Island of Honor

GC Myers- Top O' the Heap sm

Top O’ the Heap— At Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA

Honor is like an island, rugged and without a beach; once we have left it, we can never return.

–Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, Satires (1716)

Some days after reading the news, I feel like we have left that island. Like we have left behind all honor, respect, and benevolence.

All virtue left behind on that island.

And as the 17th century French poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux— a man regarded as being honest and generous in his time– points out, once we left that island of honor, we can never find our way back.

We might find our way to other islands but without honor, they offer little but bare sustenance and a harsh life.

Much like Van Diemen’s Land.

There is a group of folk songs called Van Diemen’s Land which refers to the onetime name of the island now called Tasmania. Off the coast of Australia, it was named for the Governor-General of the Dutch east Indies who had sent Abel Tasman on the exploration that brought the island under the Dutch flag in the 1640’s. In the 1800’s, the island became the site of British penal colonies for the most difficult British convicts that were transported to Australia. About 40% of the transported convicts ended up in Van Diemen’s Land at some point.

I think that honor can be regained with time, honesty and a commitment to good acts. I have been contacted on this blog over the years by some lovely folks who live in Tasmania and they certainly seem to prove the point that we are not permanently bound to our pasts.

The history must always remain there however of only to serve as a reminder to always inhabit on to our island of honor.

There are many versions of the song from all over the Bristish Isles with widely varied lyrics, sang from the point of view of those either on their way or already in place on Van Diemen’s Land. I am playing a more contemporary version from U2 today, that the band wrote about the John Boyle O’Reilly, the leader of an 1864 Irish uprising after the Great Famine. He was banished to Australia for rebelling against the government.

Color My World

9923107 Color My World sm

Color My World, 2023

The mind is like a richly woven tapestry in which the colors are distilled from the experiences of the senses, and the design drawn from the convolutions of the intellect.

Carson McCullers, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941)

I like this idea of the mind being a tapestry formed by a weave of the sensuous and the intellectual.

Feeling and thought.

Color and pattern.

I wonder if the key to the mind is in maintaining a balance between these two, the warp and weft of its tapestry?

Balance is no doubt the answer, as it is in most things.

That is what I see in this new small piece (2″ by 4″ on paper) that is headed to the West End Gallery for its upcoming Little Gems show in February. Called Color My World, I view it as being about leading a life that weaves together thought and feeling.

For me, it has that balance. A fine and strong weave.

Here’s a song from Chicago that provided the title for this little gem. I haven’t heard this song for many years now but it was one of those tunes that seemed to be on the radio all the time when I was growing up in the early 70’s. If you’re of that era, you know what I mean.

Here’s Color My World.

Henri Matisse -the red studio

Henri Matisse- The Red Studio

You study, you learn, but you guard the original naïveté. It has to be within you, as desire for drink is within the drunkard or love is within the lover.

― Henri Matisse

I can always turn to Henri Matisse for something interesting, either in his work or in his words. While he was prolific in his painting there is also a wealth of quotes, interviews and essays from him that give insight into a warmly wise and giving spirit. I will admit that there are painters whose body of work more readily excite me but the words of Matisse never fail to provide inspiration and reassurance when I am seeking some form of validation of what I am doing.

For instance, he speaks of maintaining one’s own original naïveté as one learns and grows as an artist. That rawness and the natural sense of excitement that comes with it, is something I have also felt was important to maintain even as my craft has grown. I see the raw energy of naïveté as the blood that gives a painting its life force, that allows the viewer to see past the improbabilities and imperfections and see the beauty and truth being presented.

Maintaining that naïveté is much more difficult than you might think. One part of that is constantly battling against the proficiency gained through years of practice. The work becomes too polished or too real, too attached to the visible.

Too much of the outer world.

Naïveté require one to trade the reality of the world shared with everyone else for that reality contained within yourself, trusting that this inner world, imperfect as it is, will have a commonality that might speak to similar inner worlds among some of those who view it.

And that brings us to another favorite Matisse quote, below. The link to the universe he mentions is very much the same thing that links one’s inner world to that of another. At least that’s how I see it. This seems like a good spot to end this. Have a great day

We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.

― Henri Matisse

I have some things to get to this morning, so I am replaying a post from several years back. I’m adding a song that has to do with keeping that naïveté. It’s I Don’t Want to Grow Up from Tom Waits. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Seems like folks turn into thingsThat they’d never wantThe only thing to live forIs today…I’m gonna put a hole in my TV setI don’t wanna grow upOpen up the medicine chestAnd I don’t wanna grow upI don’t wanna have to shout it outI don’t want my hair to fall outI don’t wanna be filled with doubtI don’t wanna be a good boy scoutI don’t wanna have to learn to countI don’t wanna have the biggest amountI don’t wanna grow up


GC Myers- EyeSpy

EyeSpy, 2023

Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid.
Step out of line, the men come and take you away.

– For What It’s Worth, Stephen Stills, 1966

Don’t know if this new painting is about paranoia even though I chose a line on paranoia as the subject for the opening quote. Actually, I might not know what this new small piece means at all.

Maybe it is paranoia, feeling as though there are eyes everywhere, always watching you.

Or maybe it’s more playful, like the childhood game– I spy with my little eye…

Or maybe it’s about the unity of life, about how there is an animating force in all life forms, places, and things.

Or maybe it is little more than a reminder of how I have always tried, beginning in my childhood, to find the shape of eyes and faces in everything I looked at– clouds, the folds of drapes, the leaves in the trees, the pattern in wallpaper, etc.

I just don’t know why this piece fell out at this time and guess it doesn’t really matter in the long run. It has amused me, spooked me, brought back memories and made me think. All I can ask of any piece.

This small 4″ by 4″ painting, EyeSpy, is headed to the West End Gallery for their Little Gems show, opening February 10.

Since I used some lines from the venerable Stephen Stills/ Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, to open this post, let’s hear a version of the song from bluegrass icon Del McCoury and friends. Good stuff…

Frida Kahlo - what-the-water-gave-me 1938

Frida Kahlo- What the Water Gave Me, 1938

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.

–Graham Greene, Ways of Escape, 1980

The creative urge is a survival skill.

Graham Greene knew it.

Probably my only quibble with his words is that they are so specific, citing only writing, composing and painting. The creative urge extends well beyond those fields.

I have had so many people tell me at openings or gallery talks that they are not creative. I always try to ask what they do then try to get them to see the everyday creativity that is often overlooked and underpraised.

Surviving life requires the creative urge.

Virginia Woolf knew it.

When Woolf walked into the River Ouse with her coat pockets filled with stones to end her life in 1941, she felt that she could no longer create. The mental illness that had plagued her life made it impossible for her to concentrate, to read and to write. She had lost her means to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear that, as Greene pointed out, is inherent in the human situation.

I don’t mention Woolf’s death meaning to be a downer this morning. It’s actually an intro to the song below, What the Water Gave Me, from Florence and the Machine. She took the title of the song from the Frida Kahlo painting of that name shown at the top, painted in 1938. The painting, which Kahlo described as being biographical, was on the cover of a book about symbols that was near at hand when Florence was writing the song. She was also writing about the watery demise of Woolf.

I guess the point here is to hope that you recognize the inherent creativity it took to get you to this point in your life. I know from firsthand experience that life can be a hard road and it takes more than a little creativity to endure the rough parts. You might not write or compose or paint but if you’re reading this, I bet you have much more creative power than you know.

I hope you can see and appreciate that.

Okay. I have work to do– my own form of therapy. Here’s the song.

Ring of Fire

GC Myers- Rings of Fire series 2023

Ring of Fire #6

Love is a burnin’ thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

–June Carter Cash, Ring of Fire

I wrote about this new group of work earlier this week, saying that I wasn’t sure if I would ever show them publicly. In the interim, after discussing it with Jesse at the West End Gallery, I decided to at least show a few of them in the upcoming February Little Gems show if only to see how people react to them.

I anticipate that the reaction will be similar to a series from a number of years ago, Outlaws, featuring figures brandishing handguns, often in a position where they appeared to be looking through a window. Some folks saw these figures as threatening, as though they were predators looking into a home from the outside. Others saw them as being terrified characters in a defensive position inside with threats outside that window. It acted as a sort of Rorschach test of the viewer’s perception of the world.

I see the same sort of response for this group though there is not the incendiary inclusion of a handgun here. I don’t expect an overwhelming embrace of these characters. I am sure most will see them as either tragic, sad figures or some scary, evil beings. I don’t know that there is another way to see them.

This might end up being just a vanity project and I’m okay with that. There are usually unforeseen benefits in these projects, often coming in a change of perspective or process that finds its way to my other work. It’s often just the shaking up of things that matters. And I think this does just that for me.

My hope is that they make people stop and look, both at the figures as they are and at the way in which they are painted. They are done solely with a very small brush, a liner that produces small marks and slashes of color. The marks in these pieces are the real point of these pieces for me, providing energy and form to them.

I have changed the title of this series. I am simply calling it Ring of Fire rather than Season in Hell or Season of Fire. That, of course, is taken from the classic Johnny Cash song written to him by his wife-to-be June Carter when he was still married to his first wife. It also refers to the inclusion of distant fire in each of these paintings, a symbol of both hell and destruction. On the more positive side, the destructive forces of fire often lead to new growth and new ways of being.

As Hermann Hesse wrote in his novel Demian:

Whoever wants to be born, must first destroy a world.

I am simply numbering the individual pieces in this series, something I don’t normally do. For instance, the piece shown above is titled Ring of Fire #6. For this series, I wanted people to form their own titles for these figures rather than be too influenced by my personal take on them. I am showing six pieces from this series in the Little Gems show.

It’s an obvious choice for this week’s Sunday Morning Music. It would be too easy to play the Johnny Cash version with its great Mariachi horns that we all know so I thought I’d give you a choice of two other versions. One is from the song’s creator, June Carter Cash, in a tribute to her husband after his death. It is as the song should be. The other is from the pioneering Southern Cal punk band Social Distortion. This song has been a staple in their repertoire for decades.

Different but, like most great art, the song transcends many lines.

Rumi/ The Tavern

GC Myers- And Dusk Dissolves sm

And Dusk Dissolves – At the West End Gallery

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.

Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
We glow and in the evening we glow again.

–Rumi, The Tavern

On a quiet Saturday morning, just going to share what is perhaps the best-known work from Rumi, the renowned Persian poet/scholar/mystic who lived from 1207 to 1273. Though his life ended about 750 years ago, Rumi’s words and observations have a feeling that is beyond time, always feeling as though they are applicable in the present moment.

Here’s a nice reading of the poem for those of you who prefer to hear the words.

Archaeology: Déjà Vu

GC Myers- Archaeology: Deja Vu

Archaeology: Deja Vu

If I had ever been here before
I would probably know just what to do
Don’t you?

If I had ever been here before
On another time around the wheel
I would probably know just how to deal
With all of you

And I feel
Like I’ve been here before
Like I’ve been here before

And you know
It makes me wonder
What’s going on
Under the ground

Do you know?
Don’t you wonder
What’s going on
Down under you?

We have all been here before
We have all been here before

We have all been here before
We have all been here before

–David Crosby, Déjà Vu

David Crosby died yesterday at age 81. Lived one of those lives that was probably three or four jammed into one. Probably better to say that with the life he lived, he probably could have died three or four times before yesterday. Hard to overstate his influence. Even if you weren’t a big David Crosby or CSN or CSN&Y or Byrds fan, there is no disputing the distinctive sound and weight of their music. One of the defining voices of the Woodstock era and beyond.

I decided to play one of his songs below, the title track from Déjà Vu, the first album in 1969 from the band newly constituted as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It works out especially well because the new painting at the top is titled Archaeology: Déjà Vu. 

This piece is my first new Archaeology painting in a several years and probably the smallest of the series, coming in at 3″ by 5.” Like the painting from yesterday’s post, this new piece marks a return to watercolor on paper and is headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems show that opens in February.

I have been itching to get back to this series for a while and thought a piece or two for the Little Gems show would be a good way to begin revisiting the Archaeology series, which first appeared in 2008. I am pleased with this first foray back into the series. For me, it takes a different sort of concentration and approach than my normal work. It works in a different headspace with a different focus which is probably why I drifted away from the series over the years.

I knew it was always there waiting when I wanted to venture back into that space. Now seems like the right time. Doiing this first new piece certainly gave me a feeling of déjà vu. Felt familiar but new. Like the song says- And I feel Like I’ve been here before.

RIP David Crosby. Here’s his song, Déjà Vu.

GC Myers- The Song That Brought Me Here

The Song That Brought Me Here

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

–Martin Buber, The Legend of the Baal-Shem (1955)

Been busy trying to get a new group of small paintings together for the annual Little Gems show at the West End Gallery, which opens this year on February 10. This year will be my 29th year showing in the Little Gems show which was the first show, back in 1995, in which I ever displayed my work publicly. It’s been a favorite show ever since.

That brings me to the little piece shown here, a 3″ by 4″ watercolor on paper. The first of my pieces I am displaying for this show, it is a return to my roots in a way.

Just some water, pigment and a bit of paper.

Those things that set me on the journey that I have been on for the past 29 years or so, the things that brought me here. I certainly had no idea back then that a bit of paint and something on which to put it would end up being my life, would provide for me a way of living and thinking that I never knew of beforehand.

Fittingly, this small piece is titled The Song That Brought Me Here.

29 years ago, that song was still forming, the tune not quite fully composed. I don’t know that this song will ever be complete. And maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe it’s a song that keeps adding verses, shifting its notes and sometimes changing its tempo and timing.

The same but never the same song.

Whatever the case, it’s the one song I know inside and out.

Here’s a song from longtime favorite Martin Simpson. The title of this song inspired the title for this painting. This is Trouble Brought Me Here.

GC Myers- Bruised Orange  2022

Bruised Orange-At the Principle Gallery

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

-John Quincy Adams

I don’t what made this pop into my head but I was thinking about a conversation from a few years back that I had with a friend who is also a painter. He has been a working artist for almost his entire adult life, fairly successful for much of that time. We both agree that we are extremely fortunate to have found the careers that we have, one that feels like a destination rather than a passageway to some other calling.

For me, I knew this was the career for me when I realized I no longer looked at the job listings in the classified section of the paper. For most of my life, I felt there was something else out there that would satisfy me but I didn’t know what it was or how to find it. Maybe it was as simple as finding the right job. Or so I thought.

When you don’t know where you’re going, any direction feels like it might be the right direction.

But during this particular conversation this friend asked, “What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t paint? What if you were suddenly blind?

For him, it was unthinkable. His life of creation was totally visual, based on expressing every emotion in paint.

I thought about it for a second and said simply, “I’d do something else. I’d find a way.

In that split-second I realized that while I loved painting and relished the idea that I could communicate completely in paint, painting was a mere device for self-expression. But it was not the only way to go. I knew then as I know now that the deprivation of something that has come to mean so much to me would, in itself, create a new need for expression that would somehow be satisfied. I have always marveled at the people who, when paralyzed or have lost use of their arms, paint with their toes or their mouth. Their drive to communicate overcame their obstacles. Mine would as well.

If blinded, I could or do something with words or sounds, using them to create color and texture. Perhaps not at the same level as my painting but it might grow into something different given the circumstance. The need to communicate whatever I needed to communicate would create a pathway.

It was an epiphany in that moment. Just knowing that I had found painting gave me the belief that I could and would find a new form of expression if needed.

I did it once and I could do it again. And I found that greatly comforting.

Yes, I’d find a way…

This is one of my more popular posts, originally running here back in 2009.I rerun it every few years, mainly as a reminder to myself to appreciate those things that sometimes become taken for granted in our lives– our health, our senses, our abilities, and so on. Losing any of these things requires a change of course on our journey and few of us enjoy the idea of change.

But it is the only path we have and the only thing I know is to then keep pushing on. Whatever is lost, the power to change and adapt remains.

I looked for a song to add to this post and came across one from Beck. I had been a fan of his work in the 90’s but he fell off my radar over the years. I discovered that he had suffered a serious spinal injury while filming a music video in 2005. It caused him great pain to move or sing and, after a while, he stopped touring and performing live. He was forced to change his output, moving more to the production side of the business, producing records for other artists.

I came across an article that described the new path he faced:

Beck admits that he wondered if he’d ever return to the form which catapulted him into the spotlight as one of the fresh, new, postmodern artists of the 90s. “An executive said he thought I was better as a producer than as an artist… I kind of took that to heart. I considered doing other things, like putting out books, or I don’t know, making T-shirts?

In other words, he would find a way. After a period of musical inactivity, Beck released Morning Phase in 2014. It won the 2015 Grammy for Best Album. Beck did find a way. This is Waking Light from that album.

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