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Potential / Redux

gc-myers-1994I am ridiculously busy this morning, with several imminent deadlines and tons of work to be taken on in the next several weeks.  I am not complaining.  It’s a good busy.  But having done this blog for so many years now, I felt obligated to post something this morning.  However, I couldn’t focus  so I went to the archives and immediately  came across the post below that addresses the hard work that it takes to reach the full potential of one’s  abilities.

Without the effort, potential is a hollow nothing.

Here’s what I wrote several years back:

I had a nice email from a gentleman who told me about a prize his 16 year old daughter had recently won for one of her paintings.  I took a look at the piece and responded to him.  It was nice painting, nicely composed and had strong lines and color.  It was far ahead of anything I was doing at that age, especially by the virtue that it was complete.  I could see this young person doing more with their talents in the future.  I wrote him back and told him this but with my standard warning, one that I have written about  here before:  Potential  must be actively pursued with constant efforts and a consistent pushing of one’s abilities

I wrote him to tell him this, to let him know about some of the young talents I have seen come and go because they felt their talent was something that was in them and could be turned on and off with the flip of a switch.  I told him to tell her to look at the work required as a musician looks at rehearsals.  Perhaps even look at their talents as being like those of a musician, talents that need constant exercise in order to stay sharp and strong.  For instance, even if you have great innate talent, you can’t expect to play the violin like Itzhak Perlman if you don’t devote your talents in the same way as he does. A great part of his life is in nurturing his abilities.

I always feel like a sourpuss when I’m giving this advice.  Nobody wants to hear that they need to work harder.  Everyone wants to think that they have this great talent born within them and it will flow like a spigot whenever they so desire.  If only that were true.

I think you will find that those who succeed at the highest levels in any field are those who understand this need to constantly push and work their talents.  I’m sure there are exceptions but none come immediately to mind.  I wrote about this in a blog post when I first started this, over two years ago.  I wrote about something author John Irving had said about competing as a writer as he competed as a wrestler, putting in the same sort of work as though he were attempting to be an Olympic wrestler. 

Hard work.   It’s not glamorous especially in this world of instant gratification but it is a proven entity .

I’m showing the piece above to highlight this.  It’s a small painting that I did before I was showing in any galleries, in 1994.  At the time, it pleased me very much and I could have very easily kept painting in that style and been pretty happy, without much effort.  But there was a little voice in me that kept saying to push ahead and work harder, to see what I could accomplish with greater effort.  It became not an end but a stepping stone to move ahead.

That is how I hope this man’s daughter see her painting– as a stepping stone.  She may think it is the best thing she has ever done but if she is willing to push ahead and put in the effort, she will look at it someday as a mere step in her journey.

matisse.la musiqueI want to reach the state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. Perhaps I might be satisfied momentarily with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind…Nowadays, I try to infuse some calm into my pictures and I keep working at them until I have succeeded in doing so.

--Henri Matisse, 1908

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 It seems like every artist has a different answer for the question of  when a painting is done.  Whistler and several others said it was when all traces of its creation have been concealed on the surface.   Some say it is when the artist achieves his aim and others say they are never finished.  Edward Munch ( The Scream) said that a piece is done after it has had time to mature, weathered a few showers and endured the elements, including nail scratches.

I tend to go with the never finished group although Munch’s definition is appealing to my love of weathering and patina.  My goal is to have the work complete enough that they can exist on their own,to  be alive in the outer world.  In that respect, because they are human creations, I view them  very much as I view other humans– never quite complete and always imperfect.  That’s just how we are and I am certainly no different.

 I am a collage of imperfections that is still a work-in-progress.  If I saw me hanging on the wall I might want to take a brush and soften an edge here or there and add color in certain parts of my composition.  But I probably would not do it because those imperfections actually become part of the composition, create the contrasts that give us, as a painting, life.  And that , even with the flaws and weathering exposed, pleases me.

None of us is perfectly painted.  Nor should we be.

 

What’s Coming Up

GC Myers -The Refreshing smJust a quick announcement today of my next few events.  First, in just over two weeks, on SaturdayApril 11th,  I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the Kada Gallery in Erie, beginning  at 1 PM.  Then, on June 5th, marks the opening of  my annual solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  And after that comes my annual solo exhibit at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY which opens on July 17th.

The  Gallery Talk at the Kada Gallery in April marks the first real talk I have given at the gallery in the 19 years that I have shown my work there.  Actually, it is the second but the first, which was a few years back didn’t feel like one to me and never had the rhythm or flow of my normal talks.  It was held at the beginning of the opening reception for my show there and there was little seating and people were milling about, looking at the new work as they entered the gallery.  There was a lot of distraction and it wasn’t really conducive to creating real interaction with the audience, given my limited skills as a public speaker.  I left feeling as though I had really under-performed  that night.

So I don’t count that as a true Gallery Talk and vow to bring my A game.  Also, this upcoming talk will feature a drawing for those in attendance to win one of my original paintings, along with several other goodies, something that has become a popular feature at talks at my other galleries.  I spend a lot of time deciding which painting to give away at these events because I want it to be something meaningful, not secondary work.  In the past I have given away what I consider to be substantial paintings and I promise those who take the time to come won’t be disappointed in the choice for this drawing. Or in the talk itself, for that matter.  So, if you’re in Erie on Saturday, April 11th, I hope to see you at the Kada Gallery at 1 PM.

This year’s show at the Principle Gallery is titled Native Voice and is the 16th consecutive show, going back to 2000,  at the Alexandria landmark.  It is always one of the highlights of my year, the anchor around which I build my work year.  I am pretty excited about the work that has been coming out for this show thus far and think it will be a very strong exhibit.  But don’t take my word for it– see for yourself.

And then in July, it’s a homecoming of sorts with the opening of my show (still working on the title for this show) at the West End Gallery.  It’s always a pleasure and a thrill to show in your home area.  It’s just a different vibe– more familiar might be the best way of explaining it.  It’s always nice to get to show off a bit for folks who might not see you just as a painter, but know you in other ways.  I see a lot of people from the other phases of my life at these shows and it means a lot that they come out to see this aspect of what I do.  As a result, this show always seems to bring out the best in my work and I suspect that this year will continue that trend.

So, that’s the next several months and, of course, there is more beyond that including a two-day workshop I will be teaching in September at the Yates County Arts Center in the beautiful Finger Lakes.  Not to mention Gallery Talks at the West End in August and the Principle in September.

And with a little surprise I hope to unveil in May, it makes for a very busy year. So stay tuned.

Worldshaker

GC Myers Worldshaker smStill affected by a lingering cold, I was struggling this morning to write about the new painting above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas titled Worldshaker.  I went back in the archives of the blog to look for inspiration and came across a term– native voice– I had used a few years back in a blog entry.

This particular blog entry used a Picasso quote– It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child – to describe my own decision years before to not follow tradition in my painting.  Instead I would try to paint in a way that would be as natural to me as breathing so that whatever came from my efforts would automatically have my idiosyncrasies and my fingerprints built into them as well as the unaffected honesty of a child’s vision.

Looking around the studio now at the canvasses, some finished and some in various states of progress,  that lean against any available wall space I can see that native voice very plainly.  Looking from piece to piece, I can see that each is very much imbued with my own voice, plain and simple.  No attempts to be anything other than what they are: a testament to one person’s existence.

And maybe that’s where this painting and its message enters the conversation.  Perhaps we all have the chance to shake the world in some way, even if only a small way,  if we can all dare to speak honestly with our own voice.  We think of change as a great sea tide but it often begins as a ripple of a thought uttered by a lone voice.

Let it be your voice.  Shake the world.

Zombie Painter

white-zombie-movie-poster-1932-1020199092Been battling a cold the last few days with all that comes with it– filled sinuses, sore throat, throbbing headaches and a now constant rattling cough that echos around my chest.  Nothing unusual, just one of those despicable three or four day affairs of misery we all go through every so often.

But, oddly enough, I have had a couple of very productive days in the studio.  I think sometimes my painting is best done when I don’t  ( or in this case, can’t) think too much about it and instead fall into a kind of trance where it is all instinct.  A weird kind of unfocused concentration that is all about constantly moving ahead with little distraction or thought.

Like a zombie relentlessly searching for fresh brains.

Zombie painter.

Which is a convenient segue into this week’s Sunday music selection.  Maintaining the zombie theme, I thought I’d bring out something from The Zombies, the 60’s British Invasion band who had really nice string of hits that have all survived well over the years and stand as iconic remnants of that era.  Songs like She’s Not There, Tell Her No and this week’s song, Time of the Season.  Anyone of a certain age who hears this opening bass and drum line will no doubt have the lines What’s your name?/Who’s your daddy?/ Is he rich. is he rich like me?  immediately running through their mind.

Zombie mind control, that’s what it is.  So enjoy a little of it and have a great Sunday.  I have fresh brains to find.  Well, a fresh canvas to smear stuff on.  Paint, brains–whatever.

PS:  Please use the zombie grip that is depicted on the old movie poster at the top  ( White Zombie– Bela Lugosi– 1932) with great care.  Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

CMOG New Wing 2015It’s a very big day in this area as the new Contemporary Art + Design Wing of the Corning Museum of Glass officially opens to the public.

It’s a 100,000-square-foot addition to an already magnificent museum experience, including a state-of-the-art glass-blowing amphitheater that seats 500 and a 26,000-square-foot  space for the display of contemporary art glass, making it the largest such space anywhere.  This allows the museum to now display the very largest art glass pieces in its collections.

There is incredible glass art on display inside but the building itself  might qualify as the largest piece of glass art on the site.  Designed by architect Thomas Phifer, its exterior appears as a luminous white glass cube that reflects the outer environment.   Because contemporary glass is basically not subject to damage from light exposure, Phifer was able to design a museum space unlike any other.  The roof itself is a sort of whole-building skylight that, along with the translucent glass exterior walls, bathes the glass art in a constant glowing light.

CMOG InteriorThe interior features amorphous walls that snake through the space–not a corner to be seen.  Even the glass protective panels that surround some of the displays feel special  in this space.  They are made from ultra-thin Gorilla Glass ( a Corning product that is probably the screen your smartphone) and reportedly have an ethereal , barely there feel.

I am very excited for this addition and for the museum.  As I said, it is already a fantastic museum experience and this only takes it to a much higher level.  So make your plans and come to Corning.  In the Finger Lakes of New York with all its many wineries, we have a world-class museum of glass as well as the  Rockwell Museum, great glass studios, art galleries, shops and restaurants.  Hey, if you’re in the area in July  I hear there will be a show at the West End Gallery that you probably should catch.

Here’s video from the Corning Museum of Glass where they talk about the new addition and their hopes for it. Below it are a couple of the pieces that will be on display.

CMOG Evening Dress with Shawl Karen LaMonte Zelezny Brod 2004

Evening Dress with Shawl – Karen LaMonte, Zelezny Brod 2004

 

Carrona (Carrion)

Carrona (Carrion)- Javier Perez 2011

 

GC Myers- Archaeology-Rainbows EndThe thing I am most aware of is my limits. And this is natural; for I never, or almost never, occupy the middle of my cage; my whole being surges toward the bars.

–Andre Gide

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I chose this week’s  quote from the late French author Andre Gide, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947, because as an artist I find myself sometimes wondering about my limits, questioning whether I am pushing myself enough into new territory.  Gide uses a cage in his metaphor with his limitations being the bars that keep him from moving forward.  He is not content to simply accept these limits sitting contentedly in the center of his cage. No, he is always pushing and pulling at the bars, seeking to get past them.

In the past, I have expressed this same desire to press past my limits with a metaphor where the artist climbs ever upward until they come to a plateau where they are comfortable and safe.  It is a place where they could easily live out the remainder of their days with little worry, living an easy life by retelling stories that made up the journey up to this point.  Many might not even notice there is still a mountain hovering above them to climb, if they just dare leave the comfort of the easy plateau.

Gide’s cage is my plateau and while he is trying to break through his bars, I find myself still questioning if I have the nerve to start climbing.  Oh, there are first steps, tentative meanders up the path but only far enough that I am within sight and  can return easily to my safe haven on the plateau.

When does the real trek upward begin?  When does one begin to thrash at their bars?

Where are you in your own cage?

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I used a painting from several years,  Archaeology: Rainbow’s End, to illustrate this post.  For one thing, I just like this image.  But more importantly, looking at it seemed to remind me that one’s creative past is often buried and gone from sight.  Or at least, should be if one is going to continue growing.  Like the tree in the painting, you grow from that past existence  being nourished by it.  But you don’t live only in that past.  You must move upward like the Red Tree in this painting to find clear air.

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