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Family Lines

In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man’s skin, — seven or eight ancestors at least, — and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.
―Ralph Waldo Emerson

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GC Myers- Family Lines smThis is another newer painting that is headed to Erie for my show, Into the Common Ground,  in December at the Kada Gallery.  This 30′ by 40″ canvas is titled Family Lines with the Red Tree serving as the symbol of a family tree and the Red Chair acting as an offspring of it.  The broken segments of the winding path leading up to it represent for me the often arduous task of finding your connection to this tree while the light of the sky represents ultimate discovery and illumination.

I’ve often felt as though I had little definition of myself or my connection to the world through my ancestors.  My work as an artist has helped change this in many ways, giving me a portal for displaying who I am or  at least aspire to be in definition.  But my connection to my ancestors was always vague and hidden away beyond my knowledge.  I wondered who they were, what their stories held  and what traits they fed forward  through time to me.  I began to study my genealogy, hoping to discover some form of connection with the past that might help me better understand who I was in the present.  To discover what worlds the winding path that led to my own life traveled through.

It’s been a wonderful process that has given me greater connection with the past and with the history of this country and with those countries that gave birth to my ancestors.  Naturally, I am always drawn to the grand stories that are uncovered, the heroic and celebrated ancestors that I find myself hoping have somehow contributed some of their positive traits to my DNA.  But I am equally intrigued and touched by the simple and sometimes tragic tales that are uncovered.

I had earlier written of a great grand uncle who had lived his whole life in a county home for the infirmed. He was described in the censuses during his life as “feeble-minded” and he was unceremoniously buried  in an unmarked grave there at the county home.  I recently came across his death certificate and they listed him as a lifelong sufferer of epilepsy.  It made the story even more tragic in that this was perhaps a person who had a condition that would be treatable today.

I think of this person quite often.  His story is as much a part of that tree as those of  its more celebrated members.  It may not be the most beautiful leaf on the branch but it is there.  As Emerson says, we represent in some form a number of our ancestors and whose to say what part this ancestor plays in that piece of new music that is my life.

Walk On By/ WIP

GC Myers WIP 2014 smOnce in a great while I show my works in progress here on the blog.  I ‘m never too excited about it because  in many of the stages that are shown the work still lacks that thing, that completeness, that gives it life.  But there is a point earlier in the process where it does attain a certain sense of completion.  It’s right after the initial blocking in of the painting with red oxide paint and after the the first layers of color have given the beginnings of light to the sky.  It has a mood of its own at this juncture, a direction and a sense of the life it will have.

Outside of the final moments near the completion of the moment, this is by far my favorite stage of the process.  After this, as more layers of color are added, it devolves for a while, becoming flat and dull on the surface.  It loses any brightness.  Without this early glimpse of what it might be, these later stages might be discouraging.

This early stage is one where I sometimes find myself wanting to stop, to go no further and just let it be as it is.  But I always seem to push past this and move on to the fuller version that has more color and a bit more polish.   I may show a few more stages along the way until the final version emerges.  By the way, this a 24″ by 48″ canvas.

Being Sunday morning, it’s time for a little music.  I have had an old Burt Bacharach song in my head for a few days, one from his heyday with Hal David where they churned out an amazing string of hits for Dionne Warwick in the early 60’s.  His music always has a distinctive sound and feel.  There is a coolness  and lightness in the sound of  much of his music that I can’t fully describe and Warwick’s strong but delicate phrasing fits it like a glove in these songs.  I guess that’s why it sticks in my mind so well.  Here’s Walk On By from Dionne Warwick.  A little coolness for what I hope will be a great Sunday for you.

 

Earlier in the week at the dinner at which I was speaking  I was asked why there were no windows or doors in my houses.  I answered that I wanted them to be somewhat anonymous and that leaving the windows and doors out allowed the eye to glide easily over them to the focal point of the painting.  I didn’t mention that I have painted houses and building with windows and doors, usually when the structure is a central figure in the composition.  I wrote a blog entry several years ago about one such painting.  In this essay I also mention how I came to paint clouds in the manner that I do, answering another question that I was recently asked.  Even though the painting shown is long in the hands of that collector, here’s what I had to say:

GC Myers- As Clouds Roll By 2010This  is a new painting that I’ve just finished, tentatively called As Clouds Roll By.  It’s a 14″ by 18″ image painted on ragboard.  It’s a composition that I have visited on a number of occasions, this time at the request of a collector in Pennsylvania, and one that I always get great pleasure from painting, savoring the subtle variations that make each piece unique .

Even though this is a very simple composition with few elements, the great satisfaction I feel after finishing a piece such as this is something I can’t fully explain.  Perhaps it’s the recognition of the things in this piece that fully jibe with what I hope to achieve in my paintings.  The simplicity of design. The quietude of vast open space.  The depth into the picture, even though it is a very simple composition.  The inviting warmth of the house and tree.  The languorous fashion in which the clouds roll by, in a way representing the slow and inevitable march of time.

It clicks a lot of my own buttons.

The clouds in this piece always take me back to the first time I painted clouds in that looked like these.  I was not yet a full-time painter and had obtained a large commisiion that would prove to be very important to me.  I was on a short deadline and was still painting in the dining area of our home at the time with large sheets of paper spread over folding tables.  I was working on a large triptych and was nearly finished when our late cat, Tinker, decided to explore the tables.  Bounding up, she stepped first in a damp part of my palette and ran across the three sheets, leaving perfect little paw prints in a watery blue tint in her wake.  As the echoes of my bellow faded, my mind raced as I looked at my now very unfinished work.

Start over?  No time.  Try to blend them in to the background?  Not with this particular style of painting.  I sat and looked, concentrating.  Wait a minute.  The prints only ran across the sky portion of all the sheets.  And they ran in lovely diagonal manner.

Quickly, I was at it with paint and within several minutes I had blocked in clouds where once there were paw prints.  It worked.  Tinker’s run across the sky fit the rhythm of the piece and the clouds actually gave a fullness to the composition that it had lacked.  It was actually quite an improvement.

So when I see clouds such as these, I always flash back to my initial panic and the subsequent discovery of good fortune in this happy accident.  Since that day, when what seems to be a disastrous event happens with one of my paintings I step back with a much calmer mind and eye with the knowledge that perhaps this is just a new opportunity to see things a new way.

Here There Everywhere

GC Myers- Here There Everywhere smI’ve done several paintings through the years using textured surface that has bands or strings that twist and turn throughout.  It’s an extreme texture, more pronounced on than my typical surfaces, and, as a result, takes center stage in these pieces.  They become the driving force in the painting.

These bands that run through these paintings always spur something in me, some sense of wonder at the great unknowns of our world and universe.  The new painting shown here, Here There Everywhere, certainly does this for me.  Looking at it, I am filled with questions about the world or worlds that lie just past our perceptions.  Are there other dimensions, other pasts and futures swirling around us at any moment?  And if so, are we connected in some way to this web of chaotic energy or are we merely physical beings, unwitting bystanders in the great dance of the universe?

In this painting, the Red Tree serves as the questioner, living in the moment but recognizing the forces that permeate everything and give that moment a discernible depth and meaning beyond the simple beauty it can physically observe.  I know that I have had that feeling.  I might be out driving and see a certain curve of a field, a bend of a tree or the filtering light from the sun and suddenly feel an intense emotional response that seems to have no basis of origin in my past , one so strong that I find myself asking why and where it came from.

Perhaps this indefinable emotional is a brush with these other worlds, these energy forces?

I certainly don’t know.  Part of me wishes it to be so but part of me simply wants to savor that moment and emotion without questioning it.  Something to ponder on a gray autumn morning.

This painting, Here There Everywhere, is a 24″ by 30″ canvas and is part of my show, Into the Common Ground, at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA which opens in early December.

 

Transformational Power

GC Myers- Early LandscapeThis is a painting from about 17 or 18 years back.  I chose it for today’s post because last night I was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner for the Arts Center of Yates County and  used the transformational power of art as as a theme for my remarks.  I look at this painting and I can see how my work has changed over the years.  But more importantly, the transformation I see in this painting reminds me of the changes that have taken place in my life as a result of my involvement with the arts.

In addition to sharing the story of how I came  to painting, I spoke of  being empowered by discovering a voice in the images that speak for me of my deepest emotions where words fail me.  About how the purpose and responsibility that art has provided for me has enriched my life and connected me with the outer world.  About how art has allowed me to clearly see what I am and am not.

Art has provided so much for me and I urged those in attendance, all involved locally in some way with the arts, to take note of the gifts that art has given them and to encourage others to become involved in the arts so that they, too, might experience similar gifts.

I want to thank the members of Arts Center of Yates County for inviting me to speak and for being such a warm and receptive audience.  Your interest and friendly attitude made me made me feel very welcome and for that I am truly grateful.  All the best to you in the coming year.

Ever Reaching

GC Myers  Ever ReachingThree Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

–Albert Einstein

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This Einstein is a pretty smart guy.

 Simplification, harmony and opportunity could be  ingredients for any recipe to success in any field but I think they apply particularly well to art.  I know that I can easily apply these three rules to my own work.

For me, its strength lies in its ability to transmit through simplification and harmony.  The forms are often simplified versions of reality, shedding details that don’t factor into what it is trying to express.

There is often an underlying texture in the work that is chaotic and discordant.  The harmonies in color and form painted over these create a tension, a feeling of wholeness in the work.  A feeling of finding a pattern in the chaos that makes it all seem sensible.

And the final rule–opportunity lying in the midst of difficulty– is perhaps the easiest to apply.  The best work always seems to rise from the greatest depths, those times when the mind has to move from its normal trench of thought.  Times when it has to find new ways to move the message ahead.   The difficulties of life are often great but there is almost always an opportunity or lesson to be found within them if only we are able to take a deep breath and see them.  These lesson always find their way into the work in some way.

Thanks for the thought, Mr. Einstein.

The painting above is called Ever Reaching, a new 16″ by 20″ canvas that is part of my upcoming show at the Kada Gallery in early December.

Pale Blue Eyes

Green Eye CloseupIt’s Sunday morning.

Quiet and I don’t have a lot on my mind.  Just thinking about some work that is on the easel that needs a bit of work, soemthing to bring it to a close.  It’s there waiting and I ready myself to jump in.

Some days you need a kick to wake up  and get into it but this morning I just want a quiet vibe as I slide into the work.  So I settle on on some music from the late and great Lou Reed when he was with the Velvet Underground Pale Blue Eyes.

That’s nice.  Relax and have a great Sunday.

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