Feeds:
Posts
Comments

*********************

And if your friends think that you should do it different
And if they think that you should do it the same
You’ve got it, just keep on pushing and, keep on pushing and
Push the sky away

—Nick Cave, Push the Sky Away

**********************

I don’t have the energy or will to say much this morning. I just want to get back to work, prepping my show, From a Distance, for the West End Gallery that I will deliver later this week in advance of the show’s opening on Friday, July 17. The show is coming together well and I find myself more and more pleased as each piece is completed with its framing.

Much like my recent Principle Gallery show, this wasn’t an easy show for me. There was a lot of frustration and high levels of anxiety, both from my reaction to these times and to some other things taking place in my world. Lots of distractions and aggravations pulled at my attention and disrupted any semblance of rhythm I could find.

Just getting to work was work in itself.

But you just keep at it. Keep pushing. Turn it around and use the frustration as fuel.

Push the sky away, as the song says.

One of the new pieces from this show is at the top, one called Far Away Eyes. This was one of the pieces that helped me fight through the barriers that were there for this show. It was a struggle in itself to complete and there were times when I wanted to trash it. But I kept at it, kept believing that it held something for me.

And it did. As I worked, it began to fall into a rhythm that spoke to me and when it felt done, it felt right. The effort seemed insignificant at that point, a small price to get to where it was.

Just keep pushing the sky away, much as it appears the sun is doing to the sky in the painting.

Here’s a performance from this past December from Nick Cave at the Sydney Opera House. He’s singing his song, Push the Sky Away. It’s worth a listen.

Have a good Sunday.

I am not feeling celebratory on this Fourth of July.  I have strong feelings about the ideals of this nation and the recent events here challenge my belief that those ideals can prevail or even merely hold on. There is just a bit too much irony in today celebrating our independence from what we viewed as the grip of cruel tyranny in 1776. We are weakening our country when we accept cruelty and selfishness as an aspect of our governance and national character. And make no mistake about what I am saying, selfish cruelty is weakness and we are witness to that currently. Here’s a post from several years back that I run every now and then on this day, speaking to our better ideals. Enjoy your 4th.

Jasper Johns “Flag”

Another Fourth of July.

Parades. Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue. That’s the shorthand version of this day. The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance. I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives. But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me, America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there. It is vaporous and always changing, like a dense fog. But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.

And maybe that is all America ever was and will be– the promise of possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America. We are at our best when we are open and inviting, offering our opportunity and empathy to all.

And we are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor that is America all for ourselves. It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. Since it is such a hazy thing, this amorphous fog that is our ideal, we all see it in different ways. This is just how I see it.

*****************

I have ran this post several times over the years. Even the preface at the top was written in the past. I was going to change things up this year for the 4th and run Frederick Douglass’ famed Fourth of July speech given to a group in Rochester back in 1852. It strongly points out the hypocrisy celebrating a day of independence when one takes an honest look at this country’s past, especially at that time when slavery and the brutal assault on the sovereignty of the Native Americans was in full stride. It is an angry rebuke of the unequal nature of the American ideal. But in it, Douglass still maintained hope for the future, hope that the potential that this nation offered to some would one day come to be available for all people.

168 years later and we’re still struggling with that.

Here’s a song from Robert Earl Keen that kind of captures the atmosphere of this day, at least for me, in recent times. Even the cover for the album that the song came from, with parked cars ablaze at a picnic, fits these times. This song, Fourth of July, it’s not what you might expect. Not a flag waving, good timey kind of tune. It’s about the end of a relationship, about the real life problems and tensions that exist on a day while others celebrate. It’s a good tune so give a listen and have a good day.

************

 

*****************

Painting and art cannot be taught. You can save time if someone tells you to put blue and yellow together to make green, but the essence of painting is a self-disciplined activity that you have to learn by yourself.

–Romare Bearden

********************

I came across the quote above from a painter, Romare Bearden, whose work I have admired for some time. It’s something I have known for a long time, the thing that makes this a difficult profession in which to succeed.

You can be taught certain aspects of an art form but there’s no way of learning how to make use of your own perception of things or how to make visual representations of their own feelings and emotions. Or how you react to the world. That is all internal and personally distinct.

What works for me may not work for you.

I always urge young people to try a life in art but there is no way that I can tell if they have what it takes to make a life as an artist. There are few metrics for determining one’s ability to take rejection, to allow their emotions to run free, to persevere, to sense the innate rhythms of the world or so many of the other intangibles it takes to be an artist.

But, even so, it is always worth trying.

Actually, while I believe this and could go on for some time discussing this, this was just a way to get to a short blurb that ran here a few years back.about Mr. Bearden which also acts as an introduction to a favorite song of mine. I am busy, much like when I first wrote this short entry.

Here it is:

Don’t have much of a chance this morning to write a proper post. Busy in a good way. But I came across this image above from the late painter Romare Bearden who lived from 1911 until 1988. I was going to say African-American painter as it does in most of his biographies but that kind of bugged me in the same way that bios often point out that an artist is a woman. Seems like they are creating a distinction and putting them into a sub-category for no reason at all, especially when the person in question is creating great work.

So I am just calling Mr. Bearden a painter.

And a fine one at that, one whose work always jumps into my eyes. Just plain good stuff.

Anyway this image has been sticking in my mind for about a week now and I thought it would be a great companion to some music for this Sunday Music by the one and only B.B. King. Especially since the central figure in the painting looks a little like B.B. King. I somehow have only played one song by him in all these years on this blog and it is definitely time to correct that oversight.

I came across his Live at the Regal album as a teenager and it just destroyed me. It was a live performance from the Regal Theater in Chicago from 1964 and it is one of the great live recorded performances ever put down on vinyl, regardless of genre. It just reels and rocks and is filled with classic after classic tunes from B.B., Lucille–the only guitar whose name you probably know– and a band that kicks it big time. As with Romare Bearden’s painting, it’s just plain good stuff.

Take a listen to the great Sweet Little Angel and have yourself a good–no, a great– Sunday.

 

Path to Nirvana

*****************************

“Nirvana is right here, in the midst of the turmoil of life. It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas — joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. You are not grabbed, because you have released yourself from the grabbers of fear, lust, and duties.” 

 Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

*****************************

I think about these words from the late mythologist Joseph Campbell quite a lot. It’s one of those bits that I keep close at hand, ready to pull out whenever I find myself feeling the onset of fears or anxieties about things that  I cannot control. Or when I begin to desire things that I don’t need at all. Or whenever I feel pressured to do things purely out of some social obligation.

His words remind me that true freedom lies in finding your own path. Fear, desire and obligation are their own paths and once you begin down those paths, you are further away from your own path of freedom, further from being, as Campbell put it, a joyful participant in the sorrows of the world.

Campbell’s words make it seem so simple yet, as we all know, those other paths are difficult to avoid. We are reactive creatures and often move to follow our first impulse in most situations. Learning to calm our impulses, to still our fears and desires, is the first step down a path of own making.

The painting above, Night Nirvana, a 30″ by 40″ canvas, is from my upcoming West End Gallery show and I attached these words to this piece immediately after it was finished. There’s a great stillness in it and a quiet reassuring voice in it, one that tells me that I control my reactions, that I should follow the path I make for myself. It is a path built on voluntary action, not reaction or fear. A path made with conscious choices, not obligations nor the decisions of others.

The message I take from this painting is simple: Your path is your path alone and there is great peace in knowing that. It is enough for each of us.

I am going to think on that for a while…

From a Distance

*****************************

But I know that nothing which truly concerns man is calculable, weighable, measurable. True distance is not the concern of the eye; it is granted only to the spirit.

–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Airman’s Odyssey

******************************

I stumbled across the line’s above in a beautiful passage from a book, Airman’s Odyssey, from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  He was an author/poet best known for his classic The Little Prince as well as a pioneering aviator. He died in 1944, while flying for the Free French Air Force in World War II.

In this passage de Saint-Exupery writes about how flying at high altitudes, landmarks on the ground become mere dots and all sense of distance fades away, is lost. He describes how in his blindness to those places, those dots lost in the distance, his thirst for feelings and sensations attached to those dots grows.

Those barely visible dots become much like smells and sounds and other sensations that reawaken memories and new tracks of thought in the imagination. It is in this vast expanse of nothingness that he realizes that everything that we seek is not to be found by moving across wide physical distances but by simply  spanning the distances within ourselves.

As I said, it’s a beautiful passage and it goes well beyond what I describe here. But for my purposes I am focusing on this part of the passage, that we often seek things in the distance that we desire when what we really need has already crossed all distances and, in fact, dwells within us.

We always see the dots in the distance and can easily attach great and better things to those dots. But while doing so, we often overlook the fact that we have those same things at hand right now.

We so often desire what we already have.

The recent isolation brought on by the pandemic here has created a sense of distance in many of us. That’s understandable. It has kept us away from many people, places and events, those things that have normally made up our day to day lives. But they now are dots to us and we long to cross that distance to return to that time and place.

For many, this desire to cross that distance has been consuming. But for some, looking inward has diminished that desire and they have found that they can find what they need where they are in the moment. The dot is just a dot now.

I think this idea that we have what we need, that we are equipped to survive and even thrive despite the distances imposed upon us, might be the theme for my upcoming solo show that opens on July 17 at the West End Gallery. The show is titled From a Distance as is the painting here at the top, a 30″ by 48″ canvas.

I can easily see this theme play out in this painting. Wherever we are, in any time and situation, we have the ability to find forms of beauty within and around ourselves. That is an important thing to remember, especially when we find ourselves staring at those dots in the distance.

******************

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

–Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Richard and Robert Sherman

********************

I thought it might be time start showing some work from my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens July 15 at the West End Gallery in Corning. There are definitely different takes on a variety of themes in this show so deciding which piece should kick off the process was tough. But given the many current events– or should I say disasters?– taking place in this country, I thought the painting here at the top would be a gentle starter.

The idea of flying a kite seems so much more preferable than going into the closet and screaming into the darkness.

The title of this piece is Let’s Go Fly a Kite, borrowed, of course, from the song of that name from the 1964 Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. It’s a wonderful song that aptly captures the idea of putting aside your problems and releasing yourself to soar with your kite high above and far removed from worldly problems. I hope that is what one gets from this piece, whose image is sized at 10″ by 16″ and framed and matted at 16″ by 22″.

I never saw Mary Poppins as a kid nor did I read the books. I came to both in middle age, actually. But even so, the magic of both remained intact.  a few years back I came across a large single volume that contained all of author  P.L. TraversMary Poppins books and decided that it might be worth reading. I am glad I did. It was funny and touching and engaging on many levels. Just a great read. Made me regret not being interested in them as a kid.

I thought I would share the song here but decided to not show the one from the film. Instead, I am taking the version from another Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. This film, starring Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is the story of how Disney wooed the crusty Travers who was dead set against him making her book into a movie. She steadfastly opposed every and any change to her baby and thought the idea of a Disney musical treatment of her story was beyond the pale.

This version comes at a point in the Saving Mr. Banks film where she is near making a decision to withhold the filming rights from Disney. She is called into the work studio of the Sherman Brothers, the legendary songwriting team that wrote  many of the best known Disney tunes along with scores of other songs for other artists. Up to this point, Travers has been disdainful of their work that they have previously presented her for the film and in a final attempt to sway her, they perform the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite for her.

It’s a lovely turning point in the film and a nice version of the song as well. So, for a while at least, put aside thoughts of pandemics, of racial divides, of a treasonous and derelict president and all the other horrors that come as part and parcel of the current apocalypse, and think about the giddy thrill of watching your kite take to the air.

Soar with it for a bit. Or a little longer, if need be.

 

Jackson Pollock -Convergence 1952

*******************

Painting is a state of being…Painting is self discovery.  Every good painter paints what he is.

–Jackson Pollock

*********************

In an article in The Guardian yesterday, there was a review of a current exhibit [July, 2015] at the Tate Liverpool of Jackson Pollock paintings.  Writer Jonathan Jones describes Pollock’s work around 1950, in the period when he was briefly liberated from his chronic alcoholism,  as being the pinnacle of his career. As he put it : Pollock was painting at this moment like his contemporary Charlie Parker played sax, in curling arabesques of liberating improvisation that magically end up making beautiful sense.

GC Myers-Under TextureThat sentence really lit me up, as did the words of Pollock at the top of the page.

In Pollock’s work I see that beautiful sense of which Jones writes. I see order and rhythm, a logic forming from the seemingly chaotic and incomprehensible.

The textures that make up the surfaces of my own paintings are often formed with Pollock’s paintings in mind, curling arabesques in many layers. In fact, one of the themes of my work is that same sense of finding order from chaos.

Or that the grace and beauty of the mark belies the chaos that you perceive. That what you think is chaos is really part of a rhythm that you haven’t quite caught up with yet.

To some observers, however, Pollock’s work represented the very chaos that plagued the world then and now. But true to his words, Pollock’s work was indeed a reflection of what he was– a man seeking grace and sense in a chaotic world.

Painting is, as Pollock says, self discovery and indeed every painter ultimately paints what they are. I know that in the work of painters I personally know I clearly see characteristics of their personality, sometimes of their totality. At least, to the extent that I know them.

I believe that my work also reveals me in this way. It shows everything– strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. You might think that a painter would be clever enough to show only those positive attributes of his character, like the answers people give when asked to describe their own personality. Nobody ever openly claims to being not too intelligent or paranoid or easily fooled. There are artists that try present themselves other than as they really are but more often than not it comes off as contrivance.

Real painting, real art, is in total revelation, in showing all the complexities and hidden rhythms of our true self and hoping that others see the order and beauty within it.

*********************

This post first ran in 2015 and has been slightly updated.

*********************

“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

–Wendell Berry

*****************

Man, I want to rage this morning.

It would certainly be easy to do so. We are going through multiple serious crises right now in this country and the ship of state which would normally lead and assist us through this is being steered by a creature whose attitude towards his duty is self-serving and neglectful, at its best, and traitorous, at its worst.

Maybe even treasonous, given yesterday’s revelations.

But I don’t want to go that route. Like the poet Wendell Berry’s words above, this president*** willingly lives his life in the realms of rats and roaches. Today, let’s focus on the flip side of that coin, the human side that lives under the laws of justice and mercy.

Where most of us are privileged to live.

Let’s have some hope that truth will overcome the many falsehoods and lies. That intelligence will prevail over stupidity and science over ignorance. Let’s hope that a sense of community and good will shall sweep away the hateful and selfish behaviors exhibited so often these days.

Let’s just keep a little hope alive and remember these days when they finally come to an end so that perhaps we can avoid them in the future.

That’s asking a lot, I know. For this Sunday morning music here’s a classic song from the great American songbook. It was written by Stephen Foster (who has local connections to this area) in 1854 at a time when America was going through equally hard times in those years leading up to the Civil War. This is Hard Times Come No More as performed by Mavis Staples. It’s such a great tune that there is a multitude of  wonderful versions out there but I just felt like Mavis’ version fit the moment for me.

Give a listen. Keep your head up and have a good Sunday.

********************

Hard Times Come No More

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh Hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

While we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more

— Stephen Foster

“Climb Ever Higher”- Now at the Principle Gallery

*********************

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.

–Winston Churchill

**************************

Just going to leave this thought out there this morning. Progress in any worthy endeavor is never gained easily nor is it ever fully achieved. It is the struggle that makes us fully appreciate the importance of the journey.

Have a good day.

We must be measuring time in dog years.

I say that because it struck me that that we’re not even halfway through this memorable year. So much has happened– is happening– that it sure feels like a lot more, maybe even the 3 1/2 years that it would be if we were dogs.

I checked this morning and was sadly disappointed to find that I wasn’t a dog.

Oh, to be a baying beagle or a happy, goofy Golden Retriever right now.

So many moving parts right now and there seems to be no rhythm or reason to most of them.

But maybe it’s just me. I am trying to finish the final pieces for my July West End show so I am kind of scattered anyway. Plus, I am hobbling around in a walking boot that I am wearing for a chronic ankle problem and  I scare the hell out of myself when I look in the mirror anymore. I decided to not cut my hair or shave when this whole thing took hold and now I find myself staring down the Unabomber’s weird older brother whenever I go into the bathroom here in the studio.

And while the work is a healing balm there are limits. For instance, yesterday was a good day of painting. The work was sharp and had a feeling of rightness off the brush. But at the end of the day yesterday, even after this positive day of painting, something felt wrong. My nerves were on edge and tense. Things just felt broken.

I looked around for what might be bothering me. Oh, the news feeds were not helping, of course. And while working, I had been rewatching the series Boardwalk Empire. If you don’t know the series, it takes place in Prohibition era Atlantic City and focuses on the power brokers, bootleggers and criminals of that place and era. It reminds you that the good old days weren’t all that good.

I had immensely enjoyed the series when it first aired. It has a great cast with wonderful performances, great production values and top notch writing with compelling storylines. But yesterday,I determined that this might well be a contributing factor to my tension. For as much as I liked the show and its qualities, nothing about it made me feel good about anything. It raised no feelings of hope and I needed that yesterday. In fact, it depressed me that a hundred years later, we’re still battling the same kind of insidious greed and corruption from power hungry money grubbers.

So, today it’s just music in the studio. Maybe something uplifting and positive.

Here’s a favorite of mine, from the wide and deep Bob Dylan songbook. It’s Everything is Broken.

Oops.

Actually, it’s more uplifting than you might think. Just knowing that things are broken means that there might be a way to somehow fix them.

So let’s use this as the baseline for today. Everything gets better from this point on. I am going to play two versions here. One is from the late great Bluesman R.L. Burnside and the other from Jazz/Rock keyboardist Ben Sidran, who always puts an interesting spin on the work of others.

I used the image of the burning locomotive because I saw it in a meme yesterday that said: Here Comes July!

Well, bring it on, July. I am ready for you and determined to have a good day today, damn it all. Hope you do the same.

**************


%d bloggers like this: