This Christmas/Hexmess I got a really cool and unexpected present from ceramicist Max Lehman–one of his signature bunny sculptures. I had met Max and his partner Mark Burton when I went to Denver in November for the opening of “Toy Stories 2” at William Havu Gallery which featured Lehman’s sculptures celebrating Anahuak-Mayan culture (more on that later!).
Max and Mark were staying with my friend Kelly Canfield and his partner Brian Christoph, and along with going to the opening, visiting the Clyfford Still Museum (at Mat Gleason‘s urging, thanks Mat!), and the gift shop at the Denver Art Museum, we had an amazing French dinner and the next night Kelly created a six course dinner with wine pairings. Oh, and it snowed!
But back to my bunny (bunnies are iconic in Pop Surrealism). This bunny was perfect; it was as if Max had psychically viewed my house because the only safe place to put the Lehman bunny was across the room from another bunny in orange coat, a 60 year old Doulton porcelain White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, given to my uncle, a doctor by a patient who was was one of screenwriters for the movie Harvey. The Doulton rabbit is part of my altar to Eleggua, since that Santeria orisha (god) is trickster, as was the six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch Harvey the rabbit (really a pooka, a benign but mischievous creature in Celtic mythology) who was invisible to everyone but Elwood P. Dowd. And the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland led Alice down many paths, just as Eleggua is the road opener in Santeria. (In voudon/voodoo he is Papa Legba.)
And the Max Lehman bunny’s suit mirrors the brush strokes in a postcard reproduction of Sir John Lavery‘s The Green Coat, one of my favorite paintings by one of my favorite artists. Lavery (20 March 1856 – 10 January 1941) was an Anglo-Irish painter best known for his numerous portraits, especially those of his American wife Hazel. She was the model for Cathleen ni Houlihan, the allegorical image of Ireland, seen on the Republic of Ireland’s folding money (the punt) until 1975. An painter herself, a vivacious hostess when that was an art, and vital, passionate force in the formation of the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland) Hazel was close with Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary leader who served as both the Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the Irish National Army during the nations fight for independence from Britain. Negotiation for Ireland’s independence were held in the Laverys’ home, with Winston Churchill and members of Parliament sitting down with Collins and other leaders of the Irish Provisional Government. Hazel’s letters to Collins were found in jacket pocket when he was assassinated in 1922, and she wore full mourning after his death. (Her husband was um, either oblivious to or open-minded about her intense relationship with Collins!). The Green Coat (1926) was painted nine years before Hazel’s death and is one of the over 400 portraits her painted of her.
Top: My Max Lehman Hexmess bunny in his spot.