Paul Laffoley: 21st Century Visionary Trickster

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Avant-garde painter Paul Laffoley passed away on November 16th at the age of 75.  He was without a doubt one of the most unique, engaging, innovative individuals I’ve ever met.  Back in 2004, I described the artist and his work as follows:  “An architect by trade, Laffoley has spent almost every moment of his waking life creating mind-blowing paintings that meld both the Dionysian (the purely emotional) with the Apollonian (the purely rational), thus managing to capture the anarchic spirit of a Jackson Pollock within the grid-like confines of an architectural blueprint—a blueprint conceived in the mind of a mad genius obsessed with building only the impossible.  Such ‘impossible’ projects included a fully functional time machine called the ‘Geochronmechane,’ an interactive painting called the ‘Thanaton’ that helps the viewer project his etheric body into the astral realms, a single family farm designed to resemble the ten Sephiroth and twenty-two paths of the Kabbalah (complete with trees growing upside down beneath the ground in order to replicate the dark side of the Tree of Life), an immense spherical house composed of genetically-engineered vegetation, and a Christian fundamentalist theme park built in the shape of the Star of David.”  If you haven’t yet experienced the overwhelming metaphysical impact of Laffoley’s work, I highly suggest preordering The Essential Paul Laffoley, due to be published in April of 2016 by the University of Chicago Press.

I had the privilege of interviewing Laffoley in-depth over the course of two weekends back in February of 2004.  I watched him create his brilliant H.P. Lovecraft-inspired painting “Pickman’s Mephitic Models” while firing esoteric questions at him in his temporary studio at Cal State Fullerton.  This interview, entitled “Satan, God, H.P.  Lovecraft and Other Mephitic Models:  An Interview with Paul Laffoley,” was published twice, first byParanoia in the winter of 2004 and then reprinted by a French magazine entitled Particules in the fall of 2009.  The unexpurgated version of the interview will be included in my forthcoming book, Imaginauts:  Exploring the Outer Reaches of the Mind.  Here’s a brief excerpt from that encounter:

RG:   The painting you’re working on now is about Lovecraft?

PL:    It’s called “Pickman’s Mephitic Models,” based on the story

[“Pickman’s Model”].  Certain things about it many people don’t realize.  [Richard Upton] Pickman was a real painter who lived between 1888 and 1926.  Now, there’s a question mark [gesturing toward the writing in the margins of the painting], because Lovecraft claims that he turned into a ghoul.  God knows how old he is now.

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Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University – Long Beach. His most recent book is CHAMELEO: A STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF INVISIBLE SPIES, HEROIN ADDICTION, AND HOMELAND SECURITY (OR Books). His first novel, UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES, is scheduled to be published by Night Shade/Skyhorse in November of 2017.
Robert Guffey