I recently started a new series of paintings about fairies and gardens. This has been a breath of fresh air for me, as I can complete a painting in a couple of hours, and they bring me a lot of joy.
This summer has been a hard summer for everyone, and getting paint supplies and committing to a large painting has been a bigger endeavor than it usually has. But also, America’s MidLife Crisis, it’s 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War period (some call it America’s Pluto Return, as the planet Pluto comes back to the same place where it was during that time), and it is still dealing with some heavy karma from slavery and injustice to black people, as well as the xenophobic genocide of Native Americans/Indigenous peoples of North America. Protests and police brutality, a pandemic, rampant unemployment, and everyone in lockdown for months. It’s not life as usual, and so my painting took a different turn.
I took a break from the Yukon Cornelius paintings in May, and did a couple of paintings in response to the protests and police reaction. These felt good at the time–though I was scared of voicing my anger and disappointment., fearing reprisal. Frankly, those paintings were emotionally draining. I had to keep my anger and frustration at a roar to complete them, each over about a week. Columbus has been engulfed in police pushback. And I was afraid for weeks if I said anything (while that might have been wild to think, the police have been appearing at people’s homes to arrest them for participating in protests).
I have been doing little paintings and drawings for a penpal in Vegas, and one of those took a fairies in the garden turn:
Today I want to share with you work that I completed while at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and which would have been part of the Columbus Arts Festival 2020 in June (but WILL be part of the festival in 2021!)
I fell in love late in life with a character from a Christmas special: Yukon Cornelius, created by Romeo Muller as part of the 1964 Rankin/Bass production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”–a stop motion special that is shown every Christmas. You might recognize the character:
Burly, positive, full of helpful asides “Bumbles Bounce!” and “the fog is as thick as peanut butter!”–Yukon helps our heroes realize their dreams by a) saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster, b) taking them to the Island of Misfit Toys to carry a message to Santa to come get these toys and pair them up with kids and c) reforming said Abominable Snowmonster and making him tame, and cool for Christmas Parties.
I don’t know why Yukon stayed with me. It might be that I went to live in the Yukon for nearly 10 years. I mushed some dogs (tbh, only as a one-day fun thing in Inuvik, NWT–though I attended and watched the Yukon Quest as much as I could), and spent time out in the wilderness. But I also lived in the great city of Whitehorse being a friend and misfit to a lot of other friends and misfits, who are also great musicians, artists, talented amazing people.
Maybe it was that Yukon was very burly, and I was attracted to him, or even attracted to the kind of man he represented–a big “bear”. He seemed like a better version of a male hero than I had previously encountered. Though he had a gun, I don’t think he ever shot it. He was practical, helpful, encouraging. He had a lot of knowledge about Abominable Snowmonsters! And he was much more interested in saving people than in killing monsters. In the end, because Bumbles bounce!–Yukon and Bumble somehow come to an understanding. Bumble is just another misfit that needs to find his right place… and he does, next to the Christmas tree.
In another post, I will tell you more about that Queering the Hero journey I made–and continue to make. But here are my paintings, extrapolating three things:
Yukon Cornelius could be gay. People have commented before on the queer undertones of the show–read the articles here from Vulture, and KQED and in 2019 The New York Times opinion page—- about themes of bullying, about being different, about being rejected, about finding acceptance for your unique qualities. Romeo Muller was himself gay. It’s not a stretch to see the queercoding in the show. Making Yukon Cornelius gay is not a stretch either, since he doesn’t make mention of a wife, and reads as what we would call a “bear” today–a burly, bearded, slightly overweight, slightly hyper-masculine man.
Yukon has a way of charming beasts. His expert past knowledge of the Abominable Snowmonster speaks to prior run-ins with “Bumble”—and then he is able to tame and speak to the Bumble (who miraculously grows back his teeth in the final few minutes of the special!)
Yukon deserved more of an adventurous life.
So, I created that life for him–and for me. The copyright on characters from this movie had a misprint in it, making all characters in public domain (outside of Rudolph who had prior copyright). So I adopted Yukon as my hero and gave him a life of meeting cryptids (Bigfoot, Mothman, sea monsters, etc.) Using acrylic and myself as a reluctant model–or at times a stand-in, I painted these paintings. (side note: I’d planned to have several cooler guys than me become Yukon for these paintings–but planning photo shoots was not easy.)
So if you’ve always wanted a rollicking adventuresome gay hero, I offer you Yukon Cornelius–rescuing, negotiating, protecting, singing, reading, allowing himself to be loved.
Announcing the 2011 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop @ UC San Diego
June 26 to August 6, 2011
Clarion is widely recognized as a premier training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction short stories.
The 2011 writers in residence are
Nina Kiriki Hoffman John Scalzi
Elizabeth Bear David Anthony Durham
John Kessel Kij Johnson
Since its inception in 1968, Clarion has been known as the “boot camp” for writers of speculative fiction. Each year 18-20 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. Students are expected to write several new short stories during the six-week workshop, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Instructors and students reside together in campus apartments throughout the intensive six-week program.
The application period for the 2011 workshop is December 1 – March 1. Applicants must submit two short stories with their application. Scholarships are available. Additional information can be found at http://clarion.ucsd.edu.
See my Page on CLARION 2011 for more info on what a Clarion can do for you.
Personally, I have to say that the chance to work with Kij Johnson would be enough to make me put on a disguise and go again, though, like Narnia, former Clarion grads can’t go home again…. Kij’s story, “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” won the World Fantasy award and was on the final ballot for both the Nebula and the Hugo. It’s an AMAZING story and just the kind of story I hope to write when I grow up.