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Archive for February, 2015

Foreign Affairs mar Apr Cover 2015I have mentioned my niece, Sarah Foster, here in the past for her exploits as a talented dancer and choreographer in NYC. But she has another form of her talent that showed itself recently in her day job with Foreign Affairs magazine. That is that of a video editor.  The coming March/April issue of the prestigious magazine deals with the issue of race and has images of  the faces from a group of people from all races all set against backdrops that match their skin tones.

Sarah produced  a very fine video for the magazine explaining the backstory behind these images, which is the work of  Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass.  She  an ongoing and open-ended project called Humanae which has her photographing people of all races from around the globe.   So far over 2500 subjects on five continents have participated.

All are photographed in exactly the same circumstances– the same distance, the same light and exposure.  She then matches the color from their nose to the Pantone color system, an international standard for color matching, and makes the backdrop that color.   She then labels each with the Pantone code and number.   The result is a wonderful and powerful examination of how we define race by colors that really don’t exist.

Humanae Image of Angelica DassThe video feature a telephone interview with Dass ( shown here on the left–she’s Pantone 7522 C) who explains her project.  The video is a great accompaniment to it, giving you a taste of many images.

Great work.  Well done, Sarah!!

For more info on Angélica Dass and the Humanae Project click here.

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James Ensor Christs Entry Into Brussels in 1889I’ve been spending some time recently looking at the work of painter the Belgian painter James Ensor who lived from 1860 until 1949 in the seaside town of Ostend.  It’s not a name that you probably recognize and even seeing the work may not ring a bell for you.  I know that it didn’t for me.  But the work did excite me, especially given the context of the time in which much of it was created.   He began creating his visionary and sometimes macabre world in the 1880’s when the Impressionists were still taking shape.  Given the look and subject matter, it came as no surprise that he is considered a major influence on the Surrealists and Expressionists of later generations.

James Ensor Christs Entry Into Brussels in 1889 DetailBut it was new to me and captivated me at once, especially the piece at the top of this page , Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889.  It is a massive piece, over 8 foot tall and 14 foot  in length.  It is a Mardi Gras parade ( Happy Fat Tuesday, by the way– bon temps rouler!) of caricatured figures escorting Christ into modern day Brussels in 1889.  It is loud and aggressive and roughly painted, so unlike the prevailing style of the time.  Filled with energy, it is a treasure trove for the eye.

Here is the description from the Getty Center in LA where it now resides and is shown:

James Ensor took on religion, politics, and art in this scene of Christ entering contemporary Brussels in a Mardi Gras parade. In response to the French pointillist style, Ensor used palette knives, spatulas, and both ends of his brush to put down patches of colors with expressive freedom. He made several preparatory drawings for the painting, including one in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection.

Ensor’s society is a mob, threatening to trample the viewer–a crude, ugly, chaotic, dehumanized sea of masks, frauds, clowns, andcaricatures. Public, historical, and allegorical figures along with the artist’s family and friends made up the crowd. The haloed Christ at the center of the turbulence is in part a self-portrait: mostly ignored, a precarious, isolated visionmary amidst the herdlike masses of modern society. Ensor’s Christ functioned as a political spokesman for the poor and oppressed–a humble leader of the true religion, in opposition to the atheist social reformer Emile Littré, shown in bishop’s garb holding a drum major’s baton leading on the eager, mindless crowd.

After rejection by Les XX, the artists’ association that Ensor had helped to found, the painting was not exhibited publicly until 1929. Ensor displayed Christ’s Entry prominently in his home and studio throughout his life. With its aggressive, painterly style and merging of the public with the deeply personal, Christ’s Entry was a forerunner of twentieth-century Expressionism.

Looking at this piece sends my mind whirling and makes me want to break free of my comfort zone, to think outside of the box in which I have been comfortably residing for a while now.  It rekindles old ideas that have laid dormant, untouched, for many years and makes me wonder if I have the nerve to execute them now.  For me, this excitement to expand is true validation of the power and energy of this work.

Now to decide how to use that inspiration…

 

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GC Myers  Bring the Light smallThis is a new painting, 18″ by 18″ on canvas, that was finished a couple of weeks back  titled Bring the Light.  It features the Red Tree high atop a promontory  amid a sunburst of light, across open fields from two groups of Red Roofed houses, one still yet to receive the light.

It’s an interesting piece, one that has me studying it quite a few times a day here in the studio.  On one viewing, there seems to be a lot going on here but then  it begins to read simply  as three wavy bands of color– the sky down to the tops of the green-leafed trees then down to the purples and blues of the foreground.  The road acts as a connecting ribbon and the houses and Red Tree as staple-like connectors, all holding the piece together.

On another viewing, it appears more narrative, like a storyline crafted from the description in the first paragraph, and on the next viewing seems to be a study in depth into the picture, with multiple planes and receding lines.

It could be confusing but the central focus of the Red Tree framed in light pulls it together for me, creating a harmonious feel and unifying the many disparate elements of the picture.  That’s a role and a purpose that fits the Red Tree well in much of the work, this piece included.

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GC Myers Two Angels 2001It’s Valentine’s Day. I went back through the blog archives and discovered that I sometimes don’t post anything on this day or sometimes post something  off the subject of this day.  One year, it was baseball.  Well, I do love the game so maybe it was a Valentine of sorts.

I thought I would post something this year, a poem that I posted several years ago.  It’s an anonymous verse from India that strikes just the right chord of love and devotion for me without turning to pablum.

Although I Conquer All the Earth 

Although I conquer all the earth,

Yet for me there is only one city.

In that city there is for me only one house;

And in that house, one room only;

And in that room, a bed.

And one woman sleeps there,

The shining joy and jewel of all my kingdom.

    —Anonymous, Ancient India

Also, below is a song from Peter Case, Two Angels,  an elegantly simple song that is a favorite of mine and also on subject for the day.  Surprisingly, it is a fairly little known song though I understand it was used on an episode of True Blood.  If that doesn’t scream romance, I don’t know what does.

The painting above is an oil on panel, 10″ by 58″,  that I did back in 2001.  I cannot find or recall its title at the moment but am calling it Two Angels for today.

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GC Myers 992-141-small1It’s another cold day here in the northeast,  -5° this morning when I walked out the door.  By the time I got over here to the studio after my short commute ( a stroll through the woods) I was ready for a little heat.  Turned on the computer to look up an old piece and immediately came across this small triptych from 2002 which was always a favorite of mine. It’s a little anomaly comprised of three small squares, each about 4″ by 4″.  I always liked the surface of these pieces — they had a smooth, almost burnished look that I haven’t used in many years.

Seeing this piece made me want to revisit that surface treatment once more, thirteen years later.  It also made me want to feel that heat in the form of a very distinct song.  Fire from Jimi Hendrix.  Talk about going back in time.  Are You Experienced? in 1967.  This song will be fifty years old in a couple more years which seems crazy– it’s timeless heat.

So, Jimi, on this frigid morning, let me stand next to your fire.

 

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Rothko Number 14Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.

–Mark Rothko

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

I don’t think there is anything that I can add to this except to nod silently in agreement.

Have a great day.

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GC Myers Kabuki TV 1994Whenever I come across this little experiment from back in 1994, I linger over it for a few minutes and smile a little.  There’s a lot going on with plenty of bright colors and sharp angles but with a narrative element within it where I saw a person watching a Kabuki performance on their television.  But more than that I am reminded of the decision to move away from this experiment and continue in the direction that eventually led me here.

You see, I enjoyed doing this work, enjoyed the process and the final product.  I could have easily followed this path and been fairly happy.  But it lacked something that while I can’t really put a finger on it was found later in the work that I eventually produced in later years.

Heart?  Soul?  I can’t say.  But it was fun at the time and makes me smile now.  Plus the lesson in learning what you can and can’t be is beyond value.

I wrote a bit more on this subject, also set off from this little painting, back in 2010:

Just looking through some old things, mostly little pieces that are from the time when I first started painting, and I came across this.  At the time  I was playing around with color and masking, where you put something such as tape on the painting surface and paint over it then peel it away to reveal the unpainted surface underneath.  It can be a big part of traditional watercolor painting and I wanted to see if it fit with the way I thought and wanted to paint.  It didn’t.  But I did come up with this little abstraction that always catches my eye and makes my mind’s gears turn.

It’s always interesting to see these little pieces because it inevitably triggers memories of that time when every day was bringing new discoveries as I tried to learn more and more about color and different mediums.  Sometimes things clicked and it was revelatory to discover my strengths.  Other times, it was a struggle and the end product was muddled, labored.  But there was still something to be learned there.  Like identifying my weaknesses and learning how to strengthen these areas or, at least, downplay them.

I guess that this is the process for development in any area of your life,  playing up your strong suits and trying to cover your weaknesses.  Perhaps that is why I like to see these old experiments, to be reminded of my growth, artistically and personally, through the years. 

At least, what I perceive as growth.

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