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Joseph Fiedler
Ark Karma
posted:
The original installation y moi, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Biennial, 1994

Art Story
I recently had the good fortune to have one of those great “art” moments where amazing things happen out of nowhere just like an out-of-body experience or a Hollywood movie.  In the general scheme of things, it’s no big deal but to me it is. 
 
I had created a large-scale series some time ago called SEE GOD’S ARK A MOVIN’.  It was exhibited at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.  The work consisted of five canvasses five by five feet each framed in heavy, custom-built Dutch frames.  The curator called it "career work". It had been a MAJOR score for me in SO many ways; I had been ASKED, Jessica Stockholder was the Juror, and I beat most of my colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University’s ART department […of course, as the “illustration” guy, this caused quite a stir]. But after a botched attempt to sell the lot to the Butler Institute [they had also been included in their painting annual-which is quite well known and in which I had previously been] the work languished in my own private limbo.  In this case, limbo was one storage facility after another, one girlfriend after another, and one state after another.  It had been a big disappointment to me as had waiting over a year just to hear back from the museum had been and was in itself a bit anxiety provoking… then…nothing.  
 
Not too long ago, without advanced planning or warning, and through the assistance of local artist Gale Hart of Bitchin’ Space Gallery, I sold two of the five paintings to a developer from the area.  Now, after a period of two more years, the developer has purchased the final three paintings, keeping the suite intact and out of my storage for the foreseeable future!  It’s hard to imagine but someone actually hung my paintings of me, dogs killing old ladies and men pulling snakes from their mouths! Ciao Bella Bambinos! At this rate, if I live to be 110, I might sell enough to get by on! 
 
I know there's no beer but is there PayPal in heaven?
 
Here is the original statement from the curator.
 
Sea God’s Ark A Movin’ Joseph Daniel Fiedler’s paintings pursue redemption and transcendence from an entirely secular stance.  In this series, See God’s Ark A Movin’, Fiedler continues his cryptic social commentary, but he also turns inward.  These images arose from personal torment, haunting dreams and experience on John’s Island, a sea island near Charleston, South Carolina.  Fiedler’s immersion in the music of John’s Island is understandable as it is a heart-piercing music that blends ferocity with beauty.  Fiedler first heard the song of his series’ title over a decade ago on the recordings Moving Star Hall Singers and Alan Lomax Sea Island Folk Festival, and considers it the most profound music he has ever heard. He found that Moving Star Hall was a “praise house;” its members belong to the Pentecostal movement and attain spiritual transcendence through music, in particular through the “shout” or “ring shout.”  Witnessing convulsions of rapture, Fiedler saw that, for some, God was not an abstraction.
 
Animals from God’s Ark occupy four of the paintings which flank his central self-portrait.  While they may refer to biblical accounts, Fiedler invents his own mysticism.  The Bishop H. H. Haley Pulling a Live Serpent Out of Thomas A. Dorsey’s Throat alludes to Dorsey’s conversion and birth of modern Gospel music.  Cut He Throat – Suck He Blood responds to Moving Star Hall repertory, a Jack and Mary folktale in which the two are caught by an evil witch and saved from peril by root magic and the three dogs, Barney McCabe, Soo-boy and Doodle-de-doo.  These startling images stand next to images of single animals, Le Tigre and L’Elephant, both endangered species. The tiger represents fierceness while the elephant suggests memory and perception.  The La Salamandre combines Fiedler’s own dream imagery with sentiments from a nineteenth-century tune, The Drunkard’s Dream, which is also based in the Southern Baptist tradition of transcendence.  Both the song and the salamander evoke suffering and evil. The song speaks of pain caused to others by wicked ways, but the salamander speaks of survival.  In legend, it can withstand the heat of fire. Such worldly trials are at the heart of Fiedler’s work. The allure and strange beauty of leaps of faith and spiritual possession counter our baseness; they offer solace and salvation if only vicariously. Without making the leap himself, Fiedler taps the creative impulse in all mystical experience. Murray Horne, Curator, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
 
Listen to an MP3 of The Moving Star Hall Singers reciting the Jack and Mary folktale from 1965 illustrated by the painting CUT HE THROAT-SUCK HE BLOOD [a good example of the Gullah dialect]
The original album from 1965 where I first heard the music. I had the experience of meeting and hearing both Ruth and Benjamin Bligen [pictured] in 1990-91 on John's Island, SC. It is Benjamin who sings SEE GOD'S ARK. CLICK on the above link to hear a recitation of the Jack and Mary tale illustrated in Cut He Throat-Suck He Blood.

See God’s Ark A Movin’ The Bishop H. H. Haley Pulling a Live Serpent Out of Thomas A. Dorsey’s Throat 5’ x 5’ Alkyd on Canvas, 1994

See God’s Ark A Movin’ Le Tigre 5’ x 5’ Alkyd on Canvas, 1994

See God’s Ark A Movin’ La Salamandre 5’ x 5’ Alkyd on Canvas, 1994

See God’s Ark A Movin’ L’Elephant 5’ x 5’ Alkyd on Canvas, 1994

See God’s Ark A Movin’ Cut He Throat – Suck He Blood 5’ x 5’ Alkyd on Canvas, 1994

Detail/La Salamandre All images scanned from 4X5 Transparencies [remember?].

Curator Horne with the glamorous Jan and Ana Loney [who assisted].


The new location: Globe Mills, Sacramento, CA. Exterior and interior shots. Globe Mills is a cool eco-architectural-preservation project by a socially conscious developer who likes weird art.


I was totally fortunate to have a friend in Richard Baker of Siteline architects [www.sitelinearch.com] help me out with some of the more challenging aspects of such a transaction. Richard has worked with both Frank Stella and David Ireland and really knows how to tie a knot!.

The two original purchases in situ at Globe Mills.

Yours truly, le tigre!



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Fiedler is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!