The Knowing Light

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The Knowing Light– At Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA

The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.

–William Saroyan

Looking at the new painting shown here on the right, The Knowing Light that is now at the Principle Gallery, I was reminded of the quote above from the late dramatist William Saroyan. I thought a post from 2015 on that quote might fit with this painting as well.

From 2015:

This quote from William Saroyan caught me off guard when I came across it, mainly because it captured in a few words the lesson I had finally gleaned from years of seeking this elusive beast called happiness. And a beast it was, a creature out of mythology. I had made it into a thing that had special powers and was like the Abominable Snowman— rumored to exist but seldom seen.

I discovered over time that this was a mistake.

I was picturing happiness as a once in a life thing, some sort of peak moment, when it was, in fact, just a small part of our being human. The key in Saroyan’s short quote is the word knowing. Once we begin to know who and what we are and are not, the need for peak moments subsides as we understand that there is a sort of happiness in the smaller moments of simply being. It is not a gleeful, heart-pounding joy but a comfortable warm glow and an inner sense of satisfaction that often comes to you at what seems to be the most mundane of moments.

Stopping just now and looking out my studio window, for example. A light snow is falling almost in time to Paul Desmond’s sax that is mingling with Dave Brubeck’s piano, and I sip my coffee. It is gray and almost gloomy, but I feel this glow, this satisfaction in the moment. It is not happiness as most might define the word. It is just a moment of knowing that I exist in the world, that I am here to bear witness to the small wonders that take place around me in my small corner of the universe.

And that’s good enough.

I didn’t include the music in the original blog post and can’t remember exactly what song was playing. But here’s a bit of that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond magic, Brubeck’s Japan-inspired composition, Koto Song. It has a grace and elegance in its simplicity. Listening with my coffee in hand, I realize that it’s still good enough just being here now, happy in the knowledge that I don’t require happiness.

That’s saying something…


GC Myers- Calidum Frigus

Calidum Frigus– At Kada Gallery

December is a month that is rife with nostalgia. If there’s anything deep in your heart that you want to keep buried, you can count on December to bring it to the surface.

–Lois Duncan, Don’t Look Behind You (1989)

Fittingly, there was a dusting of snow on the walkway as I left the house this morning. It’s December, after all. We’ve been spared the brunt of the early seasonal snowstorms that walloped our neighbors to the west and north of us with multiple feet of the white stuff. But we will inevitably get ours though hopefully in more manageable amounts.

I never predict those things dictated by Ma Nature. That’s pure folly. Just take what’s given and make the best of it. At least with snow, when it’s too much you get a spectacular vista in exchange.

Big snow, with the white clinging to the drooping branches of the white pines, is always awe-inspiring here in the woods–until the time it isn’t which is the time the shoveling and plowing begins.

But when the required work is finished, that awe comes back. The crisp and clean white blanket covers everything and all sound is muffled, leaving a sharp stillness that is heaven to behold. The occasional chirp or twitter of a bird rings out like a clarion call in this quiet.

The sheer beauty of it seems like a fair tradeoff for the harshness that we must suffer.

Aaah, it’s December.

Here’s a Norah Jones song about just that subject. And for your information, Lois Duncan, who wrote the excerpt seen at the top, was a writer of children’s books and suspenseful young adult literature. You might know her from I Know What You Did Last Summer from 1973.

Got to go, light is finally breaking and I can see the light dusting on the grounds around the studio. Lovely…


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Dreamchaser– At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria

Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.

–Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3

The words from Neil Gaiman above really strike close to home for me. As I age, I begin to wonder where truth and fantasy intersect in my memories. Are our memories recorded as-is on film, or are they malleable constructions, always shifting and changing due to our biases and needs?

Just something to think about this early morning.

Keeping it short and sweet today, so, to fill out today’s triad, here’s a great version of one of my favorite Roy Orbison songs, In Dreams.

Now, you’re on your own– I got some dreams to chase and memories to build.

Promo Sheet 4

“All right,” said the [Cheshire] Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Sacred Solitude— Headed to the Principle Gallery

Today the artist has, whether he likes it or not, inherited the combined functions of hermit, pilgrim, prophet, priest, shaman, sorcerer, soothsayer, alchemist, and bonze.

–Thomas Merton, Answers on Art and Freedom, 1985

I am out of the cave today, delivering new work to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for their upcoming annual Small Works show. The painting at the top, Sacred Solitude, an 8″ by 16″ canvas, is part of this group. 

I say cave because my natural affinity toward living and working as a hermit has become more and more pronounced in recent years and doing anything that requires me leaving my home or studio requires what feels like a Herculean effort. The pandemic and its isolating effects certainly accelerated my retreat into full blown hermithood. It gave me an acceptable excuse for not going anywhere.

But my dad’s death also pushed me in that direction in that I no longer made several visits a week to the nursing facility where he lived the last four years of his life. It meant I no longer came in contact the people there, the staff and residents, and no longer had to accompany him on his doctor visits. The past couple of years without that interaction– limited as it was to small talk, smiles, and greetings– took its toll and I find myself often feeling super awkward in the most basic of conversations, sometimes even with folks I know.

Even though hardly anyone around here wears a mask in public, I still wear mine on those rare occasions when I am dragged out of my cave. I think I do this more for the anonymity and the deterrence from folks engaging with me it provides than for its actual viral protective qualities.

I don’t know if this is good or bad. I am sure it appears unhealthy to some. For me, it is a preference, one that I have been slowly bending towards for much of my adult life. As an artist, it has some significant benefits. A life of semi-isolation leads to a natural sense of introspection which lends itself to creating uniquely personal work.

Now, Merton points out at the top that the artist today takes on the mantle of being a hermit, even if doing so unwittingly. I agree with that because good and meaningful work takes much time spent alone. As for the other functions he indicates for the artist, I am less certain. In my eyes, I am none of those things. I might be able to buy into the alchemist label because there are times when the transformation of paint on a surface into something much more than the sum of its parts is remarkable, indeed.

But those things aside, I totally accept the hermit label. And today, the hermit is out of the cave and on the move. I haven’t left yet and already I am wishing I were back in my hermit’s studio in the woods.

Soon enough…

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the bonze ending Merton’s passage is a Japanese or Chinese Buddhist monk. Again, not me.


Soaring Spirit

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.

–Anne Brontë, Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day, 1842

No opining today. Just a few images at the top from my Kada Gallery show, Places of Peace, that is coming into its final week as its run ends December 3rd. Then the opening verse from a short poem from Anne Brontë about how the power of nature lifts her spirits. And let’s finish with a rousing performance from the Silk Road Ensemble of a traditional Roma tune, Turceasca.

The Silk Road Ensemble is a large and loosely knit group of musicians (whose creative director was originally Yo-Yo Ma and is currently Rhiannon Giddens) who hail from along that fabled route and play many of the traditional instruments found along it. The Silk Road, as you may know, was the network of ancient routes that traders used in linking the East and West over the centuries, from China through the Middle East to the Mediterranean. The Silk Road was the superhighway of its day on which goods and ideas moved across the known world.

Like the lines from Brontë and the paintings above, this song feels that it is about the soaring spirit.

Shop Small Saturday

Shop Small The Exile's Wilderness

The Exile’s Wilderness– At Kada GalleryWithout Shop Small Banner!

It’s Shop Small Saturday where the emphasis is on supporting local small businesses and artisans. The fact that every gallery that shows my work is owned and operated by a small business owner and that I consider myself both as an artist and a small business owner gives this day significance.

The beauty of shopping small and locally is that the money spent goes back into circulation immediately and has effects that makes your local communities vibrant places in which to live. The money spent locally doesn’t go toward buying a billionaire their 9th or 10th home or their 2nd super yacht or yet another Gulfstream jet.

No, it goes to owners and employees who in turn spend that money in other local businesses. It helps pay local families put food on the table, maintain their homes in your neighborhoods, pay for dance, music, and art lessons for kids. It pays for team sports.

It helps build community. It keeps hope alive and makes the dreams of so many possible.

I know that people buying from the small business galleries who show my work have made it possible for the dream of being a self-supporting artist to become a reality for myself and so many other artists. A gallery doesn’t only create employment for the folks working in the gallery. Every artist that shows in a gallery is yet another small business being supported.

Please keep that in mind as you look for gifts for friends and family for the coming holidays. Or if you want to treat yourself a bit or just want to help make your community a better place.

If you want to Shop Small at a gallery that shows my work, you can head to:

  • Kada Gallery, Erie, PA– My current solo show there, Places of Peace, is in the walls there until December 3rd.
  • West End Gallery, Corning, NY– I have several pieces showing in the current Director’s Choice exhibit.
  • Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA– Regular display and new paintings headed to their annual Small Works show which opens next week.
  • Just Looking Gallery, San Luis Obispo, CA

Thanks for the Dragons

GC Myers- Unafraid

Unafraid— Soon at Principle Gallery, Alexandria

In myths the hero is the one who conquers the dragon, not the one who is devoured by it. And yet both have to deal with the same dragon. Also, he is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if once he saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the “treasure hard to attain”. He alone has a genuine claim to self-confidence, for he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby has gained himself. This experience gives some faith and trust, the pistis in the ability of the self to sustain him, for everything that menaced him from inside he has made his own. He has acquired the right to believe that he will be able to overcome all future threats by the same means. He has arrived at an inner certainty which makes him capable of self-reliance, and attained what the alchemists called the unio mentalis.

-Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, 1955

I was thinking yesterday, on Thanksgiving, about those things for which I was grateful. A kind of summing-up of the people and those few memorable moments and events that shaped and gave meaning to the life I now live.

It wasn’t surprising that most of the people were remembered and appreciated in a warm way. However, I was struck by how many of the things deserving of my gratitude came about and were formed as a result of my struggles in this world. It gave me the realization that by somehow surviving those things that might have broken me — my personal dragons– I had been granted a gift of sorts.

A “treasure hard to attain,” as it was put in the text above from Carl Jung.

It was comprised of the knowledge and confidence that I could endure the attack from dragons, both from inside and outside myself.

And what a treasure it is.

It’s easy to be thankful for our good fortune, for things that come to us as gifts or with little effort. Unfortunately, those things often teach us nothing and can leave just as easily as they came. But those things that test you, that leave scars and teach you lessons for survival, stay with you forever. You can draw on their lessons and the self-reliance they provide nearly every day.

I know I have. On the most dismal of days, when I feel the weight of fatigue and near hopelessness, it is the knowledge that I have endured before and can endure again that sustains me.

This extends to my work. There are times when this is a very hard task, times when I feel like an empty vessel with nothing left to offer and that my time in the creative sun is done. On those dark days, with that new dragon at the door, just a small reminder of battles with dragons from my past, provides just enough self-belief to gather the courage to carry on.

As Jung put it:

He alone has a genuine claim to self-confidence, for he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby has gained himself. This experience gives some faith and trust, the pistis in the ability of the self to sustain him, for everything that menaced him from inside he has made his own. He has acquired the right to believe that he will be able to overcome all future threats by the same means.

So, of all the things for which I could be thankful, I reserve special thanks for those dragons I have survived. They have kept me alive, and I am better for the lessons they have taught me.

Infinite Space

pooh-and-piglet-original-eh-shepard-drawingPiglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Remember that even the tiniest of hearts has an infinite amount of space for gratitude.

And love.

And compassion.

Wishing you all a peaceful and quiet Thanksgiving Day…

Out of the Night

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Hope Rises– At Kada Gallery

No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel acceptance speech (1986)

Not many of us have had to endure the night to which Elie Wiesel referred in his 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech or in his classic 1960 book, Night, which recollected the horrors he and many others endured in the Nazi concentration camps of WW II. Most of us have not lived in war zones, had to huddle from bombs above, or hide away from those who would do us mortal harm.

That alone should be a source of gratitude for us so fortunate in that respect.

But each of us have endured our own personal kingdoms of night. Some may even be still in the midst of their own dark nights. Hopefully, these folks will make it through to the light of the new day.

Those who endure, regardless of the depth of darkness in their night, have a common denominator, which is people– family, friends and sometimes strangers– who help them find their way out of the darkness. People that recognize the pain and suffering in others and want to help ease the burden being suffered, perhaps as someone had helped them during their own past dark nights.

We all have those people who have made out way out of darkness easier and hopefully we have repaid their kindness with thankful acts towards them and similar kindnesses to others who still suffer.

On this day before our day of giving thanks, think about those showed concern for you when you were down in the past, people helped lift you up from those dark spots. We all have had these people. I certainly have. Some were friends, some family and some were strangers whose showed kindness for which I will never be able to personally express my gratitude to them. I am truly thankful for each of them.

Perhaps the best way we can express our gratitude beyond mere words is to continue attempting to help others find their way out of their kingdoms of night. There’s a lot of suffering in this world and if we would focus on helping others rather than our own self-interests and prejudices, we could greatly alleviate the pain.

Sounds naive and too simple, I know. But sometimes that is the form in which answers appear. And what does it hurt to try?

Will helping someone diminish you in any way? No. In fact, it most likely will enrich your feelings of humanity and sense of wonder in this world. Put simply– it will make you happy.

As author G.K. Chesterton put it: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

Give it a try.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving…

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