Archive for March, 2013

historia-antiques.com head and brain model 1I came across an interesting site belonging to a California based antiques dealer, James Caswell Historia.  I was  looking at  his collection of ex-votos, which are basically notes  left in shrines or churches by believers who want to express their gratitude or thanks for what they believe are answered prayers.  Many are small paintings depicting their patron saints or a miracle being performed.  They have a number of these from Mexico that are quite striking, real colorful examples of folk art.  They should show up in a future post.  But it was this item from their Medical/Scientific section that caught my eye.

historia-antiques.com head and brain modelIt’s a model of the upper part of a human head with the brain, which is in sections which are removable, exposed.  It’s from Germany and was made in the 19th century.  Sells for $1450 if you’re interested.  But it was the image of this head as though it were emerging from a pool of water like some creepy, throbbing  brain monster that intrigued me.  All I could think of was Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard character from Apocalypse Now when he slowly emerges from the water as he nears Colonel Kurtz.  Perhaps the exposed brain was somehow symbolic of Willard’s transformational epiphany.

Or not.

But that aside, it’s a striking piece that has the feel of a piece of modern art .  Plus, it would make a great candy dish for your Easter treats.  Take a look at this site— it’s got a lot of great interesting items.

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GC Myers- Larger Than LifeI am currently working on a new body of work for my annual June show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.   I am calling this year’s exhibit,  my fourteenth solo show there,  Observers, and the piece shown here is one of the pieces that will make up the show.

This painting, a 16″ by 26″ piece on paper, is called Larger Than Life.  It’s a continuation of the Red Roof landscapes that I have been showing on this blog lately.  This piece was another that came from my early morning session in the studio when I had several images come to mind during a sleepless night.  It evolved into something other than what I originally saw but I am actually more pleased with the final result than with the mental image that inspired it.  In my mind I didn’t foresee the little peninsula  that is home to the larger than life Red Tree but, as I worked along, it  just grew out of the mainland on its own.  It seemed a natural fit and I never questioned it and liked the way the causeway broke up the two blocks of color that make up the body of water depicted here.

The Red Tree is, as I pointed out, is larger the life which is obviously the basis of its title.  I really wanted to make it unnaturally large and expressive, its trunk and branches more shrub-like than one might expect from such a large tree.  I had toyed with the idea of a simpler, straighter and more sturdy tree but felt it would alter the entire feel of the piece and wouldn’t provide enough of a counterpoint to the uniformity and order of the houses that were on the opposite shore.  I see the Red Tree here a connector, the thing that binds the everyday, represented by the houses, to the ethereal that the horizon and sun represent here.  It needed to be bigger and more expressive and so it came to be.

I’ve been enjoying  taking in this piece over the last day or so.  The diagonals of color, the running ribbon of the path and the curves of the shoreline keep my eye moving through the piece.  As I said, it is more than I originally saw.

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Gravestones, Early and FolkI have always been attracted to cemeteries, which is probably why they have been popping up in several of my recent landscapes.  Even as a child, I found the stones in cemeteries irresistible.  There were several old family plots around our home, small groupings of  stones set in the edge of the woods where early settlers in our area were laid to rest.  Most had death dates, when you could make them out on the weathered slate, that dated from around the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

One small plot across the road from us was reportedly the family of a coach driver that had resided in the home that had once been attached to an old stone chimney that still stands there to this day,  almost like a monument in itself.  It was rumored that the family had been killed in an Indian massacre, although I believe it to be just that– a rumor.  I found the small graveyard tucked on the edge of a forest hidden from the road a very serene place.  It had a calming  air around it that I found appealing, even as a child.  Plus it played to the imagination, the stones conjuring up the names of those  that I would try to envision and bring to life in my mind.

This fascination has carried through my life.  I am always eager to walk in cemeteries, to look at the stones and read the names.  I sometimes wonder, as I walk through with a name on my lips, if that name has been spoken in years.  I somehow imagine that I am conjuring their spirit, their memory of their life,  back into form by virtue of simply saying their name.  It seems like their is a power in this simple act, even if is a mere act of respect.

Grave, Lion GardinerAs I have done more and more genealogy, this interest has continued as well.  There are numerous sites where I have found images of  ancestors’ graves.  Some are unique, like this elaborate monument to Lion Gardiner that was designed by architect James Renwick, famed for his design of St. Patrick’s Cathedral  in NYC, when Gardiner’s body was re-interred in 1886.  Others are crudely simple, a slab of stone with the name crudely carved with what looked to be a nail.  Many have no stones at all, which I find sad because there will be no possibility that someone will walk through the graveyard one day and read their name aloud.

Eleazer Mulford- Lindley NYThere’s a great site online that has the entire Farber Collection available for viewing.  The late David Farber and his wife, Jessie Lie Farber, were even more enthralled than I am with cemeteries.  They amassed a huge collection of images of the sculpture and carvings on early American graves, most dating before 1800.  It’s a treasure trove of imagery and a great site to spend a few moments browsing, especially if you have anything like my interest in how cemeteries relate to our history.

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GC Myers- Not Quite an Island When I awoke in the middle of the night, as I wrote in the last post, I had a piece in my mind that I really wanted to start on.  It was simply a causeway running out to a piece of land, an almost-island.  That was all I had in mind.  I held no details on the island itself or even how the causeway would look, just an idea of a strip running outward.

This is the piece that emerged, a 16″ by 20″ canvas that I call Not Quite an Island.  The title is based, of course,  on the famed piece of writing from John Donne that begins with  No man is an island and ends with Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.  It’s often portrayed as a poem but it’s part of a sermon, Meditation XVII, from a book of his sermons  titled Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. Donne was writing on the interconnected nature of the world, how one man’s suffering was the suffering of all men, that the death of any man somehow diminishes the whole of mankind.

I saw this piece as being about the impossibility of ever truly detaching oneself from the outer world.  As hard as we might desire to seek  isolation from the world, we always remain connected by virtue of our own humanity.  And the causeway here represents that connection to me, a lifeline to the larger outer world with the path that runs along it up to the Red Tree almost serving as a root nerve connected to the larger spinal cord of the world.  To cut off that nerve, that connection, is to lose all feeling.

It’s a simple painting but the simplicity of it actually reinforces the message, in that the image makes a striking and easy first impression.  There’s a meditative quality here, an easy flow and harmony to this piece that brings my eye back to it again and again.  It’s actually just as I hoped it would be when I got out of bed at 3 AM a few days ago, filled with anxiety.  In its way, it has alleviated that angst.  For the moment.

As it should…


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GC Myers Studio 4 AMSometimes you can almost hear it click.

It happened this morning about 3 AM as I was laying in bed trying to convince myself that I really needed to get to sleep,  to try to grab some rest.  But my mind would have none of that.  It was spinning and snapping– things that had to be done,  ideas for upcoming shows, new compositions that I wanted to get down.  My head was racing and it felt like a big ball of anxiety was building inside of me.  In the past I might have written it off as such.

But for me it was a huge relief to have that knot in my stomach once again.  It was like the big click of a switch going off inside that was triggering some creative surge.  I had felt this before and had missing it as of late.  I know that it sounds funny to bemoan the fact that anxiety and fear have been absent in one’s mind.  But I knew from experience that this anxiety was something just trying to push itself out of me.  Something to which I had to respond, had to harness and use.  React to and express.

When I did the interview for the TV crew  last week, they asked what painting meant to me and I struggled in coming up with an answer.  I can’t remember exactly what I told them.  I guess the answer should have been that painting gave me a way to make this anxiety that has been my lifelong companion take a positive form.  I have learned to embrace it and when it comes around with that big click that is telling me there’s something on the way, I react.   So here I am at 4 AM, happily in the studio,   already having prepped new panels, jotted down the images that were dancing in my head and am getting ready to break out the paint.



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John Sloan Dust Storm Fifth AvenueI was going through a book of painting that focused on New York City and came across an image of the fabled Flatiron Building, its three sided structure which gives it the look of a ship’s prow making it one of the more iconic building in the city.  It has been photographed  and painted numerous times, enough so that there is probably a book of just Flatiron images floating around somewhere.  It’s a striking building and one that I always am intrigued by in images and in person.

But I hadn’t seen this painting by John Sloan, the American artist who was part of the Ashcan School that painted the reality of the urban experience in the early decades of the 20th century.  I am a fan of this loose-knit group of  painters that includes George Bellows, Edward Hopper and Robert Henri, among others.

The painting was titled Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue and was painted in 1906.  It was an image looking down Fifth Avenue to where the Flatiron’s prow stood proudly as a black cloud hovered above.  On the ground below, the people scurried about  in a panic as the wind blew up huge clouds of dust as it funneled down the canyons of the city.  There’s a tremendous amount of movement in the painting that gives it great impact.

It made me wonder how accurate the image was.  Were these dust storms a normal occurrence in old New York?  It turns out that the Flatiron was notorious for the winds that gathered around its base and buffeted the pedestrians who happened that way, taking hats and lifting women’s skirts, exposing their legs to leering young men who would gather on the corner of 23rd Street for just such a purpose. The police would regularly have to disperse the gawkers which is supposedly where  the term 23 Skidoo originated, it being the phrase they would shout to get the crowd moving.

It’s always interesting to see the story behind an interesting image like the one Sloan captured, to see the real history being portrayed.  It makes me appreciate this painting even more. Here’s a short film from 1903 that shows  the mischief that the wind played on the passing crowd.

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I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then

Gonna keep on trying

Till reach my highest ground

GC Myers-Higher Ground

I wrote that when I was visited  last week in my studio by a film crew from WSKG  that they had taped me working on a painting in its early stages.  The painting above is the final version of that piece.  It’s a 20″ by 40″ canvas that I am calling Higher Ground, a title somewhat borrowed from the Stevie Wonder song of the same name quoted above.

This piece has a couple of different elements than most of my work.  For instance, the rocky walls of the canal/river as well as the rocky outcropping of the rise on which the Red Tree stand.  There’s also an orchard in the lower right corner that I use sparingly in these pieces.  I have sometimes said that these paintings are often not really about the Red Tree at all but are more about the mood created by the combinations of color and form.  But the Red Tree is definitely center stage here, everything revolving around and focusing on it.

Higher ground could  represent the safety offered by it  in times of flood or in combat.  For me, I see it as attaining a higher plane of being, or at least aspiring to it as a goal.  Perhaps not the same highest ground that Stevie Wonder is seeking ,  which seems to represent  a  Raptured heaven.  No, I see it more as being free of the the everyday, represented in the anonymous houses below.  To a point that is above hate and anger.  Above envy.  Above spitefulness and deceit.

Above judgement.  I add that because I don’t see the Red Tree as looking down on those house below it here. Rather,  I see it looking upward and outward.  And higher ground affords that better view…

Here’s the song from Stevie Wonder.  Great groove to start a day.

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ConformateurAs I looked up from my painting the other day there was an old  movie, one that I can’t even recall at this moment.  On the screen there was a man, I think it was Tyrone Power, in a movie from the late 1930’s to 1940’s,  wearing a hat of a sort on his head that caught my eye.  It wasn’t really a hat but was worn like one, looking  like some sort of  Victorian device for either measuring the head for a hat or for torturing the wearer.  Or both.

Conformateur_fittingIt really piqued my interest and I did a quick search and, lo and behold, there it was on my computer screen.  It was called a comformateur and was a French device used by hat milliners to get exact measurements of the head so that they might make a hat fit perfectly.  The slats or fingers that make up the side of the device all conformed to the head and as they moved in or out  they would push corresponding pins upward.  These pins would puncture a sheet of paper placed in the top of this device, the perforations forming an image much like a connect-the-dots drawing, leaving an exact outline in miniature of the head.   The hatmaker then has a permanent record of the shape of his client’s head.

These conformateurs  date  back to the 1820’s and are very collectible by hatmakers and by collectors of Victorian oddities.

I don’t know why this caught my eye or why I’m sharing this today.  I just am really interested in these types of inventions, these contraptions that obviously required a lot of effort to design and build.  They show such ingenuity and complexity in their design, especially for purposes that seem so obscure in the present day.

Actually, I’m thinking it might just be cool to wear one around as my everyday hat.  Maybe at my next opening.  Would that make me a non-conformateur?


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newgrange-spiral-stoneI was looking for something to use here on the blog as a symbol for Ireland or St. Patrick’s Day.  I didn’t want to go the typical shamrock and leprechaun route. We’ve all seen enough of those.  Instead, I began to focus on their triple spiral symbol, the triskele.  It first showed up on the stones at Newgrange in County Meath,  a large burial mound or temple which dates back over 5000 years, making it older than the pyramids of Egypt.

The elaborately carved stones featured three spirals which meld effortlessly into one another, as though it is a continuum without beginning or end.  Though its origins and meaning are still vague at best, this triple spiral has come down through the ages as being symbolic of the trinity of later Christian believers and even found its way into the form of the ubiquitous shamrock.  I think the mystery and symbology of the triple spiral is fascinating in the way it still resonates in some primal part of us.  It is an elemental symbol, a part of who we are as a people.  And by that, I don’t mean simply the Irish but all people.  Everyone can identify with this symbol of  the unity of time and constant rebirth.

Maybe this unifying aspect is why there is such great appeal of  this day for so many, Irish and non-Irish alike.  I know that while I drink a Guinness or two today, probably dressed in a Kelly green shirt  as I listen to Danny Boy or some other maudlin ballad for the umpteenth time, I will stop for a moment and think of this trinity of spirals and feel a unity with the past.  And the future and the present.

Maybe the song will be Carrickfergus.  Here’s a version from Loudon Wainwright III that I very much like.


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RedTree in Gdansk

RedTree Near Gdansk PolandI have often said that one of my favorite benefits from my job as an artist is hearing from people from all over the world who have seen my work.  It’s always gratifying to know that my work translates across boundaries and cultures, that it is not isolated in its appeal.  I was reminded of this as I was cleaning out my spam file this morning and came across an email there that didn’t seem to fit.

It was from Gdansk in Poland, from an architect/town planner named Joanna M. She had seen my blogpost on the works of Hans Memling and invited me to Gdansk to see  his The Last Judgment, his spectacular triptych which is in the National Museum there.

She then went on to tell me about her work as a town planner, saying that a current plan for a housing area there in Gdansk resembles  my paintings with the hills and paths and structures.  She also pointed out that they even had a red tree there.  as seen in the photo above which she included.  She said she is planning a pedestrian path that leads up this hill to the Red Tree.

I was tired this morning coming into the studio but finding this email brightened my day and reinvigorated me.  I have talked before about the idea that there are other eyes looking over my shoulder in the studio, urging me on.  It gives me inspiration and a sense of purpose, taking me away from my own selfish needs.   Those eyes make me believe that my work is part of a bigger community.   Thank you, Joanna, for lending me your eyes this morning all the way from Gdansk.  It is most appreciated.

 Dziękuję bardzo.

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