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Posts Tagged ‘Outlaws’

GC Myers  The Kid  Outlaws was a series of small  paintings that I did back in 2006.  They were  dark pieces, painted in a deep almost-black sepia,  where the light of figures emerge from the darkness.  There was a sense of desperation in each of these figures, a sort of inner struggle that overflowed to the outer world, that gave the series its title.  They are not necessarily breakers of the law but they are outside it, away from central stream of the world.  Outcasts more than pure outlaws.  Some of the characters held handguns, mainly in fearful, defensive positions.  The exception was the piece shown above, The Kid, which is most aggressive piece in the series and the one that most closely fits the textbook definition of outlaw.

996-240 Confession smIn most of my work, there are elements that take on symbolic meaning.  The Red Tree.  The Red Chair and Red Roofs.  The artifacts found underground in the Archaeology series.These things evoke some sort of  private meaning for most viewers, mostly familiar and gentle to them.  The handgun does this as well, although the reaction is definitely more extremely polarized.  I wanted a symbol that raised extreme emotion, wanted to see how people reacted.

Many people were disturbed by the imagery because it was so far  from the gentler alter-world I normally paint.  It had elements of fear and other darker emotions that are usually absent from my signature work.  The handgun piece, predictably, was the most disturbing to most people. 996-245 The Fear sm I have described here before how the pieces that showed the central figure looking through a window became a litmus test for  a person’s own level of fear or, at least, understanding of the fears of other people.   Some people saw the figure as a threat, peering in the window from the outside, ready to invade their home.  Others saw them as a figure looking out the window from the interior, fearful and haunted.  Although this result was not intended, it pleased me that it raised such distinctly different points of view.

996-229 Two Sides smI suppose this is akin to the way people view the ongoing debate on gun control.  Each sees gun control in different ways.  I grew up around guns.  My father wore a gun to work every day and we always had guns in the house.  Most people I knew  hunted and had guns.  I remember my grand-uncle taking me on an early morning  walk when I was about 5 years old.  We walked down to the cove, an inlet along the Chemung River where people dumped their trash,  which was not that uncommon at the time, unfortunately.  He sat up several coffee cans and bottles and stood behind me, putting his arms around me to help me steady the heavy blue steel of the handgun he took from his holster.  I remember the thrill of the jolt from the blast and the clang of the can.  The pungent smell of gunsmoke in my nostrils and the pointy ringing  in my unprotected ears.  It is an indelible memory.

996-221 Outlaw's Vigil smI don’t have a gun now and haven’t shot a gun in several years.  Can’t stand the noise, to tell  the truth.  But I respect the rights of hunters and shooters and feel that guns do have a place in our country.  That being said, the current debate has become poisoned by the fearful hyperbole perpetrated by the NRA and other advocates.  Any form of gun control is seen by them as the first move towards some  fascist, dystopian future, a paranoia which prevents any sort  of dialogue based on common sense.  They oppose any laws , any registries and almost all oversight.  They say that the laws on the book now should be enforced but they say it with a wink because they know that they have effectively disabled the effectiveness of this enforcement though crafty lobbying which has led to underfunded  agencies such as the undermanned ATF which are hampered in their efforts at every turn by restrictions imposed by lawmakers who are very friendly with the gun lobby .  Until we begin to look at how these agencies can once again be allowed to enforce the laws currently on the book as they are written,  new gun law legislation is a moot point and a distraction from the fact that the enforcement of any new laws is toothless by their design.

Unfortunately, they are a powerful and well funded lobby that knows how to play on the fears of gun owners.  They make people who are at no risk of losing any guns or the right to use  them believe  that the gun apocalypse is near.  They want to stay in the extreme position  because that is where fear is created.  They need that fear and they play on that fear.  It sells guns and ammo and that is the  bottom line.   It’s not about the Second Amendment, it’s not about stopping a Fascist American  government  and it’s certainly not about making us safer.  Their efforts certainly haven’t made any of us feel any safer, gun owners included.  The characters in these painting have guns and they certainly don’t seem any more at ease for it.

Free the agencies responsible to fully enforce the law…

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GC Myers-- Keyhole “Keyholes are the occasions of more sin and wickedness, than all other holes in this world put together.”

–Laurence Sterne

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I had to chuckle when I came across this quote.  It had the timing as though it had been written by a modern comedy writer.  Then I noticed it was from Laurence Sterne who is best known for his comic novel Tristram Shandy from  mid-1700′s Britiain.  I wasn’t surprised at the humor then nor the truth behind it.

The idea of the keyhole being a glimpse into a world that is separated from our own, even if only by a locked door, has been the provenance of voyeurs forever and is the central idea behind this tiny new painting.  Except, I don’t see this as that same sort of voyeurism as the ogler who peeks for some sort of perverse pleasure.  No, this is different.

This 2″ by 4″ canvas, called Keyhole and done for the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery in Corning, is not about peering in, trying to see that which is secreted  away  in a room behind closed doors.  No, the viewer here is the one locked away in a room behind a closed door and the keyhole is a form of liberation. it reminds me a bit of my Outlaws series from a few years back where I had figures, often with handguns, that were standing by windows.  They appeared at first glance to be predatory but on closer examination show themselves to be the hunted, fearful ones.  They were not on the outside at all but were locked away inside, looking out the window as they cowered in their fear .

 And that’s kind of how I see this  piece although the viewer here is not looking out in fear but,  rather, in a longing glance for freedom for whatever keeps them trapped inside.  It could be as simple as a prisoner longing  to walk free in the sun.  Or it could be someone trapped in self-made prison who wishes that things could be different but can only see the possibility from within their captivity.  There are so many possibilities in such a small piece!

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In the Shadow

GC Myers  In the ShadowAs I wrote a few weeks back, I’m in the middle of my process where I spend some time both looking backward and forward through my work, looking at pieces from the past for bits of inspiration that might lead to some new synthesis of  the original creative driver.  In doing so I sometime come across paintings that are unlike anything that was done in the time period around them, paintings that stand out in sharp contrast.  This is one such piece, called In the Shadow. a 9″ by 12″ sepia painting from six or seven years back.

As I scanned through my files, mostly quiet and placid pieces with warm colors and calming compositions, I came across this dark piece that seemed so out of place.  Nothing before it in that year showed any evidence of this piece’s coming.  And nothing after it showed any signs of its influence.  It was a complete anomaly for its time.

I showed it a few times but it never sold which did not surprise me at all.  It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was a good piece  because I did think it had a unique quality that made it good. I often use good to describe my work, meaning that it has a complete feel, a life all its own, and this painting had it.   But I wasn’t surprised at the lack of interest because of the quality but because it was too personal, too reflective of my own angst.  I knew at the time that it was only meant for me because of this.

Most of my work deals with alleviating the angst that is often consuming for me.  It is all about escaping that shadow and bringing light.  I have often said that my work is not a reflection of who I really am but is instead a goal of who I want to be.  It is aspirational work.  This, on the other hand, was not filled with hope but was instead a snapshot of  the reality of the moment for me.

It was personal and too narrow in its meaning to easily connect with those who see the better parts of themselves in my work.  I understood that from the moment I created this piece.  But I felt that I had to show it just to be honest about my own reality, my own journey.  We are all prismatic figures  that only show certain facets to the outside world at any given  time and I wanted to let people see this often hidden facet just to let them know that  it is there.  Perhaps one day, it will fade from the light of the other, more hopeful facets.

But it is there and every now and then it shows itself just to remind me from where I came.  But not where I am going.

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We’re into the heat here and in many areas across the nation with near record temps in Alexandria yesterday and the fires in Colorado still raging.  The dog days of summer.  I thought I’d have a musical break and in looking for something appropriate came across Fire from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown from back in 1968.  We’ve moved way past this in terms of outlandishness in the forty-plus years since this performance on Britain’s Top of the Pops but I have to chuckle at the outrage it must have provoked at the time.  I can only imagine the middle-aged British parents who had endured World War II and the German Blitzkrieg  upon seeing this must have felt that the world was in a death spiral and that Arthur Brown was indeed the god of hellfire.  Of course, he was just a guy trying to draw some attention and sell some records, which he did.

The painting shown above is one of my personal favorites called Elvis in the Wilderness.  It was part of my Outlaws series from several years back.  I’ve shown it here before but I thought it fit the spirit of this song and the background has the feel of impending fire.  Here’s Arthur Brown.  Hopefully, his fire will soon diminish and the fires in Colorado will cease.

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Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.

—— John Ruskin

 
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These words from Ruskin might have meaning in both a practical and a spiritual sense.  Simply put words of advice for the traveler: Move forward while the road ahead is visible.  Words that apply also to the internal traveler, those trapped in a twilight world inside where they always seem on the edge of darkness.
 
I think this fits this new piece that I call Knowing Darkness.  It’s a small painting, just 6″ by 6″ on masonite, done in a style that I have used periodically pver the years, most notably in my Outlaws pieces of a few years back.  The Outlaws were  singular figure, some with handguns, all done in this same dark black/sepia tone where the image is not really light  painted on but darkness carved away.  The technique is a throwback to my earliest attempts at painting when I was still thinking of the surface as being a solid surface in which the image was sculpted. 
 
While these pieces are always darkly introspective, they always seem to bring me a certain excitement in doing them, as though the bits of light being revealed are new light for me as well.  Like I am pulling away a certain personal darkness with each bit of white surface that breaks through.  In that respect, I find these pieces more hopeful than their outward appearance suggests.
 
This piece is no different.  When I look at this piece it says to me that you can know darkness without dwelling in it. 

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Prism

I wasn’t going to show this.  Part of being an artist is in creating and maintaining a certain facade,  playing up the more favorable facets of one’s personal prism.  To show something that might be perceived as contrary to this nurtured persona is always a risk, at least in an intellectual sense.  People don’t always want to know anything beyond the single dimension they might know and to offer more than that imperils their regard for even that single dimension. 

For instance,  several years back I did a series of dark figures that I called the Outlaw series.  Whem they were hung at my annual show, the gallery asked for a separate statement to explain these figures out of the fear that my collectors would think that this was the new direction that my work had headed, instead of it  merely being another view of those same emotions that had created the more calm and placid work that they recognized and were drawn to.  I did, in fact, have several folks ask if this was the new direction and some even asked me to promise that it was not.  I tried to explain that this was not new but merely a different part of the same person.  Another facet on the prism.

I’m not sure they were convinced.

It was painted yesterday in about ten minutes, without much thought or care.  It’s about 16″ by 20″ and painted with one large brush.   Over the years I have periodically dashed off these characters,  calling them my angry pictures.  I am not necessarily angry when I paint these figures.  Perhaps frustrated or anxious. I don’t really know.

 I have had these guys in me since I was child and periodically they emerge.  I don’t know if they serve a purpose or what part of myself, if any,  they represent.  I always feel a bit of release after they are on the surface and perhaps that is the purpose.  They usually go into a sort of file and aren’t often seen after that.  Occasionally, I will pull them out and be slightly baffled by them and very seldom do I show them to anyone. 

 But I felt that I would show a bit more of the prism today.  They don’t change the  visble light coming from the other facets.  It comes from the same source but out in a different manner.

At least, I think so.

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I can’t believe I failed to mention the birthday of Elvis Presley, who would have turned 75 a  few days back.  It’s not that I was the hugest of Elvis fans although I was an admirer of many of his songs and performances and recognized the attraction his talent had for many.  It’s just that in death he has become this cultural phenomenon, an icon that has taken on almost mythic and mystical qualities for his ardent fans.

That’s kind of what I saw when I painted this small piece a few years back.  It’s called Elvis in the Wilderness which recalls Moses‘ exile to the wilderness.  I may do a follow-up where Elvis leads the exodus from Eygpt.

Or maybe Elvis healing lepers.  Or perhaps traveling through time, battling various injustices throughout history.  Elvis in hand to hand combat with the tag team of Hitler and Mussolini.  Elvis at Valley Forge.

TCB, baby.  Just like the 3 letters on his huge belt buckle indicate.  Taking care of business.

It could be anything, anywhere.  That’s the beauty of Elvis as a mythic character, a superhero.  He fits easily into any time and setting with the powers imbued on him by his fans and as a result, never really dies.

Here’s a performance that I really love if only for the iconic stance in his white suit before the huge ELVIS sign.  Great visual.

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Two Sides

996-229-two-sidesThis is another piece from my Outlaws series, titled Two Sides.  For some, this is a little scary- a guy holding a gun.  For me, it is representative of the two opposing sides in everyone’s nature.

yin-yangI believe we are all comprised of equal parts of opposing valuesin our natures- man/woman, good/bad, light/dark.  Most walk that centerline that divides the two halves but both sides are always there, closer at hand that we may find comfortable.

This piece was designed to somewhat replicate the yin-yang symbol of Taoism.  Light and darkness make up the central character, although he appears to have slid slightly more to the darker side of his nature.

Perhaps appearances can be deceiving…

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A Hard Past

A Hard PastThis is a painting from a couple of years ago, titled  A Hard Past, part of the Outlaws series.  I have been hesitant to write about this piece even though it remains a personal favorite.  I use it as the wallpaper on my office computer and am always transfixed by this face.

It actually reminds me very much of my mother.  I know that may not seem a very flattering thing to say but there is something in the hardened distant gaze that reminds me of Mom, sitting silently at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and her ever present Camel.  She would just sit there in silence for long periods of time and I often wonder what thoughts and memories ran through her mind. 

The title came from this memory of her.  She had a pretty hard life- her mother died when she was three,  no school beyond ninth grade, years of toiling in a factory and a long, turbulent and angry marriage to my father.  I could go into detail but I don’t think she would like it, if she were still around.  She liked privacy and preferred to be away from other people, a trait that I carry as well.

I could go on but I just wanted to show this piece again.  I do think Mom would be okay with that…

Speaking of the Outlaws series, here’s a short video I put together with the paintings from that series along with some from many years earlier.  The music is from Bill Frisell

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Elvis in the WildernessThis is a small oddity titled Elvis in the Wilderness from a series that I called Outlaws, first shown in 2006 and a series I will address more in future posts.  They were all fairly small pieces, usually 4 to 6″ square and were all much darker in nature and in appearance than my normal work.  They were, however, an extension of the faces that I would draw in my high school years so for me they were not a drastic change.  They were all part of me.  For many longtime viewers they were a sharp turn away from the style and light of my representative work.  Many approached me at the show at the Principle Gallery that year asking if this was a new direction and would it mark the end of the landscapes.  I explained that this was just another aspect of one person, that while I do show myself through my work I am only showing small facets of my whole at any given time.  Snapshots, if you will.

My paintings often represent who I am at any given point in time but sometimes they are more aspiration than reality.  I long for calmness and peace, in the world and in myself.  I desire a strong and brave outlook, to have the wisdom of the ages.  I want to shed my fears aside and live boldly.  Unfortunately, these wishes sometimes remain just that– wishes.

But so long as these aspirations remain, there is hope for more light  and less darkness.  Like Elvis in the Wilderness, sometimes one struggles to find a way to the light.

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