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Principle Gallery King St AlexandriaThere is an opening that I will be gladly attending this Friday, April 25th, at the Principle Gallery in  Alexandria, Virginia, a celebration of the gallery’s 20th anniversary as an Old Town fixture on  historic King Street.  The gallery first opened in April of 1994 on Cameron Street in a second-story space and moved to their present location in 1997, taking up residence in historic Gilpin House.  Over the years, they have featured some of the finest in contemporary art, focusing on representational realism, and their reputation as a gallery of the highest caliber has grown, nationally and internationally, with each passing year.  In 2013, the Principle Gallery brand expanded with the opening of a Principle Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

The rest, as they say, is history.

For me, I first came on board with an invitation from owners Michele Ward ( then Marceau) and the now retired Sue Hogan in early 1997, just as they were about to make their move to their present location.  I had only been showing my work publicly for just two years at that point and had only been painting for a little over three so I was excited to find a spot in their roster.  Little did I know how important my relationship with this gallery would become to my career.

I have written here in the past about the gratitude I have for the galleries with which I have worked over the years.  I have worked with several galleries for the better part of two decades and each has been vital to the growth of my work and my career, providing me with reassurance when I am feeling less than confident  and willing eyes when the work evolves.  Each has provided me with intangibles that I cannot fully describe.  My life would be so different without each of these galleries.  I shouldn’t say galleries because it is truly about the people that operate them.

That certainly has been the case with the Principle Gallery.

Over the years  I have worked with numerous wonderful people there, each of who has  allowed me to let my work grow in many directions, always encouraging me and  treating my work with respect.  They always make me feel welcome as a friend the moment I enter the gallery and I think that is a quality that extends to nearly everyone who comes through their doors.  You see it in the faces of many friends from the area who pop in just to say hello.  That alone says volumes about them as people.  It certainly makes the gallery experience they offer a much different one than most people envision.  It is an experience based on making you feel comfortable and they succeed in every way.

I know that they have made me feel comfortable there over the years and for me that is saying a lot.

I had my first solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery back in 2000.  That was the Redtree show that gave birth to my now trademark image.  This year’s June show, Traveler,  marks the 15th consecutive year I will have had a solo show there.  It has been my pleasure to be able to grow with the gallery, to see it constantly strive to be better, to make itself more.  It inspires me to do the same.  And that, among all the things they have given me over the years in terms of encouragement and friendship, might be the greatest gift of all.

The inspiration to aspire to be more.

So, to Michele and her wonderful staff– Clint, Jessica, Pamela and Kris– I send you a heartfelt thank you and best wishes for many more years of success.  Happy 20th!

See you Friday!

 

Amid The Density

cramped-apartments-from-above-hong-kong-soco-4I showed some photos yesterday of the high-rise apartments of Hong Kong, shot in a way that used their repetitive nature to form almost abstract imagery.  It was interesting but the thing that stuck with me was how those people in these environments adapt in their day to day lives.  On the page with these images, there was a link to some birds-eye views of cramped apartments in Hong Kong.  These gave me an answer in part.

Cage Homes in Hong Kong

Cage Homes in Hong Kong

It turns out, that while there is great wealth and luxury amid the soaring skyline of Hong Kong, there is a huge housing crunch especially for the less than affluent.  The Society for Community Organization (SoCO) in Hong Kong took these images to convey a sense of the less than perfect living conditions there.  They estimate that there are over 200,000 names on the waiting list for public housing with over 100,000 people living in sub-par housing such as cagehomes, which is where you basically live in a  dog cage stacked among groups of other cages.  They are large enough for you sleep in and hold a few possessions.  During the day, you can close the cage and lock it to protect your things.  There is a common bathroom and some of these cage communities in old tenement buildings can house up to a thousand people.  The average rent for a cage is about $170 per month with the lower cages costing the most.  Location, location, location.

These images are fascinating in an anthropological way but I can’t help but put myself in the place of some of the people shown here, to feel great empathy for their situations.   Though I have great faith in the adaptive powers of humans, I don’t know how well I would fare in such an environment.

These images make me appreciative of the good fortune that has allowed me the open space around me and the life I currently enjoy.  I hope seeing these images makes you think of yourself in them and makes you feel an appreciation for your own good fortune.

cramped-apartments-from-above-hong-kong-soco-1 cramped-apartments-from-above-hong-kong-soco-2 cramped-apartments-from-above-hong-kong-soco-3

 

architectural-density-in-hong-kong-michael-wolf-8A friend sent me a link the other day to an article on TwistedSifter, a site that collects the most interesting visual images from the web on a daily basis.  While I enjoyed the article to which I was directed, about a French artist who makes creative use of the negative space in the photos he takes (I will feature his work here because it’s much more interesting than that), it was another image on the same page that really caught my eye.  It was a photo of several apartments towers in Hong Kong, the terraces filling the frame, shown here on the right.  It is a fascinating shot, with so much visual data that was both overwhelming and captivating with its abstraction and relentless chaos.

The photo is from the award-winning photographer Michael Wolf, who is German born but now resides in Hong Kong.  He has made a career out of capturing the imagery of the urban landscape.    This image is from his series and book, Architecture of Density, in which he takes away any glimpse of the sky or horizon, giving the viewer a claustrophobic feeling, as though there is no escape from the never-ending  sprawl.  It’s a bit scary but fascinating, nonetheless.

You can see more of Michael Wolf’s work at his site, photomichaelwolf.com.

architectural-density-in-hong-kong-michael-wolf-5 architectural-density-in-hong-kong-michael-wolf-3

Were You There

Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

I can’t say that I am a religious person, religion never being much of a part of my upbringing.  I never attended a single Easter service and pretty much thought of the day in terms of chocolate Easter bunnies and colored eggs in my youth.  But I respected the traditions and stories of the Bible and of the other religions as I picked them up through the years and understood the solemnity and importance of faith, even if my own was sometimes lacking.  That being said, I thought I might play a little music this morning that had to do with the fact that it is Easter Sunday.

I have always been drawn to and moved by the passion and conviction of the great gospel songs especially when performed by those with the talent and conviction to match the  material, such as  Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and all so many others.  Sam Cooke, one of the greatest  pop and R & B stars of the 50′s and early 60′s, was also a great gospel singer.  I loved his voice and  could listen to him sing the phone book but when he sang the gospel, it was often magic. Here’s his version of Were You There ( When They Crucified My Lord), which is an old plantation spiritual that fits in with the day and,  performed by Sam Cooke is as I said, magic .

Hope you have a great Sunday.

 

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel

*************

GC Myers Memory of  Night sm

I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now, staring at the quote above from Elie Wiesel.  I had planned on writing about how my work evolved as a response to the indifference of others but now, looking at those words and putting them into the context of  Wiesel’s experience, I feel a bit foolish.  Wiesel, who had survived the Holocaust, was eyewitness to indifference on a grand scale, from those who were complicit or those who did not raise their voices in protest even though they knew what was happening to the personal indifference shown by his Nazi guards, as they turned a blind eye to the suffering and inhumanity directly before them on a daily basis, treating them as though they were nothing at all.

The indifference of which he speaks is that which looks past you without  any regard for your humanity. Or your existence, for that matter.  It is this failure to engage, this failure to allow our empathy to take hold and guide us,  that grants permission for the great suffering that takes place throughout our world.

So you can see where writing about showing a picture as a symbolic battle against indifference might seem a bit trivial.  It certainly does to me.  But I do see in it a microcosm of the wider implications.  We all want our humanity, our existence, recognized and for me this was a small way of  raising my voice to be heard.

When I first started showing my work I was coming off of a period where I was at my lowest point for quite some time.  I felt absolutely voiceless and barely visible in the world, dispossessed in many ways.  In art I found a way to finally express an inner voice, my real humanity,  that others could see and react to.  So when my first opportunity to display my work came, at the West End Gallery in 1995, I went to the show with great trepidation.  For some, it was just a show of  some nice paintings by some nice folks.  For me, it was a test of my existence.

It was interesting as I stood off to the side, watching as people walked about the space.  It was elating when someone stopped and looked at my small pieces.  But that  feeling of momentary glee was overwhelmed by the indifference shown by those who walked by with hardly a glance.  That crushed me.  I would have rather they had stopped and spit at the wall than merely walk by dismissively.  That, at least, would have made me feel heard.

Don’t get me wrong here– some people who are not moved by a painting walking by it without a glance are not Nazis.  I held no ill will toward them, even at that moment.  I knew that I was the one who had placed so much importance on this moment, not them.  They had no idea that they were playing part to an existential  crisis.  Now, I am even a bit grateful for their indifference that night because it made me vow that I would paint bolder, that I would make my voice be heard.  Without that indifference I might have settled and not continued forward on my path.

But in this case, I knew that it was up to me to overcome their indifference.

Again, please excuse my use of Mr. Wiesel’s quote here.  We all want to be heard, to be recognized on the basic levels for our own existence, our own individual selves. But too often, we all show indifference that takes that away from others, including those that we love.  We all need to listen and hear, to look and see, to express our empathy with those we encounter.  Maybe in these small ways the greater effects of indifference of which Elie Wiesel spoke can be somehow avoided.

It’s a hope.

The painting at the top is a new piece that I call Memory of Night, inspired by Wiesel’s book, Night.

GC Myers- April 2014This is a new painting, a still untitled 12″ by 12″ canvas. Normally when I look at such a piece I see in it something hopeful, forward looking toward a distant horizon.  Destiny bound.  But while I was looking at this piece, absorbing it and trying to take in its feeling, something I had read at some point came to mind.  I can’t remember who said it but the gist of it was that you can’t connect the dots of destiny by looking forward– you can only connect them by looking backwards.

In other words, you can’t plan your destiny.  But you can see how you arrived where you are.

This idea of connecting the dots by looking backwards was no stranger to me.  That was the central appeal of  genealogy for me, being able to find the trail that brought us to where we are at this moment.  To see that path in some sort of view that takes what might be very mundane lives when seen individually and places them in a grand and sweeping perspective.  Doing this made me feel connected with my humanity, able to see that I was not some sort of alienated being  but was a part of that sweeping vision.  Would I be a noteworthy part?  That I could not tell.

As it was said, you can’t plan your destiny.

So looking at this piece with this thought in mind, I no longer see it forward looking.  I view it as the perspective of someone who has turned around on the trail and is looking back at from where they came.  And there’s a certain synchronicity in this.  The sun and the water represent our evolutionary beginnings and the path, our trail though the ages.

Strangely, it doesn’t lose any of its hopefulness by taking on this perspective.  In fact, I now find it comforting from this perspective, that I have a purpose and responsibility as the recipient of a task that must be carried forward, at least for my short stint here on the trail.

The dots are connected and now I can look ahead…

 

GC Myers Failed Painting detailThe image shown here is a tiny part, a background detail,  of a painting that I worked on for several days a month or so back.  I would show you the whole painting as it is at the moment, which is a canvas covered with black paint.  This little detail is the only part of this piece  that I feel comfortable showing and the only bit of it that you will ever see because this painting  just did not work.  At all.  It started wrong and over the days I worked on it continued to get even more wrong.  Even sitting here, looking at this detail, I am tempted to take a brush loaded with black paint to my computer screen to paint away the memory of its wrongness.

Just plain wrong.

It started as a much too concrete idea,  one that was too clever and too thought out.  I have always maintained that I am not smart enough to rely on my conscious brain to create ideas that can come alive and that my work is at its best when it flows from  intuition and reaction and feel.  This painting was surely proof of that.   I tried to force my brain into this painting in every way and it never took on any sort of organic feel, never had a rhythm, never came remotely to life.  I made dozens, maybe hundreds, of conscious decisions in this painting and it seemed as every one was wrong and made the whole thing a greater mess.

I knew within a day or so that it was futile, that this patient was dead on arrival.  But instead of rolling it into the morgue, I decided to try to bring it to life as though I were Dr. Frankenstein working over his poor monster.  This painting certainly resembled the Frankenstein monster– a good part here and there but stitched together crudely and an overall abomination.  It was as abject a failure as I had created in some time.

It was my monster.

I kept the beast around for several weeks and it became too painful to bear, seeing this tortured monster in the corner, more dead than alive.  I could have put it away to remind me of the folly of my own cleverness but I just wanted it gone,  all evidence of it erased.  So I broke out the brush and within moments it was but a memory.  Of course, I took a photo just in case I needed a reminder of  my own fallibility and failings.

I have quite a pile of such reminders, some more monstrous than others.

This monster was gone but it had taught me a lesson which was to keep the mind clear, to try to not force life where it has not taken hold on its own.  Trust the inner parts, my intuition and subconscious.  The life of a painting can’t be forced.   There is a natural rhythm needed that you can’t create.  You must find it and embellish it so that it becomes visible to others.  In this way, painting becomes less like the surgery of Dr. Frankenstein.

We know how that story ends.

 

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