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Toast for Gilles Larraín 70th Birthday, January 17th 2009

Ladies, Gentlemen, and those who have the pleasure of being undecided…we are rounded up here today to pay a heartfelt and multicolored homage to a technicolored and multi-talented man who is an artist and iconoclast, a saint and a sinner, a troubadour and a muse to many.

Gilles Larrain is an Opera, the kind you will willingly sit through, enraptured, absolutely spellbound -even when you really need to get up and pee. This is going to be a long one, and I met some of you at the door, remember? (and I’ve got your names, so don’t even think about it…)

If you truly know Gilles, you know the best of what Gilles is -Namely a conduit, a conductor, a connector, he is the sparking synapse, the lightning and the lightning rod, and staff.

This is a man with an all round majestic presence, good god have you ever had the pleasure of hugging him? I judge by the smiles that some of you may have shared more intimate pleasures than this.

This man is magnetic not just because of his talent, his accomplishments or celebrated critical acclaim, but because he’s what my Grandfather would have admirably referred to as, The Salt of the earth, laddie!” and to what I will more fittingly add, The Salt of the earth laced with the effervescent dust of an asteroid.

I made a sculpture a few months ago, and thought of Gilles after I’d finished it. It’s called ‘ORE.’ Its a somewhat sinister looking roughly hewn white plaster mask with a black mans features, grinning a prominent and generous wide-mouthed chunky partially chiseled 24 carat gold toothed smile, emerging from a white bricked wall.

The name ‘ORE’ seemed suitable for this piece for the same reason I thought of Gilles at that precise moment because both speak golden volumes about the value of having and sharing deep inner resources, and the ability to show this at face value.

‘ORE’ is what Gilles is to me a naturally occurring, unpolished precious phenomena the raw form of treasure springing from incalculable depths, with an equally incalculable value, complete with all the salt minerals and the fertile earth clasped around it.

Bold, provocative and mischievous as Pan, he is something of a Satyr, one eager to kick out the cobwebs clinging to conventional faculty. When I am around Gilles I find that Mythology and Archetype cannot be separated from my perceptions of him, because he embodies the archetypal passion of Artist, Musician, Poet and Magician. He is a boon for the creative conscious; he is no less than shamanic.

When I first I met the lovely Louda Larrain at a NY art show she approached me to be a model, for a photo shoot, but for her husband…. and my initial reaction was, hmmm, am I being requested to pose for a pet project of one of those swinging East European couples.. jeez, aren’t I getting a bit old for that?

But when I met them, here, the following week, I felt like some unuttered request for a delivery to feed my hunger for a kindred spirit was made -and it was a blue light special, where I received two quality imports for the price of one.

Gilles is something and somebody who completes a piece of the pie for me in my experience of life, instead of somebody who eats it away. Hayley McCulloch in Dark Angels

Hayley McCulloch in Dark Angels

Trying to encapsulate what Gilles means to me is what the inexplicable concept of Duende and Saudade convey. (By the way, when googling the proper meaning and pronunciation of “Saudade”, a suggestion of a brand of Spanish Sausage came up which the great Oracle Google must have understood somehow, that this is yet another affectionate way that I think of dear Gilles)

However I will allow the word of Garcia Lorca explain that:

“The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.”

The Wikipedia meaning of duende as in tener duende (having duende) is a rarely explained concept it is also a goblin-like creature in Spanish art, particularly flamenco, having to do with emotion, expression and authenticity. In fact, tener duende can be loosely translated as having soul. The entry might as well have had a self portrait of Gilles Larrain next to it.

Saudade is hearing and seeing Gilles play guitar. You are witness to a force of nature that knows enormous love and longing with a unified capacity for compassion and heartache.

Saudade is that fleeting moment of humanity he captures and crystallizes with his expert photographerís eye, so that we too may reflect on such transient beauty slowing down for us the moments that our lives are comprised of.

His heart is like a diamond, His mind a labyrinthine library of images you will gladly leaf through and get lost in, His soul is the rhythm of flame red flamenco played after the midnight hour that draws you into a place of rapture, where everything is as passionate as it is utterly enveloping, and you will emerge from this state completely fortified, face flushed and feel deeply honored to know this great man.

SO Here is to GILLES -Happy Birthday Gilles!

I Love You Dearly,
Hayley McCulloch