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Archive for August, 2010

One

I call this new painting, a 12″ by 24″ canvas,  One.

One path.

One tree.

One sun.

One person.

I’ve been working on paintings that are focused on rolling fields of color and how they relate to each other, as is seen in the foreground of this piece.  The rolls form a foundation for the painting as well as create depth into the painting, pulling the viewers eye further into the picture plane, allowing it to feel immersed.

Well, that’s the hope.  It’s also my translation of what I feel makes a painting of mine succeed on some level.  I feel that if I can easily allow the viewer deeper into the picture, they will get a greater sense of the color and emotion of the piece.

I have no proof that this is true but it helps me to think this, to fulfill the need for explanation.  The need to know the why of being drawn to it, even if it’s only for myself.

Just one reason.

One.

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Hollywood Squares

I was looking for something in my files and came across this old piece from around 1994.  It was an experiment with ink on bristol board, which is a very slick surfaced paper.  I was just seeing how different inks reacted on different surfaces by painting a  small block and dropping ink into the thinned paint.  I ended up with this little block and I immediately was reminded of the original Hollywood Squares television gameshow.  I even scrawled a title on this at the time, I’ll Take Paul Lynde to Block

It wasn’t the greatest gameshow.  I mean the questions weren’t challenging and they made it no secret that the celebrities were given the questions beforehand.  It didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the intelligence of the celebrities or the contestants and, even as a kid, I found myself wondering where they found these contestants  who often didn’t have a clue.  But it was entertaining.  The regulars were all comics or comic actors like Paul Lynde, Wally Cox and Charlie Weaver, who had a regular schtick for the questions which were delivered by the affable Peter Marshall.   I always think of his son, Peter LeCock (Marshall’s real last name), who was major league baseball player.

The show has continued through the years and I have never watched it since those days with Paul Lynde.  It’s odd how a strange little piece reminds you of a very small part of your past spent sitting on the couch during snowdays as a kid, watching daytime TV.

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Yet another Sunday morning.  I don’t have a lot to say this morning, which is pretty normal when I’m very busy painting.  I become very focused on the task of painting when I’m in full painting rhythm.   It seems the spaces in my mind that might be filled with opinion and trivial thought become clogged with flashes of color and and other elements.  I tend to set my limited mental capacity towards solving the puzzles of painting–  how to make a piece that seems to be static at one stage come alive with the next or making a painting that says something with the fewest amount of detail.  Solving compositional conundrums that float in the ether of  my mind. 

 It’s an interesting state of mind, being in the painting rhythm.  Like being in a location that is far removed from the realities of everyday life.  Oh, I’m aware of them but my concentration is far from them.

The painting shown here, Through the Portal, from back in 2004 kind of sums up how I feel about being in this rhythm.  It’s somewhat like passing through a gateway into a world comprised of my own little trees and landscapes, all easily pushed into place with a glance.  The real world with all its problems is behind me and feels a million miles away.  I know it sounds goofy but as I’ve stated before, if I could decribe it I wouldn’t have to paint.

So, I’ll stop trying to describe it this morning and focus on doing what I do.  Being in my own little world. 

Where I belong.

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Well, it’s Saturday morning and I think I’m in line for some higher culture this morning.  A little music,  maybe operatic.  A little “O Sole Mio” perhaps? I could easily listen to some Pavarotti or  Placido Domingo singing out their guts.

Sure.  But to get the real feel for the song it should be played on a saw.

Here’s Austin Blackburn on saw.  I don’t know if the saw is a Stradavarius or a Craftsman but it’s a bit of highbrow fun on a nice Saturday morning.  Have a great day…

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I’ve got a busy Friday lined up so I’ll simply send out a Happy Birthday to Tarzan.  He turns 98 years old, published first by author Edgar Rice Burroughs on this date as a magazine serial in 1912.  I’m sure he swings through the trees a little slower these days and his trademark yell is a little weaker at his age.

This story of a child of a British lord who is orphaned in the wilds of Africa and raised by apes has triggered the imaginations of fans in the near century since 1912, with each generation resurrecting him in some form, in comics and on film.  Most recently he was the animated hero a Disney film but first hit the big screen back in 1918.  Of course, his portrayal by Johnny Weismuller is the one that springs first to most minds. 

I don’t know what it is about this feral manchild that sets our minds a-whirling.  Perhaps it’s the idea of living outside the reach of the modern world, living by the laws of the jungle. I mean, he makes it look a pretty sweet gig, with all the swinging and swimming and such.  Of course, while many of us dream of such a life, most of us are afraid to walk through the park in the dark.  But it sounds good.

Whenever I see tarzan on film, I always wonder why he bothers to shave as meticulously as he does.  I have a hard time shaving on a good day.  But maybe that’s what makes him who he is and me who I am.  He is, after all, King of the Jungle.

Happy Birthday, Apeman…

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I’m always intrigued by the paintings of Reginald Marsh, who painted scenes depicting the urban world of New York City throughout the early part of the 20th century until his death in 1954.  His paintings always seemed densely packed with figures and movement, all rendered with easily recognizable linework and colors that were strong yet had a soft transparency.  Striking.

One of his favorite subjects was Coney Island, the famous part of Brooklyn with its beach, boardwalk and amusement park.  Whenever I see Marsh’s Coney Island paintings I am always reminded of the several trips I made there as a child in the late 1960’s.  My parents and I would go to NY to see Mets’ games, leaving my older, busier siblings at home, and would sometimes go to Coney Island on the day when the games were at night.  It was always like entering an exotic, much different world than my country home.  It was dirty with  trash strewn everywhere.  I remember the first time we swung into the parking lot at Astroland, the amusement park there, and thinking we’d entered a landfill as there were literally piles of paper and bottles over nearly the whole lot.  If you spent much time in NY at that time, it was not an unusual sight.

But it was great fun and over the few visits there I had many memories that burned indelibly into my memory bank.  My parents, and my aunt and uncle who sometimes were with us, would, after a while stop at one of the bars that opened to the boardwalk to have a cold one and I would wander alone.  It was a wonderland of colorful attractions and games, their facades faded by time and sun. I have sharp memories of standing at one bar’s doorway and watching a singer all dressed in cowboy regalia standing on the bar with his electric guitar singing out country songs in the middle of the afternoon.  I sometimes wonder if it might have been Jerry Jeff Walker. 

 I remember seeing the crowds down on the beach and suddenly seeing everyone there pointing out to the water and yelling.  Looking out, I saw two legs bobbing straight out of the water, almost comically so.  The lifeguards rushed out and dragged the body in.  Dead and, now that I think about it, had proabably been so for a while.

I also remember going into a baordwalk arcade and approaching an older man with a gray moustache and a coin changer on his belt.  I asked for change and handed him my dollar bill.  He made a couple of clicks on the changer and handed me a pile of nickels.  As I turned to go the machines, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“Hold on!” he exclaimed in a thick accent that sounded Greek to a terrified nine year old.  He started chastising me.

“You don’t know me! Don’t ever trust anyone you don’t know.  I give you money and you trust me and don’t count.  You should not trust me.  Now, count!”

I stood there petrifiied and counted out loud.  It was the right change, of course, and the man’s gruff demeanor suddenly changed and he beamed a smile at me.  “You understand? Now go.  Have fun,” he said as he gave me a pat on the shoulder.

A little life lesson along with the change on the boardwalk in 1969.

That moment is clear as yesterday and it always reappears when I see images from Marsh or images of Coney Island

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Enlivened- GC Myers 2010 at the West End Gallery, Corning, New York

Well, my current show, New Days,  at the West End Gallery ends this week.  Normally, this is the time when I have a bit more free time but this year seems to be more crowded than most.  I am finsihing up a couple of commissions and will be heading down to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for a Gallery Talk on September 11th. 

I’m also in the midst of finishing work for an October show at the Kada Gallery in Erie.  I do a show there every two years and it’s always a pretty busy affair.  I am still working on the title for this show but there is a focus on the Red Chair for the show this year.  I’ll be showing more of the work for this show in the coming weeks.

In between all of this I am starting to look towards the time after the Kada show when I will have a bit of time to work on some new (and old) concepts that have been rolling around in my head for some time but need a little time to grow into work that I can show in next year’s shows.

So I must now get back to work.  Time’s a-wastin’!

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David Koch of Koch Industries

I had a high school English teacher who was a big influence on me.  He talked about judging people’s actions on the motivations behind them, taking into account not only the what but the why behind every action.  The same action done by two different people with two differing reasons  should not be judged as the same action.  For instance, the person who stole to feed their hungry children should be viewed through a different lens than the person who stole simply out of feelings of greed and envy. 

For a naive high schooler this was a revelation.  Everything, every action,  to that point was judged as being simply right or wrong, regardless of the reasoning behind the action.  It changed how everything must be viewed and judged for me.
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Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, an article published in the most recent New Yorker magazine by Jane Mayer titled Covert Operations.  The article is about the life and actions of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who own the second largest privately owned corporation in the country (and 16th largest out of all corporations, private and public.)  Their combined wealth is only eclipsed by that of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates here in the states.  They and their company, Koch Industries,  are probably fairly anonymous to most people.  I have to admit that they were well off my radar.
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Koch Industries is involved with many things, primarily in the production and delivery of many of the critical raw materials used in industry.  They have refineries and pipelines in the petroleum industry.  They produce chemicals, polymers, fertilizers for industry and have extensive pulp and paper operations.  All operations which remain relatively low profile in the public eye yet have a big impact on many aspects of our lives.
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The company was started by their father, Fred Koch.  I’m not going to go into any detail here except to point out that he handed down an immense congolmerate to his sons and he was one of the founders of the John Birch Society, the radical right-wing organization.  The Koch brothers claim no affiliation with the society but over the past several decades have used their immense wealth in support of libertarian and conservative causes.  Well, causes that fall under the libertarian flag but meet the needs of their agenda.
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And what is their agenda?  Is it truly a stance for personal liberty or is it something else?  What is their motivation?
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Well, they are the primary movers and funders of the movement to deny climate change.  They’ve spent over 48 million dollars in the past decade to create doubt in the public’s eye that there is really climate change taking place. 
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They also are the one of the prime movers, although staying deep in the shadows, of the recent Tea Party movement.  The Koch brothers had been stong supporters of the Libertarian Party until the early 1980’s when they realized it had no future as a populist movement.  Which is to say, they recognized they were not going to be able to pull in enough foot soldiers to create cover for their agenda, which is a corruption of the concept of liberty that most of us hold near and dear.
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They want to be free of all constraints, all taxes, all government intervention and regulation of any sort.  As a theory, this is appealing to many Americans until you understand their motivations, which is that they crave the freedom to run their environmentally dangerous operations with no societal obligations.  They are the very reason we need regulation and intervention. 
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Okay, I feel a rant coming on so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m tired of people like the Tea Partiers being exploited  by people like the Kochs, Larouches, Armeys, Becks and Limbaughs of this world for their own agendas.  Read the article for a more coherent outline of the Koch brothers’ activities. 

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My post yesterday was about the guitarist Django Reinhardt and the beauty of the guitars he played.  I replied in a comment that I was surprised more painters didn’t use the guitar as a subject because, to me, it has a feeling of iconic expression.  It’s there in the shape of the instrument with its sensuous curves and neck.  The way the player holds- no, embraces the guitar.  The way they move their hands over the strings. 

It made me wonder how often the guitar had been used as subject and prompted to me to do a quick search. Now I don’t know what most people think and I don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of art history but for me the piece that must be the most recognized is Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist from his Blue Period, around 1903.  I have used this piece as the inspiration for paintings of my own and love the expessiveness of the hands and the bow of the player’s neck.

Another was from Georges Braque, one of the prominent names in Cubism with Picasso.  His Woman With a Guitar from 1913, shown here, is a beautiful example of the Cubist style.  I’m not sure it carries the emotional impact of the Picasso piece above but it is a fine piece.

Many of the earlier paintings I found containing stringed instruments were not guitars but lutes.  Perhaps the best of these paintings is this gorgeous painting from Vermeer, The Guitar Player.  On closer examination, you can see that it is a lute.  But it’s such a beautiful piece of painting, does it really matter?

Renoir- Young Spanish Woman with Guitar

Edouard Manet used the guitar player as a subject in several paintings as did Auguste Renoir.  Renoir really seized on the romantic aspect of the instrument which worked well with his style.  His players, usually his female subjects, cradle the instruments in a number of paintings.

There are certainly many, many more paintings out there that I failed to see or mention.  If you come across one that strikes your fancy, let me know.  There are some new kitschy paintings out there that are painted to appeal to guitar owners, not to actually create a sense of emotion which is  what I’m discussing here.  I’m talking about using the guitar as a subject for expression in the paintings, not simply as an object.

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It’s very early Sunday morning and there’s the sound of rain falling outside the windows of the studio.  Still dark and the rain provides a steady rhythm section of sound as it rolls off  the leaves of the trees and the roof.  Very organic sound that makes me think of music.

I’ve come across a neat video from 1939 featuring Django Reinhardt along with his Quintette du Hot Club de France, featuring violinist Stephane Grappelli.  It’s sort of a very early music video.  It’s a great chance to see Django’s two-finger playing which has been a huge inspiration to generations of guitarists.  It’s also a great chance to see the unique Selmer guitars used by the band’s members, which had the very distinctive oval and D-shaped soundholes.  Django’s influence can be seen in the guitar industry today as luthiers around the world still try to reproduce the Selmers that Django made famous but ceased to be made after the early 1950’s.  The guitar shown here is a Selmer replicant from Manouche and is as beautiful a piece of craftmanship as you’ll see.

Anyway, here is the acoustic sounds of Django and the Hot Club.  Organic sounds for an organic morning…

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