Archive for February, 2013

I listened to the Out of Bounds interview yesterday with a squirming knot in my stomach.  Fortunately, it seemed to go okay and  most of the knot subsided immediately.  Not all of it, however, as I had a lingering, nagging feeling about  an omission on my part that I need to correct .  When Tish Pearlman, the host of the show, asked about the time when I first showed my work to  the gallery owner at the West End Gallery she didn’t use his name.  As I listened yesterday, I kept saying to myself as the interview went on, ” Say his name, for chrissake!“, hoping that I was about to utter the name.  I was positive I had used his name during the interview.

But it turns out that I had not.


Tom Gardner's Artemus  the  Buffalo Bursting from Rockwell Musuem

Tom Gardner’s Artemus the Buffalo Bursting from Rockwell Musuem

The name was Tom Gardner, who owned the West End Gallery at that time with his then wife Linda Gardner, the current owner who I did mention during the interview.  Besides owning the gallery, Tom has  been a mainstay  and engine of the art scene in the Finger Lakes  region for decades.  He is well known for his oil paintings with collectors all over the country, his teaching of aspiring painters and his public sculpture.  Visitors to downtown Corning are well familiar with his sculpture of the buffalo, Artemus,  that bursts  through an upper exterior wall of the Rockwell Museum of Western Art there.  Or the Dali-esque melting clock that adorns the front of the West End Gallery.

Tom Gardner-  Amish Drive-By

Tom Gardner- Amish Drive-By

He is a non-stop ball of creation and a great and amiable character, to boot.  You can’t walk twenty feet down the street with him  in Corning without someone stopping him to talk or someone yelling at him from across the street.  It was this amiability that made me comfortable enough back in January of 1995 to bring in my milk crate filled with scraps of paper and board for him to critique.

As I said during the interview as well as many times during  gallery talks through the years, my life would have been vastly different if not for Tom’s willingness to look at my work with an open mind.  I really don’t know where I would be right now if Tom had not seen something that day and had not encouraged me.    I don’t even know if I would have continued painting for long if he had told me there was nothing there.  I doubt very much that I would be in my own studio, writing this blog.   I’m sure I would not be as contented in my life as I now am and,  for that alone, I am forever indebted to Tom Gardner.  Even if I do absentmindedly overlook mentioning his name on a radio interview.

Thank you, Tom, for opening a door of opportunity for me when I wasn’t even aware that there was one in front of me.

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GC Myers- Eternally FreeJust a reminder that you can hear a radio interview I did with Tish Pearlman for her program Out of Bounds this morning on WSKG-FM in New York and Northern Pennsylvania.   It  can also be heard on a live stream online at wskg.org.  The show airs at 11:30 AM,  just before Ira Glass and This American Life comes on at noon.

One of the questions asked was about what sort of music I listen to in the studio and the one specific piece I mentioned was Tabula Rasa from composer Arvo Pärt, one that I’ve mentioned here in the past.  It always inspires me and reminds me of the drive to find the big silence of the open landscape in my work.  The piece above, Eternally Free, is a favorite of mine that hangs in my studio and is one that I am always reminded of by this music.

I hope you can tune in this morning but for now, here’s the second movement from this wonderful piece of music which is title Silentium: Senza Moto which translates as Silence: Motionless.   The big quiet.

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Lawren Harris Bylot IslandThere seems to a big void in my collected knowledge, which is not too large to begin with, when it comes to artists form our neighbor to the north, Canada.  I’ve written about David Blackwood, the master printmaker whose work documents the world of the Canadian maritimes, on this blog a couple of times but beyond that, I come up short when thinking about Canadian painters.  Based on what I know about other Canadian artists in other fields such as music, acting and writing, I figured there had to be a wealth of great painters waiting to reveal their work to me. I wasn’t disappointed.

Lawren Harris Mt Lefroy - 1930This all came about because  I had a comment the other day comparing my brushwork to a Canadian painter who I was not familiar with in the least, Tom Thomson.  I am saving his story for another day because it is a big story with twists and mystery.  But Thomson is considered one of the pillars of Canadian painting along with the artist whose work I am showing today, Lawren Harris.

While doing a search for Thomson, I stumbled across a mention of Harris and followed the link.  The images of his work jumped out at me.  Strong, simple images of the Canadian landscape with beautiful color and form with a sense of abstraction that I found irresistible. The Google Image page  with Harris’ paintings just glows.  How had I not heard of this guy or Thomson  or any other Canadian painters?

LawrenHarris-North-Shore-Lake-Superior-1926Lawren Harris was born into a relatively wealthy life in 1885 in Brantford, Ontario, his family part of the Massey-Harris company that made farm and construction equipment.  After attending college in Toronto, he headed to Berlin in the early years of the 20th century where he painted and started his involvement with Eastern philosophy and Theosophy, which he maintained throughout the remainder of his life.   He was one of the founders of the Group of Seven which is a  group of Canadian painters of formidable talent from around 1920 until the mid 1930’s , a group which deserves much more attention than I can give at the moment.  In the 40’s, Harris  headed out to Vancouver where his work became more and more abstract. He died in 1970.  Buried on the grounds of the McMichael Art Gallery in Ontario, his work has sold for impressive sums in the years since.  In 2010, the painting at the top of this post, Bylot Island, sold for 2.8 million dollars.

LawrenHarris-Mount-Thule-Bylot-Island-1930I really identify with a lot of the things I have read in my brief research into Harris, how he felt that art was “a realm of life between our mundane world and the world of the spirit.”   I like the continuing simplification of his work and his expression of spiritual emotion through his explorations of color and form as he saw them in the starkness of the Canadian landscape.  It’s hard to believe he has escaped my notice, and probably most of America’s as well, for so long.  Just beautiful work…Lawren-Harris-Isolation-Peak-1930lawren_harris_greenland_mountains_c1930-450x379

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Holy Family-  American Folk Art MuseumI wasn’t going to write anything today but I opened a book that I have featuring works from the American Folk Art Museum, one that I browse on a regular basis.  The page I turned to is near the middle of the book, a page that I always seem to turn to when I open the book,  showing a carved piece, Holy Family,  that I  just love.  It is attributed to the 19th century  woodcarver John Philip Yaeger, a German born craftsman who worked in the Baltimore area.  I’m not religious in any traditional sense of the word but I thought this would be a fitting image to show today, which is Ash Wednesday on the Christian calendar.

There’s something irresistibleabout this carving,  beyond the subject matter,  that I just can’t put my finger on.  The color of its patina is beautifully golden and warm. The lines are smooth and rhythmic.  There’s a wonderful balance of fineness and roughness in the way the pieces of wood that make up the sculpture are put together.  It has a modern feel yet seems old– a timeless quality.  Everything about it has that sense of rightness that I have tried to describe here without much success in the past.

I also am intrigued but he damage on the left shoulder of the father.  I don’t know if this is just a property of the wood after these many years but it looks like it may have been near a cat who saw this as a perfect scratching post.  But even that doesn’t lessen the power of the piece.  It fits right into the wholeness of it.  Imperfectly perfect.

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Out of Bounds with Tish PearlmanLast week I went to REP Studio in Ithaca to record a radio interview with Tish Pearlman for her Out of Bounds show.  It’s a show that airs on several public radio stations around the country and features the affable and inquisitive Pearlman sitting down with people from a wide range of backgrounds with a purpose “to forge understanding among people of diverse backgrounds through thoughtful, in-depth conversations that educate and enlighten.”    Pearlman has been doing this show since 2005 and has featured interviews with many national and regional  figures, all of which can be found archived on the show’s website.  It’s a pretty impressive list that has many names that will be familiar to many of you.  So I was surprised, and honored, when she invited me to sit in for an interview.

Our half hour passed in the blink of an eye with Tish asking questions about my work and technique, as well as inquiring as to how I came to painting which is a story familiar to those of you who read this blog regularly or have came to one of my gallery talks.  Beyond that, my memory of what I said is a blur.  I can only hope that I was somewhat coherent and didn’t make a fool of myself.

When the session ended,  Tish clapped her hands and said that it had went really well and asked how I felt about it.  I said I was pleased but knew that, based on past experiences, that I would be beating myself up in the car on the way home, second-guessing what I had said and what I hadn’t said.  Every time I do an opening or a talk, I inevitably go through this process of regretful recollection , wishing I had made a point or agonizing over something that just didn’t come out right or over not being able to speak with someone who was in attendance.  Or that I just came off as some sort of jerk or pompous twit.

She said that I surely wouldn’t do that over this interview and I laughed and said that I knew that I would.  And, of course,  I did.

But my recollection of the interview is a very pleasant one.  Tish has an easy, friendly manner that puts you at ease and you begin to forget that you are in a small room with a microphone in front of you instead of a comfortable  living room having a pleasant conversation.  Of course, it’s a one-sided conversation.  I actually wish I had been able to ask her about some of her interviews and some of the people behind them.  I bet she has some great insights.

The show will air on the following channels:

Thursdays at 7pm WEOS-FM (NY)
Sundays at 11:30am WSKG-FM (NY)
Fridays at 3:30pm on WRNC-FM (WI)
Wednesdays at 11am on KKRN-FM (CA)
I believe that all of the channels have a live online stream for the show.  I know that WEOS-FM  and WSKG-FM do stream  the show.  I am not positive about the channels in Wisconsin or California.  And if you miss it, the interview will be on the Out of Bounds site within a month or two.
Thanks, Tish, for the opportunity to speak with you.  It was a pleasure and an honor.

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GC Myers WIP- Final Stages 2013I am getting closer to completion on the piece that I have been showing over the last week here, a 24″ by 48″ canvas.  After taking the photo shown here, I was able to spot several areas that need small touches to bring it to a possible finish.

The painting has changed considerably since the last stage  I showed of it in the prior post.  The everpresent Red Tree has appeared on a rise overlooking the lake.  The sky and sun (or is it a moon?) have unified in color.  The trees and fields have taken on more color which gives them shape and depth.   The lake that was last seen as a black pool has transformed into a surface of teeming blue brushstrokes.

It may not be very obvious in these photos but I lightened the most distant hills which moved the horizon deeper into the picture and gave the whole piece more depth.  It’s one of those things that doesn’t register when you first look at the painting.  You see the closer images – the lake, the houses, the graveyard, the bridge and roads– or maybe you focus on the sun/moon and the Red Tree stretching up into the sky.  Those are all important elements that make the painting vibrant and certainly are the stars of the show.  But, for me, it’s this extra perception of depth beyond the scene that gives the piece a real sense of wholeness.  This depth attaches the fantastic to reality.

GC Myers WIP Detail 2I spoke in the last post about the graveyard which is a new element for me in my  landscape paintings.  Another new element is located in the area around the covered bridge.  Now, I have used bridges  a number of times in my work and even a few covered bridges have popped up so it’s not that.  It’s the simplified gas station, a one-pumper that recalls rural gas stations of the past where the pump was just off the shoulder of the road.  I don’t know how that came to be in this painting except to say that I wanted a strong distinct element that would balance the graveyard and like the way it breaks up the space in which it is located.  Plus, the addition of the it and the graveyard give this piece a sense of real place, of community, for me.

There is a lot for me to like in this piece.  It’s as strong  and appealing as I had hoped it might be, with great rhythm and flow through its many elements that gives it a sense of harmony.  I had mentioned that I might use this piece for a Name That Painting contest but now I’m not so sure.  I have a title in mind and am strongly leaning toward using it, although I want to mull it over.  However, I would love to hear any other titles you might have in mind.

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GC Myers WIP 2013This the piece I showed earlier in the week, a 24″ by 48″ canvas started last weekend.  As you can see by the image to the left, the composition of the landscape has filled in and the sky has began to take shape.   I have laid in several layers of brushstrokes in the sky but probably won’t go back into it until I do more on the landscape below.  The landscape will set the final tone and feel for the sky and I need more color in it to fully be able to read it.

I sometimes question whether I need to have as many layers of color in the sky because  often in the final surface you can’t even discern any of these layers.  For example, there is a layer with  numerous strokes of violet in the sky here that you probably can’t make out in the picture above.  When this piece is complete, you may only be able to see a tiny  hint of  violet at any point in the sky.

Could I skip that layer and several other similar layers?

Sure.  It may not make a bit of difference to the casual observer.  But for me, it is an integral part of the process, a  slow development of the depth and complexity of the color that I am seeking, a color that I won’t know until it finally shows itself.  That little touch of violet is necessary for me, an important step that, if skipped, would have me thinking that something was amiss in the picture.

DSC_0011 smLeaving the sky, I begin to lay in preliminary colors for the landscape, a variety of blues and greens for the trees and a brownish  putty color for the houses and a bit of red for the roofs. It’s always exciting at this point because the color begins to bring real shape and life to the landscape.  As  each house comes to life with a little color as I work across the canvas, it is like there is a wave of light moving over it.  The whole surface begins to feel animated.

DSC_0014 smAfter that layer, I begin to lay in the surface of the landscape with a multitude of colors, weighing each block of color  as I place it  to get a sense of how it fits into the rhythm of the whole.  I begin to put on what may or may not be final touches on some of the houses, slashes of white that glows on the canvas.  I really am beginning to feel the direction of the painting at this point and have a sense of where it may finish, starting to think how I will handle the blackness of the lake.

GC Myers WIP DetailI know that this sounds goofy and I can’t really explain in any coherent manner, but there’s a good feeling around this painting at this point.  I like it’s strength and think it will show dynamically in its final state.  I really like it so far and like a few of the details in it that are new to my work.  For example, this scene has a small church graveyard  with a road circling it as it overlooks the lake.   Although I sometimes reference death and the past in my work and have a great personal fondness for graveyards, I have never actually portrayed a cemetery in my work.  But I really wanted to show it as part of the community of this painting.  It somehow tempers the piece for me.

So, while the painting is beginning to take shape, there is still a ways to go before I can sit back.  I am still trying to see what the final focus of the piece will be, what will give me a name that fits it.  Perhaps I should ask you for some help.

Shall we have a Name That Painting Contest?


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