Sadly, last night was the final episode of the television series, Better Call Saul. I am not going to go into the wonderful characters and storytelling that made it great viewing. No spoilers here, either.

Instead, I wanted to comment on the beauty of the black and white filming employed in the final couple of episodes to portray the most recent section of the story’s timeline. The black and white was gorgeous, in deep contrasts of black, white, silver and gray. It really accentuated how well composed the images were that you were viewing.

Many were put together with the eye of a great photographer or painter. Many of the individual images from these episodes could be reproduced to make credible art prints. It reminded me of the beautiful use of similar black and white in the film Nebraska. I wondered if the fact that much of the last episodes took place in Nebraska had any influence. This in turn made me think of the work of Nebraska-born photographer Wright Morris who I wrote about here a number of years back.

I wonder if there is an actual line of influence that runs through the three: Morris -Nebraska- Saul? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t make much of a difference in how any of them are perceived. I just like to see how work integrates influences and how that integration is passed onward to influence the work of others.

Anyway, Below is that earlier entry on Wright Morris. You might see how I integrated his influence in my own work.

Wright Morris Straightback Chair- The Home Place

Writght Morris- Straightback Chair, The Home Place

One of the most common questions I am asked at gallery openings or talks is about the meaning behind the Red Chair in my paintings.  I always struggle to answer. Maybe because the answer is always changing for me.  I don’t really know. I do know that I use it in my work because the chair is such an identifiable image that is known to anyone in nearly any culture and has an inherent meaning in its form. A place to sit and rest. Or eat. Or converse. Or any number of things.

It is simply an icon of human existence.

But looking through some photo sites I came across the work of Nebraska-born photographer/writer Wright Morris (1910-1998). His stark and striking images of the Plains will seem very familiar to anyone who saw last year’s Alexander Payne film, Nebraska. I don’t know but would not be surprised if Morris’ imagery was a big influence on the visual look of the black and white film.

Wright Morris- Chair, The Home Place

Wright Morris- Chair, The Home Place

But while looking at some of these photos I came across a few images of chairs in a farmhouse. They were from a book of his titled The Home Place, a photo-novel telling the story of a man’s one-day visit to where he had spent his childhood in Nebraska, the home place. The images were very evocative and looking at them, it dawned on me that the meaning of the Red Chair was the same. It was so obvious– it was the Home Place. The place where you have a chair in which to sit, accepted as a part of that place.

It is simple yet powerful, like Wright Morris’ photos.

It’s good to have an answer to give now when someone asks…

Wright Morris Picture of Boy- The Home Place

In a Corner– At the West End Gallery

GC Myers- Botanica Vitae

Botanica Vitae– At the West End Gallery

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

–Jack London, The Call of the Wild

I really like the excerpt above from Jack London and his 1903 classic, The Call of the Wild. The idea of being as alive as one can be, to be at the peak of one’s existence, to be so fully vital that the sensation of ecstasy achieved feels natural and inborn, is intriguing.

I think I may have experienced at one or two points in my life when my faculties, both physical and mental, were at higher operating levels but I can’t be sure. I think it must be so powerful and all-encompassing that one doesn’t realize that it is an extraordinary feeling they are experiencing.

I think I still have the capacity for this feeling. At least, I hope.

I guess to put it in a symbolic form, like the growth in the painting here, I wish I could grow and blossom once again, to exude some part of myself, a flower or a leaf, that tells the world that I am alive.

Maybe this painting is such a flower?

Maybe. I don’t know.

But it gives me something different to ponder on a day when there is much to consider in this world at this time.

Here’s song that expresses this sentiment pretty well. It’s a song from back in 1968 called I’m Alive from R&B/Pop singer Johnny Thunder. It was written by Tommy James, who later released this song in 1969 with his group, Tommy James & the Shondells.

You probably don’t know this version from Johnny Thunder which is unfortunate. Bob Dylan, in a 1969 Rolling Stone article, when asked if he was impressed by anything he was hearing in the world of rock music, mentioned the Thunder version of this song, saying: “Never heard it either, huh? Well, I can’t believe it. Everyone I’ve talked to, I’ve asked them if they’ve heard that record. It was one of the most powerful records I’ve ever heard. It’s called ‘I’m Alive.’ By Johnny Thunder. Well, it was that sentiment, truly expressed. That’s the most I can say … if you heard the record, you’d know what I mean.”

High praise. Johnny Thunder definitely feels alive here.

Staying High

GC Myers- The Mountain Dance 2022

The Mountain Dance– At the West End Gallery

A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love.

-Madeleine L’Engle, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage 

For Sarah & Joe Azerof, as they are now known, I offer this triad this morning:

  • 1) A short excerpt from a Madeleine L’Engle book–she also wrote A Wrinkle in Time— on the transformation of a marriage over time
  • 2) A painting, The Mountain Dance, that is part of the Baucis & Philemon series about seeking the eternal in love
  • 3) And this week’s Sunday Morning Music, Stay High, from Brittany Howard, a song that meshes well with the painting and the moment.

To those who seek new adventures with shared eyes and hearts. Stay high…

2022 WE Show GC Myers July

Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.

–Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)

Taking just a moment this morning to pass on a reminder that my current solo exhibit of new work at the West End Gallery, Chaos & Light, is in its last two weeks, ending on August 25. Hope you’ll try to get in soon if you wish to see it.

And to brighten up the morning, here’s a version of the Michael Jackson hit Billie Jean played in a most interesting and entertaining manner by the Barcelona Guitar Trio. Enjoy.

20220812_064705 (599x800)

He seems to me to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence.

— Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I lately have the unframed painting above, Ship of Fools, on a small table in front of my desk here in the studio. I look at it quite often, more than I would have thought. Maybe because it disturbs me or that I am trying to understand it, to find some comprehension in it.

In recent days, I see it as a symbol of the cultish followers of the former president*. It’s a group that disturbs me because I can’t understand the basis or belief behind it. It makes no sense to me in any way.

I think of the guy in Ohio who tried to storm the FBI offices yesterday, believing he was kicking off a civil war with his attack. Wearing body armor, he tried to break through bulletproof glass at the entry by shooting it with a nailgun, I believe in order to enter the space without firing his AR15 rifle which would allow him to better surprise the agents he desired to kill.

It, of course, failed. He fled and ended up in a field, wounded and still somehow sending posts to fellow cult members via Truth Social. His last post ended abruptly, and he was dead from the FBI’s returned fire.

How does one comprehend this sort of stupid, senseless death?

Why would someone sacrifice their life for someone who I doubt even paused to give a moment’s thought that this person’s life was given in his name? Someone who no doubt sees this person and all the others only as tools to be employed on his behalf.

They are there for him and it is a one-way transaction. He has no interest in doing anything that does not ultimately benefit him personally. 

So, why the cult following? I have never heard an answer to this question that is rational in any way. Oh, you’ll hear people say that they liked his policies and when you ask which policies, they are often at a loss to name one. And even if they can, why would a few policy agreements allow them to overlook the gross corruption and criminality and potentially treasonous behavior of this creature?

It is not normal. I am not qualified to say, but it seems to be some sort of mass psychosis. It might be as psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote in his book The Second Sin in 1973:

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.

As someone with more than my fair share of neuroses, this makes sense to me. A neurotic has conflicts within, whereas the psychotic’s conflicts are manifested in the outer world. They are filled with total conviction and have solutions, as they see their actions to be.

And their conviction is so intense that they cannot see how those who they oppose do not possess similar convictions. They know by their own thoughts and actions that they are dangerous which their psychosis leads them to believe that everyone on the other side poses the same level of threat.

It creates an out-of-control spiral.

How this spiral psychosis came to end up as it is now and how its effects can be alleviated remain cloudy. If it will continue as the former guy’s crimes and misdeeds are further revealed is up in the air. For those deep in the throes of the cult, it probably won’t make a difference.

And therein lies the conflict.

I am sure some of you will dispute my amateur psychoanalysis and that’s okay. I am just venting on the needless tragedy of it all.

Maybe that tragedy and the people involved are those that I see in this painting. I am just hoping that nobody else will die with the name of that creature on their lips.

Hoping but who can really know what the days ahead will bring?

GC Myers- In Rhapsody

In Rhapsody— At the West End Gallery

It must be this rhapsody or none,
The rhapsody of things as they are.

–Wallace Stevens, The Man with the Blue Guitar

I decided to pair the painting above with this couplet from a Wallace Stevens poem. It just seemed to fit this piece that, to me, deals with the rhythm and rhapsody of the universe.

Then I realized that the poem, The Man with the Blue Guitar, was written about the famed Picasso painting with that same title that was the featured image in yesterday’s blog post.

Just one of those interesting coincidences that pop up once in a while. Or maybe it’s some form of synchronicity, an alignment of consciousness of the kind referred to in this painting.

I can’t say for sure. But I do see a rhapsody of being in this painting. By that, I mean the recognition, acceptance, and exultation of both our significance and insignificance in this world.

The joy in simply being.

The rhapsody of things as they are.

Okay, since we’re using the term rhapsody today, how about filling out our dance card with a bit of music? Here’s the always entertaining Lang Lang and his performance of the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 from Franz Liszt.

PabloPicasso-The-Old-Guitarist-1903Painting is a blind man’s profession.  He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

–Pablo Picasso

I love this quote from Picasso.

I think that is what all art really is– an expression of feeling. Emotion.

I know my best work, or at least the work that I feel is most directly connected to who I truly am as a human being, is always focused on expressing emotion rather than depicting any one place or person or thing. At its best, the piece as a whole becomes a vehicle for expression and the subject is merely a focal point in this expression. The subject matter becomes irrelevant beyond that. It could be a the most innocuous object, a chair or a tree in my case. It doesn’t really matter because the painting’s emotion is carried by the painting as a whole- the colors, the texture, the linework, the brushstrokes, etc.

In other words, it’s not what you see but what you feel.

I think many of Vincent Van Gogh‘s works are amazing example of this. They are so filled with emotion that you often don’t even realize how mundane the subject matter really is until you step back to analyze it for a moment.

I’ve described here before what an incredible feeling it was to see one of his paintings for the first time, at the Met in NYC.  It was his vase of irises. A few flowers in a pot. How many hundreds of thousands of such paintings just like this have been created through the years by artists all over the world?

That’s unknowable, of course. But Van Gogh’s pot of irises transcended the mundane, seeming to vibrate with feeling, the electricity of life on the wall. Van Gogh resonates not because of the subject matter, not because of precise depiction of the flowers or the vase. No, it was a deep expression of his emotion, his wonder at the world he inhabited, inside and out.

I also see this in a lot of music. It’s not the subject but the way the song is expressed. How many times have we heard overwrought, schmaltzy ballads that try to create overt emotion and never seem to pull it off? Then you hear someone interpret a simple song with deep and direct emotion and the song soars powerfully.

I often use Johnny Cash‘s last recordings, in the last years and months before his death, as evidence of this. Many were his interpretations of well-known songs and his voice had, by that time, lost much of the power of his earlier days. But the emotion, the wonder, in his delivery was palpable. Moving.

Likewise, here’s Chet Baker from just a few months before his death. He, too, had lost the power and grace of youth due to a life scarred by the hardship of drug abuse and violence. But the expression is raw and real.  It makes his interpretation below of Little Girl Blue stand out for me.

I came across this Picasso quote again early this morning and it reminded me of this post from back in 2012. Felt like a good time to replay it.

GC Myers-The Burning Secret a sm

The Burning Secret– Now at the West End Gallery

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

― André Malraux

The words above from Malraux quite often ring in my ears when I think about acquaintances and friends. Actually, anybody, even those who I see in a negative light.

I always wonder what secrets they hold, what details of their life and personality they withhold from others. How do they see themselves? Does their self-image align with the image they present to others?

And if not, which is more accurate? Are they more transparent or is their existence more opaque, mainly comprised of the untold secrets they bear?

It generally has me asking: How well can we ever fully know someone?

But that question inevitably leads to another: Do we really want to know the secret self of everyone we know?

I don’t know the answer to that last question. But realistically, I don’t think I would want to know all secrets. I base that on the last several years which have revealed more than enough info about the heretofore unknown thoughts and beliefs of people who I thought I knew better than I actually did.

Of course, there are those whose secrets I would like to know better. Mainly they are those whose words and actions confuse me. I wonder why they do what they do, what drives them to act in such ways. But even that desire to know more is tempered with the acknowledgement that the secrets of others are none of my business, so long as they don’t intersect with my own secrets or unduly affect the lives of others.

I have tried to be transparent in my art and life, but I often wonder if that is truly possible. Can one ever fully reveal their secret self? Are we ever even fully aware of all the secrets we hold?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s the burning secret that is behind the title of the painting at the top.

Excuse me for rambling a bit here. The secret self we hide is an easy subject to find tangents to explore. I have to go so you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.

Echoing in Time

GC Myers-  Echoing in Time

Echoing in Time— Now at West End Gallery

“It was lunar symbolism that enabled man to relate and connect such heterogeneous things as: birth, becoming, death, and resurrection; the waters, plants, woman, fecundity, and immortality; the cosmic darkness, prenatal existence, and life after death, followed by the rebirth of the lunar type (“light coming out of darkness”); weaving, the symbol of the “thread of life,” fate, temporality, and death; and yet others. In general most of the ideas of cycle, dualism, polarity, opposition, conflict, but also of reconciliation of contraries, of coincidentia oppositorum, were either discovered or clarified by virtue of lunar symbolism. We may even speak of a metaphysics of the moon, in the sense of a consistent system of “truths” relating to the mode of being peculiar to living creatures, to everything in the cosmos that shares in life, that is, in becoming, growth and waning, death and resurrection.”

Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion

I was looking for something to start this blogpost, a quote or passage that would set the tone and came upon the bit above from Mircea Eliade who was a 20th century Romanian religious historian who died in 1986.

I liked what he said here, about how our relationship to the moon has connected us to many phases and events in our lives and, in ways, giving our lives a sense of meaning. It felt like it could well describe the echoes referred to in the new painting above, Echoing in Time.

After all, is the moon we look at now, sometimes for some sort of answer to the questions of our soul, not the same one that silently communed with our most distant ancestors?

That is, of course, a condensed version, of Eliade’s words and that might be enough to describe what I see in this painting.

The interesting thing for me, though, was the echo that came back at me from the past on seeing Eliade’s words.

Many years ago, I came upon his two-volume autobiography in a bargain bin at a now unremembered bookshop. I had no idea who he was, and the life of a religious historian certainly doesn’t seem like it would be fascinating reading at this moment. I can’t imagine that it was at that moment either. But for some reason, most likely the autodidactic impulse, I grabbed it and ended up struggling through it.

I can’t remember a lot of it. Most of the events of his life and the concepts of which he wrote have either faded or merged into the kettle of the thoughts and ideas that swirl around in my mind with hazy attribution and even hazier recollection.

But seeing his words brought me back to that time when I came across his work. An echo of a time past.

Some echoes are good and some bad. This was neither. It made me sad, to be honest, because it reminded me of the vagaries of time and the diminishment of certain faculties of the mind. I was sad that I wouldn’t even pause now to browse through such a book, let alone devote the effort of trying to read it through. Sad that my attention span is like that of a fruit fly, as is my memory.

But even so, it was an echo that came back to me. That counts for something. Perhaps a connection to the world and a sense of meaning in it?

I don’t know.

Hopefully, we will always hear and pay attention to those echoes that come to us through the moonlight. I dread the dark night when we fail to do so.

To complete the triad of painting, word, and song, here’s David Gilmour of Pink Floyd with a shorter acoustic version of their song, Echoes.

matisse-- Young Girl in a Green Dress 1921

It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.

–Henri Matisse

Well, Mr. Matisse certainly did not paint like everybody else and I, for one, am glad of it.

But I believe I know what he is saying. As an artist, you’re always torn between poles of confidence.

When it is at its highest point, you believe so strongly in what you are doing that it doesn’t matter what everybody else’s work is like.

But at the low points, you lose confidence in the credibility of your own voice and vision. At these low points it seems like it would be easier to have the comfort of being able to judge your own work against others who do the same type of work so that you could gauge whether your creations were worthy of notice.

I certainly have swung wildly between these two poles and have at points wished that I painted more like other artists, as though I would somehow benefit from their credibility. I know that this sort of thinking is misplaced and the result of low self-esteem in that moment, but it happens. And on a more regular basis than one might think.

But the work itself is usually the voice of reason, the thing that brings me around once more. Just getting lost in the creation of a piece and sitting in front of it in the aftermath, still fully immersed in the life force it then exudes, washes away that need to be like everybody else.

But even in that moment, I know that nagging feeling, that desire to be like everybody else, will still be there waiting for me when I inevitably swing back to that other pole.

So, Mr. Matisse, thank you for not being like everybody else. I know how hard it sometimes must have felt but we appreciate you staying true to your own voice.

I am not in the studio this morning and decided to replay the post above from a few years back. Since it’s Sunday morning, I added a piece of music that somewhat echoes Mr. Matisse’s message at the top. This is an early (and favorite) song from The Kinks called I’m Not Like Everybody Else.

And below the video are a few more of Mr. Matisse’s interiors, a group of work that I really enjoy.

Matisse Interior with Phonograph 1924matisse the Window 1916matisse -- Studio Quay of Saint-Michel 1916Matisse - interior-at-nice 1921Henri Matisse -the red studioMatisse-The-Dessert-Harmony-in-Red-Henri-1908-fast

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