Aristotle believed that the heart was the primary organ of the soul, because it pumps blood through our body, and allows communication to the five senses. Leonardo thought that a part of the brain that he called the imprensiva was the seat of the soul. The raw, physical reality of life is flesh and blood. We are born, we live, we die. But the limiting reality of our physical existence leads us all, whether religious or atheist, to in some way, search for meaning beyond the five senses.
In the course of my life, I have been born, experienced being a child, I've grown up, and watched my mother grow old. I have also experienced love, marriage, and the renewal of life in the birth of my two sons. And I've experienced myself growing older. Perhaps in some way it is the events of this cycle of life, death and renewal that allow us to reach beyond ourselves a little.
This November will be Elliot's second birthday. He was born during the first semester of my PhD program. I was so exhausted from staying up studying until 2am to stay awake for part of the time that my wife was in labor. But I did wake up when she was starting to push. Even though it was a hospital birth, they let me pull Elliot out with my own two hands.
Several years before we moved here to the Phoenix area, my mother began to develop Alzheimer's. It was a rough time for the both of us around 2006–07. I was living about a mile-and-a-half away, and neither of us had any money. My small efficiency apartment was infested with mice and roaches, and I was living on boiled beans. My mother started to wander out of her apartment at all hours of the day and night; they call this 'sundowning.' She had a harder and harder time keeping her apartment clean. I would go over there to clean the dishes, and there was a pile spilling out of the sink, with so much rotten food on them that they began to collect maggots. Her trash overflowed, and would spill out all over the floor, and collect in piles in other parts of the house.
I slowly watched my mother begin to lose her mind. In the end, we had to move her into a nursing home, where she is still. As I've visited her over the years, she went from being the wanderer, to being more sedentary, to eventually losing communication skills and becoming mute. I always bring a drawing pad and a camera with me these days to the nursing home. The more images I have to remember her by, the better.
When I draw her picture, I often sense a great deal of vulnerability in her eyes. She looks afraid, she looks lost, but she still looks beautiful. I think she has a sense of pride in this drawing in particular.
And sometimes that certain kind of strength, and even stubbornness come through when she looks at me.
When I've visited her more recently, she still has that kind of confused look in her eye. But when I touch her, or give her a hug, she still feels warm. She still feels like my mother, even though her mind is fading away, and her memories, at least the ones that she can communicate are gone. And even though she can't speak, I know that she knows that I am there.
Once my mother was in the nursing home, I began to look back at the memories I had of her. I found an old self-portrait that she took when she was seventeen. She was quite the avid photographer. I painted this portrait from it:
But as we grow old, and life fades away, there is always renewal. My children bring light, love and laughter into the world. They drive me crazy. They exhaust me. But I love them more than anything.
Whatever dark times have passed, I merely have to look at my kids playing, and my life feels like the days of halcyon.
Okay, so I know it's not drawing and painting, but I've decided to post recipes on my blog. Cooking is an art form after all. Dalí, Picasso, Pollock, Renoir, Monet—they all got creative in the kitchen, and some of them wrote their own cookbooks.
The recipe that I posted today was completely spur of the moment. I don't often plan what I'm going to cook. I just see what's in the fridge, and often, out of necessity, my most creative endeavors come out of not having much in there. We usually have an abundance that I didn't used to have. I've lived on a food budget of $40/month, so I know the meaning of being a starving artist first-hand.
It's a really satisfying dish when you're really hungry. It goes great with meat, poultry or fish, but today I served it for the boys with some pasta and red sauce.
1 head of cauliflower
4 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil (for frying)
2 teaspoons of anchovy paste
2 pinches of dried red chili flakes
First, get out a good frying pan. A cast iron skillet works best, because it will allow you to really bring the cauliflower to an amazing golden brown. Add the oil to the pan. Take the anchovy paste and mash it into the oil as its warming.
Cut the cauliflower into good-sized florets and add them to the pan. Mince the garlic and throw that in. While this is frying, stir once in a while, until all sides of the cauliflower are nice and brown and crispy. Add the juice from one whole lemon, and then sprinkle with dried chili flakes, and maybe a touch of salt.
The World Trade Center bombing happened eleven days before my twenty-third birthday. That was fifteen years ago. At the time I worked at a laundromat, ironing shirts on a steam press. My boss was a veteran and a Gene Hackman look alike. We saw the attack on a small television bolted to the wall that he would watch from the front desk as he greeted customers. He told me that the people responsible for the attack are Bedouins that live in caves in the Middle East. I remember thinking to myself, 'how the hell do nomadic tribes that live in caves do that to the World Trade Center?'
There is a diptych that I painted on plywood, sometime before 9-11 that seems to have something rather prophetic about it.
In the upper area of the painting on the right, I painted the Twin Towers. Below it I painted "I (HEART) NY." I know for a fact that I painted this before 9-11, but for some reason, my mind was focused on New York, and on those two buildings, even though I was thousands of miles away in the mountains of Northern Arizona.
In 2002, I moved to Philadelphia to study at the Tyler School of Art. The war in Afghanistan had been going on since just after the attacks, and plans to invade Iraq were underway. I attended a protest march that winter from North Philadelphia to Center City.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded. I was studying in Rome, and became totally enthralled by the Renaissance. I loved sketching and doing studies inspired by the Renaissance masters. But my work also started to be influenced by the war—and by a feeling of darkness that pervaded the world. Black became a predominant color in my paintings, and baroque tenebrism became juxtaposed with Islamic geometric motifs. The geometry became precise, like the drafting of cartographic coordinates.
My work from Rome is still there, where I rented a room at the time, so I can't post anything from that period.
In the spring of 2004, I began studying under the conceptual artist Osvaldo Romberg. He was the father of my friend and filmmaker David Romberg, who I went to school with at the time. Osvaldo is known for doing very precise copies of Renaissance paintings. He often juxtaposes them with abstract paintings, to represent was he considers the 'compression of art history.'
I loved studying in Osvaldo's studio. It gave me a chance to pick up where I left off with studying the Renaissance, but through the theoretical world of Romberg. I hadn't been doing very well at Tyler since I began there, but since going to Rome and gaining a classical focus, criticism from the faculty got much worse even still. My grades dropped more and more and I was eventually pushed out of the program completely.
I then began studying in Osvaldo's studio full time. I first attempted to reproduce a Vermeer, but failed and painted over it. My next attempt was of a Cagnacci, which Osvaldo thought turned out quite well.
Just prior to this, we were both producing work about van Gogh. As apprentice, I emulated Osvaldo's work by placing something on top of my copy. But instead of using geometric abstraction, I placed an image of van Gogh's painting of an almond tree across the woman's chest, spread apart like a Japanese folding screen.
It was from this point on that my work began to be permeated with the color black once again, as it was during my time in Rome.
This was late 2004 – early 2005. The war in Iraq raged on, culminating in two bloody battles in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, where the US was under heavy fire from the insurgency. Images of humiliation and torture on behalf of American troops at the detention facility flooded the media.
It was a dark, cold winter in Philly, and it felt darker thinking about what was going on with the war. My studio became a battleground. The line of a drawing became a strategy. My drawings became prototypes.
I saw a Cy Twombly exhibition that year at the Whitney Museum that changed the course of my work as well. The exhibition featured a large collection of his works on paper from the mid-1950s when he worked for the US Army as a cryptographer. I made this piece when I got home, as a way to express something about the war, and something that I saw in his own life:
I began incorporating cryptographic elements into my own work, combining linguistic symbols and numbers. The war must have a solution, only to be unveiled through the untangling of coded language.
From my studio in Philadelphia, I remembered Rome and the things that I saw. I remembered the Pietà. And then I remembered the Pantheon, when my eyes caught the shaft of sunlight streaming through the oculus. And then I remembered looking down into Raphael's tomb, and reading the inscription of Roman numerals on the small plaque near the sarcophagus: MCXMVII.
My work as an artist has a great deal to do with memory. As I paint, as I photograph, as I draw, I am remembering an event of a time that has passed, but that appears to be occurring in the present. All that has passed and all that will come to be culminate to form the image, like the coalescence of two passing waves upon the shore of the sea.
In painted portraiture, the inspiration is drawn from life, or from the reference of a photographic image. But it is a reference point, merely to trigger a memory. As I paint, the image develops upon the canvas, like the appearance of an image on photographic paper, as it is dipped into the developing liquid in the darkroom of my mind.
Unlike the everyday events of life, which we walk through like the turning of invisible pages, a memory exists apart from this diurnal passage. "Time presupposes a view of time," as "its moments co-exist spread out before thought" (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. 411–415).
The origin of objective time, with its fixed positions lying beneath our gaze is not to be sought in any eternal synthesis, but in the mutual harmonizing and overlapping of past and future through the present, and in the very passing of time (1962, p. 420).
Although I've primarily focused on painting and drawing in recent years, I have begun to create a body of photographic work as well. The new portfolio consists of photographs of clouds. Details of cloud formations in varying light conditions, photographs of passing storms, and of clouds disintegrating through evaporation into the evening sky.
Here are a few examples of this new body of work:
© Noé Badillo 2016
It is a departure from the figure, from the focus on my wife and the kids, and from other figurative subjects. But although I haven't formally presented this work yet, it has served as a study of light, and of form. And this study has influenced how I paint those other subjects.
Above all else, the images serve to trigger a memory of those other depicted events.
Two artists that I've been influenced by for quite some time are Leon Lhermitte and Vincent van Gogh. Vincent also loved Lhermitte's work as well.
Van Gogh – I feel a strange connection to the man. There may be no other artist who can transform confusion and torment into such intense beauty. One day at the National Gallery in London, I stood there, in front his painting, Wheat Field with Cypresses.
I looked at the painting for a moment that felt like an hour. Then I immediately felt pulled into the painting. The swirling fluffy clouds, and the warm light of the south of France depicted by the painting suddenly gave way to a feeling of horror, of pain, and of something that somehow went very wrong in Vincent's life. It upset me to the point that I spun on my heels, and almost walked right out of the National Gallery.
It was in 2003 and 2004 when Vincent became an influence upon my own work. It was also during this time that I undertook an apprenticeship with Osvaldo Romberg. Perhaps it was no coincidence that at the time Osvaldo was also creating a body of work around Vincent.
Osvaldo's depictions of Vincent were meant to portray genius and madness. I found parallels between our world and his. Vincent's image of the Old Man with the Beard became Osvaldo, my teacher, in profile.
For me, van Gogh's influence was not one of madness, but of strength. What seemed unstable in Vincent's work gave me stability. I think that perhaps this was also true for Vincent, who found influence in the Realist school—in the depictions of the poor working class in Third Republic France.
Vincent spoke several times about Lhermitte in his letters to Theo. He felt that his "bold touch which can [sic] be compared only to Rembrandt's."
Vincent spoke also of Daumier, of having "pith and a sober depth," and a "passion which can be compared to the white heat of iron." The way that Vincent intensely studied these artists appears contrary to who he has become, and to what he is known for. It is unfortunate that Vincent's madness, or that he sliced off his ear interests people more than his austerity, his studiousness, and his incredible vigor as an artist.
It was not until years later that I started to realize what it meant in my work (without doing studies of Vincent's) what strength is.
The experiences that shaped my life—of poverty, of being literally a starving artist. And then of love, of finding Elizabeth, of learning to hold one another, and to create a family. This is what became strength for me.
For more information about Vincent van Gogh, see: https://www.artsy.net/artist/vincent-van-gogh
Welcome to my new blog! I thought this would be a great way to share my work as an artist and a scholar in a more in-depth and personal way.
I will be posting about a lot of different things that may be of interest. Some of the things I plan to post about include:
My life has shaped my work in a lot of interesting ways, and I look forward to sharing it with you.
"The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him."
I am an artist and a scholar of art and architectural history and theory. I've been a practicing artist since 1994, when I started making black and white photographs at age fifteen. In 2012, I married my beautiful wife, Elizabeth Anne Riedel. Her place in my life changed the course of my work. She and my two sons have now become almost the sole subject of my art. I am currently a PhD student at Arizona State University, where I am writing my dissertation entitled, Geometry of the Sun: Guarino Guarini and the Church of San Lorenzo.