Cave Painting - In Progress

It's been a while since I've added new stuff to the blog. For the most part that is because I've been too busy to get good pictures or scans of new work. Hopefully soon I can remedy that. But in the meantime, I thought I'd put a few pics up of one of my current projects.

In my painting class we were recently given the assignment to take a painting that is at least 100 years old and to make it contemporary. I decided to go old, really old. Wounded Bison Attacking a Man is a cave painting from Lascaux, France that was painted somewhere around 15,000 years ago give or take a few thousand. Here's what it looks like:

So why did I pick this painting? Some of it has to do with how old it is. The artist is long since dead, so there is absolutely no concern about stealing someone’s idea. But on the opposite side of that, this cave painting provides plenty of good source material so I can successfully steal someone else's idea. Allow me to explain.

The German artist Anselm Kiefer (whose painting Osiris and Isis is seen above) has by far the biggest influence on me. His paintings are full of references to a litany of mythologies and religious texts as well as astrology and history. His various combined references have created a visual vocabulary unique to himself. And this I would like to steal. Not his specific vocabulary, but the idea of having a web of references to revisit and develop over the course of a career.

The imagery in the cave painting from Lascaux is my first attempt at establishing my own visual vocabulary. Images from cave paintings are of particular usefulness to me due to their having been created before the advent of the written record. Any meaning that could be attached to these images are the result of speculation; which is to say their meaning has a certain amount of elasticity.

Kiefer’s work has often dealt with his own countries dreadful history and he has confronted the collective desire of post-war Germany to ignore this inglorious past. So for the task of contemporzing a 15, 000 year old painting I decided to address my own nations inglorious past and to tie in the wounded buffalo of the cave to the destruction of the Native American food supply, the buffalo. I have not yet finished this painting nor have I arrived at a title. But here’s what I got so far:

Oil, lacquor, sand and charcoal on wood panel. Roughly 3’ by 4’. The horns of the buffalo are missing simply because I haven't painted them in yet. The top, diagonal portion of the painting needs to be activated. Which is fancy speak for something needs to happen there. I'm currently trying to puzzle out what that will be. I also wonder if the piled figures behind the buffalo should have more highlights. I also need to remember that my blackberry has not the best camera and I think the picture has zapped alot of the life out of the actual painting.

Anyhow. This is one of the pieces I'm working on. I'll do my best to post the finished piece as soon as possible. And please, leave feedback.


  1. I'm confused. Was "asdf" your contemporary update? I didn't know you did ASCII art...


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  3. Wow. I'm impressed. I thought surely no one will check my blog as I'm in the process of updating it. But I guess it shows up on blogrolls as recently updated. Hmmm...should have kept it in edit mode longer I guess. You win this time.

  4. a welcome explanation ... it helps me understand. reading your notes on Kiefer it seemed very familiar, thought i might have seen a Kiefer at the Modern in Ft Worth ... turns out they have a piece called "Aschenblume" in the permanent collection. it was one of my favorites from the get-go. less so when it comes to "Book with Wings".

    regardless, am enjoying your current work. always a fan of 300A, 300G, 300X and 300Z. also the rectangular wood sculpture ... lovely and subtle.


  5. u/b, Ft. Worth Modern actually a few years back had a major retrospective of his work. I missed it as I didn't really know who he was then. D'oh.

    Book with Wings, I know what you're talking about. If his reputation was built on work such as that, I'd not be too much into him. But Book with Wings is more of an exception, and with that context, it is a stronger piece.