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Focusing on Magic of Mundane

By Reed Johnson, 
L.A. Life Weekend, August 15, 1997

The gods must he crazy. Why else why would they always be messing with our poor mortal lives?

Crazy, yes, but also inspiring if you're artist Bernard Stanley Hoyes.

Gamming Bird

"In all mythology the gods were nothing but mischievous children," says the LA. - based painter, his polyrhythmic Jamaican accent still echoing through his speech. "They just went around creating mysteries on everybody and seeing what happened."
The same could he said of Hoyes' own mysterious work Born in Kingston, Jamaica, 46 years ago, Hoyes moved to New York City in 1966 and settled in Los Angeles in 1975. But he continues to filter his paintings through his youthful impressions of the West Indies, bringing to his art an intuitively pan-African view of history, culture and spirituality

"I don't use models and I rarely use photographs," he says. "I'm drawing from stream of Consciousness and memory." 
Throughout his career, Hoyes has delved into the mysteries of spirituality and, conversely, the magic of the mundane. After 30 years he seems to have concluded that the gods don't want human affairs to he too orderly and predictable. For one thing, it doesn't make for good art

Steeped in hot colors and emphatic brush strokes, Hoyes' paintings celebrate the disorderly side of faith, the blurred iconography of the human soul. Rather than drawing fine lines between Christianity and its "primitive" counterparts, his work emphasizes those spiritual elements that overlap from one religion to another. Southern Baptist references, voodoo rituals and ancient Amerindian symbols all may find their way into one of his canvases.
Take a look at his 1997 oil painting "Gaming Bird," one of the works on view in "'en'-trance & en-trance," " a dual exhibition showcasing Hoyes and photographer Mary Ellen Andrews at Seven Sanctuaries gallery in Sherman Oaks.

A brilliantly colored rooster squirms in the foreground, clutched by a man fingering fat cigar and wearing a wide rimmed hat. The man's heavily stylized face resembles an African or Amerindian mask; two other masks peer at us through the twisting foliage.

The image suggests a Santeria priest, using cigar smoke to calm his sacrificial prey. But is the scene lifted out of a Kingston market, a Port-au-Prince back street or a South Central park?

To Hoyes, the distinction hardly matters. Spiritually speaking, he insists, there's "really no difference" between the various faiths of the African Diaspora, other than "the accouterment of the rituals." Like many of his works, "Gaming Bird" swirls many cultural ingredients into a rich spiritual stew that has little to do with organized religion.

The theme of spiritual commonality was key to one of Hoyes' locally best-known works, "Apparition of Healing Spirits." Reacting to LA's 1992 riots, the artist installed wire mesh human figures at three fire-bombed sites around the city. He accented these with ceremonial platters and fresh flowers, symbolizing LA's need to grow through adversity and upheaval.

Coincidentally, just a month earlier he'd done a similar installation in Kingston in memory of a 1977 uprising

Hoyes says he feels "a strong association" with California and Los Angeles "in the sense that I matured as an artist here." The city has reciprocated his good will. His work has been exhibited at such prominent venues as the Museum of African American Art, the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Watts Tower Art Center, the Laguna Art Museum and the Armand Hammer Museum, as well as many private galleries.

While he no longer uses his art to preach about politics, Hoyes wants it to convey the harmony of the American experience - even in turbulent times.

"The changes that he see now (are) directly related to what came here to America ages ago, the spirits that came with Africans, the spirits that were here with the Indians, the spirits that the Europeans brought with them. They're all here in this New World. It's Europe and Asia and Africa marching down the main street together.

"We're just rejoicing in the fact that we're still here and partying"

Seven Sanctuaries is located at 14106 Ventura Blvd in the courtyard of the Rive Gauche Cafe Hours are: noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday or by appointment. For information, call (818) 990-7049.
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