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GC Myers Shambhala smJust a reminder that my show, Traveler, is currently on view at the Principle Gallery and will be hanging there until July 9th.  One of the pieces still available is the piece above,  Shambhala, an 18″ by 36″ canvas piece that I wrote about on this blog back in early March.   It’s a painting that I feel very strongly about.  Since that was three months before the show went up, I thought I might replay that post today.  In March, I wrote:

According to Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is name given to what they consider the Pure Land, a utopia of sorts whose reality is as much spiritual as it is physical.  A place where everyone achieves a state of enlightenment and peace and tranquility.  Author James Hilton morphed the name into Shangri-La for his novel Lost Horizon which describes a group of Westerners who find themselves the guests in a small idyllic nation of this name tucked away in a protected Himalayan valley.

Whatever you call it, the idea of a place of enlightenment and peace seems pretty attractive to me these days, given the many events going on in the world being driven forward by such negative factors as greed, hate and fear.  That tranquil inner place is what I see in this new painting, an 18″ by 36″ canvas that carries this name, Shambhala.  The road , for me, represents the search that leads to this elusive state and the sun  a blissful guide with a warm lure that radiates throughout the sky.  The Red Tree is on a small peninsula set into a calm body of water, still attached to the world  but in an ethereal space.  It is in a state of being where it is firmly in the moment, having set aside the past and disregarding the future.  Just absorbing the now.

That’s what I see and that is what I imagine how that moment might feel but I am still on that path, looking ahead for a sight of that hopeful destination.

 

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JRR Tolkien Drawing for "THe Hobbit"

JRR Tolkien Drawing for “The Hobbit”

Today, on the website, BrainPickings.org, a wonderfully informative site written by Maria Popova, there is a great post on the art of  The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien‘s classic fantasy that has thrilled young and old alike for more than 75 years now.  It includes Tolkien’s own  drawings, which are quite impressive (one of my favorites is at the top of this post),  as well as a number of other artists’ conceptualizations,  taken from a number of editions from around the world.  There are drawings from Swedish, Czech,  Japanese and   Russian  editions, each very unique in their take on the Tolkien tale.  It’s great to see these other translations of this story that has become part of our universal culture.

Below is a group from Swedish-Finn artist Tove Jansson‘s 1962 Swedish edition of the book.  They are among my favorites although it’s hard to single out any one, so beautifully done are they all. Please click on the Tolkien drawing at the top to go to BrainPickings and see the entire group.

tovejansson_hobbit tovejansson_hobbit1 tovejansson_hobbit2 tovejansson_hobbit3 tovejansson_hobbit4 tovejansson_hobbit5 tovejansson_hobbit6 tovejansson_hobbit7 tovejansson_hobbit8

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GC Myers- Freedom DreamWhat are we when we are alone? Some, when  they are alone, cease to exist.

Eric Hoffer

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I was contacted by another author for use of one of my images for inclusion in his upcoming book.  It was an old image, one that I still possessed and had used on the this blog, so I began to go through my files to find it.  Shuffling through the old work, many from before I began exhibiting publicly, brought a number of surprises.  There were pieces, like this one here on the right,  that had slipped my mind and seeing them rekindled instant recognition and memory, like stumbling upon an old acquaintance who you had not thought of in ages.  But there were others that had been lost in my memory and seeing them still only vaguely brought traces of their origin, as though you were again coming across someone who knew you but you couldn’t quite remember them even though there was something familiar in them, something you knew that you once knew.

Looking at these old pieces made me think of  all the time spent alone with these images.  The quote  above from Eric Hoffer came to mind.  What are we when we are alone?  Is that the real you? Or is the real you that person that interacts with all the outside world?  Looking at these pieces, I began to think that the person I was when I was alone had evolved slowly over the years, becoming closer to one entity.  What I mean is  that the person I was when I was alone, my inner voice,  did not always jibe with my outer voice and over time, especially as I have found a true voice in my work, has come closer and closer to becoming one and the same.

I don’t know if I can explain that with any clarity.  It’s a feel thing,  one that instantly comes from holding one of these paintings and still seeing the division that once was in them and in myself.  It is not anything to do with quality or subject or process.  It’s just a perceived feeling in the piece, an intangible that maybe only I can sense.  But it’s there and it makes me appreciate the journey and the work that brought these two voices closer together.

My alone time immersed in these pieces has seldom felt lonely and,  going back to Hoffer’s quote, never did I feel that I ceased to exist in my oneness.  I know people who are like that, that need constant interaction in order to feel alive and vital, but for me it has often felt almost the opposite.   That probably is a result of that division of my inner and outer voices that I have been trying to describe.  When I was alone I was always comfortable with my inner voice and the work that resulted from it served in the forms of companions.

I definitely exist  in my solitude and my work, my constant companion, is my proof.

I am going to stop now.  Enough confession for one morning.  I have new companions on the easel to which I must attend.

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I am on the road today so  being short on time  I am reposting a short entry from a couple of months back, in early April.  I normally don’t repost articles so soon after they first appear but I consider this painting, Proclamation,  an important part of my show , Traveler, which opens tomorrow night at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  It represents for me the culmination of the journey, the end point for which the entire journey was made.  It is about a true realization of self, of attainment of goal .  And therein lays the central theme of this show– that our lives can have direction and purpose.

So, without any more words, here is what I posted earlier:

GC Myers- Proclamation By health I mean the power to live a full, adult, living, breathing life in close contact with what I love — the earth and the wonders thereof — the sea — the sun. All that we mean when we speak of the external world. A want to enter into it, to be part of it, to live in it, to learn from it, to lose all that is superficial and acquired in me and to become a conscious direct human being. I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming so that I may be (and here I have stopped and waited and waited and it’s no good — there’s only one phrase that will do) a child of the sun. About helping others, about carrying a light and so on, it seems false to say a single word. Let it be at that. A child of the sun.

Katherine Mansfield

October, 1922, Her final journal entry

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I came across this final journal entry from the writer Katherine Mansfield, who died much too early from tuberculosis at age 35, and thought how much her words fit what I was thinking about this newer painting shown above. I call this 30″ by 40″ painting Proclamation and the thought and feeling it may be proclaiming might very well be the same as those expressed by Mansfield.

It is a painting that speaks of coming to an understanding of one’s self and stepping forward in the light to show that true identity. It is at once flawed and beautiful. Flawed by the scars of attained wisdom and change. Beautiful because it is honest and real, open to the elements and all who look upon it. It has become, to use Mansfield’s term, a child of the sun.

I think it would be too easy to say too much here.

Let it be at that. A child of the sun.

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Wind From the Sea - Andrew Wyeth

Wind From the Sea- Andrew Wyeth

A friend sent me a link to the  exhibit,  Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In,  that is hanging at the National Gallery of Art until the end of November.  It centers on a group his work that features windows in the imagery, a theme that he revisited numerous times in his career.  It is work that demonstrates a real sense of abstraction and deeper emotion within his realism, something he felt was often overlooked in his career, particularly by those critics who downplayed the importance of his work during his lifetime.  There has been a reevaluation in the aftermath of his death with a deeper understanding of it and  at last Wyeth is getting the full acclaim his work accorded.

My friend said that the introductory essay for the exhibit reminded him of my work. At first,  even though I was pleased with the compliment of being compared to Wyeth in any way, I didn’t quite see it.  Our work is, after all,  so different in appearance in so many ways, our surfaces and imagery having little in common.  But the quote  from Wyeth  at the end of the essay made it much clearer:

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth

You can have the technique and paint the object,  but it’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object — and that’s pure emotion. I think most people get to my work through the backdoor. They’re attracted by the realism and sense the emotion and the abstraction — and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion.”

It’s a sentiment I have often tried to get across to people.  I want my work to have a simplicity that invites easy accessibility into the picture, hoping then that they will see the underlying elements– the forms, colors and textures– that transmit the emotion of the piece, hoping that my own emotion will be replaced by their own.  Like Wyeth, I consider myself an abstract painter in this same backdoor approach, inviting the viewer with something with which they can easily  relate  initially until they fully realize the emotion of the piece.

That is, if they do at all.   There are some who just won’t get beyond the apparent simplicity and accessible nature of the work.  Certainly the critics of Wyeth never did try to look beyond the surface and  that was their loss.  But if you’re in the DC area this year, try to make it to the National Gallery of Art to see this wonderful work.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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grant wood young cornI have written about Grant Wood here before.  Most of know him from American Gothic, the well-known painting of the somber farmer and wife and pitchfork in front of a neat farm home.  But for me,  I am totally enthralled by his landscapes, drawing heavy influence from the way his curvy hillocks and fields come to life within his compositions.  Whenever I am feeling less than inspired all I need to do is glimpse a Grant Wood landscape and I am filled with vigor, envisioning new work of my own that draws upon the same life force and rhythm that I am seeing in his work.

I think that Wood and I share  the same belief that the landscape is alive and is best represented by human curves and, looking at his work, it is easy to connect with the humanity beneath it.  I’ve included some of my favorite Grant Wood landscapes here including The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with its nocturnal blue tint in its upper reaches.  It’s a bright and shining painting but you never doubt that it is a night scene.  That’s one of the other lessons that I drew from Wood– that you can represent things that are counter-intuitive if you paint them with that sense of rightness in your mind that allows it to see that thing in its essence, in its true nature.

It’s almost like seeing things through the eyes of a child.  Not quite but in that spirit.  For such a seemingly simple concept, it’s a difficult thing to get across.  Anyway, enjoy these pieces from the great Mr. Wood.  I know that they have filled me with inspiration already this morning.

Grant Wood Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Grant Wood Haying Grant Wood Stone City Iowa 1930 Grant Wood New Road Grant Wood fall plowing

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“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel

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GC Myers Memory of  Night sm

I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now, staring at the quote above from Elie Wiesel.  I had planned on writing about how my work evolved as a response to the indifference of others but now, looking at those words and putting them into the context of  Wiesel’s experience, I feel a bit foolish.  Wiesel, who had survived the Holocaust, was eyewitness to indifference on a grand scale, from those who were complicit or those who did not raise their voices in protest even though they knew what was happening to the personal indifference shown by his Nazi guards, as they turned a blind eye to the suffering and inhumanity directly before them on a daily basis, treating them as though they were nothing at all.

The indifference of which he speaks is that which looks past you without  any regard for your humanity. Or your existence, for that matter.  It is this failure to engage, this failure to allow our empathy to take hold and guide us,  that grants permission for the great suffering that takes place throughout our world.

So you can see where writing about showing a picture as a symbolic battle against indifference might seem a bit trivial.  It certainly does to me.  But I do see in it a microcosm of the wider implications.  We all want our humanity, our existence, recognized and for me this was a small way of  raising my voice to be heard.

When I first started showing my work I was coming off of a period where I was at my lowest point for quite some time.  I felt absolutely voiceless and barely visible in the world, dispossessed in many ways.  In art I found a way to finally express an inner voice, my real humanity,  that others could see and react to.  So when my first opportunity to display my work came, at the West End Gallery in 1995, I went to the show with great trepidation.  For some, it was just a show of  some nice paintings by some nice folks.  For me, it was a test of my existence.

It was interesting as I stood off to the side, watching as people walked about the space.  It was elating when someone stopped and looked at my small pieces.  But that  feeling of momentary glee was overwhelmed by the indifference shown by those who walked by with hardly a glance.  That crushed me.  I would have rather they had stopped and spit at the wall than merely walk by dismissively.  That, at least, would have made me feel heard.

Don’t get me wrong here– some people who are not moved by a painting walking by it without a glance are not Nazis.  I held no ill will toward them, even at that moment.  I knew that I was the one who had placed so much importance on this moment, not them.  They had no idea that they were playing part to an existential  crisis.  Now, I am even a bit grateful for their indifference that night because it made me vow that I would paint bolder, that I would make my voice be heard.  Without that indifference I might have settled and not continued forward on my path.

But in this case, I knew that it was up to me to overcome their indifference.

Again, please excuse my use of Mr. Wiesel’s quote here.  We all want to be heard, to be recognized on the basic levels for our own existence, our own individual selves. But too often, we all show indifference that takes that away from others, including those that we love.  We all need to listen and hear, to look and see, to express our empathy with those we encounter.  Maybe in these small ways the greater effects of indifference of which Elie Wiesel spoke can be somehow avoided.

It’s a hope.

The painting at the top is a new piece that I call Memory of Night, inspired by Wiesel’s book, Night.

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