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Archive for December, 2009

And There Is a New Day…

And There Is a New Day

That’s the title of this painting,  that’s showing at the Haen Gallery in Asheville, NC.  When I was thinking about what I would use for my end of the year post I thought of this piece.  I guess it’s because of the fact that I see it as being about a type of rebirth, the promise of possibility that comes with every new day.

And that is very much like the feeling that comes when we turn the page on the old year and look upon the new.

A clean slate.  New opportunity.

Fresh legs.  Clear eyes.

New car smell and zero miles on the odometer.

The road is open and runs straight to the horizon.  Put the pedal to the floor and don’t look in the rearview because nothing can catch you now.  It’s a free run, baby.

That’s the attitude I hope to wake up with tomorrow, in the first light of 2010.  Energized and full of optimism for the future.

However, I know that’s a tall order and you can never fully shake away all the dust from your past.  You’ll always carry a little forward with you.  The important thing is to keep moving forward.

And that is all I ask from the new year and each new day: to keep moving forward.

have a great  new year…………..

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They showed the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors on television last night.  It’s always an interesting show, highlighting the careers of some of the most enduring and venerable performers and entertainers.  A virtual who’s who of our culture over the last half century.

For me, this years group of honorees was as good as it gets across the board.  You had high culture with operatic hero Grace Bumbry, jazz culture with the ever hip piano of Dave Brubeck, rock and roll with Bruce Springsteen, the world of comedy from Mel Brooks and the ultimate in dramatic acting from Robert De Niro.  What an incredible group.

One of the highlights for me was the absolute look of joy on Dave Brubeck’s face as his four sons joined in to play a medley of his compositions.  The night fell on his 89th birthday and he seems to be a testament to the longevity of those who are able to follow their passion.  I don’t know squat about jazz but what I feel is that Brubeck’s work has appeal across the spectrum of listeners out there.  There’s enough stellar playing and complicated rhythms to satisfy real jazz fans yet it’s incredibly accessible to the less savvy, like me.  Great stuff.

Of course, the other was the tribute to Bruce Springsteen.  I’ve been a big fan for well over 30 years and it’s been interesting to see how he has transformed into an elder statesman of  popular music.  I think that Jon Stewart hit it right on the head for me when he spoke of Bruce’s willingness to empty the tank for his audience every night as being the thing that most struck him and influenced him as a young fan.  I know seeing Bruce when I was younger made me hungry to find something, anything, that would make me feel that same passion and commitment in my own life.  Something where, like Bruce, I could give everything I had.  The medium wasn’t important.  It was all about the spirit of the effort, the total dedication to your own vision.  That is always in the back of mind when I see him, even today.

I remember writing a letter in the 70’s (long before e-mail) to Dave Marsh, the Rolling Stone editor who had just written an early bio of Bruce, describing how the music affected me.  I was working in a factory and couldn’t see anything on the horizon but when I listened to Bruce I was no longer a loser, a factory drone.  I had hope.  It was very much how Jon Stewart described his own experience.  Marsh responded with a lovely handwritten letter, that I still prize today, telling me how he was moved by my letter.  That, too, served as inspiration to search further, to give more.

Thanks, Bruce, for the inspiration.  You deserve this honor…

Here’s nice version of My City of Ruins from night’s show, performed by Eddie Vedder.  Enjoy.

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Kid Stuff

My sister asked me to frame this for  my nephew, Jeremy,  for Christmas.  It’s a self-portrait done by his longtime friend and now fiancee, Eliza, when she was 9 years old, which means it was done two years ago.  Just kidding.  It was a couple of decades back.

I just love this piece.  There is just something there, like a lot of kid’s art that I’ve been fortunate to see, that has a real sense of rightness.  There is an innocence in its expression and feeling with an innate and natural sophistication that goes beyond the nine years of experience Eliza had at the time.  By that, I mean that she is expressing things with this little painting in a natural way that older, much more experienced painters struggle to find in their own work, even with all their years of acquired knowledge and technical sophistication.

I think therein lies the beauty of folk art and kid’s art’s place in it: True self expression with what you know and how you view things without trying to represent the work or yourself as more sophisticated than you really are.  When the feeling behind the work is genuine, the level of sophistication becomes secondary.  I think we’ve all seen paintings done by highly skilled artists that are skillfully rendered but raise no feeling within us, seemingly devoid of emotion.  It’s like they are so concerned with technique that they lose the emotion of what they’re trying to portray, whereas kid’s art often is so much about being able to freely express themselves that the feeling is carried through the process and actually enhanced with each unsteady stroke of paint.

I’m sure many of you out there see a steady stream of kid’s work and brush off a lot of it.  Take an extra moment and look a little deeper and you’ll see some wonderful things from these little beings.  Fresh eyes…

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At the Gallery

Well, I’m through the first two days of a 5 day stint at the West End Gallery in Corning.  Thus far it has been pretty uneventful with pretty light traffic, less than we had hoped for the days following Christmas.

I was able to meet, for the first time, several collectors who came in.  One was a lady from California who had acquired several pieces of mine over the years.  As she came through the gallery with her daughter, who she was visiting in Corning, I asked if I could be of assistance.  She said no, saying see just wanted to see some of the work of Gary Snyder, the artist who had done several paintings she had purchased there.  As she went up the stairs to the upper gallery, I ran through the artists who have shown there and couldn’t for the life of me, remember a Gary Snyder.

A while later, she came down the stairs and I asked if she saw anything of interest.  She said she loved Snyder’s work that was there.

Perplexed I asked if she had actually found some.

She said yes and explained how she ‘d followed his work since the smaller blocks of color and the first red trees.  It suddenly dawned on me that she was confusing my name.

“Do you mean Gary Myers– GC Myers?”

In that moment it dawned on her as well that she had the name confused. “Oh my, yes!” she exclaimed then told me she was thinking of a California poet named Gary Snyder.  I told her that I was the painter and she was very surprised and pleased to finally meet me.  We talked for quite a while, having a pleasant conversation, and she left with one of my books.

There were several other encounters of that sort, enough to make the days go by quickly. The piece at the top, Away From the Chaos, a 20″ by 24″ canvas has been garnering a lot of attention.  It has an interesting rhythm in the sky that has been making people stop and take notice.  One of the benefits of being in the gallery is watching how people react to different pieces from different artists, seeing how different colors and elements attract the viewer.  It’s a constant reminder of the elements that make a painting work and how important it is to keep those elements central to the piece.

So, even when it’s been slow in the gallery there are lesson to be learned.  Got to run and get ready for class…

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Shore Leave

It’s Sunday morning and I’m feeling a little draggy, a little empty in the fuel tank.  Don’t really feel like expounding on anything, least of all my work or myself.  I’ve got a Tom Waits song in my head and it just about fits the bill for a dose of early morning Sunday after Christmas, running low on caffeine, waiting for the newspaper  melancholia.

Here’s Shore Leave from Tom Waits’ album, Swordfishtrombones , which is one of my favorites from him.

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Well, it’s the day after Christmas and today I’m starting a five day stint, filling in for owner Linda Gardner at the West End Gallery.  It’s something I haven’t done for well over a decade and as the day has approached I’ve become more and more nervous at the prospect.  I’m afraid my people skills will have deteriorated a bit during those years spent in the studio when the only contact with people in a gallery was confined to an hour or two a few times a year at my openings.

I’m hoping they return.  Quickly.

Over this time at the gallery, I will be bringing out a few pieces from the studio that haven’t been shown in a number of years.  One such painting is the one shown above, Stranger (In a Strange Land), which has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  This 12″ by 36″ piece is considered one of my “dark” pieces, very densely colored over a black ground.  I never saw many of the pieces that are considered “dark” as being truly dark but this particular painting fits the billing.  It has a deep, dark background and there is a palpable sense of being adrift in an alien landscape throughout the scene.   Everything looks somewhat familiar but there’s a dimension beyond the norm, one that lifts the veil and reveals something unrecognizable, something that can’t be deciphered.  Like hearing the clicking language of African tribes for the first time.

I suppose this sense of alienation is what brought me to the title.  Whether you know the phrase from the popular sci-fi novel of the same name from Robert Heinlein or from the biblical quote of Moses, it is a most evocative group of words.

Anyway, this piece and more will be at the West End Gallery in Corning today and for the next five.  Stop in and take a look.

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On Christmas Day

There are Christmas Days when you wake up with thoughts of the right now, thoughts about what has to be done, gifts that need to be delivered, etc.  Just thoughts about how you’re going to make it through the day.

Today I was up early,  as I normally am, and headed over to the studio.  I began to think about the roots of the holiday and the story of the nativity and the star that shone over the scene in the story.  The whole thing brought me back to looking into the sky and all the questions raised by looking upon the endless stars and innumerable galaxies, seeing how vast the universe seems and how small we truly are. Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Are we linked in some way with the ancient lights that reach our eyes?

Perhaps the story of Jesus brings  comfort and an answer of sorts to these questions.  It provides a reason for being and the sense of a link to the unknown and unknowable.  It renders the universe to a single point of contact, one that feels knowable and within reach, if one only has faith in the belief.  For believers, the universe is simply proof of the existence of God, all part of a great design.

I can understand the attraction and comfort of this belief.  The need for it.

But whether I am fully invested in this belief or feel that it answers all my questions, I cannot say.  I can say that, even while still questioning the origin of the stars above,  there is much to be gained by living our lives in a way that is filled with love and empathy, acceptance and forgiveness.  All things that Jesus taught.  Whether you believe or not, a life filled with these qualities links us with those around us and the rest of the world and possibly the universe and all the forces supporting it.

And maybe, ultimately, that’s the meaning behind this day.

Merry Christmas. Live well…

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