Archive for June, 2013

Lately I have been thinking about how people find their individual creative voices, how it evolves and is influenced by what others think.  We all too often heed advice that fits in a one-size-fits-all world when we need direction that takes in account the singularity of our talents and our aims.  Many of us also dismiss the creative expressions of our emotional selves as somehow inferior to those from known creative talents as though they had a monopoly on the feeling and expression of emotion.  I think the individual voice grows when they transcend this feeling and realize that their point of view is as valid as that of any other person, including the greatest artists working in their field.

There is a lot more than can be said on this subject but it brings me to a post that I wrote here back in February of 2009 that describes how I came to this realization of my own validity.  I wonder how many artists, writers, musicians and other creative people have experienced this same sense of  inner intimidation and have succumbed to it, putting aside their quest for their own voice?


GC Myers- The AngstWhen I used to enter a gallery or museum, even up until several years ago, I would be filled with a severe sense of dread and anxiety. Angst. The knot in the stomach. The racing pulse. The whole thing. 

I would go from painting to painting and would feel lessened because in each piece I would see something that I could not do, some technique that was not in my toolbag. There were colors and forms that I could not replicate and all I could think was that I was somehow inferior. 

I didn’t belong. 

The resulting feelings would leave me reeling and sometimes angry, making me even more determined to create something that would validate my work. 

While this was a motivating force for many years, helping me actually find my voice, it gradually subsided over the years as I became more and more aware that I had been focusing on things I could not control and on being something I was not. 

I began to see what I was. I had an individual voice and vocabulary that was mine and mine alone. I began to see that other artists felt about my work as I had felt about their work. I saw that while they were doing things that I could not, the reverse was true as well. I recognized that my voice, my technique and style, was finally mine and mine alone. I saw that my form of expression was every bit as valid as any other artist hanging in any gallery or museum. 

This was a liberating feeling. It allowed me to go into galleries and museums and , instead of seeing what I was not, recognize the beauty of expression that was there and be excited and inspired by things other artists were doing. Instead of coming out saying ” I’ll show them ” I was saying “I can use that”. 

It was merely a matter of trusting that what I saw in my own work was a true and real expression and would be visible to others. I think this a lesson from which any viewer of art can benefit. They must learn to trust their own instincts and reactions when looking at art. Like my self-expression, their reaction to a work is theirs and theirs alone. Their reaction is as valid as anyone else and no critic or gallery-owner can make a person like a piece that doesn’t move them. When the viewer realizes that there is no right or wrong, that their own opinion is truly valid, their viewing pleasure will increase dramatically. 

By the way, the piece at the top is an old experiment from around 1994. I always enjoy pulling it out even though it doesn’t fit neatly into my normal body of work. No more angst. 

Well, a different kind of angst…

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GC Myers- In Clarity While I am busy at work in the studio preparing for my show which opens in a month at the West End Gallery in Corning, I wanted to remind everyone that my show, Observers, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria will still be hanging there for the a little more than another week, until July 7.  If you haven’t had a chance and would like to see this show, I suggest you make your way to beautiful Old Town Alexandria and take a peek before it comes down.

The painting shown above, In Clarity, a 10″ by 20″ canvas, is part of the Observers show along with the title piece, shown below.GC Myers- Observers frm sm

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Carol Eyerman-  A Surreal Study of Latex Masks 1950There is something about a mask that captures the imagination.  Hiding our true selves behind a shield often allows us to act in ways that are often in direct opposition to who we really are or to, at least for a short time, take on a persona we would never dare exhibit as our own.  I think we all often wear masks of a sort in our dealings with people, showing only the face we choose to show at any given moment.  We seldom fully take off our masks and show our full and true self.  I think that is a reason I often feature masks in the artifacts of my Archaeology series.

So when I came across this photo it  immediately caught my attention.  It is a wonderful abstraction of latex masks hanging from lines as they dry.  I can find no story behind this 1950 photo or even much about the photographer,  Carol Eyerman , who died in 1996 at the age of 85 and was a Life and Sunset magazine photographer best known for landscape photos.  To me, it is either a shop that makes masks for Halloween or theatrical or movie productions.  I’m thinking Halloween just by the sheer number.

But beyond the facts behind the photo, it’s a terrific image with the looping lines that hold the gruesome faces and  bloodied hands rising up and away.  Like a factory of pain and torture, an image torn from a nightmare. Just a great shot.

Cherry and Richard Kearton - Wildlife Photography Pioneers 1900As an aside, while I was jumping around online trying to find more about Carol Eyerman, I came across this photo of a man standing on another man’s shoulders while taking a photo on a camera atop an extraordinarily tall tripod.  It was such a neat image that I had to stop to discover that the two men were Cherry and Richard Kearton who were brothers and pioneers in wildlife photography.  This photo was taken in 1900.  I always seem to find the most interesting things while searching for other things, as thought the initial search is actually only a starting point.  In this case, it may not be as interesting as the masks but it’s a great image in itself.

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Earlier, while writing about the release yesterday of his album, Comin’ Home, I showed a video of some earlier work of Michael Mattice.  I didn’t t realize then  that there was a link that took you to one of the songs from the new CD, Windowpane. Here it is:


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Michael Mattice Comin' Home Cover 2013I was on the road  so I didn’t get a chance to post that a new CD titled Comin’ Home came out  yesterday from my friend, Michael Mattice.  I’ve talked about Mikey here before, most recently in the notes after my recent opening at the Principle Gallery.  I’ve known him since he was a gangly kid of 13 or 14 tagging along with his Dad at events at the gallery.  Even then Mikey gave off a tightly focused vibe, like  he was there  in the physical sense only while his mind was elsewhere, running through an unending set of musical charts that had his full attention.  I recognized his obsessive look that said that he something deeper to express, that it was in him and was eating impatiently at him from the inside.

Mikey had started his musical journey early,  taking up the flute and piano at age 8 , adding  a proficiency at electric and upright bass to his repertoire in his middle school years.  But the guitar always held his deepest fascination.  He studied guitar at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating last year.  After graduation, he toured as guitarist with Jamaican Aria Morgan‘s tour to promote her album, Full Time Love, as well as playing with the progressive metal band Yantra that he had co-founded while still at Berklee.

But time came to begin to get back to that obsessive inner voice which led to the release of his new CD yesterday that features his compositions, voice and playing.  It’s a mix of folk, blues, country and indie rock but it’s all Mikey.  I had followed his work through the years from afar and knew primarily of   his prodigious talents as progressive metal guitarist so when he passed on to me a 3 song preview of the new CD at the gallery, I was expecting work in that genre.  But from the first moments I could tell that I had only seen a small glimpse of his talent in his previous work.  It started with a song, Train Hoppin’, that is drenched in the sound and feel of the early folk blues,  recorded on the same sort of  period recording equipment that Robert Johnson and other early blues pioneers used in the 20’s and 30’s.  It is his homage to the influences that paved the way for his own work, which is shown more fully in the next two songs, Back to You and Window Pane.  These songs feel like his authentic voice  which is exciting, making me eager to hear more from this CD.

Comin’ Home is available now on  iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, as well as a number of other online outlets.  You can also order it from his site, Mattice Music.  

Mike will also be doing a special acoustic show promoting the CD at the Principle Gallery on Thursday, July 11, from 6-9 PM.  If you can make it, this  should be a wonderful opportunity to experience his wonderful talent in an intimate setting.  It could be one of those things where you can tell your friends years from now about how lucky you were to see Mike play early in his career.

Just to show off a bit of his talent and dexterity, here’s a clip from his progressive work with Yantra.

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Ivan Generalic- River Landscape 1964I came across the work of the late Croatian painter Ivan Generalic (1914-1992) recently.  I had never heard of him but was instantly pulled in by his easily palatable work. It was colorful and had simple forms that fit the eye easily.  Muscular bare trees under beautifully graded skies of rich color.  Thick peasants and cows among simple square houses.  Golden fields with each stalk of grain painted individually.  It reminded me both of the gorgeous flora of Henri Rousseau’s paintings and the peasant scenes of Brueghel but still spoke in its own voice.  Simple yet not.

Ivan Generalic- Village 1954Generalic was considered a Naive Painter.  I never quite know what to make when I hear that term, whether it is disparaging or simply describing the form.  By definition, much of my own work is naive although I seldom refer to it in that way.  By naive,  I mean that I often disregard many of the elements of classical realism such as true perspective or the fading of color and detail over distance.  Plus I often leave out shadows and may have several light sources within a picture.  But it was never studied.  To me  it is simply painting as I see things in my mind, translating them on a surface in a way that makes sense.  Maybe that is why I am drawn to the work of people like Ivan Generalic who seem to make this translation seem so simple and elegant..

One of the ways I judge work of other painters now is to pull up a Google Images page of their work.  You can get a real sense of their work in this quick overview, seeing all of the paintings together playing off of each other.  It gives you a core feel  for it, what it was really about.  This definitely worked for Generalic, as you can see below.  There’s is a real sense of fullness and purpose in the work.  Certainty.

Ivan Generalic- Google Images Page

We don’t hear much about Croatian painters like Generalic here or even many Naive painters in general, which is our loss.  I find his work beautiful and intriguing and am glad to have stumbled across it.

Ivan Generalic -Cows in a Landscape 1957 Ivan Generalic-  Deer in the Forest 1956

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Amish Baseball Player- Photo by Kurt WilsonThere was an article in The New Republic magazine a few months back titled The Boys of Lancaster from writer Kent Russell.   It is about the relationship between the game of baseball and the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The article documents how the game, while forbidden to adults once they have been baptized ( the Amish are Anabaptists which means they practice voluntary baptism of members at an age when they can make their own decision to do so), is a big part of the  Amish boys and young men’s lives, especially during the period of Rumspringa, that sanctioned time when Amish youth basically sow their wild oats before making the decision to stay with the Amish way of life and religion or leave and live the modern English life.  During Rumspringa they often drive cars, drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex, listen to modern music, watch TV, talk on their cell phones and do just about anything else that any modern non-Amish youth might be doing.

This includes playing baseball.

There are fields and backstops scattered around the county and they play in leagues among themselves and against the English, the term used to describe all non-Amish.  The author describes their play as being unschooled but having a purity and consistency in its form.  It might not look as polished as kids who were in travel leagues and went to instructional camps but they could play.  He describes them as not being too self-conscious and having a centered confidence without being cocksure, traits that by nature  translate well to the game of baseball.  While the game is one of thought, those who play best have an ability to not be self-conscious and make each move on the field with the certainty of result.  Questioning your own ability and your movements make for poor play.  The Amish boys seem to have this required self-certainty and an ability to be single-minded in their purpose.

Amish Baseball Player- Photo by Kurt Wilson 2The author makes a couple of points that apply outside of baseball.  One was a saying from The Mental Game of Baseball, a book that is considered a must-read for big leaguers or wannabes,  that goes If there is no future, there is no distraction.  I immediately understood what it meant.  Focus on the now, on this very instant.  Block out what may happen in the future because it doesn’t really exist.  Just like the past.

Existence is always in the present.

This works in baseball.  The best players block out the past and all the failures or successes that came  before.  The future is not even thought of.  Those players that do dwell in the past or future, fail in the present.

It made me think of how often I find myself living in pasts and thinking of futures, how often I fail to take in the precious now.  I swing and miss,  striking out because of this preoccupation with the past and future, both things out of my control.  We may think we control our future but it is only the now that we can truly control.

Hmm.  The zen of ball…

Whatever the case, if you’re a baseball fan or a fan of cultural anthropology,  it’s an interesting read.


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GC Myers Life Forms ca 2004I spent yesterday working on a piece that was based on the photo from yesterday’s blogpost, one from Paul Strand that featured tiny figures on a sidewalk in a park.  I had translated the composition immediately and could see what I wanted in my head but just could not get it to translate on paper.  It was frustrating and had me flummoxed for most of the afternoon.  I just could not get to the image in my mind, could not achieve the depth and feel that I was seeing.

I wanted to taste a hearty stew  but was only getting weak broth.

I think that it came down to the fact that I had not completely absorbed the composition, had not fully made the transition from the original inspiration to a point where it became my own.  Like learning a piece of music where you are trying to discover the flow and rhythm of it, trying to see the pattern laid down by the original composer before you impose your own interpretation on it.  Making their notes your notes.

This is normally not a a problem for me.  The way I paint allows immediate transition into my own hand normally.  But sometimes when I try to force my work into a pattern that is not mine and is not fully hashed out, the results are less than stellar.


The piece at the top is not an example of this.  Rather, this is a the opposite, even though it may not resemble my normal work.  From 8 or 9 years ago, this  started as an exercise where I was just getting back to colors that I strayed from had , each little sliver being combinations of color.  Slowly,  it evolved into this fish-like swirl.  I find myself drawn into the pattern and movement of this and it works for me because it feels pure, feels as though it is my own rhythm and flow even though it doesn’t resemble my typical work.

I don’t know how to put this coherently.  It just feels natural, like writing your own signature.  I’ve down a couple of these over the years and they are among my favorites, probably because of this.  When I compare the easiness and grace of this piece to yesterday’s effort, there is a world of difference.  In this piece I am signing my own name whereas yesterday I was trying to forge a signature.  But if I can ever get to that image in my mind that changes and my signature begins to appear.

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paul strand ny 1916No matter what lens you use, no matter what speed the film, no matter how you develop it, no matter how you print it, you cannot say more than you can see.

–Paul Strand


I have featured the photography of Paul Strand here before, writing about his groundbreaking work in the early decades of the 20th century.  There is something about his work and his eye that is unmistakable, something that jumps from the surface.  When I saw this photo of a park in NY, here on the right, I knew immediately that it was Strand’s work.

I love this image, with the abstraction of the forms with the sidewalk forming a flowing diagonal through the picture plane.  The single figure in the lower third of the photo, cutting across the park in full stride,  becomes the focus for me, the soul of the picture.  He becomes the singular voice in a busy anonymous world.

Paul-Strand-The-Court-New-York-1924I think  the way in which he applies abstraction to the common forms in his work is wonderful and inspiring as an artist, something too many of us forget in our own work.  We become too concerned with simply capturing subject and not the emotion created in how that subject fits into its environment.  His best work speaks purely of emotion to me and he was able to find it everywhere.  As he said:  The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.

I think those are words to live by for any artist.

Paul Strand Abstraction Connecticut 1916


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GC Myers Early Interior  smI have often shown early work here, stuff from when I was still trying to find a path forward.  Most of it is from before I ever thought  that showing my work in public was a possibility.  As I have pointed out, I still revisit this early work on a regular basis in an effort to stay connected with that time in which the need to create was the only motivation needed.  There’s also an element of backtracking in this as well, trying to put together how this work somehow led to what I do now.

Sometimes it is hard to see the connections as the work is so singular and never followed up on, then or now.  I think those are the pieces from that time that intrigue me the most, making me wonder how my journey forward from that time would have been different had I chosen and stayed on that path.

For example, here are three pieces from around the same time, all painted within a month or so of each other back in 1994.  None really lead directly forward but I really always enjoy seeing these three pieces, wondering what my motivation was at the time.  The first , shown above, is an interior scene that just formed on the paper.  I had no idea what was going to be there, outside of the checkered tablecloth.  I remember that the cross on the wall was a last minute addition, one that changed the whole feel of the piece.  I can understand why I didn’t follow this path but it still makes me wonder.

GC Myers Still Life smThe next was this still life, here on the left.  I remember this piece well, having ambivalent feelings about it as a whole.  I liked the clear graphic look of it but it was almost too clean, too sharp.  It had really good eye appeal but it seemed all surface to me.  I see things from this piece that  I did bring forward, such as some of the clearness of the colors which I like in some instances.  The thing that always strikes me is that I see a face in profile, looking to the right.  Faces subconsciously built into the composition are something I often look for in my work, feeling a curious satisfaction when I find them.  I wish I knew why.  Maybe that’s what draws me back to these early pieces.

GC Myers- Doug's First day on the Job smThe last was one that had a title, Doug’s First Day on the Job.  I remember this as a piece that I viewed as an exercise even as I started, experimenting with forms and color.  The resulting scrum of arms and fists with the strange authoritarian figure in the foreground, hooded and  pointing ominously out of frame reminded me of the chaos and confusion of  a kid’s first day on a new job.  A strange environment with strange new people who struggle with each other and boss the new guy around.  I knew even as I painted this that this was not my path but I enjoyed this piece anyway.  It had a cleansing effect and was a wonderful lesson in color and form .

Plus it made me chuckle.

I don’t know that there is any great connection between these pieces or to my future and current work.  I always wonder though at how these disparate  pieces formed in such a short time, wondering if I have that same burst of energy within me still.  Maybe that is the reason for this backtracking, looking for that energy source, that fount of inspiration.

I don’t know…

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