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Archive for August, 2013

GC Myers  Sea Call My annual show at the West End Gallery in Corning ended yesterday which leads to the question: What’s next on the horizon?

Well, for starters, next Saturday, September 7, I will be at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA for my annual Gallery Talk there. It’s normally a pretty good time with some laughs and, hopefully, some real information passed along.  If you’ve never been to one, don’t expect a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that might scare you away.  Oh, be assured, I will answer any question about technique  but I try to focus more on the stories behind the work.  Motivations, meaning and emotional content.  And maybe a story or two.

Plus, as in the past few years, there will be a free drawing for one of my original paintings.  I try to make the work that I give away special and this year’s piece is one of my favorite orphans.  It has meaning for me and hopefully will as well for whoever takes it home.  So, if you’re in the Old Town area next Saturday afternoon, stop in at the Principle and maybe win a painting.  I If you don’t win, I’ll try to at least make the time seem  well spent.  Hope you can make it.

After that, my focus will turn to my final show of 2013, which will open November 23  ( my early morning mistake– it is actually the 16th!) at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA.   I’ve been showing at the Kada since 1996 and  owners Kathy and Joe DeAngelo have always done a great job for my work and my shows there, so I always  do my best to provide some very special work.  This year’s show is titled Alchemy and I promise that there will have some interesting work to support that title.

I will, of course, provide more details in the upcoming months.

For the moment, that is what in store for the next few months.  Got to get to work!

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farmerYesterday I checked my blog with a search to see if I had ever written here before about that day’s subject, Long John Baldry. I found that I had only mentioned him once in a post from back in 2009. I read the older blog and it made me chuckle. It was titled You Can’t Judge a Book… from a song that Baldry had once covered and had to do with how our preconceptions are often wrong about people.  It immediately brought to mind something that had happened over the weekend here at the studio.

My niece, Sarah, brought a friend and her husband to visit the studio from their NYC home.  Sarah didn’t share much about her friend outside of saying that they danced together  and that she was a filmmaker for one of the large  big-name auction houses.   I had no idea about what her husband did.  That was the extent of my knowledge outside of knowing they had been married the year before in New Orleans.  But they arrived and we had a wonderful visit.  Both were charming and inquisitive, asking real questions and relating their own experiences in response to my answers.  They made me feel comfortable in describing my work and process, not something that a lot of people can do easily.  We visited for a couple of hours and they headed back to the city.

During our visit we learned a bit about the friend’s husband.  I won’t use their names out of respect for their privacy.  He was in the music business in some fashion.  He was DJ and had spent a lot of time touring here and abroad.  He also was working on soundtracking films.  When I asked what sort of music he worked in, he said, in an almost apologetic way, that it was mainly rap and hip-hop.  It struck me in a curious way.  He went on to explain that it was the music of when and where he grew up, in the neighborhoods of NYC.  Again, this was said in an apologetic manner.

I didn’t think much about until after they left and I decided to see if I could find out more about his music.  He had a prodigious reputation in the rap genre, with over twenty years in the business as a DJ and producer for a pretty big name rapper.  He ran his own newer record company and has released an album  of his work only weeks before our meeting.  I watched a couple of videos of his work and listened to several songs.  I am not an authority on rap in any form but it was powerful stuff.

I was really impressed and thought back to his apologetic description of his work.  I understood it then.  He didn’t want to be judged and was trying to make it easy for me to not judge him.  I mean, here I was, a middle-aged white guy with gray hair out in the country— not exactly a prime candidate for a hip-hop connoisseur.  He had surely heard the venom directed toward his musical genre before from people who looked like me.

So, he judged me before I could judge him.  I understood that.  It’s what I would have done had I been in  his place.  My only regret is that it robbed me of an opportunity to ask the many questions that I formed in  looking up his work after they had left the studio.  It would have been fascinating to compare our creative processes, to see how he synthesized his influences.  I got the impression from our talk that, though we worked in vastly different environments  with disparate  influences, we both working on a similar creative rhythm, expressing emotion within the framework of our own personal environments.

Well, the next time we will both know and won’t worry about judging one another.  Here’s the original post from back in 2009:

I’ve just put the final details on a couple of paintings that will be part of my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  The show opens June 12th and I’m scheduled to deliver the work to the gallery a week before so I’m in the final stages of preparation.  This is my tenth one-man show at the gallery and before that I did two shows as part of a group of painters from the Corning , NY area that was dubbed the Finger Lakes School.  

I particularly remember one moment from the first show with that group.  There was a pretty good crowd and several of us from the group mingled, answering questions and such.  I had a small break in the conversation and I heard a female voice from behind ask her companion where we were from.  Her friend answered that we were from the Finger Lakes region in New York.  He  said it was a pretty rural area with a lot of wineries and farms.

“Well, you know, they do look like farmers,” she replied.

I think I did a spit take.  Over the years I often think back to that lady’s comment and sometimes laugh.  Maybe we shouldn’t have all worn our overalls and straw hats that night.  It just reminds me how people judge others by that initial glimpse and how often  they end up being wrong.  Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in the end, I would prefer being mistaken for a farmer than an artist anyhow.  Offhand, I can think of more positive attributes for the farmer.   So, if you can make it to the opening look for the guy who looks like a farmer…

That brings me to a song, You Can’t Judge a Book, that was originally written by blues great Willie Dixon and made popular by Bo Diddley.  My favorite version was from Long John Baldry, one of the pioneers of the British blues/rock movement in the early 60’s and a guy who had real panache, but I couldn’t find a version online.  But while searching I came across an interesting jazzy version of the song from Ben Sidran.  Give a listen  and enjoy…

 

 

 

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Long John Baldry It Aint Easy Cover 1971I remember my brother bringing home this album from some guy I had never heard of before  back in the early 70’s.  I also remember putting it on the turntable and being instantly hooked.  The guy was Long John Baldry and the album was It Ain’t Easy.  Baldry was a 6’7″ ( hence the nickname) British blues singer who was one of the first Brits to sing American blues in the English clubs of the late 50’s and early 60’s which led to the blues explosion there that re-ignited the dwindling careers of many American bluesmen, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and many others.  Elton John and Rod Stewart and many others had started their careers in Baldry’s early bands and went on to greater acclaim than Baldry when they moved away from the blues and American folk that he so embraced.  Baldry was content playing this music for most of his career, outside of a short foray into lushly orchestrated Big Band crooning that gave him a #1 hit in the UK with Let the Heartaches Begin.

Baldry lived in Canada from the  late 70’s on and passed away in 2005 at the age of 64.  He did a lot of voiceover work late in his life with one  of his best known roles in voice acting was as Dr Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.  This was news to me when I read it in his Wikipedia biography but it doesn’t take away from a really unique performer.

I dug up the a vinyl version of this album several years back when I wasn’t able to find it on CD or digitally.  I was so glad when I listened to it and found that it is still a really solid group of work, not just some idealized remembrance of a 14  year old mind.   Others must think so as well as it  is now widely available .  This was the first thing I ever heard from him, Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie ( On the King of Rock and Roll) which is introduced by an entertaining little tale from his early days called Conditional Discharge.

 

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The Paper Wasps

Studio Paper Wasp Nest 1 smallA while back, I went down to an old large pine tree that sits by the drive going into our place.  A large lower limb had broken and was hanging to the ground and I took a pole saw down to cut it off.  I started cutting and suddenly felt a burning sensation on the fingers of my right hand.  In an instant, the same shooting stings were firing all over my left shoulder blade.  What the hell?!  My mind raced and at once I knew that I was being attacked by bees or wasps.  Leaving the saw, I ran away from the tree, squealing as the offending insects kept stinging me, obviously trapped in my shirt.

I shed the shirt and, panting and grimacing from the many stings, headed back to see what had attacked me.  From a distance , of course.  I circled the tree and kneeling saw what I had missed when I first went to the tree.  A large paper wasp nest.

Studio Paper Wasp Nest smallThough I was in pain and wanted to retaliate in anger, there was no denying the beauty of the nest, a large egg shaped structure built from a combination of wood fiber and wasp saliva that is both strong and waterproof.  The swirling texture of it was fascinating and the bottom of it jutted out slightly around the entrance where several wasps hovered, ready to protect the structure in an instant.

I left to tend to my stings, all fourteen of them, and to ponder what to do with the nest.  We did a little research and, finding how beneficial the wasps are in the maintenance of the bug population, decided to simply avoid the nest and let them live out the season where they were.  At the end of the year when the weather cooled, the wasps would pass away and the magnificent structure would be ripped apart by other creatures, blue jays and squirrels to name two, who would make use of the material for their own nests.

Studio Paper Wasp Nest3 smallI periodically go down and check on the nest, wondering at the wasps’ ability to produce such magnificent architecture with their own bodily fluids as well as their innate understanding of the required engineering.   Such a gorgeous organic structure.   I also learned that they also produce a chemical that they spread around the branches that hold the nest in place that repels ants who might raid their nest to feed on the wasp eggs.  Just amazing stuff.

We live in the midst of other worlds of wonder and often don’t get a chance or fail to take notice.  While I would have preferred to have not been stung by the otherwise non-aggressive paper wasps, I am glad to have encountered them, glad to see how they survive and prosper in their little world of wonder.

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GC Myers- Islander SheetFriday, August 30,  marks the last day that my current show, Islander,  at the West End Gallery will be hanging.  Thank you to everyone who was able to make it to the gallery during the run of the show, who made it yet another successful show for the West End.  It has been both an honor and a pleasure for me to have an annual show at the gallery and it is always satisfying when a show does well, especially in your home area.  It provides great inspiration in moving forward and serves as a validation for the decisions made concerning the work over the years.

Though many of the pieces from the original group of work for this show are gone, there is still a good show hanging on the gallery walls.  I hope you will make it in this week for one last viewing.

Have a great week!

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Metrofocus GC Myers aug 2013I was notified this past week that the segment featuring a short interview and my work that aired earlier this year on Artist Cafe on WSKG-TV has been picked up by WNET ,out of NYC, for inclusion on their news magazine  show, MetroFocus.  This means that the segment will be available for the entire New York/ New Jersey region as it will air on WNET (or simply Thirteen) which covers the city and the surrounding suburbs (including the Lower Hudson Valley and parts of Connecticut) as well as on station WLIW, covering Long Island, and station NJTV, which broadcasts to all of New Jersey.

MetroFocus is, according to their website: … a multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. The MetroFocus television program features news, smart conversations, in-depth reporting, content from many partners and solutions-oriented reports from the community. Major areas of coverage include sustainability, education, science and technology, the environment, transportation, poverty and underserved communities. MetroFocus.org amplifies that reporting with daily updates and original stories that also cover culture, government and politics, the economy, urban development and other news in the metropolitan region.

Glad to be on board!

It will air on MetroFocus as follows:

WLIW(@WLIW21)                 Wednesday   8/28        7:30  pm

Thirteen(@ThirteenNY)     Thursday       8/29        8:30 pm

NJTV (@NJTVonline)           Thursday       8/29       10:30 pm

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GC Myers-The Sky Doesn't Pity 1995smI was looking around my studio, taking in some of the work hanging on the walls throughout the house.  There are pieces from other artists, including some notables such as David Levine and Ogden Pleissner, but most of it is older work of my own.  There are a few orphans, paintings that showed extensively but never found a home.  In some I see flaws that probably kept someone from taking it home but most just didn’t find that right person with which to connect.  Most of the other hanging work is work that I won’t part with, work that somehow has deeper meaning for me.  Work that just stays close.

One of these paintings is the one shown here, The Sky Doesn’t Pity, a smallish watercolor that’s a little over 4″ square.  It was painted in 1995 after I had started publicly showing my work for the first time at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, not too far from my home.  The gallery has been what I consider my home gallery for 18 years now, hosting an annual solo show of my work for the last eleven years.  This year’s show, Islander, ends next Friday.

But when this piece was done I was still new there, still trying to find a voice and a style that I could call my own.  I had sold a few paintings and had received a lot of encouragement from showing the work at the gallery but was still not sure that this would lead anywhere.  I entered this painting in a regional competition at the Gmeiner Art Center in Wellsboro , a lovely rural village in northern Pennsylvania with beautiful Victorian homes and gas lamps running down Main Street.

It was the first competition I had ever entered and, having no expectations, was amazed when I was notified that this piece had taken one of the top prizes.  I believe it was a third but that didn’t matter to me.  Just the fact that the judges had seen something in it, had recognized the life in it, meant so much to me.  It gave me a tremendous sense of validation and confidence in moving ahead.  Just a fantastic boost that opened new avenues of possibility in my mind.

I still get that same sense even when I look at this little piece today, a feeling that would never let me get rid of this little guy.  I can’t tell you how many times I have glimpsed over at this painting and smiled a bit, knowing what it had given me all those years ago.

 

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Civil War Dogs- Dog JackI’ve been cat-sitting in the studio for a few days, bringing the total of felines ( all strays or discards) around here to four.  While I love and appreciate these cats with their distinct personalities, having four around has made me yearn for a dog once more.  While zipping through images, anything resembling a dog makes me stop, including this old cabinet card for a mascot, Jack,  for the 102nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers from the Civil War.  The card lists the battles that jack took part in with the regiment as well as listing his capture by the Confederates and his subsequent exchange for opposing troops.  Quite a resume and the fact that the regiment made the effort to have the photo and card made speaks to Jack’s rank in the regiment.  

I knew that dogs have been used in combat for ages, in modern times serving as detectors of bombs and corpses.  But the mascots of the Civil War intrigued me.  Jack here, for instance, was a stray who wandered into a Pittsburgh firehouse and , through his tenacity, eventually worked his way into the firefighter’s hearts, joining them as they enlisted as a unit for the war.  He would march with the troops and would stand at the end of the firing line during combat, barking furiously at the opposing troops.  Jack served for over three years, including six months in a Confederate prison camp where it is said he gave great comfort to the Union prisoners there .  He was wounded a number of times and finally disappeared in December of 1864 near Frederick, MD.  Jack was never found but it is thought he was probably killed for the expensive silver collar his comrades had awarded him.

The only known photo of Sallie

The only known photo of Sallie

Jack was one of the more famous of the Civil War dogs, having portraits painted of him that still hang today as well as a recent movie giving a fictionalized account of his life.  But my favorite is undoubtedly the story of Sallie, the mascot of the 11th PA Volunteers from around West Chester, PA.  Given to the regiment’s captain as a four or five week old pup, Sallie (named after one of the local beauties) became the apple of the regiment’s collective eye.  She trained with the men, responding to reveille and roll calls with great discipline.  She was affectionate with her troops, who she knew even out of uniform, and proved to be fearless when they entered the fray.

Her combat record was remarkable.  She served for nearly the duration of the war, receiving wounds including a severe shoulder wound that did not deter her from her duty to her comrades.  It is said that after the surgeon was unsuccessful in removing the  gun’s ball from her shoulder (it later emerged after working itself to the surface), Sallie was back on duty , tearing the seat out of the pants of a soldier who was trying to flee the battle.  After the battles, including Gettysburg, , Sallie would lick the hands and faces of the wounded and would guard the dead until their comrades would come for them.  It is said that during a review of the troops in Fredericksburg, VA, Abraham Lincoln even doffed his stovepipe hat to Sallie as she passed, much to the delight of her fellow troops.

Sallie's Place at the Foot of the 11th PA's Monument

Sallie’s Place at the Foot of the 11th PA’s Monument

But, like most war stories, there was no happy ending.  In February of 1865, two months before the war’s end, Sallie was killed in combat at Petersburg.  While the battle raged around them, her regiment took on the task of burying her on the battlefield.  The affection that these troops had for this canine warrior was so strong that when they erected a regimental monument at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1890, they chose have a likeness of Sallie watchfully laying at the foot of the larger monument.  I think it’s telling that when the regiment had a reunion at the battlefield in 1910, the group photo was shot so that there was space so that the statue of Sallie was among them.

I can only imagine the value of the affection and warmth Sallie  and other less known canine mascots offered these men while they struggled to get through the war.  A dog’s unconditional love is a wonder.

11th PA Volunteers with Sallie among them 1910

11th PA Volunteers with Sallie among them 1910


Civil War Dogs- Sallie Monument detail 1 Civil War Dogs- Sallie Monument detail

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GC Myers- Early Blues Study in wc and markerI love to watch the hands of guitarists or pianists when they are playing.  Maybe it’s just a desirous envy for a talent and dexterity that I will never attain or maybe it’s just the particular rhythm of the two hands working to create this sound that has a harmony and  life of its own.  I don’t really know but whenever I see films of piano or guitar players I am mesmerized.

I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan at a show in Utica, NY  back in  1986, I believe.  It was a great show although the quality of the sound was not great, poorly mixed with a lot of distortion.  From what I understand, this wasn’t uncommon for SRV shows.  I just wish we had better seats to better see his playing hands.

I came across this video on YouTube of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing acoustically for a French interview from 1982.  It’s shot in just the way I like, with the hands highlighted in a way that shows their syncopated dance.  Just wish it were longer.

PS–The image at the top is an older oddity, an experiment from the mid-90’s, painted in watercolor and a Sharpie marker.  The figure was a simplified and stylized representation of the way in which the figures from my early Exiles series were painted, composed from blocks of color.  It was never meant to be seen outside my studio but I like this for some reason …

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Annie Louise Swynnerton -Sense of Sight 1895At this last gallery talk at the West End Gallery, I was asked about what I thought my lasting legacy would be, the questioner commenting that they thought my work would continue to live on.  Although I was flattered by the thought, I quickly downplayed the idea of such a thing, saying that an artist has little, if any control, over how their work will be perceived in the future.  I said that I have seen so much incredible work over the years from long dead artists whose name or body of work has little or no recognition today.  They may have had acclaim in their time or locality but didn’t have the legs to make it through time intact.

Annie Louise Swynnerton -Joan of ArcComing home after that, it didn’t take long to make a quick search and find an artist whose work I felt was powerful and compelling but had little in the way of modern acclaim.  Her name was Annie Louise Swynnerton who was born in Manchester, England in 1844 and died in 1933.  She lived much of her adult life in Italy married to sculptor Joseph Swynnerton and  prospering as a renowned painter during the Victorian era, not a small feat for a female in that time.  Her work was collected widely ( John Singer Sargeant purchased her painting The Oreads, which is now in the Tate) and in 1922  she became the first female associate of the British Royal Academy since the 18th century.  Altogether, a large career for the time, especially  for a  feminist and suffragette.

Annie Louise Swynnerton -The LetterMaybe Annie Louise Swynnerton doesn’t belong completely in the category of the unknowns, given her presence in a number of museum collections.  But perhaps she aspired for more, maybe even deserved more with her obvious talents.  What keeps the name of one artist on the minds and lips of newer generations of viewers while some equally talented artists fade from sight?

It’s something that the artist can’t control or fully manage.  I know that the only control I have over the future is to maintain a sense of continuity and consistency in my work, giving future generations a coherent body of work to which my name might be attached.

Maybe…

 

 

 

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