Babylon Berlin & George Grosz

George Grosz_John the Woman Slayer
George Grosz. “John the Woman Slayer.”

Just finished watching the period detective noir series Babylon Berlin. Oh my. Didn’t see THAT ending coming. Wish I had read up a little on Weimar Republic history, first — but the storyline was still gripping, even though the many twists and turns of the plot left me a little puzzled and occasionally aghast. I recommend it (but don’t watch it with children around).

George Grosz. Eclipse of the Sun.

The brilliant period settings and characters remind me of George Grosz’ scathingly satirical pre-WWII paintings, complete w/butchers at their bloody trade; crippled, begging, WWI veterans; prostitutes in action, communist revolutionaries, greedy elites, escapist cabaret culture, and everywhere the poor and dispossessed. Grosz’ images — ranging from cubist and futurist to his acerbic drawings — are too often disturbingly relevant nowadays.

George Grosz_Nobody Cares About Them
George Grosz. Nobody Cares About Them.

Like the indigent soldiers he often portrayed, Grosz was a veteran of WWI, and his wartime experiences left him a life-long pacifist and activist who was very critical of German nationalist society, as well as any society that promoted violence and war.

He was prosecuted for “blasphemy” in 1928 after producing paintings that criticized the clergy, and eventually escaped to the U.S. in the 1930s after Hitler’s government declared him “degenerate” — probably in retaliation for his drawings and paintings that portrayed pre-war Berlin, and Germany’s culture as a whole, as debauched and degenerate.

George Grosz_Nachts

My Drawings expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment, I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon. … I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands … I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. I drew a cross-section of tenement house: through one window could be seen a man attacking his wife; through another, two people making love; from a third hung a suicide with body covered by swarming flies. I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms; two medical soldiers putting a violent infantryman into a strait-jacket made of a horse blanket … I drew a skeleton dressed as a recruit being examined for military duty. I also wrote poetry. — George Grosz*

*Friedrich, Otto (1986). Before the Deluge. USA: Fromm International Publishing Corporation. pp. 37. ISBN 0-88064-054-5



Between the Lines

Thinking about borders, state lines, travel, and migration. Map is 1949 Texaco map showing CA, AZ, and Mexico. “Between the Lines” is 25 x 38 inches, acrylics and collage on heavy watercolor paper.

Between the Lines
“Between the Lines,” 38 x 25 inches, acrylics & collage on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua


Between the Lines_in WallApp_JVengua
“Between the Lines,” 38 x 25 inches, acrylics & collage on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua





Playing around with sfumato, organic shapes, flowingness. “Lachrymose.” #Acrylics & ink on watercolor paper. 25 x 38 inches.

Lachrymose_LG_JVengua 7-2018
“Lachrymose,” 25 x 38 inches. Acrylics & ink on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua 7/2018
“Lachrymose.” Acrylics/ink on watercolor paper. 25 x 38,” Jean Vengua




Myndology: Tiny Collages

Tiny collages by Jean Vengua

I’m continuing to make tiny collages in my Myndology sketchbook on a ring. Each page fits in the palm of my hand. I think this particular notebook was originally made for creating DIY flashcards. Here’s what I’ve done so far, spread out on a dining table chair.  Thinking too much, and too long, about every painting is definitely a problem for me, and this helps me to just get something down without getting anxious and hung up in the details. Plus I love recycling all my excess scrap paper into art, and these make useful little studies.  Maybe someday I’ll frame a group of them (individually) and have a teeny exhibit. Actually, I’m thinking of doing that for my Open Studio in September (with larger pieces, too).

#collage #sketchbook #artist#montereyartists #salinasartists

The View Within #collage

collage by Jean Vengua
“The View Within,” collage by Jean Vengua

“The View Within” is a small collage that I made many years ago, perhaps one of the first collages I ever made, with images cut from a magazine. And there are the maps again, but also a body, and a house, or perhaps a variation on a Philippine nipa hut (bahay kubo). Like the earth, bodies can also be mapped.

Test Piece #collage

Collage by Jean Vengua
“CA-AZ Line.” Acrylics and collage on Khadi paper. 8 x 8″

This is a test piece for a larger work. I ripped a fragment from an old CA/NV/AZ map and used it here. But then, looking at the map (which I bought at a yard sale), with its olive green, pink, and red lines more closely, I felt a bit of regret about cutting a piece out of it. I hadn’t looked closely at the map when I bought it, but it’s an old Texaco “touring map,” circa 1948, with a route penciled in from Stockton to San Fernando, with “Fresno” and “Tulare” circled. Bits of mid-century advice dot the map: “Watch for them!” over an illustration of a bicyclist; “Diamond shaped highway signs always indicate danger to you”; “Give [hand] signals before you begin to change direction” (cartoon of hand signaling out the driver’s window); and an illustration of an overturned turtle above “Please turn the map over!” Over all, the big red “T” for Texaco on a red star. I know the map was from an ex-military owner (I also bought a Tuskegee airmen pamphlet at the sale), and perhaps this  represented a happy post-war trip. Who knows. . .  But it’s a snapshot in time, when beautiful Glen Canyon, on the Colorado River, was still running free, its ancient petroglyphs and pictographs still visible above the water line, and neither the infamous and disputed Glen Canyon dam nor Lake Powell existed. Unexpectedly, the test piece also got me thinking about the lines we draw to contain and/or separate, and to map and claim; the seemingly arbitrary shapes and lines that declare a state or territory, and their effects on local life and culture.


Packing & Shipping

So about those Saatchiart “stringent requirements” for packing. . . It took me over 6 hours to go out and find the materials and pack one 20 x 16 x .5 inch painting yesterday. It was also a relatively expensive process (given the state of my finances). Since this is the first time I’ve sold anything straight off, I wanted to follow the guidelines carefully, using only the recommended materials. The instructions weren’t kidding when they said one should reserve at least 2 days to get everything together, pack, and ship. I’m still impressed, though, with Saatchiart’s close monitoring of sales, attention to detail, and customer service, including for artists. And hopefully I’ll sell other paintings, get the drill down, and figure out how to do this more economically without skimping on quality of materials.

Oh, and remember my previous discussion about tiny art and big art? Well, I’m definitely going to keep my works on Saatchiart on the smaller side, less that 48 x 48.” Why? Because Step 6 in the packing instructions begins with “Next, build a wooden crate . . .”

Trickster Finds a Home

Sold two works of art, one of them (pictured) purchased through Saatchiart. So happy to see these pieces find homes! But Saatchiart has stringent policies for certification of the art as well as wrapping and shipping materials (determined by their insurers). So I’m off to find acid-free archival wrapping paper and gather a few other items. Gotta say, though, I’m very happy with Saatchiart’s quick responses, well-thought-out instructions, and artist support. Also, big thanks to those who purchased my art!

The Trickster Returns (Amanita Maki)

Wednesday is full of . . .

Sciatica pain got me out of bed way too early this morning and sent me to my easel (sometimes standing is less painful that laying down). Managed to produce some art, anyway, despite the discomfort. Did some stretching, and went on two walks (if I don’t, my back will make me pay for it); and then some unexpected freelance work came in for me to do. Life is not always a bowl of cherries, and sometimes you just grit your teeth and slog through it. And sometimes you comfort yourself with a bowl of blueberries and whipped cream.

Untitled, acrylics on paper, Jean Vengua
Untitled, acrylics on paper. Jean Vengua
Untitled work in-progress, Jean Vengua 6-13-2018
Untitled work in-progress, Jean Vengua, 6/13/2018