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Tales of the Flesh 2: Born Adversaries
Western Project pop-up exhibition
4619 Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, October 2016 
Aaron Sheppard with Carole Caroompus and Patrick Lee

3 new paintings
Aaron Sheppard is an artist's artist. His work 
traverses painting, sculpture, drawing, performance, 
and installation. The new Double-Wide with Hydra
is his version of Dürer's Feast of the Rosary from 
1506. Sheppard's sensibility has always appeared pro-
fane, gritty and often taboo, but internally contains 
the humility of spiritual adoration. He thematically 
hopscotches across time, history and styles often 
using classical compositions as a trope to explore 
more fluid ideas about desire and sexuality. From the 
formal religious painting Feast of the Rosary, 
Sheppard has created a circus barge of characters:
"A Victorian mermaid queen with two vaginas allows Dante closer examination of her 'second beauty'. Baby Jesus fish crowns Captain Nemo while he himself gets crowned by the fangs of Leviathan. Eek the Geek waits in line to meet the Mer-Queen, as do characters from Alice in Wonderland, a pregnant Zulu princess, Judas, a dragon, a clown, a cannibal, Death...even Dürer him- self. They flank her like kids at the mall waiting to sit on Santa's lap. A barker donning Gallagher's top hat hands out halos and urinates on the crowd." He often presents human biological variation as gifted saints come to deliver a different message: life is all forms, and desires all forms. Mary as mermaid with two vaginas. Is this reverence, blasphemy or Bhakti? Is this a divine freak show? Dante is beguiled and bewitched by his desire as are all the figures surrounding the mer- maid. This work addresses his question, "is it not possible to have earthly and heavenly delights simultaneously? Use and enjoy it all while still properly expressing love? Have your cake and eat it too (without losing/off with your head)?" Sheppard's enormous 20 foot painting is mural size, nearly identical to the scale of Ensor's, Christ's Entry Into Brussels from 1889. Both share an expressionistic quality and energy; each event stylistically depicted with grotesque figures enhancing the pathos of human drama. Additionally, his paint quality is forcefully ragged yet calculated. It is a kind of pop or camp ex- pressionism, able to suggest the emotionality and fervor of sex and desire; a fury of exaggeration in which Life is seen as flourishing.
The right panel of Double-Wide with Hydra may contain 
another moral tale: in a cave Hercules is battling the 
Leviathan threatening the mermaid, while his own penis is 
sprouting into the Hydra itself. Consumed by one's own 
craving? It is perhaps the similar path.
Sheppard gives no answers except to suggest that the com- plexity of mortal life is to be enjoyed; variance is a gift, the pageantry is to be participated in, and living is immediate and vital. However in another moment, he writes,  "I don't know what it is all about. Fantasy and fish, piss and cherub cock..." It is all good. -Cliff Benjamin Press Release October 2016
Double-Wide with Hydra, 2016
mixed-media on canvas
90 x 216 x 16 inches

Double-Wide with Hydra, 2016

Double-Wide with Hydra, 2016

Green Angel, 2016
 
Green Angel, 2016
oil on canvas
62 x 55 inches
 
Toilet Training, 2015
oil, silver leaf on canvas
62 x 54 inches
     
 
installation photo by Jeffery Baker
 
installation photo by Jeffery Baker