Neo-Decadent

The Art and Opinions of Heidi Celeghin, Aesthete


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Salome: Decadent Portrait

I recently finished a 26 x 38 inch Salome painting based off Oscar Wilde’s play. Is the hand Salome’s or Jokanaan’s? 

Salome

Close-up

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Self, Unbound by Time

Self, Unbound by Time

Self, Unbound by Time

This self-portrait challenges the notion of time.  I try to break free from the idea that the self portrayed is necessarily contained within a specific time.  My gaze is wearied, as if with age, and my hair is possibly graying.  Yet, my skin is flawless – suggesting a super-human youth.  I emerge as if from shadows but am illuminated by a strange, ethereal light.  The faint suggestion of a background heightens the temporal uncertainty of the image.  I was informed by Walter Pater’s description of La Gioconda in his book The Renaissance.

Below is an extract from Pater’s The Renaissance that discusses La Gioconda:

The presence that thus rose so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from within upon the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed! All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the reverie of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary ; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern thought has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life. Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea.

Pater’s passage on the Mona Lisa redefined the painting’s significance and introduced a new way of approaching artwork.  Pater, as the critic, can superimpose his own ideas and experiences onto an art piece.  In The Renaissance Pater argues, among other things, that the critic is allowed (in fact, supposed to) re-imagine all artwork placed in front of him.  Oscar Wilde took this notion and expounded upon it in his dialogue The Critic as Artist.


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What’s in a name?

As every good academic, I enjoy placing meaning in every level of my work.  This blog is no exception to that unbelievably impractical, yet momentously gratifying, method.   I see this blog not as a mode of documentation but as an art piece that is constantly in flux.  Neo-Decadent uses a global medium of communication and invites people to participate in the creation of a Paterian denial of theory, organization, and constancy.  The blog embodies the desire for constant change and the ability to endlessly expand horizons through a rhizomatic structure (for more on rhizomes read Mille Plateaux by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari).

I first used the term Neo-Decadent when working on my thesis at Cornell.  My obsession with Oscar Wilde and Aestheticism made the adoption of such a term natural to me.  The late 19th-century exerts a certain inexplicable magnetism over me and I have immersed myself in its literature and culture.  Consequently, the Decadent sensibility has found itself re-imagined in my artwork – thus, I create Neo-Decadent art.

The subtitle, “The Art and Opinions of Heidi Celeghin, Aesthete,” derives from the 18th-century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.  Sterne’s novel is a fascinating and absurd exploration of narrative and physical narrative space.  Since I play with these ideas in my artwork, it seemed appropriate to make a reference to one of my sources of inspiration.  Furthermore, the subtitle, in referencing a work of fiction, reveals the extent to which an artist’s identity is fabrication.  The artist becomes a work of art because his/her life is constantly being self-fashioned.