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Yummy Night

West End Childrens Center Party 2015 Charlotte Royal

I was the guest speaker last night at a private event held at the West End Gallery.  It was a combination dessert /wine tasting with a bit of a gallery talk thrown in to break up the great flavors, all of which was an item offered in a charity auction to benefit the Children’s Center of Corning that was held earlier in the year.  The generous winning bidders, Chris and Darryl Heckle, and a group of their friends were treated to four incredible desserts and their appropriate wine accompaniments provided by Susan Barbosa, the executive chef at Corning Inc.

Oh, best of all– I got in on the goodies as well.

The one shown above was the first of the night, an exquisite Charlotte Royal.  It was a beautifully crafted dome of two cool and creamy mousses under a covering of thin sponge cake slices.  Wonderful flavors.

Profiterol Cheesecake WE 2015My favorite was the finale offering was this monster, a base of chocolate cheesecake filled with profiteroles (creme puffs!) that was topped with a deep chocolate ganache.  Long story made short– I cleaned every drop of it off my plate.  I could have eaten that until my eyes popped but decorum dictated that I just eat the large piece I was given.  I don’t know how decorum judged me licking my plate clean but that’s the risk you take when you let a guy like me into an event like this.

All kidding aside, it was a lovely evening with a very congenial and interesting group of people.  I gave an abbreviated version of my gallery talk and answered a number of questions from the group.  I also talked a bit about  a few other artists in the gallery, pointing out the influence of the late Tom Buechner on the many artists of this area.  Hopefully, they found something of interest in much of this.

A hearty “Thank You” to the Chris and Darryl Heckle for their generous bid.  Also, many thanks to Peigi Cook of the Children’s Center for her coordination of the auction and this event and to Susan Barbosa for the meticulous preparation and service of her wonderful goodies.  And to Jesse and Linda at the West End Gallery for opening their gallery to this event.

It was a pleasure.  And tasty, too!

GC Myers-  The Satisfaction smSatisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

Mahatma Gandhi

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

I often paint the rows of a freshly cut field in my work.  While this creates an interesting visual effect with its pattern of alternating colors, it also satisfies my own need to express the importance — and necessity–of effort for myself and for my work.

I have often pointed out at gallery talks that I spend huge amounts of time alone working in my studio, well over 50,000 hours in the past fifteen years.  I usually make a joke of this, saying that I just tell people I am hard at work during my time in the studio so they will not bother me and that its really not that much work.  Okay, maybe there is some truth there as far as not having people bother me.  But the fact remains that while I find my time in the studio enjoyable as well as enlightening, it requires great effort and work.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I guess that’s because there is usually a moment after finishing a piece or a group of work for a show when I stop and look at the work in its state of completion.  In this moment there is a great sense of satisfaction at the result of my full efforts.  And that full effort gives the results a sense of completeness and their completeness brings me my own completeness, a fulfillment of some small purpose that I find necessary in order to persist in this world.

That small moment of satisfaction makes all the work, all the frustration and missteps, fade away and that which should have depleted me now serves as nourishment.  I find myself strengthened for another day.

Maybe that what I see in this new painting, an 18″ by 18″ canvas which is headed out to California.  It is called The Satisfaction, of course.  It very much reflects what I have written here, with the Red Tree representing someone looking back on the results of a long day of labor.  And again, they feel uplifted rather than worn down.

I know it’s not always that way.  There have been times when work has been very draining, definitely in my past and occasionally even now.  But knowing that  special moment of satisfaction that comes along every so often is out there makes me look forward to the task and the effort ahead.

Born to Run at 40

Born to Run CoverBorn to Run turned 40 years old yesterday and I am somehow surprised, even though I am well aware of time passing.  Maybe because it remains so in the present for me to this day.  Actually, my first artistic foray involved selling Bruce t-shirts out of the want ads in the back of Circus magazine.  They were a little crude,  screen-printed with a logo for the E Street Band that I had designed on the front and  a verse from Born to Run on the back.  Sold a few, mainly to fans in Europe including one in Northern Ireland who remains a friend to this very day, but not enough to call it a success or even break even.

But Springsteen, and Born to Run in particular, had a huge influence on my life as well, well beyond that failed attempt at marketing.  I was knocked out by his commitment to his passion, his need to keep true to his own vision for his work and his need to do all he could to get that vision across to his audience.  It may not always be your style or taste, but his work is as true to his vision as any artist in any medium.

Here’s a blog entry from back in 2009 where I documented my first encounter with Bruce:

When I was seventeen years old I left high school early, in January.  I guess I graduated.  I had enough credits, had fulfilled all the requirements.  Never went to a ceremony, never received a diploma.  I had had enough school at that point.  I was adrift in my life.  No real goals to speak of.  Oh, I had desires and dreams but no direction, no guidance.

At some point, I decided i would move to Syracuse and work for my brother, putting in above-ground swimming pools, but that wouldn’t start until April so I had several months to kill.  Free time.  I spent most of my time reading or watching TV or just driving around.  One day in February, I stopped in at the local OTB (that’s off-track betting, by the way) and bet my last eight dollars on the ponies at Aqueduct.

Good fortune was with me that day and I won, hitting the daily double and walking away with a couple of hundred dollars.  I called Cheri, my girlfriend (and now my wife) and asked if she would be interested in going out.  There was a guy playing tonight at the Arena in Binghamton who I had heard a little about.  I had his first two LPs and they were alright.  Might be interesting and I had money burning a hole in my pocket.  His name was Bruce Springstone, Springstein- something like that.

So we went to Binghamton.  We got there about an hour before the show and it seemed so different than other shows we’d been to at that time, the mid-70’s.  It was so quiet.  People were lined up but it was almost silent, like there was this heavy air of anticipation stifling all sound.  We still needed tickets so we headed to the box office.  I asked the lady behind the glass for the best seats she had and after a moment she slid me two tickets.  I looked at them then asked if she had anything better.  She laughed and said no, these were pretty good.

They were in the third row, just left of centerstage.

I did say that I was seventeen, right?

Inside, there was a quiet stillness as we took out seats.  There weren’t the screams of drunk kids nor the pungent clouds of pot smoke. No beach balls bouncing through crowd–just that heavy air of anticipation.  As we waited, the people around us kept nervously looking at the stage, which was close enough to touch, as a well dressed older man tuned a grand piano.  We had no idea what to expect but our interest was being piqued.  Finally, the roadies cleared the stage and the arena went black.  The first Bruuuces filled the air.

The lights came up and there they were, only feet away.  Bruce was in a white collarless shirt buttoned at the neck and a vest with a woolen sport jacket.  Miami Steve ( Silvio for those of you who know him from the Sopranos) was dressed in a hot pink suit with a white fedora. And directly in front of us, resplendent in a white suit that seemed to glow in the lights was the Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons, his sax glinting gold.

It was overwhelming for someone not knowing what to expect, like mistakenly walking into a revival meeting and coming out converted.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen to that time.  It was pure sonic nirvana with the thump of Mighty Max’s bass drum rattling my sternum and the Big Man’s sax  flowing high over jangly guitar and tinkling piano  lines.  

But more than that was the sheer effort that was put out by Springsteen.  It was the first time I had seen someone so committed to what they did.  It seemed that all that mattered at that moment for him was to get across that space to the people in that arena.  He dove across the stage.  He clambered onto speakers.  He gave everything.  By the end of the show, some three and a half hours later, he appeared to have been dragged from a river.  He was soaked from the top of his boots to the top of head and when he played his Telecaster, his hand on the neck of the guitar would fill with a pool of  sweat.

His desire and commitment to please us was something I carried with me.

Several years later I ran into a person who had been at that show and when I told him my luck at getting such great seats he turned green with envy.  His seats were much further back in the hockey arena.  We then both agreed that our favorite moment was when they did a cover of  It’s My Life from the Animals.  We didn’t really know one another but we both gushed about how that song had moved us, had changed our lives in some small way.  I still carry that image and when I hear that song I am suddenly 17 years old again.  And ten feet tall with the world at my feet because it was my life and I’d do what I want…

That’s my first Bruce story.

Here’s She’s the One from the year before the show I was at.  Enjoy.

Time Frames

GC Myers- Time Frames  smI’ve been working on trying to create a patterned underpainting  in my work, inspired by a dream I had a few weeks back.  It still is moving ahead and is not yet what I saw (or, at least, what I recall seeing) in that dream.  It may never get to that state but it acts as a catalyst,  something that pushes me forward.  This small piece, a 9″ by 12″ canvas, uses blocks or plates much like those I saw in my dream to form a pattern that hovers barely vsisble in the sky.  It doesn’t have the intensity of the color of the dreamed vision but it still creates what I think is an interesting effect on this piece.  It serves as both a step forward and a self-contained entity.

I call this piece Time Frames, alluding to the shapes of the plates in the sky here. Like much of the underlying textures in my work, it refers to those  forces and knowledge that have untold influence on our world and our lives yet remain just beyond our perceptions.

All that we do not know.

At the moment, we are at the leading edge of all knowledge here in this world.  Yet, it is an edge that is always moving forward and what we believe today with all certainty may one day be revealed to be proved false.  Future generations may look back on us and wonder at some of the things we believed to be true.

But you live with what you know and what you see.  Blissfully in the moment even while obscured ultimate truths may be oh so near…

GC Myers-Archaeology- Rooted in the Past smOne of the interesting aspects of doing what I do is seeing where the images eventually finds their way. They have ended up in American Embassies in several countries, in magazines and on book covers here and abroad as well as on several CD covers.  One was even included in a recent history text book.  They have found their way to most corners of the globe, making them much more well traveled than their maker.  And in 2016 a couple of images from my Archaeology and Strata series will be part of the annual calendar for the Spanish Society of Soil Science

GC Myers- On the Shoulders of Time smIt’s gratifying for me to see the work spread out as it has.  You hope, as an artist, that your work has a wider appeal, that there is some common denominator in it that speaks across geographic and cultural boundaries.  You never know when you are in front of the easel if your work will be anything more than a blob of pigment on a bit of canvas destined for the trash or will take on a life of its own and move on.  So to see it move around the globe in some small way is a form of validation for the work, making the next crisis of confidence easier to fight through.  And that is no small thing.

Being Sunday it’s time for a little music and I thought I would play a song that kind of jibes with the soil theme of the work here.  It’s one of my favorite songs to sing along with from one of my all-time favorites, John Prine.  It’s called Please Don’t Bury Me and it’s about as upbeat a song on the subject of dying as you’ll ever hear.  Give a listen (and sing along if you know the words!) and have a great Sunday!

 

Railbirds 1994

GC Myers- Railbirds 1994This is an older painting of mine from back in 1994.  I was in the transition from trying to simply replicate the work of others to developing my own visual voice.  I wasn’t sure where it would go from there and didn’t even have an idea of how to proceed.  I just painted and painted, letting each piece be the guide for the next.  Sometimes it brought forth breakthroughs and sometimes not.  But this time and this work still brings back that excitement of the unknown that was so present in that time.

This little piece is a favorite of mine from that time and is painted in a more traditional watercolor style that I was dabbling in at the time.  It is titled Railbirds and depicts a scuffle between the inhabitants at the rail of a horsetrack.  Perhaps there was a dispute over a mislaid wager or which jockey looked sharpest in their colors.  Who knows?

I spent an inordinate time as a kid at the race track, reading the Racing Form and drinking way too much Coke.  One summer, my father and I were at the track on average 3-4 times a week.  It was a time when a 13-year old kid could lay wagers at the betting windows without any questions and I would often act as a runner for bets, including my own.  I learned a lot of lessons there.

First, that I was lousy judge of horses and a pretty mediocre gambler.  But more importantly, it was a laboratory and showcase for human behavior and it stirred in me the beginnings of a realization that I didn’t want to spend my life in that way.  I saw lives that were heavily addicted to gambling and alcohol and it seemed like such a waste of time in what even then seemed like a too brief lifespan.  There were very unhappy, angry and greedy people there, always on display and they made an impression on me.

Maybe these lesson and these people formed the darkness that I use as a base for my work.  I often think it is the contrast between the underlying darkness and the overriding light of my work that sometimes makes it effective, makes it feel hopeful without being pollyanna-ish.

I don’t know for sure.  But I do look at this piece quite often in the studio, studying its rhythm and flow while thinking of those times, good and bad.

I am preparing for my first experience as a teacher when I lead a two-day workshop next month.  I’ve been thinking what I want to say to the people who come to it.  And what I don’t want to tell them.  Mainly, I want to stay away from telling them that they should or must do something in any one way.  I will show them my process and my techniques but will stay away from all subjective judgments.   While I might like to see them render something in one way, their work should be their own creations with its own visual vocabulary and style, all based on their own perceptions.

This reminded me of a post from several years ago that addressed just such an issue.  It is one of my favorite stories about the late Ralph Fasanella, the one-time union organizer turned urban folk painter.  His enthusiasm for maintaining his personal vision is something I hope to impart to the folks who might be attending the workshop.  From back in 2011:

Ralph Fasanella- Stickball

Ralph Fasanella- Stickball

I came into the studio this morning and immediately sat down to read my emails.  Among them was the most recent post from  AmericanFolk Art@ Cooperstown titled Ralph’s Take On Rembrandt.  It concerned the late and great American folk artist Ralph Fasanella and his reaction to criticism and unsolicited advice.  I finished reading and burst out laughing.  Boy, did it hit close to home!

Over the years, I have been approached by several people who think they are doing me a great service by telling me that I should change the way I paint in some way or that I should try to paint more like some other artist.  Early on, when I was first exhibiting my work, I had another more established artist tell me that I should change the way I paint my figures, that they should look the way other artists paint them.  I responded to this artist and the others who offered me their advice with a smile and an “I’ll look into that.”  But  that one time,  I also mistakenly heeded the older painter’s words, being inexperienced and seeking a way as I was, and stopped painting figures for a while before realizing that this was not good advice at all.

Here’s the post about Fasanella and his response to such advice.

Ralph Fasanella had trouble painting hands. A lot of trained artists do too, so it is not surprising that a union organizer who turned to drawing suddenly at the age of 40 would struggle with hands early in his career. But he did have something that proved better than years of formal training: he believed that he was an artist and that what he was doing – painting the lives of working people – was a calling that deserved his complete attention and all-consuming passion.

And that made him react when anyone suggested that his paintings weren’t up to snuff. He said that he was painting “felt space,” not real space. His people and the urban settings he placed them in were not realistic in the purest sense of the word, but they sang with spirit and emotion. As Ralph said, “I may paint flat, but I don’t think flat.”

Rembrandt- The Jewish Bride (Detail)

Rembrandt- The Jewish Bride (Detail)

His most memorable quote, and the one that says the most about him, occurred very early in his artistic career, when someone told him that his hands looked like sticks. He ought to study Rembrandt’s hands, they said, in order to get it right.  His response is priceless: “Fuck you and Rembrandt! My name is Ralph!”

I may not really adopt Ralph’s approach but you can bet his words will be echoing in my head the next time someone says “You should paint like…”

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