Archive for June 5th, 2012

Clarification– GC Myers

My solo show at the Principle Gallery opens Friday and I’m very busy in the interim.  Seems like there in not enough time in any one day.  I thought this might be a good day to run a combination of two posts that first ran here back in September of 2008.  They give a quick overview of how I started painting and I thought they might be of interest to new readers of the blog who might not know the background story. 

Part I:

I never expected to be an artist. I mean, I remember thinking at age 7 or 8 that it might be neat to live as an artist, drawing and painting the days away, but in reality it seemed like a pipe dream. We were what I would consider lower-middle class (maybe even upper-low class) and the idea of someone being an artist was as fantastic as someone being a fish. We didn’t know any artists and art didn’t seem to occupy a large place in our lives. But I thought I would like to be an artist and my parents did their best in meeting this wish, going out and buying me tubes of oil paint and canvas boards. They didn’t know that a 7 year old would not be able to teach himself to use the oils and would need training and besides, they had no idea how to find such help. So I plunged ahead and made gray glop on the boards and became frustrated, finally setting aside the paints forever. Or so I thought.

Over the next few decades I tried my hand at many things: drawing awful little sketches for the school paper, working with leather, writing sophomoric poetry, screen-printing t-shirts, wood carving and on and on. Nothing hit for me but I felt there was something in me that had to come out, something that had to be expressed in one form or another. For a long while I thought it was writing but after many years I came to the realization that what I wanted to write about was the quiet of large open space, the feeling of peering across lands to a far horizon. How much could one person write on that subject? I wasn’t interested in telling a tale. I wanted to make people feel. I wanted to touch people on an emotional level and my writing wasn’t doing the job.

During this time I held a number of jobs. I worked as a candy cook in the A&P factory for several years, worked as construction laborer, owned and operated a swimming pool business, sold cars and was a finance manager at a Honda dealership. Stumbling along, I ended up at a Perkins Restaurant in my mid-30’s as a waiter. I had no idea what the future held.

It was around this time that my wife, Cheri, and I started to build a home on a parcel of land we had bought several years before. I would work on the house during the day and wait tables at night. One September morning I was working at site alone, stapling Tyvek weather barrier to the peak of the house when my ladder slid on the Tyvek, toppling over and catching my feet, throwing me face-first to the ground, about 16 feet below. I still cringe a bit at the memory of that moss green ground rising up at me and the sudden blackness as it hit. I was up immediately, leaning against the house and muttering “Oh my god, oh my god…” as I surveyed the damage. My right wrist had two 90 degree angles in it. Blood poured down my face and I could feel that the inside of my mouth was all torn up from broken teeth smashing in and through it. I had no way of calling anyone (pre-cellphone days!) so I drove home, fading in and out during the short drive.

Cheri got me to the hospital and over the course of the next few months I began to mend. I had plenty of time to myself since I couldn’t work at the restaurant and couldn’t do much on the house. It was during this time that in my boredom I began to play around with some old air-brush paints from another earlier failed effort. I would put the brush in my cast and push it around on some bristol paper just to feel like I was doing something. At first, it seemed the same as always then suddenly, something clicked in my head. The shapes and colors seemed to come together and make sense. I don’t know how to exactly describe it. It was as though my perception had changed and with that came new found ability.

That was the beginning of my new life. I became obsessed with this new way of expressing myself. After returning to work, I would paint several hours each evening. With each session a new avenue would open before me. My mind raced with each discovery. I remember with great clarity the night I finished this piece:

The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my heart raced. It was a moment of epiphany. For the first time, I saw something that had the same feeling as the images in my head, something that was my own pure expression. The form was right. The color was right. It had its own quality and life. It was at that moment I knew that painting would be my life.

Part II:

So there I was painting away, assembling a mish-mosh of paper and board with smears of paint. Some pieces really hit and some didn’t but, as in any endeavor, there was a lot to be learned from the misses. The missteps defined strengths and weaknesses. A time pass and I felt that the work was growing and was becoming a true expression of myself but I wasn’t thinking I was any more than an avid hobbyist at this point.

I had bought a painting or two over the years from the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. One of the owners at that time was Tom Gardner, also a well-known painter and teacher. Tom has a knack for conversation and I would occasionally stop in and we’d end up pulling out chairs in the middle of the spacious gallery and just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. It was during one such talk that Tom asked if I painted. I hemmed and hawed a bit then confessed that I had puttered around a little. Tom told me that I should bring some stufff in and he’d be glad to critique it but to be prepared to accept a harsh judgement if the work deserved it. I hesitatingly agreed.

A week or so later I showed up at the gallery and Tom, seeing me, started to laugh. I was hauling my pieces in an old blue milk crate with pieces of paper and cardboard sticking out all over the place. It was not the organized portfolio of a serious artist or student. Tom hunkered down and began shuffling through the pile of work and turned to me.

“I’ve got one question for you,” he said, pausing for a beat. “Where the hell have you been?”

I was shocked and thrilled. It was a validation of the work. He saw something original and strong in the work, saw real possibility. My head reeled. About this time, co-owner Linda Gardner walked in and looked over Tom’s shoulder for a few minutes. After a moment she turned to me.

“Can you have 10 or 12 of these ready by next week for our next opening”

I can still remember the giddiness I felt from this unexpected turn of events. A new possibility opened before me in that one moment, that one simple question. I said yes. of course I could have the work ready. I wanted to be confident even though I had no idea how to present the work properly. But I knew I would learn and learn quickly because there was new horizon in front of me now, an opportunity that I knew I could not squander. I would give it everything I had.

So, it was started. Here is one of the first pieces I exhibited and I believe the first piece I ever sold:

Anyway, that’s how I first came to show my work publicly. I’ll talk more about that in later posts.

And I have, for about 4 years now.  Thanks for stopping in here over that time.

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