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Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

GC Myers-Dedicated Follower of FashionThis piece from years ago always sticks out to me when I am rambling around in my past work.  I am never quite sure if I like this piece which is an odd thing for me.  I usually have one overriding opinion on most of my work with little ambivalence.  But this one always gnaws at me and I stll find myself wondering why. 

I showed this on this blog back in 2009 but I thought it was worth showing again today along with its inspiration, a Kinks song describing the 60’s era London fashionistas.

Here it is:

This is called Dedicated Follower of Fashion, based on the song of the same name from the mind of Ray Davies and the Kinks.

I call this one of the Exiles pieces but I’m not really sure if it truly fits. It was done at the same time back in 1995 or ’96 and performed in the same manner but lacks the emotional depth of the others. In fact, it’s defining feature is its lack of emotional content.

I think that this blankness may have been the factor that led me to shape this piece into its final form. The elements of the face were the first part completed and basically dictate, in the way I work, where the painting goes. For instance, he could have been place on a vast and deep plain that sweeps to the distance behind him but that didn’t fit for me.

There was something in his oddly colored features that reminded me of the vanity and obsequiousness of many fashionistas. And that’s where the Kinks come in.

So, maybe he doesn’t quite fit in with the other Exiles but maybe that in itself makes him an exile of sorts.

Anyway, here are the Kinks doing the song…

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Derek Jeter #2 - Michelle V. Agins-/NY Times

Derek Jeter #2 – Michelle V. Agins-/NY Times

You would expect that a blog from an artist would focus on the influence and lessons learned from other artists.  Sure.  I have done that many times.  But some of the greatest lessons that I have learned and actions that I have emulated have come from sources far afield from the world of art.

Take, for instance, Derek Jeter.

As we fans of Derek Jeter struggle this weekend with the end of a glorious era as he retires as the legendary shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, we are left with memories and a few lessons.

The first lesson that I took from the Captain is: Give total effort all of the time.  Watching him come to bat thousands of time, I cannot recall a single instant when he didn’t bust out of the batter’s box and run with his greatest effort on what appeared to be an easy out for the opposing team.  He knew, as the great Joe Dimaggio had pointed out before, that there were people in the stand who might never get to see him again, who had traveled to see him play and to not give his total effort would be robbing those people of seeing him at his best.  And besides that, good and unexpected things often came from this effort– often making the other team hurry, causing mistakes on their part, and spurring his teammates to follow suit and give that same effort.

Total effort becomes routine for players like Derek Jeter, acting like a rehearsal.   In the big moments, they simply focus and do that same thing they have done every time before.

The second lesson is to : Make the most of what you have.  This is an extension of the first lesson.  Over the last year or so, I have Derek Jeter point out , when asked what he thought separated him from other players, that he knew he was not the most talented player in the game or at his position.  But his desire to excel, his dedication to working hard and his willingness to give total effort with each attempt multiplied his talent level.  How many times have you seen those with great amounts of talent in just about any field flounder simply because they cannot find the focus or dedication to fully use their talent?

Lesson three is: Know who and what you are.  This is kind of an extension of lesson two.  Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses, while at the same time trying to make your weaknesses into a strength.  Derek had vulnerabilities in his swing early in his career, susceptible to inside pitches.  A definite weakness that would be exploited throughout his career if he didn’t do something to change.  So he worked and developed an ability to fight off those pitches with a contorted, inside out swing that became a tremendous strength for him.  He also never tried to be a slugger or home run hitter because he knew that was not who he was, knew that was not his role on the team.  This translates to the art world easily as you often see artists who feel they must be something that they clearly are not and in attempting to do this take away from their real strength.

Lesson four:  Control your image.  Derek Jeter is a master at controlling his own actions and image, on and off the field.  On the field, he does not make wild claims or attack other players, doesn’t need to build himself up by tearing others down.  He never overreacts, never disrespects other players, umpires or the fans.  You never hear wild rumors about him or hear silly comments coming from him.  He has used his fame to create goodwill.  He began his foundation to aid and educate underprivileged kids when he was 21 years old.  Think about that– 21 years old.  How many of us would be thinking about ways to help others when we were that age, especially with a million dollars in our pockets and the free run of NYC?  He has stated that the foundation will be his primary focus in this post-baseball life.  As a result, he has built a reputation based on respect, both for his abilities and his image.

Lesson five :  Do not be afraid to fail.  While Derek Jeter has always seemed to succeed, those who watch the game regularly know this is not the case.  Like most players, he fails to get a it 7 out of 10 times at bat.  Yankee fans often grimace when he hits into double plays, a result of him always seeming to make contact with the pitch.  I have seen him fail numerous times, often striking out to end a game.  But the beauty of it is that he puts it aside and instead of dwelling on that failure, looks forward to the next chance to redeem himself.  You must be willing to go to the plate and swing that bat.  For artists, that means putting  your work out into the world, showing it at every opportunity, knocking on every door and dealing with possible rejections.  Because you struck out once does not mean that you won’t have hit next time up.

That brings us to lesson six:  Embrace the moment.  This is sort of a culmination of all of the other lessons.  Be ready for opportunity and when it appears, step up and take your best swing.  Be confident in who you are, in that you have the ability and that this moment is not greater than you.  Derek Jeter has done this countless times.  In the biggest moments, he seems to make the play, get the hit, score the run– whatever is required in the moment.  Last night, in his last at bat ever in Yankee Stadium, he delivered a storybook ending, stroking a game-winning hit with that swing that is oh so recognizable to his fans.  You don’t get a lot of opportunities in this life so be prepared and do what you must to score that run.

There are more things I could surely say about Derek Jeter.  He said that he has achieved his greatest wishes and beyond, more than he had dreamed possible.  So maybe I should have said something about creating  a vision of what you want to be. Perhaps you too  will achieve more than you initially thought possible.

It’s going to be hard to not see that number 2 jersey on the field after this weekend.  I already miss him but will not complain because Derek Jeter has given me 20 years of baseball that I have loved along with those lessons I have learned.  Thanks, Captain.

 

 

 

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Dorothea Lange - Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother

In a couple of days, on September 18th, there is a new exhibit of the photos of Dorothea Lange opening at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.  If you don’t know the name, you still probably are familiar with her images which include the iconic photo shown here on the right, taken in 1936 while she was working for the Farm Security Administration.  Migrant Mother is one of those images that seem to capture with a glimpse all of the sorrow and hardship of those affected in the Depression-era Dust Bowl,  in this case a mother forced to leave her home and wander in search of work that will provide for her children.

Her worry is etched on her face.  While John Steinbeck‘s book The Grapes of Wrath brought the plight of these displaced farmers of that time to the light, it was  Lange’s imagery that  gave them  a sense of humanity  and dignity that reached out and created an empathy with the viewer.  It was powerful, plain and simple.

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson  at Manzanar CA Camp

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson at Manzanar CA Camp

Some of her most powerful work came from an assignment she took with the War Relocation Authority during  WW II, when she was hired to document the interment of Japanese-American citizens.  Lange captured the humanity of these prisoners of race at a time when even the liberal and progressive elements in this country maintained silence over the shameful treatment of these citizens.  The photos were censored by the army during the war and were never seen until they were quietly moved to the National Archives, almost 50 years later.

Lange lived from 1895 until 1965, surviving the polio as a child which left her with a distinct limp for the rest of her life.  But neither the limp nor the chronic ulcers that plagued her for the last decades of her life could slow her down.   She sought to affect social change with her images, to give voice to the disenfranchised and down-trodden.

So, if you’re in the Cooperstown area, I highly recommend stopping in at the Fenimore Art Museum to see this work by this giant of American photography.  I know that I am looking forward to seeing it.

Dorothea Lange-  Flag  at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Flag at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange Dust Bowl Farm Dalhart Texas

Dorothea Lange- Dust Bowl Farm, Dalhart, Texas

 

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Paul Robeson and Shipyard Workers singing "The Star Spangled Banner" 1942

Paul Robeson and Shipyard Workers singing “The Star Spangled Banner” 1942

It’s a Sunday morning which means a bit of music here on the blog.  I try to have something fitting the day and since we’re in the midst of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I would have something labor related.  It is a holiday celebrating the working classes after all, something we often forget as we rush to get in that last weekend of the summer.  I’ve talked here before about the labor movement and how it transformed the American life.  Almost every right we now take for granted in the workplace was fought for– and I mean fought for— by workers and organizers who banded together to demand better working conditions and higher wages.

There were some important names in the labor movement of the early 20th century but maybe none so polarizing as that of Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant who came to America in 1902 and soon after, as an itinerant laborer,  became involved with the labor movement.  He joined the Industrial Workers of the World — the Wobblies– and wrote  some of the most memorable labor songs of the time, songs which are still played today– The Preacher and the Slave (Pie in the Sky) and There Is Power In a Union.

Hill was working in the silver mine areas of Utah when he was accused of a double murder.  Many believe that Hill was innocent , that the evidence cited did  not line up with the facts of the case, yet he was found guilty.   Many believed that his labor connections were the deciding factor in the guilty verdict.  He was executed by firing squad in 1915.

Hill did little to help himself, remaining silent about a wound that the prosecution claimed was inflicted on him during the murder.  Hill’s fiance later stated that Hill had wrote her from prison, saying that her former lover had shot him.  But Hill seemed to sense that he meant more to the movement as a martyr.

And that is exactly what he became.  He was cremated and his ashes divided into 600 small packets which were distributed around the world by the Wobblies to be cast to the winds.  He has been celebrated in word and song.  The name Joe Hill when spoken still draws the attention of those who know their history.

This is a song , I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night, written in the 1930’s by Earl Robinson and Alfred Hayes.   It is performed by the great Paul Robeson, one of the most interesting people of the last century.  Robeson was a star athlete, a lead actor and  headlining singer– the bright light in any sky he entered.    But more than that, Robeson was a ceaseless champion of the labor and civil rights movements.  If you don’t know much about Robeson, please look him up.

This is a subject that needs more space and time than I have to give today and for that, I apologize.  But please take a listen to the operatic voice of Paul Robeson as he sing about Joe Hill.  And remember what this holiday really means.

 

 

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GC Myers- Allura smI am putting together a small group of work to take with me for my upcoming Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery next month, on September 13th.  Among the paintings is this 24″ by 24″ canvas that I am calling Allura.   After finishing this piece, it seemed that the moon was the central focus, the tree and landscape holding an attraction for it.   I wanted something that described that but was sort of nebulous, not really well defined.  What better way to do that than with a word that sounds descriptive and perhaps from a foreign language but has little basis in its meaning.

You see this a lot in automobiles.  The Integra.  The Elantra.  My favorite is the Cadillac SUV, the Escalade.  Oh, its a real word in French but it means the scaling of a fortification’s walls with ladders such as in a military attack.  I’m not sure how this means anything to the vehicle perceived image.

But the word Allura stuck with me.  It had its base in the word allure and that was what I was seeing in it.  It was simple and efficient and even a bit elegant.  But looking it up just to make sure it didn’t have some other meaning I found that it is an girl’s name used mainly in the 18th and 19th century in England and America.

But even more interesting was that the name’s given definition was Divine Counselor.  I liked the name even more with this little bit of info.  It seemed to fit as even better for me than the vague word implying the moon’s attraction.  I could see the Red Tree here perching itself on that rise of earth and asking for some sort of guidance from the tranquil presence in the night sky.

I feel right with the name Allura now.  It sounds like it fits and ultimately, it does…

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matisse_icarusI am after an art of equilibrium and purity, an art that neither unsettles nor confuses.  I would like people who are weary, stressed and broken to find peace and tranquility as they look at my pictures.

-Henri Matisse

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

I list Henri Matisse, the French painter who was at the forefront of modern painting at the beginning of the 20th century, as a favorite and an influence.  It’s an odd pick because it is based not simply on the impact of his imagery.  In reality, some of his work does nothing for me and brings little reaction.  But there are pieces that do and when you couple these with his words on his art, his life’s ever evolving body of work  and the fearlessness with which he approached his art- well, then there is an overall impact that is huge.

I find myself nodding in agreement often when I read his words, like the quote at the top here, which sums up what I have been trying to say about my own work for some time.   His words shed a lot of light on his work for me, allow me to better see how he was seeing his own work which makes me appreciate it all the more as it changed over the course of his long career.  Born in 1869, Matisse began painting in the early 1890’s and worked at his art until his death in 1954.

Matisse Blue Nude cut ou 2tI use the term worked at this art because Matisse was not only a painter.  As health problems hindered him, he turned to other forms of expression such as cutting forms out of paper.  The image at the top, Jazz, and Blue Nude, shown here on the left, are two of his best known examples of the cut outs, both considered masterpieces of modern art.  This ability to express himself fully through his art despite hardships is really inspiring as is the fearless way in which he approached his painting.

It is bold and sure, with human curves throughout.  More about harmonizing color and simplifying form than capturing reality.  It makes me want to pick up a loaded brush and just paint freely and easily.  Let loose.

There’s a lot more to say about Matisse.  It took me a while to see why he was so influential to so many artists but now that I can fully see the scope of his work, I now better understand and take his influence and inspiration with me.

Matisse-The-Dessert-Harmony-in-Red-Henri-1908-fast Matisse- La_danse_ 1st Version MOMA

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Matisse with chalk drawing of Picasso- Brassai Photo

Matisse with chalk drawing of Picasso- Brassai Photo

There was an article the other day on Brain Pickings that contained some words on inspiration and creativity that Pablo Picasso had passed on to famed photographer Brassai during the many times that he had photographed and interviewed the artist over the course of thirty years.  It’s a short article with only a few points and, more importantly, a link to an earlier article concerning Picasso’s views on success .  Both are interesting articles that I recommend but what caught my eye was a photo  accompanying the first article  of Henri Matisse with a chalk drawing he had done while blindfolded.

It reminded me of an exercise I periodically use where I attempt to draw faces with my eyes tightly closed.  It usually  involves a single line and is pretty rudimentary.  The whole idea is to be able to visualize an image in your mind and  follow it there with your hand, overcoming the disconnect that comes with the closed eyes.  There are moments when the concentration kicks in and I can feel my hand and the image in a sort of harmony.  It’s a nice little brain exercise.

Seeing the Matisse photo made me want to get a chalkboard and try this exercise on a larger scale, where the sweeping motion of the arm and hand might be easier to synchronize with the mind’s image than with the smaller strokes of  pen on paper such as those below, done on  old newsprint with a ballpoint pen.  They are certainly nothing to celebrate but what I am looking for is a certainty in line and curve  as well as a similarity to my own eyes-open doodles. In that aspect, I am pleased.

Give it  a try.  It’s a nice little exercise for your mind…

GC Myers- Blindfold DoodlesThis one below was done slightly larger and with a few minutes of practice.  Both the size and practice improve the image.

 

GC Myers- Blindfold DoodlesTh

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