Last Tuesday, November 17th, 2015, the world lost Paul Laffoley. He was an architect, painter, genius, and visionary who’s work tackled topics such as “dimensionality, time travel through hacking relativity, connecting conceptual threads shared by philosophers through the millennia, and theories about the cosmic origins of mankind.” He was, in my humble opinion, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, painters, and designers and is, sadly, incredibly unknown.
While I’ll be the first to admit that his work can be divisive and isn’t for everyone, I believe that his legacy and contributions should not be overlooked. As Richard Metzger, of Disinformation fame, says so eloquently in his tribute to Paul on the day of his death: “Many years ago, I can recall discussing Paul with Doug [his gallerist] and he told me that what drove him so hard to develop Paul’s career is how tragic it would have been if Paul died in obscurity, and was regarded historically as an ‘enigma’ or as an outsider artist, someone like Henry Darger instead of the Ivy League-educated polymath ‘Sci-Fi Leonardo’ that he truly was.”
De Rerum Natura (1985)
I’ve often feared the same for his impressive body of work and frequently recommend his paintings to people looking for art that is outside of the status quo. While tracking down his images is a feat unto itself, especially if you look for only high quality images like I do, thankfully, a somewhat comprehensive volume of his work, The Essential Paul Laffoley: Works from the Boston Visionary Cell, is set to be published in March of 2016 and will hopefully introduce his impressive body of work to a world that may not have known his name. From what I’m reading, it will include several pieces of commentary from Laffoley explaining the inspiration behind his works. Its just shame that he didn’t live long enough to see it published.
The Man Behind the Curtain
Laffoley was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1940. Its reported that he uttered his first word, “Constantinople”, when he was six months old and didn’t speak again until he was four. He was diagnosed with mild autism and often took to painting and drawing at his young age in place of communication. He graduated from Brown University in 1962 with honors in Classics, Philosophy, and Art History. While attending Brown, Laffoley had received eight shock psychological treatments from a psychiatrist who was treating his mild state of catatonia.
Utopia: Time Cast As A Voyage (1974)
After completing his undergrad, he enrolled in Harvard Graduate School of Design before being dismissed from the institute. He left the school and moved to New York where Andy Warhol enlisted his help to watch television for all hours of the night. Laffoley watched television before the programming had actually begun and often stared at a test pattern instead of any television show. It was here that many of his mandala inspired paintings (example above) became an influence as they were inspired by the test patterns that were burned into his brain.
I, ROBUR, MASTER OF THE WORLD (1968)
He officially registered as an architect at age 50 and claimed that he always wanted to be one in order to design flying saucers. Two years later, during a routine cat-scan, he discovered he had a miniature implant in his brain that he believed it was put there by extraterrestrials in order to motivate his ideas and theories. After September 11th, Laffoley submitted a design for Freedom Tower. His idea was to erect a gigantic hotel in the style of Sagrada Família. In the 80s, his work moved from the spiritual and intellectual that he was known for towards a more evolved approach. He wanted his pieces to be interactive and have a more psychotronic effect on the viewer (example below). These works were often done on large 6×6′ canvases that tower over the individual and beg to be experienced in real life.
THE THANATON III (1989)
The Thanaton III is probably the most famous piece that summarizes Laffoley’s work and, thankfully, he spoke about it extensively. In his own words:
The painting depicts an extraterrestrial’s exhortation to me, explaining how to:
1. Link life to death in a continuous experience.
2. Utilize the resulting thanatonic energy to travel faster than the speed of light, turn matter into consciousness and back again, alter evolution at will and exist simultaneously at every moment of time.
3. Move the entire universe into the fifth dimensional realm, and say when in history it is possible for this to happen.
I have also received other information I cannot understand. Since this information was given to me directly but not for me per se, it must be communicated to others, many of whom are better prepared than I to receive it.
Accordingly I was also shown how to make the painting into psychotronic, or mind-matter interactive device which is activated by approaching the painting, stretching out your arms, touching the upright hands and staring into the eye. By doing this, new information will come to you through the active use of the divine proportion, which is the proportion of life connecting to death. Source.
Geochronmechane: The Time Machine From The Earth (1990)
In his later life, Laffoley suffered from a number of ailments. Most notably, he lost the lower part of his right leg due to complications from diabetes. When asked by a team of psychiatrists what would make him feel better about the loss of his leg, he replied with “a lion’s foot”. He wasn’t kidding and within a few weeks, he had made contact with Stan Winston, the Hollywood special effects artist, to fashion him a lion’s leg prosthetic that Laffoley could attach to his stump. When asked about the decision, Laffoley simply replied with “I’m a Leo”.
Where to find more?
If you are looking for more information about the genius of Laffoley, I encourage you to check his website. Additionally, there is a fantastic article written about Laffoley at Wonderland Magazine that was published in 2009 where he describes where his prostethic was made. You can also read the tribute that Richard Metzger wrote about him on Disinformation that I’ve referenced above. Since Laffoley doesn’t have a proper biography, I’ve mostly sourced this article from entries on Wikipedia. If you want a quick idea of what Laffoley has to offer, check the video I’ve provided above. This was the first time I encountered Laffoley’s work and have been forever inspired ever since.
Rest in peace, you beautiful genius.
Image sources: All images included in this post are from the Official Paul Laffoley Website.