Alternative Waters: a Personal View of Recent Macri Portraits

by Kenneth Radu


Part I

People familiar with Adamo Macri’s portraits may well experience an aesthetic shock to see a picture of the artist with his eyes wide open. So many of his self-portraits depict the eyes averted, lowered, askance, or rarely looking directly at the viewer that I was taken aback by a recent picture, entitled Damo, 2013. There are a few other pictures in his Facebook oeuvre wherein the artist opens his eyes and stares out of the canvas, Self-Portrait, 2013, for example, but that is a study in shadows, and the gaze seems reluctant and melancholy. In Damo 2013 Macri confronts the viewer boldly, provocatively, no hesitation, no flinching, a full depiction of the apparent Macri face without accoutrements, ornaments, masks or shadows, and one might appropriately assume, without a trace of clothing, even if the body from the neck down is out of sight.


Self-Portrait, 2013

Given his many portrayals of various appearances (Zoophily represents what I mean), in Damo, 2013 he could be ending 2013 with a public revelation of what he looks like without artifice. Having said that, I wish to qualify it. The careful reader will notice that I used the adjective apparent to describe this unadorned face. Simply put, I believe it would be disingenuous to assume that Damo, 2013 is a “true” picture of the man as individual, as genuine, however superior in execution, as a simple snapshot or passport photo.

Zoophily

Damo, 2013 discombobulates and intrigues me as a viewer: unease mingled with admiration. After studying this self-portrait, I have torn myself away in order to make sense of what both attracts and disturbs, only to return to explain my feelings. True, Louise Bourgeois has stated that art needs no explanation: "A work of art doesn't have to be explained…. If you do not have any feeling about this, I cannot explain it to you. If this doesn't touch you, I have failed."

I agree to a degree. Many responses consist of more than “feeling,” unless Bourgeois incorporates a great deal of meaning in her use of the word. My own response to art, not unique, combines intellect and emotion like a metaphysical poem by John Donne: reason and feeling, knowledge and memory, perception and instinct, facts and fantasy, desire and dreams – the dichotomies multiply and tumble over themselves. I can’t be alone in this. My reaction has to be explained, for such is my nature as a writer who sees through words as much as through sight. What a face, indeed! It’s no secret that I admire the man’s artistry because he always takes others and me by surprise, and allows our imagination to do its work, which is to immerse us in a pool of possibilities. I think the bewitching gaze of the artist reflects his imaginative awareness of the viewer’s inner life, desires, and cultural connections.

This picture is not merely a photo of the artist. Yes, it looks like him, but realistic representation is not its primary purpose. Macri is nothing if he is not multi-faceted, for he plays with identities as much as he plays with our understanding and fantasies. Damo, 2013 led me to peruse another remarkable “self-portrait” of the artist wherein the emphasis on costume and appurtenances is supreme. I then compared these two pictures with a third, also recent, example of his many disguises, arranging them in such a way that all three portraits form a triangle of related points and fantasies. Besides Damo, 2013, the other two are Zoophily, and The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts. Although the latter is part of a video production, it can stand on its own as a singular portrait. Rather than “what does the artist mean,” a more appropriate question would be “how does he mean?” In that question are included queries about devices and techniques, and the various methods at his disposal to produce a given image. I meander, but bear with me, if you will, because “feeling” the art in my case cannot be separated from thinking about it in words.


The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts

I am fascinated by the fact that in Damo, 2013 the artist does not resort to costume in any form. As I have said, assuming that Macri has taken a picture of himself to show the authentic man as an individual would be somewhat mistaken. I cannot resist feeling and thinking that in the naked truth of the picture reside many layers of meaning, paradoxically emphasized by the fact that there is no attempt to “dress” the face. Despite its lack of props or theatrical poses so evident in Macri’s portfolio, Damo, 2013 remains a stunning and complex image of symbolic allusions, into which viewers may project their desires and memories, notwithstanding the intentions of the artist.

Unless he sits down by my side and instructs me, however, I cannot know the deliberate intentions of the artist. True, he has discussed the underlying principles and technicalities of his art in various interviews and comments, but he doesn’t insist that our view be exclusively guided by his vision, or that his interpretation of what he does is the only plausible one. He is not about to tell us what to feel or think, nor is that even desirable. Admirers of Macri’s art can only know what they feel and see, perhaps understanding the unexplained intentions of the artist, but their “feelings” are indisputably valid, quite apart from his artistic intent. I therefore have the freedom to place one image next to another, and open up my modest treasure chests and cabinets stuffed with curiosities. Turning things over to discover startling patterns and similarities, in Damo, 2013 I recognize a multiplicity of identities beneath the surface values of the portrait.

A sophisticated and culturally attuned artist, Macri’s cornucopia of knowledge of and expertise in the multi-dimensionality of contemporary art in the digital age is evident in his collective portraits. Taking off the hat or removing the mask, or opening his eyes to look directly at us, as if to say this is who I am without pretense, does not mean that Self-portrait, 2013 is lacking subtle allusions, intimations, and disguise. That is the essential brilliance of Macri’s self-portraits: they portray the many facets of identity and are equally suggestive pictures of subterranean emotions, fantasies, and ideas. Yes, of course, Macri the man is handsome and has sex appeal, that is no more than saying the obvious. He has turned his good looks to great artistic and erotic advantage, an essential point, but not the only one.

However difficult to evade the intensity of the eyes in Damo, 2013, I am able to do so for the moment, and concentrate on the facial structure. I‘d like first to focus on the interconnecting triangles, and then move into the compelling eyes. The triangularity is as strong as the penetrating gaze. There is nothing new about the geometric shape of faces; but Adamo Macri uses what is banal or common, and transposes it into another dimension to offer possibilities derived from the very structure of his face and from our imaginative responses to it. His layered images welcome the creation of meaning. I am encouraged to go beyond appearance into other areas of interpretation without violating the integrity of the work. I feel what I see and simultaneously think about what I feel. The emotions enlighten the mind. Delving further, I am rewarded. The artistry involved in the creation of this image – pose, colouring, lighting, eyes, hair – all contribute to the power of the triangle and the inescapable gaze.


Damo, 2013

The chin is the apex of the triangle pointed downwards, and the base line stretches horizontally under the eyes and over the bridge of the nose. The tip of the nose forms the apex of second triangle whose base is the frame across the head. Two distinct and strong triangles form the entirety of the face. Within them are several similar triangular shapes: the arching eyebrows, the center of the upper lip, the beard, and the chest hair barely perceptible under the chin. Even the skin tones of the cheeks assume this geometric pattern. As in many of Macri’s portraits, the man does not smile. A smile is in fact a definition of a mood, a predisposition, and it alters the face, even distorts it in ways contrary to the purpose of the portraits. The severity in the pictures is not grim, but emotionally neutral, thereby inviting viewers to project whatever emotion they choose, to imagine what the artist may be thinking, and not to be taken by a smile on the surface of things. I wish the artist health and happiness, but I am glad he does not smile.

I am taken by triangles here. Analyzing the portrait in these terms, which admittedly may not be to everyone’s taste, intensifies my feelings about it. The physical response holds hands with the intellectual. The triangles interlock with my sensations and understanding. Smitten by isosceles and equilaterals, I have fallen in lust with geometry.

Triangles have a long history of significance. Spirituality, Christianity, Masonry, occultism, pentagrams, pentacles, and satanic forces at work, you find what you search for, or what the portrait leads you to explore. At one extreme end, the triangle is a feature of the goat figure Baphomet; at the opposite end, the Christian importance of triangles is announced in the concept of the Trinity, and represented in Giotto’s great work, God the Father with Angels. This is not to argue that Macri’s Damo, 2013 portrait necessarily embodies either Lucifer or Gabriel, although it smoulders with the fires of the former and shimmers with the light of the latter. It emphasizes the emotive power of the triangle as a structuring element in portraiture and as a symbolic device. Like most viewers, I am attracted to one extreme or another, the angelic and the demonic, and possess a range of attitudes and feelings between the two.


Baphomet (by Eliphas Lévi)

God the Father with Angels (by Giotto di Bondone)

Despite the force of triangles, no one looking at Damo, 2013 can avoid the magnetism of the eyes, which is a testament as much to the technical excellence of the art as it is to the beauty of the man. His eyes dare us to come closer and lose ourselves in the power of his perception, and fancifully wander in the realm of his desires. Behind the eyes exist a remarkable mind and human appetite, and I have always considered that a thrilling aspect of his art. If Macri’s dark eyes are the doorways to his mind or soul, according to common poetic tropes, then viewer beware. For the appetite, let’s call it passion, may be more what we project in the portrait than what the artist reveals. We see our own inchoate longing reflected in that beguiling look.

If viewers like me are either intrigued or uneasy (or both) or amused  (there’s a hint of irony, even satire, of deliberate self-mockery in some of Macri’s portraits) by what they perceive as a dark side, is that the result of his deliberate intention, or their own feelings and wishes? From the outside, objectively speaking, we all agree that the eyes are steady and unflinching, magical and mesmerizing, as if they are denuding our secret selves, just as we try to look behind his eyes hoping to uncover various shades of his purpose or fantasies.

I am reminded of one of my favourite classical myths, the richly symbolic story of Narcissus. This may not be surprising because Macri himself has created an image entitled Narcissus, part of the artist’s botanical interests.  To clear away any automatic response, I am not thinking of psychological narcissism, that common pathology of personality. In Macri’s conception, the story goes beyond mere neurosis. It illustrates his fascination with the cellular structure of natural phenomenon, the principles of growth in animal and plant life, and their connection with human life (e.g. Epizoochory among others). As he has mentioned in one of his Facebook comments: “flowers spring up everywhere, sometimes as a main feature of a myth, at times blurring the line between plant and person.”


Narcissus

Epizoochory: seed sorter

Having rejected the love of the clinging nymph Echo, Narcissus becomes hypnotized by his reflection in a glassy pool, remains fixated, and wastes away from unrequited passion. To reward him for his steadfastness or to punish him for self-involvement, the gods turn him into a flower (daffodil or narcissus), as metamorphosis is inextricable from classical lore as much as it is intrinsic to Macri’s art. There is another version of the story I also enjoy. Seeking to embrace the illusion, Narcissus reaches for the unattainable, and drowns. True, the myth is often construed to mean the dangers and limitations of self-love, the inability to love anyone other than the self, a moral and psychological lesson. I don’t dispute that, but it’s irrelevant to Macri’s work. I see the myth as a portrayal of a nebulous longing to live more than one life, to reach out to buried or suppressed selves, or various aspects thereof, recognizing that we may well have been confined by our gender and the social roles we play and by the partners we are expected to love throughout our history, and thereby imprison our imagination and desires.

It is conceivable that in desiring union with his image in the water, Narcissus is reaching out to another version of himself, unattainable in the confines of the quotidian where he is trapped by his own limitations on the ground. The passion unrequited, something Echo experienced, is not so much for the physical self transfixed by the pond as it is for an extension of varieties of life in an alternate world. I beg the reader’s forbearance here: the notion may be eccentric or fanciful or wrongheaded, but when I look upon his face in any one of its guises, I see aspects of what I am not, but may unconsciously wish to be, or a visualization of rebellious impulses yet to be given free rein, or, more broadly speaking, a celebration of life and multiplicity, and the understanding that darkness is not merely an antithesis, but a volatile and rich companion of light.

Part II

The erotic underpinnings of Damo, 2013 should not “blind” us to its intellectual or cultural content. The look also reveals piercing intelligence, acute insight into the nature of reality, often probing to the fundamental molecular level of existence, which in fact Macri explores in other dimensions of his art, a fullness of light and vision that comes from seeing in the way only an artist sees. I cannot truly know what another person thinks or feels. I can only know what I sense, project, desire, or come close to, because I try in my own way to understand what I am feeling and seeing in front of a work of art. Through his vision and knowledge we acquire insight into and recognition of the contradictory dimensions of life. Such has always been true of Macri’s art, and not only in his self-portraits.

The admonition to “beware” indicates the basis of my paradoxical responses to this particular portrait. I stand back to appreciate objectively, and I am also sucked into the dark to lose all objectivity. A part of me, a residual cultural lore of my Romanian Manichean ancestry, thinks of some vampiric purpose in those eyes, ulterior motives in that serene, severe, yet tender and blood-tinged face, without any overt identifying signs, but ready for the bite on the neck. It may not surprise viewers to learn that the artist is engaged in a vampire project, something that fills me with great anticipation. While perusing this picture, I cannot help but think of the many stories of the demon lover seducing a sometimes-willing mortal. And it’s not always a bad thing.

The Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, for example, constructs one of his major poetic narratives on the idea of a supernatural lover, angelic or demonic, depending upon one’s inclinations and reading. In Luceafãrul (The Evening Star), a divine being descends to a princess in a chamber, a being remarkable for the brilliance his eyes:

Bright eyes he had that seemed to tell
Of strange chimerical bonds;
And deep they were as passion's spell,
And dark as moonlit ponds.

We remember that Lucifer, related to Lucea, was originally an angel of light. One can carry interpretation too far, but that has never stopped me. The further I go, the closer I come to what I’m seeking. Now I see a pun, deliberate or otherwise, in the last name, Damo-damned, and significance in the number 13, traditionally associated with ill fate, although its use in the title may well be no more than a statement of chronological fact.

The Bat, the Bird and the Beast is a portrait that perhaps should not be considered apart from other “animal” or zoological images that Macri has created. I hear the soft pad of a mythological beast prowling for playmates or prey, the distinction may not be as real as we might assume, as he frolics with angels and mortals. For my purposes at the moment, I focus on the powerful triangles in this picture present in the black oversized glasses framing the eyes like wings, and the dynamic fringe of black strips dropping from the shoulders like fur or feathers or the leathery skin of certain mammals. The creatures and their symbolic significance are all evident in this highly staged image. Is the artist a bird, a bat, a beast? Why does he name all three? More importantly, what do we see? The structural angularity, however, is almost forbidding, warning us not to touch, even if viewers may desire to do so like thirsty Tantalus yearning after the forever elusive stream of water.

A portrait reminiscent of a satyr or bird, or, as some have noted, of either Nijinsky or Nureyev suitably costumed to dance in L’Après-midi d’un Faune, Zoophily also evinces a triangular structure. The stylized horn on the head and other “natural” elements in the portrait remind me of Two Satyrs, a painting by Peter Paul Rubens; but Macri boldly crosses the boundaries of gender and species in this and other portraits. The longer I look, the more enraptured I become, a word I use advisedly. I am seized and carried aloft by a mythical bird, or elevated to a strange kind of heaven by the feathered Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. On the other hand, I may well have submerged myself in a pool of fantasies, caught in a whirl of contradictions. Like Lucifer, the rebel angel of light, Quetzalcoatl is also associated with that universally symbolic snake. The “props” in Zoophily, however, remind me of nature and organic life, of the proximity of human to vegetable, a relationship the artist explores in various aspects of his work, including the portraits. Of course, serpents may well slither among the grasses and reeds, or swim in that alluring pond. And, yes, there is always the serpent as phallic symbol. Archetypally I hear echoes of Adam in the garden, calling for Eve, unaware that she has been conversing with a snake.


Two Satyrs (by Peter Paul Rubens)

Behind much of Macri’s facial costumes, all designed to illustrate multiple identities, there is a mythological impulse, almost Grecian, an erotic connection with fabulous and fabulist stories of glades, valleys, pools, streams, trees an entire otherworldly landscape wherein satyrs and nymphs abound. In Zoophily with its classic resonances, and in other portraits like Bustard Panache with the triangular structure of the face as prominent as the black boa circling the neck, I see the beast roaming through the consciousness of the consummate artist and prowling in my own imagination.

Including a discussion of Bustard Panache creates a foursome of pictures, a square. By drawing a diagonal line through a square, we have two adjoining triangles, so I am still on an apex of desire. The Bustard portrait is a technical study in black and gold, a dramatic handling of the eroticism of human hair, a theme evident in an earlier picture, the sensual and masculine Self-Portrait, 2012, all brilliantly achieved. A sexually dimorphic bird, the bustard displays noticeable differences between male and female; but the portrait unites opposites, seeks similarities, incorporates and does not separate, and thereby highlights sexual ambiguity or gender liberation from its socially codified definitions and expectations.


Bustard Panache

The background in the Bustard portrait is nebulous and steel grey like an overcast sky. Given the perspective of the camera, it’s easy enough to feel that I am looking up to a deity of sorts who is not quite standing on common ground: a creature of the earth who is able to transcend its limitations. The artist transfigures his face into that of a quasi-divine man luring the viewer who in turn enlarges the implications, a man met in dreams about enchanted locales. One may dive into the deepest pool, or to change metaphors, enter the darkest den out of which these magnetic eyes of Damo, 2013 stare, and be consumed by alternative passions. Moreover, the manipulation of sexual identity deliberately infuses the pictures with an electrically charged dynamic created by male and female attributes of feathers and furs. The images celebrate the androgynous and the polymorphous in the human psyche by presenting Macri’s face as a blend of multiple sexual inclinations. He becomes the gender the viewer desires; he participates in the viewer’s fantasies, so to speak, and includes them all.

The word panache, therefore, refers to the flair and bravado of the piece itself, as much as it does to a feeling of sweet recklessness, and to the seeming plumes in the hairstyle like a feathery headpiece. Satyrs romp about in many a painting, although Macri himself remains still. The sexual energy in his portrait is restrained, the face passive but fraught with tensions. In paintings by Caravaggio (Satyr with Grapes), Zabaleta (The Satyr), Bouguereau (Nymphs and Satyr), and any number of others in various genres from different periods of time, the saucy creature with the hooves of a goat and horns on its head romps about the field: innocent and impish, or randy and hedonistic, usually playful and mostly erotic.


Satyr with Grapes (by Caravaggio)

The Satyr (by Rafael Zabaleta)

By its very nature the satyr is pre-eminently concupiscent, anthropomorphized lust. Does satyriasis harden sympathies? It is also comic and mischievous, capable of mocking our moral reservations and self-importance. Satire, anyone? Although I haven’t researched the topic, there must surely be any number of disquisitions about the satyr in Western art. Among my favourite “satyr” works is Clodion’s intimate and lovely 1775 sculpture, Satyr and Bacchante, a delicious interplay of the beast and the human, the entwining off male and female, the sweet delirium of the bacchanal, an unfettered sexuality, and unalloyed ecstasy that can be spiritual as much as physical.


Satyr and Bacchante (by Clodion, Claude Michel)

The triangular elements of these portraits lock in powerful ideas and emotions, even as they invite entry into the imagination of the artist. The sharpness of the structure in Bustard Panache, striking in its angularity, is offset by the sinuosity of the boa around the neck, a curving river of sensual intimations. Oh, and how we love curves in art. The eyes of Damo, 2013 lead us further into his mind and desire, or they cut through the barriers behind which we hide, and we are perforce made to look away lest we see more than we care to admit. If a pentacle is composed of triangles, and if, according to common lore, it is associated with supernatural, and not necessarily angelic forces, then Damo, 2013 arguably recognizes darker elements in the human psyche which always engage interest.

The temptation to dive in the pool, or seek the lair of the beast, is as compelling as the desire to dance with the angels. The devilish fires may well reside in the triangles, or if one is so inclined to see spiritual connotations, angelic illumination may shine out from the face in equal measure. Flesh and spirit, ascetic and roué, angel and devil, vampire and victim, demon and lover, clown and gaucho, animal and human, bird and beast, wide-eyed with wonder or alert to the darkness within: I welcome the fantasy and reality of Damo’s transformative world.

Why confine ourselves with dichotomies? Most of us are neither exclusively one nor the other. We possess multiple identities like the artist who dares to expose, play with, and present all the gradations and modulations between polar opposites for our delight and revelation. If I have learned or seen anything by studying Macri’s wonderful self-portraits, it is that his work contains and reflects our contradictions and paradoxes, unafraid of a viewer’s inferences, even as the artist loads his technically masterful images with implications and cultural allusions of his own.

Part III

Entranced by the structure and colours of Damo, 2013, the black and white dynamism of Zoophily, the intensity and flare of The Bat, The Bird and the Beast, and the hirsute eroticism of Bustard Panache, I plunge into the inviting pool and swim towards alternate possibilities, a watery dreamscape containing my transfigured feelings and thoughts reflected in the art of Adamo Macri.

I cannot leave these portraits, however, without speaking about the culminating image of Prospero Sycorax Ariel. Placed next to Zoophily, it immediately presents structural and theatrical parallels. I have said enough about triangles, and if anyone sees rhomboids or squares, I will respect our geometric differences and move on. What we must all see, however, is Macri’s coherent artistic vision, and the many visual and thematic links among his portraits. With a heavy but adroit use of stage make-up, the red-tinged, demonic eyes prominently highlighted and also looking away from the viewer, the coloration of the lips, the disheveled appearance of the hair, the forceful allure of the facial structure, the smudges and dirt on the body, cultural and mythological echoes resonate in the image. Prospero Sycorax Ariel is arguably a veritable masterpiece, and I remember my visceral response and gasping out loud when I first saw it.


Prospero Sycorax Ariel

Given the title, Macri is obviously drawing our attention to The Tempest, perhaps the most symbolic and surrealistic of Shakespeare’s plays. The picture is named not only after Prospero, the exiled conjuror and illusionist, but also after the witch Sycorax. At one time the ruler of the magical island, she was the mother of Caliban whom Prospero has enslaved after displacing her and her powers, just as the witch had once enslaved the sprite Ariel. The artist does not mention Caliban by name, the strange part-human and part-animal creature who has lusted after Miranda, Prospero’s daughter. The daughter’s name is also filled with the larger implications of the play. Quite apart from the innocence and wonder of Miranda, the sullied visage and the sickly hues of the flesh in Macri’s portrait indicate a being familiar with bogs, muddy streams, caverns and tree hollows, not an idealized and sanitized satyr or sprite. What does Macri intend here by naming the piece after the deposed duke-magician, the witch figure Sycorax, and the ethereal Ariel who is light and swift like a passing wind?

Let me first repeat my utter admiration for the portrait, which goes beyond its technical excellence, although artistry and response are aligned. This particular self-portrait still makes me shiver. When I stare at it long, I feel myself falling to pieces just as that old trite song says: “I fall to pieces/Whenever I look at you.” All the king’s men in their thousands can’t put me back together again, for Macri’s art produces multiple fractures in a viewer’s emotion and perception, and even orgasms, depending upon the nature of one’s visceral response and fantasies. Have I swooned? Pardon me while I gather my wits scattered by ecstasy. I am depleted and then re-created. I cannot regain my original state of being:  the portrait has altered me just as the artist has altered his face. Most of us carry an image of Prospero the magician and manipulator of various lives on the island. Here Macri draws our attention not to the old man with a wand, so to speak, but to his associations with the laws of nature, the powers of metamorphoses, dark yearnings, elemental connections with the muck and mire of creation, and the illusions we mistake for reality.

Zoophily, with which this picture has much in common, brings to mind satyrs and dancers, demonic figures, or even Ariel, as well as humanity’s intertwining with the natural world. Prospero Sycorax Ariel reminds us of the initial conflict between wizard and witch, of the struggles, if that is an accurate term, between male and female, of the dispossession and degradation of Caliban, a creature with ravening appetites. It’s quite interesting to consider how much Prospero and Sycorax share, what common attributes they possess. In any case, aware of the post-colonial interpretations of The Tempest, I shall simply resort to a large generalization that Macri’s picture depicts profound ambiguities and contains contradictions in stasis, a forceful but quiet presentation of the dark side of pretty nature: lust, oppression, and the appetite of the beast.

Although the portrait avoids naming Caliban, it very much embodies aspects of his instincts and desires. For Caliban’s view of his situation, I refer the reader to Robert Browning’s complex and brilliant narrative poem, Caliban Upon Setebos. In Shakespeare’s play Caliban is a hybrid creature, uncivilized and pagan although taught speech by his master, and deeply conscious of his position, of what he has lost, and what he is not. Despite the omission of his name in the title, the salacious Caliban flicks across the Macri face, lurks behind the reddish eyes, and mingles with the erotic undertones of the portrait. The witch Sycroax, once a powerful female figure, is present in the face as well, for the image does not exclude opposites but incorporates them, and displays the energy of multiple identities and pagan affiliations with the natural world. If Ariel is also implicit, Macri’s conception of him or her, for Ariel strikes me as quintessentially gender neutral or sexually malleable, is no Tinkerbell, but very much a spirit of an alternate world longing for freedom from human control. In the portrait human character is manifold; genders change and coalesce; what we see may not be what we get and what we grasp may elude us. In the vision of the artist, as in The Tempest, the world is as solid and shifting as a dream.

I recall studying Shakespeare with the great Canadian scholar Northrop Frye. During one of his subtle and often witty lectures, he suggested that an ideal production of The Tempest would occur underwater. Frye was referring to nature imbued with divinity and magic, the power of transformations and altered perspectives, Prospero’s ability to create illusions, including the tempest, and all the connotations of rejuvenation and new life symbolized by water. Going back to the first portrait that begins my little study, the seductive, unadorned, and open-eyed visage of Damo, 2013, I recognize the stunning contrasts and similarities between the two pictures and feel (I use the word feel deliberately) how Damo, 2013 inevitably leads to the magnificent portrait of Prospero Sycorax Ariel. Macri is a profound magician in his artistry. He builds a vision out of his own predilections, and delves deeply into our fantasies. Would I invite the “man” in either Damo, 2013 or Prospero Sycorax Ariel to a civilized tea? Probably not, but I could well gambol with him on an illusory and magical island or frolic in a dark and delirious sea.


Kenneth Radu has published books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction, including The Cost of Living, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award. His collection of stories A Private Performance and his first novel Distant Relations both received the Quebec Writers' Federation Award for best English-language fiction. He is also the author of the novel Flesh and Blood (HarperCollins Canada), Sex in Russia: New & Selected Stories, and Earthbound (DC Books Canada). He is currently working on a collection of new stories.


Alternative Waters: a Personal View of Recent Macri Portraits
Essay by Kenneth RaduApril 2014