles and Grotesques."

Our mutual friend and former cabal conspirator, Don Webb, asked me to supply some text as background information for my Taoist-inspired gargolye relief sculpture/paintings. I haven't yet put it all together, but as part of my research into the subject of gargoyles and grotesques generally -- not just the culturally different Chinese styles -- I thought I would quote some thoughts by Stephen King, who wrote the text introduction to a photo anthology of Euro-American gargoyles called Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques (New York: Viking Studio Books, 1988).     

"… the first gargoyles were nothing but fancy gutters, and the word [gargoyle] comes from a Latin one meaning either ‘drain’ or ‘gutter’ or ‘gullet.’ … they became a sort of ‘craze’ in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with rich folks and rich churches … competing to own the biggest, best, and most rococo gargoyles. … So they hired the best artists they could find to do them up some really boss gargoyles. Because the best artists were, by and large, the poorest artists (a state of affairs that doesn’t change a whole lot from one generation to the next), most of them took the assignments. After all, even the best artists have to eat. But they weren’t too crazy about giving their best to creating a bunch of things which were, beneath the fancy icing, nothing but a bunch of pipes to drain rainwater. Artists are quite good at finding sly means of revenge, however, and … many of these fellows got theirs by turning the gargoyles into hideous caricatures of the very men who had paid them to create the gargoyles. … Suppose you were a great poet with a wife and kid on the verge of dying from malnutrition, and some Jay Gould type offered you ten thousand bucks to decorate the plain white wallpaper of his bathroom – with your own original poems, on condition that they must be written in your own hand, and never reprinted anywhere? Under such circumstances, might you not be tempted to write a few sarcastic japes in iambic pentameter, japes just a little too sophisticated for your patron to understand? Not in the spirit of revenge, but just to salvage a little of your own self-respect?"
" … the origin of the beast is enlightening, because it points directly toward the purpose of the art form. A drain is a perfectly utilitarian device for venting waste-water; gargoyles, with their dreamlike, hideous array of faces serve much the same purpose for our minds: as a way of venting the mental waste material made up of our hidden fears, inadequacies, and even our unrealized and mostly unacknowledged aggressions (you might note, as you leaf through these pages [of gargoyle/grotesque photographs], how many of these beasts are seemingly insane with rage)."
"… gargoyles … continue to perform their original function: to drain away that which might otherwise cause rot and corrosion. Their horrible, stony faces offer a unique catharsis; when we look upon them and shudder, we create the exact reversal of the Medusa myth … great art, no matter how primitive, constantly recreates the imagination, and keeps it from turning to stone."

" … their power is undeniable, and… their function is just as it was before someone started the race to see who could gussy them up the most: they are dark throats, dark gullets, dark drains from which accumulated muck may spew – and thus be dissipated."

Stephen King, text introduction to Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques (New York: Viking Studio Books, 1988), pp. 31-35.

After reading Stephen King's typically imaginative take on the subject, I found the words "gutter" and "gullet" reverberating in my own memory in company with "gargoyles," perhaps because of the alliteration and the hard, accented-unaccented stress pattern of the three words. As far as I think I understand the poetic impetus, at least for me, it usually begins with just such a sonic connection between a few words or phrases that seem to form a coherent grouping, one that suggests completion with only a few more alliterated, rhythmic, and/or rhymed elements added. In this case, I discovered that I had not previously tried my hand at verse employing trochee accent patterns (pairs of accented-unaccented syllables) with at least the basic Anglo-Saxon four beats per line. So, I checked up with John Hollander's essential Rhyme's Reason: a Guide to English Verse, where I read this:

Trochees simply tumble on and
Start with downbeats just like this one.

Still, I somehow thought that I wanted to tack on a fifth accented syllable to end-stop the lines so that they wouldn't enjamb with the lines that followed. Then, I recalled that basic Anglo-Saxon verse normally uses alliteration among at least three of the four accented syllables per line, so I thought: "Why don't I try and alliterate all five of the accented syllables wherever possible?" So, I did that, too. At any rate, it sounded right to me, given the subject matter. Thanks for reading the poem and commenting upon it. I agree with you that much of what passes for "poetry" today lacks passionate intensity; a defect primarily due -- in my opinion -- to (1) insufficient life experience suffering through detestable disasters like ruinous, stupid wars and (2) a noticeable attempt by the poet to skirt the required effort to craft recognizable verse instead of just writing down arbitrarily skewed lines of what I. A. Richards called "separable clumps of letters."

There. That ought to about do it for the poetry.  
Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #8 

I just finished three more gargoyle relief sculpture/paintings. Now, if I can only find a place to hang them, which means I have to find some way to talk Carol into letting me drill some more holes in our living room walls for screw anchors and decorative metal pegs. Anyway, see attachments below for "Oh Brother," "Red-headed Stepchild," and "YinYang Yahoo," respectively.  

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Reply with quote  #9 
Ha ha, an Obama Grotesque.  (Gotta be accurate here now, gargoyles must gurgle and spout water.)  Funny what you learn in the old one-room schoolhouse.  

I think it's fitting that Obama looks so like W in his incarnation for your wall.  Seeing as he is fully employing all the legal hijinx of his predecessor we may in time come to see him for the closet conservative he seems to be.

I'm sure glad my dad didn't wait to be elected president before he let me have a puppy.

More power to you, Mike.  If Carol and you run out of room on the walls, maybe a local school or community center will display your grotesques.  Stay well, and thanks for the show-and-tell.  Good to hear from you.

Reply with quote  #10 
Great work Mike.  The ears have it. What is it with ears that makes people conservatively stupid?

I truly have given up caring any more about US politics although I have said that a million times before. Everything I hear on the BBC makes me glad to be away and in a paradaisical place. There just doesn't seem to be any hope for the USians. They want but don't want, they won't pay taxes but still want. I hear so little grumbling here about paying your share. Maybe because they have excellent education and health care systems. They work and they fill people's needs. There are not too many obscenely wealthy people here and not many in poverty. Sounds about the way it should be, then what is a should

Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #11 
I know what you mean about giving up on the U.S.A. as a civilized place to live, Stan. After all, as you may remember, I gave up on the place before you did. When I saw that insane housing bubble nearing the bursting point (since I had lived through other such experiences several times before), I bailed out while I still had a decent amount of home equity to stash in my credit union. NO BANKS for me! Now I only have to sweat getting my dinky little Social Security check started on my 62nd birthday this November 17 so that my savings can breathe a little easier.

I really don't mind paying into the National Health Care system every month -- about $35.00 U.S. for both Carol and myself -- especially since the system has already saved my life once, if not twice. And I really enjoy taking my exercise walk every morning out among the Taiwanese who smile and bid me good morning in either Mandarin, Taiwanese, Japanese, or even English. And sure, we have some obscenely rich and homelessly poor people here, too. But most people live and let live somewhere in between. As I like to say now: I've finally made it home from America.

I haven't posted here all that much recently for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I've had to devote serious time every day to exercise, weight loss, establishing a sane diet, taking my medications as directed, and just getting enough rest. So far in the last three months I've done pretty well. I'll know for sure when I go back in to see my doctors for some blood tests and another angiogram proceedure in two more months. I fully expect to pass with flying colors, so to speak.

I've also started to get serious about painting my previously sculpted white-on-white gargoyle/grotesque pictures. I wanted to finish going over all of my current backlog (about two dozen pieces total) so that I could move on to some newer compositions. Carol has the real talent for color matching and painting techniques, but she has wisely refused to paint my sculptures for me so that I would have no choice but to learn for, and by, myself. Naturally, she  provides me with good honest criticism of the tough love variety which only a fool would fail to gratefully take into serious consideration. At any rate, I just finished another piece yesterday, which I wanted to name after the last Chinese Empress. Carol, however, said that -- in light of the apparent subject matter -- I should call it "The Last Vampress." So I did. Please see the attached picture below.

I'll do my best to try and find something of interest to write about -- as soon as something occurs to me. I almost started on an essay yesterday when I read of President Obama complaining that he had "two wars to run." I immediately felt like screaming: "We elected you to END these stupid, fucking diasters -- NOW -- not to "run" them. But then I figured, "Here we go again. As with presidents Johnson and Nixon: 'no matter how you voted you got more of Vietnam.'" I thought that when Sheriff Dick and Deputy Dubya left the scene of their crimes that I could stop adding terza rima sonnets to my epic poem "The Triumph of Strife" (2,662 lines at last count), but just the other day the malignant muse started nagging at me again and I started composing verses. If any of them form up into something worthwhile, I'll try and pass them before the reviewing committe here.

Later ...

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Reply with quote  #12 
About gargoyles. I have been scanning thousands of fotos from various worldwide adventures. Here is a gargoyle found on a building in Segovia Spain sometime in the 90s

Speaking of Social Security. I have been rec eiving mine since age 65 some 8 years now. George Swill had a column in today's Wash Post about the "absurdity"of baby boomers getting SS at age 62. Geezus. Some of his column I agree with namely USians living within their means but his take on the so called "entitlements" (which is of course a loaded word) is plain conservative bullshit. Oh well I'll link it here just to make you feel good Mike. BTW glad you are exercising and doing well. It is true that exercise releases certain brain chemicals that make you feel good despite the fatigue. At least that's what they say and what the f do they know. My personal experience would verify that but of course I have been an exercise nut most of my life.

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Reply with quote  #13 
Oops ---  the Spanish city was Cadiz as is obvious from the engraving beneath the gargoyles. Cadiz was a beautiful city and the launching site for Cristobol Colon's ill fated (for the indigenous people of the American hemisphere) journey in 1492.
Michael Murry
Reply with quote  #14 
Thanks for the pictures, Stan. I, too, regularly scan the Internet for as many inspirational gargoyle/grotesque images as I can find. The world contains thousands of  them. Not much if anything, though, about the kind you find here in Taiwan. As for my own fledgling efforts, I pretty much take the Taoist examples I see on local shrines (which the natives hardly, if ever, notice) and filter it through my particular, perverted "Western" imagination. Occasionally, I come close enough to the original source inspiration, but normally not. Anyway, I've just finished painting two more of  my own creations, so I'll include pictures below, as usual.

As for the Social Security fearmongering that has once again -- and predictably -- erupted among the reactionary George Swill types, I'll pass on discussing that until later. 

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Reply with quote  #15 
In 1983 I spent three months studying the ruins of the Central American and Mexican civilizations, the Mayans, Aztecs, Miztecs, Toltecs and others. These gargoyles are from a Mayan pyramid at Chitchenitzen in the Yucatan. Their gargoyles are called chochmals (sic)

I took this foto in 1983 but it's still pretty clear even after digitization. The indigenous civilizations of the Americas were amazing in their development but then that is western chauvenistic speech. Why shouldn't other civilizations have arisen outside the west? As M. Ghandi is purported to have said "Western civilization?, that would be a good idea"

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