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GC Myers- Storms Are on the OceanI’ve been working recently on some very small pieces for the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery in Corning.  I’ve mentioned here before that this particular show is always  a sentimental favorite of mine as it was in this show that I first publicly showed my work twenty years ago.  It represents the first step on to the path that I now follow and that makes it special for me.  Plus I enjoy working in the smaller scale for a bit.  It allows for easily easing back into older themes and forward into newer ones.

One of these pieces that just finished yesterday is shown here at the top.  It’s a 4″ by 6″ painting that I call Storms Are on the Ocean.  I haven’t done a boat painting in some time and thought the smaller format would be the perfect opportunity to re-visit the theme.  I am always drawn to the motion in these pieces and the billow of the sail.  It reminds me of a fable or a dream in some way that I find appealing.

I thought this would be the perfect match for this week’s Sunday morning music which is the song after which this painting is titled.  It’s The Storms Are on the Ocean, a song first done by the legendary Carter Family back in the late 20’s.  This version is from June Carter Cash‘s last album, Wildwood Flower, which was released in the year, 2003, after her death.  Like the final recordings of her husband, the great Johnny Cash, this album shows her in a fragile state of health which adds greatly to the emotional impact of the songs.

It definitely comes through on this lovely song with its haunting chorus:
The storms are on the ocean
The heavens may cease to be
This world may lose its motion, love
If I prove false to thee

Enjoy and have a great Sunday.

Bacon’s Chaos

bacon-s-studio-1This is not my studio.

Although sometimes when I am in a really good groove of painting my studio does get progressively more and more cluttered.  At first, it doesn’t bother me at all that the floor didn’t get swept or that piles of papers are beginning to pile high on the stone kneewalls that separate the spaces in the studio.  Tubes and bottles of paint and old yogurt containers with brushes in varying degrees of wear all over the place.  New paintings propped against any available wall space so that I can freely see and consider them and a few old pieces and raw canvasses ready to be worked on stacked off to the side, creating a new wall in themselves.

bacon-studioBut at a certain point, the feeling of chaos begins to creep in and I can’t take it anymore. I have to organize at least a bit to calm the drone that the chaos has brought on in my head before it breaks into my painting rituals too much.  So, I re-stack paintings and paper, cleans some brushes and containers, put away some books and maybe vacuum.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

bacon-reece-mews-studioBut I feel a little lighter and my mind is clearer so I can easily fall back into that groove.  Plus my current studio is, even in its most cluttered state, less chaotic than my old studio in the woods above our home.  It was very rustic and I regularly purged the paints I soaked up in my process from my brushes on to the floor, creating a huge black spot of paint and ink.  Plus, being much smaller than the current studio made the space always seem filled and in a somewhat messy state even after I would pick up.

But even that space didn’t compare with the studio of Francis Bacon, the Irish born painter known for work that is sometimes violent and disturbing in nature.  The shots shown here are from his old London studio that was left intact after his death in 1992 at the age of 82.  It was moved exactly as it was, with every bit of dust and debris intact, to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where it is on permanent display.

bacon_study1953I remember seeing these photos years ago and feeling so much better about my studio.  The huge black paint stain on my floor didn’t seem so bad.  But I wondered if I could function in his space.  I guess the concentration required to block out the mounds of debris would have to be incredible.  Maybe that is part of the painting obsession- to be so engrossed in what is before you that all else is pushed far off into the background.  Bacon did view his painting as an obsession, saying, “I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success.”  

Bacon was an incredibly interesting character and one whose words often ring true for me.  He was self taught and talked in terminology that I understand, earthy and straightforward.  Very little artspeak.

The piece shown here from Bacon is one of my favorites, Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, and is very representative of the style of much of his work.  You can find a lot on Bacon and his work online.

Well, got to go– I think I better pick up a bit…

Pablo Picasso- GuernicaQuotes are often used here to illustrate the point of a certain blog post but sometimes a quote is just fun to examine on its own, without a lot of  wordiness.  I often read a quote this way and it sets me off in all sorts of directions, often away from the central theme of the quote.  It can be pretty inspirational in this manner.  To that end, I am starting a new weekly feature here on the blog called Quote of the Week.  I want to focus on themes that relate to painting and some of the central themes of life.

Hopefully, they will be enlightening  or, at the very least, interesting.

I am going to kick it off with one of my favorite quotes from Pablo Picasso.  It pretty sums up my own criteria for evaluating art.  At the top is one of his greater works, the anti-fascist masterpiece Guernica.

There is no past and future in art.  If a work of art cannot always live in the present it must not be considered at all.

–Pablo Picasso

Sharing the Experience

GC Myers YCAC ClassOver the years I have been asked many, many times whether I offered classes or would be willing to teach and each time I have  answered with a hearty no.  There were several reasons for the answer.

First, not having taken any classes myself, I felt uninformed as to how to instruct a group.  It was out of my comfort zone and I just didn’t feel as though I had the qualifications or anything to offer.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if I could paint and talk at the same time.  I am not the most coordinated person in the world.

Second, it took time away from my own painting.  I am the artistic equivalent of a gym rat, always in place in my studio nearly everyday for about twelve or more hours.  It is who I am and what I do.  Time away from it is sometimes painful to endure.

The third, and definitely the most important, reason was that I was just hesitant in sharing any of the process behind much of my work that had taken thousands of hours alone in the studio to develop.  Trade secrets, if you will, that needed to be protected.

But over the last few years, I have come to understand that it is not purely process but the person behind it that makes the work come alive and that by hiding the process I was being small and petty.  There was nothing to fear from someone learning from my experience.  In fact, there might be insights to be gained from seeing how others react to working with my process.

So, this year I finally relented, after much urging from the director of the Arts Center of Yates County,  and will be giving a two day workshop featuring my process at  their wonderful facility in Penn Yan , NY, in the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes.  It will take place beginning on either September 16 or 17– we are still working out final details.  The workshop will be from about 9:30 AM until 4:30 each day with a lunch break and  will be limited to 15 students.  If there is enough demand, there is always the possibility of adding a second session.

My feeling is that this is for all levels of ability, from non-painters up to those with much  more experience.  My goal is to pass on what I have gleaned from my journey over the past two decades so that it might send someone down their own personal path.  I want everyone in attendance to take away something new and of value for themselves.  And I guarantee that there will be no shortage of stories.

If you’re from out of the area and don’t know the Finger Lakes region of New York, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise– it is an area filled with extreme natural beauty, many wonderful wineries, great watersports and a calming atmosphere.  A perfect place to getaway to.  So, if you’d like to spend a couple of late summer days painting with me in the Finger Lakes,  I urge you to contact the Arts Center of Yates County at this link and get on the list.

 

GC Myers In the Time of DreamingI’ve been looking for a while at this new painting, a 24″ by 30″ canvas.  It has a calming effect for myself.  Maybe it’s the placid blues and violets or the softness of the moon’s light–I don’t know yet.  I just find myself letting go and being pulled into the central geometry of this piece, that triangle formed by the moon, the Red Tree and the group of Red Roofed houses atop the rise.  There’s a sense of mystery in it from which I can’t look away.

I call this piece In the Time of Dreaming.  Maybe it’s the mystery aspect that brings the title to mind, in way we sometimes find our own dreams– puzzling but somehow pointing to something that we just can’t quite put a finger on.

I also thought of the Australian Aborigines’ Dreamtime when the title came to mind.  Their Dreamtime is the basis for their entire belief system, the eternal time in which creation occurred and where the individual exists before and after their worldly life.  It is the time where their ancestry exists as one resulting in their belief that they accumulate worldly knowledge through the wisdom gained by their ancestors.

This results in a knowledge of the world that is passed down through word and song.  They can travel great distances through their lands guided by the Songlines,  paths that are traveled while singing specific songs that point out direction and landmarks.  It’s a beautiful system that very much ties the Aborigines to their ancestry and the land in which they live.  The late Bruce Chatwin wrote an interesting book, The Songlines, in the 80’s that gave a great account of this culture and belief system.

But whatever the reasoning, conscious and unconscious, behind it, I find myself continuing to look at this piece.  And dreaming.

The Way It Goes

delicate-balanceI’m back after a few days away from the blog.  Part of that time was spent on a quick trip into NYC for some theater, meeting up with a class from our local high school led by their teacher (who is also our good neighbor and friend Bill Hynes) to attend a matinee of Edward Albee’s masterful play A Delicate Balance.  The cast was stellar headed by Glenn Close and John Lithgow along with Martha Plimpton, Bob Balaban and British stage veterans Lindsay Duncan and Claire Higgins.  The play has the guise of a normal drama (with highly comedic elements) dealing with themes concerning family and personal relationships but is really an exercise in absurdity as an already fractured family unit tries to cope with an existential terror being experienced by their best friends, a married couple who take refuge in their grown daughter’s bedroom.

It was a grand thing to see, watching these extraordinary talents perform this complexly structured piece.  They seemed like musicians to me, all working to bring their separate parts together into a living thing beyond themselves.  Indeed, looking down on the stage from our balcony seats, you could see a geometry in the way the characters set themselves and in the way their dialogue moved back and forth that reminded me very much of the shapes of music that I often see in my head when I am listening to music.  Albee himself has said that his plays often resemble pieces of music when they are going well and this seemed to be the case.

It was powerful stuff and was heightened even more by the fact that our friend had arranged a talk back session for his class with members of the cast.  Immediately after the show ended and the rest of the audience had departed, the class moved to the front rows of the theater and had a short session with stage manager Roy Harris and actors Claire Higgins and Bob Balaban, who played the married friends who were suffering the fear.  All were extraordinarily gracious and giving in dealing with the class and gave real insight into how this revival of the play had evolved and grown within the time of the run, how each performance was different , with its own rhythm and, sometimes, a different interpretation.

They pointed out a mistake in the performance that, to almost everyone outside the cast and crew, had went by unnoticed.   But to the cast it was like a spark that brought everyone into a type of hyper-focus.  They all felt that the play from that point on was electric and, indeed, to this untrained eye, this seemed to be the case.  It was highly enlightening and the kids were absolutely thrilled to be able to ask questions and get really thought out answers.  One even was hoisted on to the stage so that she could experience the thrill of looking out at the empty Broadway theater.  It will be a day that will live with those kids for  a long time.

And that made a great day of theater even more so.  Many kudos to Bill Hynes for providing this wonderful for the these kids as well as for teaching them such challenging material.

Well, it is Sunday so that means a little music to kick off the day.  I’ve noticed that Gillian Welch, a longtime favorite of mine, had fallen out of my listening rotation so I thought I would try to reinsert her distinct sound.  Here’s The Way It Goes.  Have a great Sunday!

GC Myers Exiles-Bang Your DrumThere are several upcoming projects  on the burner for this year, which I will reveal in the near future.  One of them has me going through a lot of images and writings from the past. It is sometimes painful and sometimes a pleasant surprise.  I came across this blog post from several years back  that I thought was worth sharing today while I get back to these projects. From February of 2009:

This is another piece from my early Exiles series, titled Bang Your Drum.  This is a later piece, finished in late 1996.  

Initially, I was a bit more ambivalent about this painting compared to the feeling I had for the other pieces of the Exiles series.  It exuded a different vibe.  For me, the fact that the drummer is marching signifies a move away from the pain and loss of the other Exiles pieces.  There is still solemnity but he is moving ahead to the future, away from the past.

Over the years, this piece has grown on me and I relate very strongly to the symbolism of the act of beating one’s own drum, something that is a very large part of promoting your work as an artist.  

For me and most artists, it is a very difficult aspect of the job, one that is the polar opposite to the traits that led many of us to art.  Many are introverted observers of the world, passively taking in the world as it races by as they quietly watch from a distance.  To have to suddenly be the the motor to propel your work outward is an awkward step for many, myself included.  Even this blog, which is a vehicle for informing the public about my ongoing work and remains very useful to me as a therapeutic tool for organizing  my thoughts , is often a tortuous chore, one that I sometimes agonize and fret over.  Even though my work is a public display of my personal feelings, this is different.  More obvious and out in the open.

There’s always the fear that I will expose myself to be less than my work.  The fear that people will suddenly discover the myriad weaknesses in my character that may not show in my paintings, forever altering their view of it.  The fear that I will be  revealed to be, as they say, a mile wide and an inch deep.  

But here I stand with my drumstick in hand, hoping to overcome these fears and trusting that people will look beyond my obvious flaws when they view my work.  Maybe they too have the same fears and that is the commonality they see and connect with in the work.  Whatever the case, there is something in the work that makes me believe that I must fight past these fears and move it forward, out into the world.

What that is, as I’ve said before, I just don’t know.  Can’t think about it now– I’ve got a drum to pound…

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