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Archive for September, 2014

Into the Common Ground/ GC MyersCommon Ground

Blood tells the story of your life
in heartbeats as you live it;
bones speak in the language
of death, and flesh thins
with age when up
through your pores rises
the stuff of your origin.

These days,
when I look in the mirror I see
my grandmother’s stern lips
speaking in parentheses at the corners
of my mouth of pain and deprivation
I have never known. I recognize
my father’s brows arching in disdain
over the objects of my vanity, my mother’s
nervous hands smoothing lines
just appearing on my skin,
like arrows pointing downward
to our common ground.

–Judith Ortiz Cofer

*********************

The painting above, a 36″ by 36″ canvas, is titled Into the Common Ground.  It is part of my exhibit of the same name that will open in early December at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA.  I think the poem above from author Judith Ortiz Cofer fits very well with the theme of this show which is about recognizing the common bonds that are between us.

It seems that our world has become more and more fractured, the distance between people growing greater even as the world itself seems to be shrinking in so many ways.  We actively seek to find difference, something that distinguishes us from others.  And while I am an advocate of the individual and individualism, it should not come at the expense of losing the ability to identify the commonality that exists in all of us.  For to look in that mirror, as Cofer does in her poem, and not see the traces of your family and the influences of others written on your face is to lose empathy.

When empathy leaves, we fail to see the sufferings of others as our own, fail to imagine that such things could ever occur to ourselves.  The pain of others becomes dull and distant, unfelt to us as selfishness and greed pushes our empathy aside.  To lose empathy is to choose to live in a savage and ugly world.

And that is not the world that I see in this painting.

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Detroit Performs Detroit Public Television WTVSThere are many ways our work spreads out once it has left us.  I’ve written in the past week about my work physically traveling to distant lands in American Embassies and with numerous collectors abroad as well as taking note of my imagery appearing in an art class across the country.  Another way it spreads is through the media, in interviews and articles that sometimes take on a life of their own and linger long after you have forgotten them.  These things are never perfect, never giving  full context of you as a person or an artist, but are useful despite their limitations, if only in making people aware of your work.

I have written here about the TV segment that our regional public television station, WSKG, did in my studio a couple of years ago.  Over that time this segment has been all around the country, appearing in numerous arts programs on other public television stations.  Periodically, I will get a rash of contacts from people in a certain area and will often find that this segment has recently shown on their public TV channel.  Usually, that is the only way I know that it has been shown in these areas.

But yesterday, I received a tweet that it was once again on the move, this time showing as part of a program called Detroit Performs, which appears this Tuesday, September 30 at 7:30 PM.  It is produced by Detroit Public Television, WTVS.  This episode features stories from artists who work in the aftermath of accidents or cancer, also featuring artists Darold Gholston and Kate Paul.

It is somehow still alive.

Here’s the promo from Detroit Public Television and a web extra released last year by WSKG that feature a part of the interview that didn’t make it into the final segment.


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Lazaretto

jack-white-lazaretto-youtube-music-video-shadow-2014It’s Sunday morning here in the studio and I am a little charged up, eager to get at some work on my painting table and on the easel that are near that point where they take off on their own.  So I am going to be brief with my music selection for this Sunday morning.  It’s Lazaretto from Jack White.  It has the kind of fiery energy that I want to carry with me this morning.

FYI, the word lazaretto refers to quarantine stations of all sorts– ships, islands, even leper colonies.  It derives from the name of of the biblical Lazarus and has been used around the globe as denoting those places where travelers– if in the case of slaves and refugees they can be described as travelers– are isolated until they are determined to be free of disease.  This song is White’s imagining of what might be going through the mind of such a traveler. Not sure if the imagery in the video has anything to do with this but it keeps you interested for the most part.

Anyway, time for me to charge onward.  Give a listen if you need a little boost this morning and have a great Sunday.

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Derek Jeter #2 - Michelle V. Agins-/NY Times

Derek Jeter #2 – Michelle V. Agins-/NY Times

You would expect that a blog from an artist would focus on the influence and lessons learned from other artists.  Sure.  I have done that many times.  But some of the greatest lessons that I have learned and actions that I have emulated have come from sources far afield from the world of art.

Take, for instance, Derek Jeter.

As we fans of Derek Jeter struggle this weekend with the end of a glorious era as he retires as the legendary shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, we are left with memories and a few lessons.

The first lesson that I took from the Captain is: Give total effort all of the time.  Watching him come to bat thousands of time, I cannot recall a single instant when he didn’t bust out of the batter’s box and run with his greatest effort on what appeared to be an easy out for the opposing team.  He knew, as the great Joe Dimaggio had pointed out before, that there were people in the stand who might never get to see him again, who had traveled to see him play and to not give his total effort would be robbing those people of seeing him at his best.  And besides that, good and unexpected things often came from this effort– often making the other team hurry, causing mistakes on their part, and spurring his teammates to follow suit and give that same effort.

Total effort becomes routine for players like Derek Jeter, acting like a rehearsal.   In the big moments, they simply focus and do that same thing they have done every time before.

The second lesson is to : Make the most of what you have.  This is an extension of the first lesson.  Over the last year or so, I have Derek Jeter point out , when asked what he thought separated him from other players, that he knew he was not the most talented player in the game or at his position.  But his desire to excel, his dedication to working hard and his willingness to give total effort with each attempt multiplied his talent level.  How many times have you seen those with great amounts of talent in just about any field flounder simply because they cannot find the focus or dedication to fully use their talent?

Lesson three is: Know who and what you are.  This is kind of an extension of lesson two.  Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses, while at the same time trying to make your weaknesses into a strength.  Derek had vulnerabilities in his swing early in his career, susceptible to inside pitches.  A definite weakness that would be exploited throughout his career if he didn’t do something to change.  So he worked and developed an ability to fight off those pitches with a contorted, inside out swing that became a tremendous strength for him.  He also never tried to be a slugger or home run hitter because he knew that was not who he was, knew that was not his role on the team.  This translates to the art world easily as you often see artists who feel they must be something that they clearly are not and in attempting to do this take away from their real strength.

Lesson four:  Control your image.  Derek Jeter is a master at controlling his own actions and image, on and off the field.  On the field, he does not make wild claims or attack other players, doesn’t need to build himself up by tearing others down.  He never overreacts, never disrespects other players, umpires or the fans.  You never hear wild rumors about him or hear silly comments coming from him.  He has used his fame to create goodwill.  He began his foundation to aid and educate underprivileged kids when he was 21 years old.  Think about that– 21 years old.  How many of us would be thinking about ways to help others when we were that age, especially with a million dollars in our pockets and the free run of NYC?  He has stated that the foundation will be his primary focus in this post-baseball life.  As a result, he has built a reputation based on respect, both for his abilities and his image.

Lesson five :  Do not be afraid to fail.  While Derek Jeter has always seemed to succeed, those who watch the game regularly know this is not the case.  Like most players, he fails to get a it 7 out of 10 times at bat.  Yankee fans often grimace when he hits into double plays, a result of him always seeming to make contact with the pitch.  I have seen him fail numerous times, often striking out to end a game.  But the beauty of it is that he puts it aside and instead of dwelling on that failure, looks forward to the next chance to redeem himself.  You must be willing to go to the plate and swing that bat.  For artists, that means putting  your work out into the world, showing it at every opportunity, knocking on every door and dealing with possible rejections.  Because you struck out once does not mean that you won’t have hit next time up.

That brings us to lesson six:  Embrace the moment.  This is sort of a culmination of all of the other lessons.  Be ready for opportunity and when it appears, step up and take your best swing.  Be confident in who you are, in that you have the ability and that this moment is not greater than you.  Derek Jeter has done this countless times.  In the biggest moments, he seems to make the play, get the hit, score the run– whatever is required in the moment.  Last night, in his last at bat ever in Yankee Stadium, he delivered a storybook ending, stroking a game-winning hit with that swing that is oh so recognizable to his fans.  You don’t get a lot of opportunities in this life so be prepared and do what you must to score that run.

There are more things I could surely say about Derek Jeter.  He said that he has achieved his greatest wishes and beyond, more than he had dreamed possible.  So maybe I should have said something about creating  a vision of what you want to be. Perhaps you too  will achieve more than you initially thought possible.

It’s going to be hard to not see that number 2 jersey on the field after this weekend.  I already miss him but will not complain because Derek Jeter has given me 20 years of baseball that I have loved along with those lessons I have learned.  Thanks, Captain.

 

 

 

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Art on Tap Class at Claremont Craft Ales

Art on Tap Class at Claremont Craft Ales

Sometimes your work physically goes to far distant places, such as those paintings that have went to embassies in Nepal, Uganda and Kuwait that  I wrote about yesterday.  But sometimes your work travels in ways that you can’t predict.

An online acquaintance forwarded the above image to me yesterday.  It was a strange sensation, seeing this mass of what looked to be 25 of my paintings looking out at me.  It took me a few seconds to figure out that I was looking at an art class that had reproduced one of my paintings.

Doing a little research, I discovered that this was an event called Art on Tap that is operated by Otterspace Arts in Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles.  Every several weeks, they hold this event at a local microbrewery, Claremont Craft Ales, where all attendees are instructed in how to paint works that have been selected by online voting.  They have recently chosen to make copies of paintings from Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.  And me.

Even though I am pretty sure most of those in attendance had never heard of me or my work  before, I was still really flattered by this.  I know that this has taken place on a more local level, at kids classes in my area and one for adults at an Arts Council in the Finger Lakes, but it was gratifying to see my work’s imagery moving outward in this way.  I recognized at an early stage in this journey that creating images that are instantly recognizable as yours is one of the most important , and most difficult, steps in establishing yourself as an artist.  And seeing this photo made me think I was almost there.

I also liked their Facebook ads for the event.  I would like to think that there is a Sasquatch somewhere enjoying my work.  At the bottom is the original image.  I hope they enjoyed painting this painting and hope that it hangs with pride in their homes.

Claremont CA Art on Tap Otterspace adClaremont Original GC Myers Image

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GC Myers- The Way of the Master  smMy paintings lead  much more interesting lives than I do, many having made their way to every corner of this country and around the world, to all the continents save Antarctica.  They have traveled from Kathmandhu to Kampala and many points in between and beyond.  Well, yesterday brought the news that another painting has just began a new journey abroad.  The new American Ambassador to Kuwait, Douglas Silliman,  has chosen The Way of the Master , seen above, to hang in the American Embassy in Kuwait City.

This marks the third time that my work has been chosen by an Ambassador to hang in an embassy and it is always an honor.  There is always a feeling of representing the United States, even if it is only in a small way, to those visitors who might come across the painting in the embassy as well as representing some form of home and comfort to the Ambassador.  And in the region of the world where this painting is headed, that could serve a valuable purpose.

It’s a purpose that I think fits this painting very well.  In a post I wrote about this painting back in May, I spoke of this representing the end of a journey, one that has culminated in a higher sense of being as a result of immense effort and dedication to the journey.  And those are both things that will be needed to reach some sort of peaceful future for the region.

I would like to thank Ambassador Silliman for having chose this painting.  It is an honor that I greatly appreciate and I hope that it serves him well in what may be the difficult days ahead.  I wish him the best and hope that he does his best in this assignment in such a critical area of the world.

As I quoted from Confucius in that earlier post:

“There is one single thread binding my way together…the way of the Master consists in doing one’s best…that is all.”

 

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GC Myers-  Inner Perception smallThis is a painting from a few years back that has toured around a bit and found its way back to me. Called Inner Perception, it has been one of my favorites right from the moment it came off my painting table.  Maybe the inclusion of the the paint brush (even though it is a house painter’s brush) with red paint in the bristles makes it feel more biographical, more directly connected to my own self.   Or maybe it was the self-referential Red Tree painting on the wall behind the Red Chair.

I don’t know for sure.  But whatever the case, it is a piece that immediately makes me reflective, as though it is a shortcut to some sort of inner thought.  Looking at it this morning, the question I was asked at the Principle Gallery talk a week or so ago re-emerged, the one that asked what advice I might give my fifth-grade self if I had the opportunity.  I had answered that I would tell myself to believe in my own unique voice, to believe in the validity of what I had to say to the world.

I do believe that but I think I might add a bit to that answer, saying that I would tell my younger self to be patient and not worry about how the world perceives you.  That if you believed that your work was reflecting something genuine from within, others would come to see it eventually.

I would also add to never put your work above the work of anyone else and, conversely, never put your work beneath that of anyone else.  I would tell myself to always ask , “Why not me?”

This realization came to me a couple of years ago at my exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum.  When it first went up it was in a gallery next to one that held the work of the great American Impressionists along with a Monet.  I was initially intimidated, worrying that my work would not stand the muster of being in such close proximity to those painters who I had so revered over the years.

But over the course of the exhibit, I began to ask myself that question: Why not me?

If my work was genuine, if it was true expression of my inner self and inner perceptions, was it any less valid than the work of these other painters?  Did they have some greater insight of which I was not aware, something that made their work deeper and more connected to some common human theme?  If, as I believe, everyone has something unique to share with the world, why would my expression of self not be able to stand along their own?

The answer to my question was in my own belief in the work and by the exhibit’s end I was no longer doubting my right to be there.  So to my fifth-grade self and to anyone who faces self-doubt about the path they have chosen, I say that if you know you have given it your all, shown your own unique self,  then you must ask that question: Why not me?

 

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