Sunday, October 31, 2010

Defining purpose for young artist's today

"There is no escaping reason, no denying purpose, because as we both know without purpose we would not exist."
-Agent Smith from the film Matrix Reloaded

In this postmodern age of mass information and globalization, often young artists find themselves lost without a clear sense of purpose or any guiding light to their art creation. We are bombarded with so much information through the internet, that we often feel overwhelmed and  don't know where to start. During the Renaissance, young artists entered a guild and learned their craft by assisting a master. During the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, artists could enter an Art academy where they would follow very strict directions  on how to draw, sculpt and paint. The purpose of an artist was defined mainly by the Church and State. 

After an industrial revolution, the fall of the European monarchies, Independence in the Americas, democracy  and two world wars, we entered into the modern age. Artists became revolutionaries with manifestos searching for hidden meaning in themselves and their art. The art world started to recognize artists not much by their effort, adherence to the rules and talent but by their originality, individuality and novelty. Culture decayed as one "ism" was replaced by another "ism" and many got their "15 minutes of fame". As progress and technology rapidly advanced, the arts had to catch up with the fast paced  modern society and grab  the immediate attention of the elite art connoisseurs. This attention usually had a very short memory span and as a consequence, art lost its substance and became a pure label and marketed logo. The shock value had replaced the transcendent value while deep meaning and direction was lost. Artists today are free to to whatever they wish as everything is accepted in this eclectic global age art world, as long as there is a market and audience for it. With so many options, materials, techniques and information at their disposal, artists naturally feel blocked and confused.    

I find the so called "post-modern" age that we live in, most fascinating and full of possibilities where an artist is free to choose what to say and how to say it. At the same time there are so many artists and so many people who do not care about art at all. It seems there is not enough time, patience or serious thought given to art today. Consumer culture has taken care of the way we appreciate and interpret art. It has now become as disposable and trivial as any other consumer commodity. What could be the purpose for making art today? Here I have suggested just a few for those young artists who struggle to find purpose for making art today. Below I have listed seven ways of being an artist with a specific purpose.

An artist as a searcher for truth
Many artists consider themselves to still be searching for the ideal form or ideal art. They are non-conformist who constantly seek new ways of making art. They are eternal students and challenge themselves with each and every step. To search for truth in the world is a philosopher's job and an artist's one too. 

An artist as a visionary/prophet
With much imagination, intuition and study, an artist can have the right sensibility to foretell the future and warn others about preventable disasters to come. As a visionary, the artist lives ahead of his time and recreates in his art what there is to come. Leonardo Da Vinci had such an intense vision of the future and he reflected much of this in his drawings.

An artist as a healer
The Chilean artist and author, Alejandro Jodorowsky once said: "Art that doesn't cure is not art." This is to say that art that transcends and becomes a memorable masterpiece is the kind of art that can move a soul and cure it. The artist who sees him or herself as a healer does not create art for selfish or trivial motivations.  The artist healer may see our current postmodern condition as an illness and art is the cure.

An artist as a mystic
An artist that considers him or herself as a mystic, finds in art a way to understanding the hidden mysteries of the cosmos. Creating art is a spiritual ritual that connects the artist with the creator and with all of creation. Every movement, every color and every brush stroke carries a special energy that transcends the material level and speaks the language of the spirit.

An artist as a Myth maker
As Joseph Campbell would say, contemporary artists are the myth-makers of our age. Myths are beautiful stories that explain the nature of the Universe in terms that are easily grasped by a mind free from the chains of the logical reason and science. An artist that works motivated by mythology, constructs myths that are often relevant to his or her own time and culture. These myths are vital for any society as they provide the creative material that satisfies the need to find meaning for life and its cycles.

An artist as a revolutionary
An artist that thinks outside the box and questions the assumptions of those in power, is indeed a revolutionary. This kind of artist creates art that does not conform to the given rules or mainstream art world. His or her work is audacious and it shows us a different way of understanding art and the world around us. These agents of change often have a hard time getting accepted but their will is strong and their art eventually gets noticed.

An artist as a Chronicler/historian
This kind of artist looks more like a journalist that takes pictures and captures the crude reality of the world around him making a statement about it. By telling the story of his or her own time, this artist will aid future generations remember history and see past time through the lens of art. Every artist in a way makes history with every mark he or she makes whether it is figurative work or abstract. As Kandinsky would put it "Every art is a child of its time".

You may find yourself identified with one, some or all of these particular ways of being an artist. Feel very fortunate if you do for that means you are full of purpose and purpose is the heart and soul of every creation. Purpose defines creation.

All text on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seven points of advice for young artists

After giving an artist talk at my solo show “Era Dorada” (Golden Age) at the Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart) University of Puerto Rico, I was asked to offer some words of advice for young artists and art students. I gave them a few at the moment but after that I felt the urge to really think about the matter and write down a list of seven points of advice that could serve as a simple guideline for those who are starting out as artists. Of course this list could also be applied to any artist at any stage as in my case being a mid-career artist these seven points are the laws I try to live up to all the time. By following these seven points you may be able to channel and get the most out of your creative energies.

 1.      Read. Feed your brain with good books. Study as much as possible and make it part of your daily activities. Stay focused, keep your intellect alive and nurture your mind with healthy intellectual activities. These do not necessarily have to be related to art as everything in one way or the other informs art and will influence your creative mind. Be open to be challenged by new ideas and feel curious to constantly learn about new issues that are of your interest. Be continuously curious to learn, ask yourself questions and look for the answers. The internet is a great tool, use it properly.

2.    Keep a Journal and document everything you make.  Write and draw every day, make it a habit and a discipline. This will keep your creative flow alive and to know yourself. With this you will be able to hold on to new ideas. Much of the creative blocks can be avoided or removed by this simple practice. Do not worry if the drawings or writings seem stupid or irrelevant. This journal is private and it’s a way of having an intimate look into your inner creative being so you can access it at any moment. Affirm your thoughts and beliefs, write and re-write your artist statement. Document not only your ideas but also your work with a portfolio with good photos of your work.  Start photographing even your drawings. In case your work is lost or stolen, you will have a visual evidence of your artwork. Besides being an effective professional tool it will allow to view your own evolution later on.

3.    Make a work schedule. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with production at the studio. There are so many things to do that keep us away from making art.  Assign yourself a time and space to work as much as possible but also leaving time for other important activities as well as a time to relax.  Be realistic, know your limitations and be aware of your responsibilities. Start viewing your studio time as important as any other job, not expecting to be visited by a muse  or inspiration but working a certain amount of hours a day. For an artist his or her work is central and he or she works as many hours a day as possible.  Some artists work 7 to 8 hours a day just like any other full time job. Discipline is the keyword here.

4.    Share your art.  Art is not only about creating work hidden in your studio but also about meeting new people like artists, gallery owners, collectors, art lovers and anyone related in one way or the other to the arts and culture. Be open to share your art not only with other art related people but also with people who do not have any connection with art. I find this to be a perfect opportunity for them to learn something new and for myself an opportunity to hear a different point of view as I practice how to speak about my art.

5.      Experience the world. Study nature first hand. Learn from direct experience as well as mediated experience. Learn to appreciate and experience what is around you. Go out and visit a museum, watch a movie, go to the park, spend some time with friends or join a group. Participate in healthy activities and expose yourself to the world.  Live life outside the studio and allow these experiences to inform your vision of the world.

6.      Be open to be critiqued Detach yourself from your work and listen to different points of view once in a while. Let go of your ego. This often hurts artists who feel they are too high above everyone else. Be open to be critiqued by other artists as well as people who do not have anything to do with art. Learn how to defend your work objectively and without getting too personal about it. With mutual respect we can listen and learn from even a child. Your art will have a different response from person to person and it’s good to take note of these individual reactions.  Also be aware of who and what kind of person is giving you advice. Always be yourself and carefully examine advice from people who want you to be like everyone else or like themselves. Be ready to question the reasons. Critiques are a healthy way to learn and grow as an artist.

7.    Dare to be different. If you see most artists painting large canvases, paint on small panels. Go against the mainstream; avoid becoming an imitator of current styles and trends. The best artists I know of make their own way and do not follow the masses or make what everyone expects them to do. Look into yourself and search for those qualities that make you especially different from other artists. Explore and take these differences further with your work so you may stand out of the crowd. This could make a huge difference on how others view and remember your work and you as an artist. For this it is important to follow the advice #2.

Hope these words of advice are of help to those young artists out there who wish to pursue art seriously. As a last word I should add that in this life I’ve learned that being an artist means much more than just having talent. Many good people out there have talent but do not take themselves seriously. I’ve seen poorly skilled art students and artists persist and keep practicing non-stop and after years of hard work they have become accomplished artists. So I say it’s not a matter of talent but on how much you wish to become something and how much you work for it!

All text on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"ERA DORADA" Reinterpreted myths for a global age

Next thursday September 2nd of 2010 I'll present my newest work in an exhibition titled "ERA DORADA" (Golden Age) at the gallery of the University of Sagrado Corazon in Puerto Rico. On this solo show I have included 22 pieces that are composed of drawings and paintings in ink, tempera and oil on canvas and panel. Inspired in Western mythology, religion, art and colonial history I have reinterpreted some of the myths  and doctrines of our own Global age. 

"Deuscoverymiento" (2010)

"ERA DORADA" (Golden Age) responds to our global age with its current crisis and prevalent mythology. In these oil and tempera paintings on canvas and panel, I have created an anachronistic imaginary world, where pagan gods, heroes and saints are resurrected from the vestiges of a post-consumer landscape. As they emerge from the ruins of a declining empire, we are confronted with the survival of the myth of the "Golden Age". This myth presents a Utopian existence when life seemed to be unspoiled by the proposed set of values from a culture based on profit and consumerism. The work opens up a Pandora's Box of questions about how we got to our present global condition. 

"The Secret Box" (2010)

Inspired by recurrent Classical and Christian Iconography in Western art, I paint on small "retablos" adopting Renaissance and Baroque painting techniques. This enables me to emulate previous strategies through indoctrination devices that remit to the time of the conquest and colonization of the Americas. Painting allows me to recreate intimate theater stages where I set up and orchestrate mythical and historical figures into satirical narratives that mirror my world today. Exposing a dialogue with history and mythology allows me to question today's assumptions of the demise of colonialism, borders and the myth of a new global age of peace, prosperity and equality. 

"Obamus the lightbringer" (2010)

With the ruling omnipresent corporate global economy that diffuses and perpetuates its myths and doctrines over the globe through mass media we may ask ourselves: what hidden agenda do we finally serve by adopting these myths and doctrines? Where do our views of the current world come from? How was this information modified over time our attitudes towads nature, history and ourselves?

"Arcana 21" (2010)

"ERA DORADA" will open on September 2nd at 7:30 pm and will be exhibited at the gallery of Sagrado Corazon University until October 29th of the present year. For more information in Spanish you may visit the University website at:

Thank you very much for your support and please feel free to contact me by e-mail in case you have any questions regarding my work. You can e-mail me at: I look forward to hearing from you, seeing many of you at my show and hope to keep producing good work and sharing it with all of you! Future shows will soon be announced!

All text and images on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflections on numbers, shapes and colors in art

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."
In recent years my research has led me to find out some interesting connections between forms, colors, numbers and divine archetypes. Of course I will not be the first or the last to find  spiritual truths hidden in the colors of my palette, compositions and even the number of colors and shapes I use. In the past it was not uncommon to find painters experimenting with alchemy and studying astrology besides theology and philosophy.  Phillip Otto Runge, a Romantic German painter from the nineteenth century often imbued mystical qualities in his work. Runge believed that every form and color besides describing reality in a painting, they also revealed universal truths. Runge, a Christian considered the primary colors to be the sacred colors of the Trinity, equating God with the color blue, The Holy Ghost with yellow and Christ with red.

Morning by Phillip Otto Runge, Oil on Canvas 1808

A very common religious theme during the Renaissance was that of the Holy family, depicting the Child Jesus, The Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. One can find in numerous depictions, certain colors repeatedly used for each one of the members. Usually The Virgin Mary is dressed in blue and red or white while Saint Joseph is wearing purple and orange. These colors are splendidly painted in the compositions of Italian painter Raphael Sanzio. The coloring and triadic composition vividly idealizes the serene figures. This recurrent use of color to identify specific Christian Icons has the purpose of teaching the gospel through images easy to remember for the illiterate. 

Holy family with palm tree by Raphael Sanzio, Oil on tondo canvas (Unknown date)

Modern painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky, credited with creating the first abstract painting.  wrote in 1911"Concerning the spiritual in art". Influenced by music and theosophy, Kandinsky in his time, developed not only a new way of painting but a new way of thinking about paint. Painting after all in its essence is an abstract substance. Colors can have a double effect upon us. First and obviously we feel attracted to colors by looking at them but this occurs at a physical/senses level. If we keep staring at a painting for long enough we might start feeling spiritually elevated (or depressed, depending on the work, vibe and intention of the artist). This mysterious feeling of lightness, internal peace and joy is transmitted by  a painting the same way as a beautiful classical tune does.  It soothes the soul in the most sublime way and this is what drove Kandinsky towards abstraction and the study of the mysteries behind this experience. 

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky, oil on canvas, 1913

In "Concerning the spiritual in art" Kandinsky notes that different colors evoke different reactions on the human soul. For instance blue is cold, distant and celestial. Yellow is warm and terrestrial. Mixing yellow and blue create green which is immobile and calm like vegetation, a union between the terrestrial and the celestial. These associations not only come fourth from experience with nature but with the subjective experience with paint itself. As with colors we can also respond in different ways to form. A triangle will communicate to us differently from a circle or a square. Number in a painting also plays a very important part. We certainly do not interact in the same way when we are confronted by a single painted portrait as we would do with a whole battalion of figures in a large composition.  Besides having natural associations, colors, forms and numbers have cultural considerations and personal interpretations as well. Aware of this we can carefully venture into the subjective world of art wearing a mystic's robe and understanding art spiritually rather that materially.The following is just an overview of how one may interpret some  forms, colors and numbers in a painting:


One- The individual, the unity, the Uni-verse, the absolute God,  the monad, the whole. the planet, the sphere, dot or single circle  According o art theorist James Elkins, "Paint adds like this: 1+1=1. Contrary to a mathematical mind, art is experienced as a "whole" with everything related to each other and being part of the same thing.

Sun god Shamash receiving the solar disk, his emblem of power,  relief  9th century, Babylonia

Two- The pair, male and female, duality, deadly opposition or romantic encounter, the line with a beginning and end. Two is also becoming fundamentally conscious of ourselves by consuming the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Adam and Eve by Albert Durer , engraving, 1507

Three- The Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit or the Mind, the Soul and the Body. The triangle or pyramid is the establishment of a relationship through reconciliation. Out of the thesis and anti-thesis a synthesis is born. In Christianity there are three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. Three is associated with the spiritual realm. Three is an artist, his material to work with and his inspiration or concept. Three is a couple and the love that unites them.   
Traditional diagram used to described the Mystery of the Trinity

Four- Material creation, substance, an artist with his material to work with, his inspiration or concept create the masterpiece, this is four. Four elements (fire, air, water and earth) are needed to describe matter. Four are the cardinal directions, four seasons and four the primary colors (Red,Black, Yellow and White) for the ancient  Mayans Egyptians and Greeks. Egyptian god Horus had four sons who guarded the four canopic jars into which the four most important organs of the deceased pharaoh were kept.  In Christianity there are four evangelist that are represented by four sacred animals.  The cross has four ends.

The Celtic Cross

The Zodiac wheel divided up in four parts that define the winter and summer solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes.

The four Egyptian canopic jars that kept theorgans of the deceased Pharaoh.. Duamutef, the jackal headed god represented the east and kept the stomach, Quebehsenuef, the falcon headed god represented the west and kept the intestines. Hapi the Baboon headed god represented the north and kept the lungs. Imseti, the human headed god kept the liver and represented the south.

Seven:  The sacred number. Seven are the colors of the rainbow, the traditional musical notes, the wonders of the ancient world, the number of Chakras in the human body, the vices and virtues, the days of the creation in Genesis and the days of the week. Seven is the union of three spiritual principles with four material principles. It is the number of growth, and completion.

The Menorah is a Jewish symbol candelabrum with seven branches, used as a portable sanctuary and a symbol of universal enlightenment. 


Circle or dot: The atom at a micro-cosmic level , the solar system as a macro-cosmic level. An apple, an egg and a human head are all derived from the idea of a circle. The circle is organic,it pulsates with life,  its life itself, full of potentiality, the cell , the microscopic organism in evolution and also the Sun and the Moon. It is also accepted as the symbol of eternity and never-ending existence.

Single Cell Plant

The Cylinder  or line: Phallus, temple column, tree, building, sword, serpent, action, vertical or horizontal trust and movement, road, direction, arrow  and bullets.

 Corinthian column

Square, rectangle or cube :  House, temple, man made, box or container, a product of culture. Enclosed space, cage, nature reshaped and repackaged by the logical and "square" minded.

Temple to Bacchus at Baalbak, Beirut

Triangle or pyramid: God's supreme wisdom, The Trinity, spirituality, eternity, life after death, ascension, if it points to the sky, descending if it points to the earth. Human's stairway to the heavens,  Sacred in ancient Mayan and Egyptian civilizations.

Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico


Black: In alchemy blackness is called the nigredo and is considered the "materia prima" from which the philosophers work is to begin with. It is earth, excrement, and black bile. The impure, chaos, lead, death, the underworld, primordial darkness. It is absence of color and therefore or life.

White: The sacred and pure, perfection, illumination, innocence and chastity. Unicorns in medieval art are white. The "albedo", second stage  in the  alchemical also represents  the Moon, water and phlegm.  A white flag stands for surrender and peace. 

Yellow: Divine splendor, the Sun, solar light, gold, also denotes jealousy, ambition, greed. In alchemy it is called Citrinitas and means "yellowness". It stands for urine and air. It is also the color of Apollo, Sun god, pure spirit and intellect. 

Red: Passion of Christ, love, blood, Ares, god of war, agitation, physicality, energy, virility, health and  strength. In alchemy it is called "rubedo" and is symbolized by the "glowing lion" It is fire and the last stage in the alchemical process revealing the philosophers stone.

Blue: Celestial, distant and cold, blue is the color of the Virgin Mary,  mother of God, often associated with the Holy Ghost and the Heavens. It also stands for revelation, wisdom, the sky and the seven seas.

Purple: Imperial power, Royalty, truth, justice and temperance. Priesthood. The color of Jupiter, king of of the Olympian gods, In Christianity it is associated with God, the father.

Again these are just some cultural interpretations of some  numbers, colors and forms mostly informed mostly by Western Judeo-Christian tradition. For further reading in the subject I recommend J.C. Cooper's Dictionary of symbols,  Wassily Kandinsky "Concerning the spiritual in art", Signs and Symbols in Christian art by George Ferguson and Barbara G Walker "symbols and sacred objects". In future blogs, I shall talk in more depth about each one of these colors, shapes, numbers and their specific meanings in art.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A new large format painting is born out of my studio!

After more than a month of intensive work in my studio spending more than 8 hours a day painting, It is time to get back to blogging. It is easy to get burned out when you spend about 12 hours a day every day of the week in the same spot painting large and medium sized oil paintings. I can recall dreaming of paint and seeing paint everywhere. It is also necessary to stand back once in a while, contemplate what has been done so far and take note of the work . At the moment I have completed a good amount of paintings and drawings for my upcoming solo show titled "Era Dorada" (Golden Age in Spanish). This body of work explores the relationship between mythology, religion and the corporate colonialist project mostly known as Globalization. Here I shall talk briefly about one of the paintings that deals with all of these issues. The title of the work is Deuscovery Miento

 Deuscovery Miento  Oil on canvas 50" x 38" 2010 by artist Patrick McGrath Muñiz

As the title suggests, the work is inspired in the miscalled "discovery" of the new world by European explorers in the fifteenth century.  One can call a discovery when something  unseen by the rest of humanity is first found by one human or one human civilization. If we are to call a "discovery" the famous event occurred in 1492 with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in  Guahani (modern San Salvador island)  we must then assume that there were no other inhabitants in these islands or that these were not humans. In any case the perpetuated myth has been created in order to glorify the conquerors and colonizers agenda over the native peoples of the Americas. We grow up learning these myths in school. In order to know the truth, It is necessary then to unlearn what we are conveniently taught.

Detail of Deuscovery Miento: Christopher Columbus carrying a banner the reads: "Putocracia Imperare"

History has become manipulated pieces of information used to indoctrinate and turn us into happy submissive consumers and believers of the status quo. As an artist I look through history books for inspiration but I also find mythology reappearing though the past as well as in current world events. I start seeing patterns and similarities between what has happened before and what is happening today. What we call globalization today is nothing more than an extension of colonialism conducted by large transnational corporations. What used to be another culture's ancient religion, today we call mythology and by doing so we invalidate  it. In the end everything tends to move in one direction: Globalization or control over the globe.

 Detail of Deuscovery Miento: a Group of colonizers

In this painting I have reinterpreted the arrival of the European explorers to the Americas by incorporating pop culture elements that refer to our own time. Some of the characters are better known than others but they all say something about the theme of conquest and colonization either by means of religion or consumer media propaganda. The colonizing forces have been placed on the right side of the composition while the colonized natives are found at the left side. Both sides are comprised of characters and icons from different times and culture but share common traits either as colonizers or victims of colonization.

Detail of Deuscovery Miento: The meeting point between colonizers and natives

Above a detail of the meeting point between these two groups, the natives offer gifts , that include precious stones, their idols, natural resources and the Earth itself. The colonizers have brought their own gifts to exchange as well. These include, plastic junk from the consumer culture fast, food, a tv set and a dollar bill offered by Columbus.

Detail of Deuscovery Miento: Gifts from the natives

I have included indigenous, African and Latin American men and women to represent the people vulnerable to colonization. The three main gifts they hold represent three stolen elements from Africa and the Americas: Land, represented by the Earth, Natural resources, represented by the bowl of precious stones and Culture, represented with the Taino Cemi or religious idol. The latter also stands for polytheist religions a people's history and cultural diversity.

Detail of bottom part of Deuscovery Miento: Predella

On this piece I have implemented a monochromatic trompe l'oil frame. Trompe l'oil is a painting technique that creates the illusion of a three-dimensional object that stands out of the canvas, in this case an illusory frame which containts a predella. The predella is a mini-narrative of paintings or sculptures located at the bottom of an altarpiece that complete the story of the main piece above. Here I have represented the world with a globe that reads "Universal". This serves as both a reminder of how much we are influenced by Hollywood films and at the same time how conquerors and corporations presume to posses the "universal" gospel of truth which gives them the right to own the world. On the left side an oil rig, a maritime power symbol of corporations and on the right side a 15th century European caravel, a maritime power symbol of colonialism.

On the far right side of the composition we find two characters embracing in the background. They are representations of Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld and riches, and a Corporate Ceo. Next to them I have included Cerberus , the tricephalus guadian canine of the underworld. It makes sense to think of a god of the underworld to be the god of riches also ,as gold, silver and other precious minerals come from mines and black gold (oil) comes from under the earth as well. As it seems, corporations have made a deal with Hades, or Pluto as the ancient Romans would have called this deity. In Christianity the figure that most resembles this archetype is the devil but Hades holds a function that the traditional devil does not seem to posses or at least not that often and this is to be the lord of money. Christianity as with other current religions limits the spirit world into two realms: good and evil. There seems to be very little space for gray neutral gods in their view. On the other hand the ancient pagans viewed a world filled with gods and deities that were neither good or bad, they just served their own interests just like corporations do today. Reason why I find the pagan gods to be perfect metaphors for the corporate world.

Upper right detail of the painting Deuscovery Miento

On the four corners of this work I have painted four female figures that function as allegories to the four most influential mass media today: The tv and big screen media, the internet, printed press and radio. They read in Spanish: "Creo lo que leo, Creo lo que veo, Creo lo que encuentro y Creo lo que oigo". Translated in English this would be: "I believe what I read, I believe what I watch, I believe what I find and I believe what I hear". Media plays a vital role on the way we understand history and current world events so they make up the four cardinal directions of our senses as this painting suggests.
 In conclusion the work inplies its message with its title: Deuscovery Miento. "Deus" meaning god in Latin, "covery" a play between "discovery" and "cover" implies a "cover-up". The letter "Y" in Spanish means "and". Miento is the word in Spanish for "lie" So as the epigraph above the work reads: "Novisimo et Acuratisimo Deus Cover y Miento Global "  (Newest and most accurate  divine cover up and lies around the globe) . 

All text and images on this blog entry is copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Painting Religion and Mythology in a Global Age

Mythological and religious themes have a long history in the tradition of painting. If one studies the art of the Renaissance for instance, examples of these are quite numerous given the spirit of the time. Artists of that period viewed classical and religious themes in the light of humanistic principles that characterized their time. They represented mythological stories and Biblical narratives in ways that made these relevant to their own experience in place and time. It is not uncommon to see paintings by Raphael or Titian where Roman soldiers in a Passion of Christ scene are represented as Italian soldiers of their own time. In mythological scenes, someone like Botticelli would paint Venus and the graces as women who were considered at the time in Florence to be the most beautiful.  

Archivo:La nascita di Venere (Botticelli).jpg
"Birth of Venus" 
Tempera on canvas by Italian artist Sandro Boticelli 
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So how would an artist today re-interpret old mythological and Christian narratives in the terms of their own time and experience? First of all Christian themes are well known in contemporary western culture to the point that they almost become "cliche". Christian imagery is much more recognizable  than most images from mythology. While Christian Icons have been spread out to the masses, Mythological scenes are mostly found around intellectual circles who enjoy good literature and art. And when mythology leaks out to the general public it does so in the most distorted forms, in films like Disney's Hercules or Clash of the Titans.  When mythological stories are manipulated and distorted we do not suspect a hidden agenda but just lame entertainment. When Christian icons become manipulated and distorted in some way it seems to be done by an artist and with a specific purpose or agenda usually related to the Pop art movement.

 Michael Jackson portrait by American artist David LeChapelle
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 Last Supper by American artist Ron English
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From the angels to the Last Supper, contemporary artists have often appropriated and imbued these well known icons with new interpretations and personal meaning. These artworks can question the assumed religious establishment and prevalent beliefs in our society. They can also serve as a reminders of  old celebrations, practices and stories that need to be retold in contemporary terms. These artistic interpretations can make us aware of the value we place upon mass media, consumer objects and the way we experience pop culture day to day.

"Variantes para una crucifixión"
oil on wood by Guatemalan artist Alfredo Garcia Gill
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But what about myths? Even though popularized in film, literature and art, myths seem to belong to a different realm. We do not treat myth in the same way we treat religion. For religion there is a reverence or irreverence  that people choose or not choose to have. Its almost like taboo and it happens with well. People either keep quite to stay safe or take sides and become passionate about  certain issues. In any case the subject of religion  in art  can become troublesome and uncomfortable to most. This does not seem to be the case with myths. Myths are different. Ancient religions that believed in the existence of many gods are now treated as mythology because no one, except for Neopagans and other New Age sects  truly believes in them.

Pagan high priestess offering a hand shake to a N.C. Bible Believer who refuses her peace gesture while shouting passages of the Bible. For more information on this incident visit:

Not only do we refer to ancient religions with many gods as mythology but also other current polytheistic religions as well. Ever wondered why is Krishna and other Hindu deities are found in books on mythology? For a Hindu, Krishna is as real as Jesus. So why not consider Jesus part of mythology too? We can see mythology is a word with negative connotations that we use to distant ourselves from gods and  other divine entities we do not believe in  and negate as possible truths.

"Jesus Land" 
Oil on canvas by American artist Patrick McGrath Muñiz
to see more of my work visit

In our modern language we call  myths to anything that is a false story or anything that is not fact. I think this makes a tremendous injustice to the ancient myths of Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica. Their stories explained natural phenomena and moral teachings with such beauty and wisdom that many of them have deeply influenced our own Judeo-Christian traditions to this day.  For example, the garden of Eden, the devil, the angels, Noah's  ark,  and  a crucified savior born from a virgin along with other stories from the Bible can be traced back to its ancient roots in Babylonian or Egyptian myths. In fact, many of the near eastern religions existing in ancient Rome before and by the time of early Christianity shared similar beliefs and rituals. These religions basically told the same Jesus story with a few variations.  "Mythological" figures such as Orpheus, Mithra, Adonis and Dionysus as well as others had much in common with our Christ including a birth from a virgin, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and promise of salvation through their sacrifice.
As Saint Augustine once said:  "Whatever has been rightly said by the pagans, we must appropriate to our uses".
2nd century amulet depicting the crucifixion of Greek god Dionysus to learn more about this and other similar myths I recommend watching the first part of the movie Zeitgeist at:        
 Mythology is very much present in our imagination as well as the way we experience the world today. Many of the stories and archetypes of heroes, villains and gods are still being projected onto celebrities, politicians and even forces in nature. There seems to be a  innate human need to find the divine or supernatural in the  world around us. From comic book heroes to the way we call our our planet, mother Earth, as if we were referring to the ancient Greek goddess Gaea., we not only anthropomorphize nature, we deify it.
"Gaia Altarpiece" Oil on canvas 48" x 48" By French American artist Elsie Russell To see more of the artist work visit:      
Monotheistic and Patriarchal religions have repressed polytheistic tendencies in the past but  it has been unable to stop it from reemerging  specially since Neo-platonist  early Renaissance. In this global age that we live in, I cannot think of a better language than that of myths to describe whats happening all around us. If we use the term "myth" in the modern sense, we can say that live in an age of myths. There is the myth of "green corporations"  with their "green washing", the myth of  a "global village", the myth of "borderlines countries"  and the myth of a  illuminated populist leader that will save us all.  Today there are  many myths about beauty, culture, art, justice, war,  sex, food, energy and many other issues that consciously aware artists should address in their work. As a painter who is constantly adapting sacred Icons and symbols to reinterpret old stories in contemporary terms I find the world of myth infinite in sources for inspiration. That is the reason why I have decided to adapt and incorporate the language of myth into my new work and here is one example of what my new work is starting to look like. On my next blog i shall present and explain my current artist statement.
"Obamus, the Light Bringer"
Egg tempera and gold leaf on wood triptych 18" x 13" (2010) 
by artist Patrick McGrath Muñiz
To see more of my work visit my official website at:
All text on this blog is  copyrighted material© by the artist and author Patrick McGrath Muñiz