When you take a look at ANNUNCIATION, make no mistake that I am positing a male nude in the role of the Virgin Mary -- thus a painting that skirts the idea of what can constitute religion, belief, and the collision between ideas we have been brought up with, and ideas of an expanding universe and our roles in it. In no small part does the painting also offer a collision between figuration and today's preference for non-committal, if eye-catching, abstraction.

Perhaps in the last year or so my confidence or resolve to continue working with predominantly male figures has flagged a bit while I too have been exploring abstraction, so I have to mention my sincere thanks not only for words of encouragement from William Morrow, Contemporary Curator at the Denver Art Museum, during a recent studio visit, but also his alerting me to the museum's new installation of a gigantic painting by Kent Monkman, "History is Painted by the Victors," recently donated by Vicki and Kent Logan and displaying more male nudes (all of whom are referencing art history) than you could shake a proverbial stick at. My heart must have soared when I first saw it, not unlike how, a week or so ago, I was at a memorial service at a Catholic church, enjoying (if only that) the very contemporary stained glass windows depicting various saints.

ANNUNCIATION began as a complete abstraction in mid-December, and while its resemblance to a stained glass window hit me immediately, it went through quite a few permutations as I tried out various figures within this colorful and chaotic environment. I was committed to the large figure with a halo from early on, but the subject-- if it needed one-- seesawed between this "saint" and Boy Scout camp circa 1967 (gotta save that for next time.) It's strange indeed to make a painting today so closely aligned with religion, and yet thinking back over art history I am well aware that there were long times when it was strange if paintings did NOT align with religion in some way. But the male nude? Well, honestly, why not? There are so many artists producing mindless (and sometimes mindful) images of naked women out there that surround us on all fronts of contemporary society, who's to say we don't, or at least men don't, need interesting images of men out there too? Anyone who's read my WHERE'S THE BEEF essay would be familiar with my points on this issue, and if you need a more recent example of the female sexist imbalance out there, just look at this month's Art in America (January 2014) in which six or eight decorative naked women splayed across various pages are "balanced" with a single image of a male sculpture who's been castrated like a window mannequin. Maybe my painting is an antidote, LOL! But beyond all of this, however, you do come up against the traditional idea of the virgin birth, the sexless emanation of God through the literal guise of motherhood, a being apart from the rest of us all. Who's to say, though, that such a feat cannot be accomplished, in a metaphoric way, through each and every one of us? Sounds like a job for art.


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Jack Balas, 2014; ANNUNCIATION (#1028); oil and enamel on canvas, 52" x 46"