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Budapest

Sandor Galimberti- Tában Cityscape in Budapest (1910)It’s funny how you sometimes come across things.

I had heard the song Budapest from George Ezra recently and had decided to share it on my Sunday music interlude.  It just has an infectious sound that seemed like a good way to start what looks to be a beautiful day.  Plus I liked the fact that he lists Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly as influences– kind of unexpected from a 20-something Brit.

So I began looking for something visual to accompany this lead-in to the music and punched in Budapest painting into my search engine.  Up came many lovely watercolor-y  images of the beautiful  grand riverfront along the Danube.  They were nice but tucked in among them was a rougher, more modernistic cityscape that really stuck out to me.

Red roofs.  Simple forms and dark linework.  A path leading in and up.  Even the tree that divided the upper right section of the scene looked familiar.  It looked like something that could have easily been tucked away somewhere  in my own body of work.

The painting, shown above  was titled Taban Cityscape in Budapest and the artist was listed as Sandor Galimberti.  Looking deeper, there was little info on Galimbert’s life except that he was Hungarian, born in 1883.   From a rough translation on a Hungarian site, I gleaned that he studied with Matisse and  had began to achieve notoriety for his work around Europe before World War I.  Married to another artist, he lived in Paris then finally Amsterdam before returning to Hungary to enlist in the army during the early days of the war.  In 1915, Learning that his wife had contracted lung cancer, Galimberti returns from the battlefield and his wife then dies.  Hour later, he takes his own life at the age of  32.

Yet another tragic story of what may have been an epic career cut short.  Looking at his work online (including his final work, Amsterdam, shown at the bottom) I am impressed on so many levels and can only imagine what may have come from an artist just reaching his maturity in the aftermath of the war.  We might be talking of him in the same terms as Matisse and Picasso and other modern masters.  But a tragic fate intervened and he is little known outside of a few certain circles.

So what began as a simple search for an image gives me a new artist to wonder at and study- perhaps my Hungarian cousin?  So many hidden treasures in this world.  Enjoy the song, enjoy the day and be glad for those things that bring you joy.

Sandor Galimberti- Amsterdam 1914

Deliberations

GC Myers- DeliberationsThis is a new 12″ by 24″ painting on canvas that, for the moment, I am calling Deliberations.  I finished it yesterday and have been looking at it ever since, trying to decipher what it is that I am seeing in it, why it is pulling me in,  Something very cryptic in it– perhaps it’s the birds or the Red Chair or the stubbed off tree limbs– that fills me with questions.

What is this place?  What do those birds have to do with the Red Chair?  Is the sun rising or falling past the horizon and is that snow on the ground?  Why is the Red Chair in the circle of earth?

Quite honestly, I don’t know.

Starting with the given title, Deliberations, I begin to see this as a place of  judgement, either some sort of self-judgement or a spiritual reckoning.  As  though it is a place where when one has passed on, they go to review their life to determine what they done with the time given to them here on Earth. The life in question is the Red Chair, the red representing the physical embodiment.  The birds might be witnesses or judges or both.  The light over the horizon might be the next step forward– heaven, if that is what your belief system tells you it is called– and the trees act as a barrier between this place and that next step.

Kind of reminiscent, in a more symbolic and  folky way, of the Albert Brooks/Meryl Streep movie, Defending Your Life, where the dead find themselves at a Disney-like resort where, over several days they attend hearings where they review and defend the life they have lived to to determine whether they have learned its lessons in order to move on to a more ethereal plane.  If not, they return to try again.

But maybe this is just a red chair in the woods and those are simply some birds who frequent those woods.

Who knows?  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.  As for myself, I will deliberate on it a little longer…

Ad Marginem C 1930 Painting by Paul Klee; Ad Marginem C 1930 Art Print for salePaul Klee On Modern Art 1924This excerpt from On Modern Art, the 1924 treatise from the great Swiss artist Paul Klee is a bit more than a quote but since this is about art we’ll be a little flexible in our definition.  And that, I believe, would please Klee, whose works often defied definition.

I know for me, he was a big influence if only in his attitude and the distinctness of his work.  I always think of his work in terms of the color– sometimes muted yet intense and always having a melodic harmony to it.

It always feels like music to me.

I like his idea that the world is in the process of creation, of Genesis, and that it is not a final form. It allows for visionary work, for imagining other present worlds that extend beyond our perception because, as he writes, “In its present shape it is not the only possible world.

And to me, that is an exciting proposition.

GC Myers From Out of the Blue smIn yesterday’s blogpost, I talked a bit about the influence that stained glass had on my work.  Deep color, the luminosity  and lines defining the forms within are all attributes that have found their way into my work.  It was never a conscious decision, one where I said to myself that I was going to try to emulate the look and effect of stained glass.  It was just one of those things that I took in and integrated into my personal aesthetic. Just something I liked to look at.  And that somehow synthesized into the work.

In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the similarity until a few years into my career when several people pointed it out to me, asking if stained glass was a big influence.  I think I always answered yes to the question.  I mean, I liked it a lot so it had to have been an influence on some basic level.

Looking around the studio at the group of new work that is growing for my upcoming June show, Native Voice,  at the Principle Gallery, there are a number of paintings that you can easily see the influence of stained glass.  The piece shown above, From Out of the Blue, really has that feel for me, with the geometry of its puzzle-like pieces in the foreground and the brightness of its sky.  I see that sky in glass as hundreds of small, sharp shards of varying sizes and colors, all radiating outward.

But maybe it being a painting and not stained glass is the attraction for me.  Each medium has its limitations and being able to borrow attributes from one medium and integrate them into the vocabulary and process of another is exciting in itself.  It is painting’s spontaneity that draws me to it, where instinctual moves can be made within moments that change the whole piece.  I don’t know that I could get that with glass and could easily see a piece like From Out of the Blue becoming a contrivance in stained glass.  Too thought out.  Too worked over.  Too clean.

Definitely not from out of the blue— which is how I like it.

 

Judith Schaechter- Cold Genius CMOG

Judith Schaechter- Cold Genius CMOG

I’ve been thinking a lot about stained glass lately, both as the influence it has been on my work and as a possible future foray.  Growing up around Corning, glass was always in high visibility and trying to capture some of the luminosity of glass was always a goal in my work.  My fondness for the use of defining lines in my paintings most likely stems from a deep affection for stained glass.

When the new (and spectacular!) Contemporary Art + Design Wing opened recently at the Corning Museum of Glass, among all of the epic glass works it was a more modest sized piece of stained glass tucked away to one side that most caught my eye.  It was from Philadelphia-based stained glass artist Judith Schaechter and it was titled Cold Genius.  The photo of it at the top does not do it justice, doesn’t capture the inner glow created by the integrated lightbox.  Believe me when I say it is a striking piece of art.

Judith Schaechter -Wreck of the Isabella 2005

Judith Schaechter -Wreck of the Isabella 2005

I knew nothing of the work of Judith Schaechter beforehand but this image just triggered something.  Looking her up and  finding her work on her website as well a number of others, I discovered that she was one of the pioneers in modern stained glass, having been at the forefront of the medium for over 30 years.  I was overwhelmed by her productivity, her creativity and innovation as well as the consistency of her vision. As I’ve shown here before, one of my ways of quickly taking in an artist’s personal style is in viewing a page of their work on Google.  As you can see at the bottom, Schaechter’s work has a completeness of voice that any artist would envy.

While it is often macabre in nature, it is always beautiful having a transcendent quality that glows from within.  It feels both contemporary and timeless, which is the goal of any artist.

It was hard to not be in awe and easy to be inspired, to see things in her work that fed my own desire for expression, that set off pangs of wanting to make an attempt in that medium.   It’s not a feeling I often experience with many contemporary artists so you can understand my excitement at finding her work.

The few images and my short paragraphs here may not fully do her work justice. Check out her work for yourself on her website.  It includes a very interesting project where she installed windows at the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly.  There’s also a great recent  interview online that is very enlightening– I think many artists will see many things that  jibe with their own experiences.

Judith Schaechter- Google Image Screenshot

Judith Schaechter Eastern State Penitentiary Project

Judith Schaechter Eastern State Penitentiary Project

Judith Schaechter -Battle of Carnival and Lent /Eastern State Pen.

Judith Schaechter -Battle of Carnival and Lent/ Eastern State Pen.

Judith Schaechter Joan_of_Arc 2007

Judith Schaechter Joan_of_Arc 2007

Judith schaechter_23_birthofeve

There were some folks at the Gallery Talk the other day who told me that they were either signed up for or were planning to attend the two-day workshop I will be giving in September in the beautiful Finger Lakes.  I was really pleased to hear this and the fact that they were eager for the experience.  I told them I was a bit excited myself as this is the first time I’ve tried my hand at teaching but that I would  give them a real behind-the-scenes look at my process.  I promised that I would make it entertaining and that they will hopefully walk away with new ideas about how they use their materials and look at their own work.

Thinking about that this morning led me to consider what materials would be required for the workshop and the first thing that came to mind was my 1″ squirrel mop, a brush that is always near me when I am at my wet work.  This reminded me of a bog post back in 2009 where I wrote about my brushes and the Good Soldiers they are for me, sacrificing themselves for the good of a painting.  There’s a before and after photo that shows their sacrifice.

Thought I would share that post today:

GC Myers-brushesI was looking at the brush in my hand the other day and I realized how rough I am sometimes on my brushes.  It was a natural bristle brush that was new just a few weeks ago, when it looked like the brush to the far left in the photo.

Over those few weeks, I caressed paint on to canvas.  I also pushed paint into the canvas.  I ground the paint against the canvas, using a lot of force, to almost burnish the surface.  I stroked.  I poked.  And when I looked down the brush had turned into that poor guy shown second from the left.

I can be rough on my brushes.

For my normal wet technique I use a natural hair squirrel mop like the two shown on the right.  It’s a big, soft brush that holds a lot of paint and is a staple in my studio.  The brush on the left is new and the one on the right is obviously not.  This erosion of the bristles shown here represents about 6 or 7 months of use.

Hard use.

I like the way the bristles whittled themselves down to the angle my hand takes when I normally strike the painting surface.  Unfortunately, it has eroded to a point where its capacity to hold paint makes it a hindrance to my technique.  So he is put aside and maybe I will find a use for him at some point, so I keep him with my other spent brushes.  I could never throw such  loyal workers to the trash heap.

I have amassed quite a number of brushes, both well used and brand new, over the years.  I have tiny detail brushes that I go through quickly.  I have  some cheapy brushes that work perfectly well for certain techniques.  I have some of my favorite medium priced brushes that I have stockpiled because they’re no longer made.  I also have some pretty expensive brushes.  I have a set of beautiful Winsor & Newton Series 7  brushes that are handmade with soft, luxurious Kolinsky sable.  I’ve had them for about 13 years and have only used one or two of them for a few minutes.  They’re lovely in the hand but I never felt comfortable with them and just wouldn’t feel right grinding them roughly into the surface.

So they sit and wait for a day when I’m ready to put them in the game.

Maybe today?  Maybe… but probably not.

GC Myers-Family Path smYesterday’s Gallery Talk at the Kada Gallery went really well.  Many,many, many thanks to Kathy, Joe and Morgan at the gallery for providing a comfortable setting and the many folks in attendance for taking time out on a rare sunny Saturday afternoon to spend it with me.  They were an absolutely wonderful group –attentive and inquisitive–which made my task much easier, making me feel very welcomed and at ease in front of them.

Hopefully not so much that I over-talked  or came across as too full of myself.  I always worry about things like that on the ride back home, agonizing over things I said or didn’t say.  It comes easy because at that point I am pretty tired of hearing my own voice, tired of pretty much being the public me at that moment.

One thing I forgot to mention which bothered me as I was on my way home was that it was the input that I get from the encouragement and stories shared by the folks that attend these events are such a huge inspiration and the motor that drives my work.  I work untold hours alone in my studio and it is their reaction to the work and the fact that they allow me to glimpse briefly into their lives that make them seem almost present at times in my studio.  Distant eyes looking over my shoulder.

I shared one recent inspirational story that took place very recently right there at the Kada Gallery.  A week or so ago, they received an email inquiry from a lady in Switzerland about a large painting, titled Family Lines with the Red Tree with a Red Chair in its branches.  It turns out that she had recently lost her husband to Alzheimer’s and one of their final exchanges was about that very painting, obviously seeing it in online.  Her husband said that he was the Red Tree and she was the Red Chair.  I have to admit to being made teary-eyed by that.  How can something like not stick with me, not find its way into my thoughts when I am alone in the studio?

That story, like so many others shared with me over the years, brings a sense of purpose to the sometimes abstract and introverted act of painting.  I can never fully thank these people for the gift in their sharing.

991126 Color RisingOne of the ways I do try thank folks at these talks is by having several giveaways, including an original painting.  We had a very good time with it yesterday and the group was so receptive that I thought they deserved another.  I had a painting, Color Rising, from a few years back that won by a young lady in her 90’s which leads me to this week’s Sunday music selection.  The painting, shown left, was a monochromatic piece, shades of back and gray with just a dash of color.  I explained that I do these paintings periodically to just more less refresh my color palette in the period between working on shows and that seeing one of my compositions with the color removed was a bit like hearing a song that you’ve heard a thousand times before done by one person done by somebody else.  The song has the same notes, chords, melody and lyrics but it is somehow different, somehow changed.

That brings me to this musical example, a version of the Beatles‘ song In My Life from 1965‘s Rubber Soul album.  My god, I can’t believe this song is fifty years old!  This version is from the American recordings of Johnny Cash, done in the final months of his life.  His age and ailments changed his delivery and imbued the songs with real heart-felt emotion and purity.  A powerful group of music.  This version of the Beatles’ song is not so different but it has  his own personal meaning which makes it his own.

Again, so many thanks to everyone who came yesterday.  It was my great pleasure to spend the day with you all.  Hope your Sunday is a good one…

 

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