Archive for November, 2015

GC Myers- Until the Sea Shall Free ThemAll the Men will be sailors then, until the sea shall free them…

Leonard Cohen, Suzanne


I call this new painting, a 7″ by 5″ piece on paper, Until the Sea Shall Free Them, which is taken from the lines of the Leonard Cohen song Suzanne.  The song’s sound, pace and feeling really jibe well with what I see in this piece so I felt taking the title from one of its lines was very fitting.

This is one of those pieces that has a composition that I connect with on an emotional level before it actually says anything to me on an conscious or intellectual level.  In other words, I like it before I can figure out why.  And there is something very satisfying in that.

And mystifying.  I generally want to know the why behind something.  But sometimes it is just better to enjoy the now and forget the why.  And that is what I am doing with this painting.

Here’s Suzanne from Cohen.

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John Singer Sargent El JaleoSunday morning and I am in need of a little kick.  Maybe a little flamenco music?  There something in the energy and precision of the music and the dance that makes it invigorating while still feeling calm.  And that seems right this morning. Just want I want and need.

Sargent_John_Singer_Spanish_Dancer Study for El JaleoFlamenco always reminds me of El Jaleo, the huge  ( it’s about 8′ by 11′ in size) masterpiece shown above  from John Singer Sargent. that hangs in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  The very large painting at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in Washington, shown here on the right, is actually a study for the dancer in El Jaleo although I think most people who see it think it works very well as its own painting.

If we’re going to have some flamenco this morning I think we should hear from the late great Paco de Lucia, king of flamenco guitar and one of the great guitarists of all time.  Here he is a year or two before his death in 2012 with his Buleria por Solea, the buleria referring  to the 12 beat rhythm of flamenco.  Enjoy and have a great Sunday as your Thanksgiving holiday winds down.

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GC Myers- BetweenA man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

-Albert Camus


These lines above are from an essay, Between Yes and No,  written by the French Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus.  It basically states, in sometimes grim detail, his belief that art “exalts and denies simultaneously.”  In short, truth is generally somewhere in the middle, never absolutely in yes or no.  Yes or no is generally an oversimplified view.

While I may not fully understand all the subtleties of Camus’ essay, I do fully agree with the premise as I see it in my own simplified way.  I think that art communicates best when it contains both the yes and the no— those polar oppositions that create a tension to which we react on an emotional level.  For example, I think my best work has come when it contains opposing elements such as optimism tinged with with the darkness of fear or remorse.

Yes and no.

I guess it’s this thought that brought the title for the new piece ( 4″ by 4″ on paper)  at the top which I call Between. Simply put,  I see it as the Red Tree being torn between the nebulous  desire of the Moon’s promise set against the security of its earthly home, represented by the patchwork quilt-like look of the surrounding landscape.  Between the unknown and known.

Somewhere in between the yes and the no…

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Thornton Wilder Gratitude QuoteAnother Thanksgiving and  it might seem that it would be hard to find much to be thankful for in this turbulent world with its endless cornucopia of anger, hatred, intolerance, injustice and inequality set out for our consumption each day.  With a diet of so many negatives it would be easy to forget that one simple thing that truly feeds and sustains us– gratitude.

Recognizing and acknowledging those things that make us happy is such a simple thing yet we somehow lose sight of it.  I know my life feels so much more complete when I see how I am made happy by the light that the full moon casts on our evening walk.  Or in the way my studio cat, Hobie, runs to me with an audible purr when I enter in the morning. Or in watching the deer play and stroll through the studio’s yard, one or two sometimes stopping to stare in at me through the window.  Or in the songs of the birds in the woods.

Or in something so simple as a stranger returning a smile and a hello as they pass by.

Just little things that we sometimes overlook in the crush of the world.  But things that are important in our real connection to the world.  So today set aside your fears and anger and whatever else eats at you on a regular basis and try to think of those people who make you happy, those moments that might bring a smile or a tear and anything that gives your life fullness.  It’s not always easy but life ain’t too bad.

Here’s one of my favorite songs.  I know it makes me happy even when I am strolling along and can’t get its chorus out of my head.  It’s Be Thankful for What You Got from William DeVaughn from back in 1974.  Have a great Thanksgiving.

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GC Myers- Signet of Eternity-smallI was driving yesterday morning on the highway that cuts across the lower part of western New York State, just above the Pennsylvania line.  It’s always a quiet ride with little if any traffic on the long stretches of the very rural and sparsely populated country.

It allows for the mind to wander a bit.  Sometimes, in those moments, I will take some time and look around, wondering: What is here that might stick with me if somewhere down the road today my life were to end?  I found myself taking in the beauty of the very human lines of the the  hilltops set against the blue sky  as the sun make the frost on the trees shimmer in silver.

Something very perfect in that simple but ethereal moment.  This morning this reminded me of a post from several years ago that dealt with just such moments, one that I am running again today:

This is a new piece [note: this was 2010] that I am calling Signet of Eternity, taken from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian writer/poet.  There’s a great sense of the eternal in this smallish ( a 4″ by 14′ image) painting on paper.  I find it very calming, very soothing, with its clear, cool colors and crisp line work.  There’s a simplicity and delicacy in this that hints at how fleeting and fragile are the the glimpses of eternal forces we are fortunate to witness in our lifetimes.

I know that sounds pretty metaphysical but I’m just talking about those moments when all the forces of the world present themself before you in an almost perfect harmony and there is a moment of stillness.  Clarity.  As though the world has chosen to reveal its purpose to you for those few precious seconds and in doing so has taken away all the weight of everyday life.

I thought about that yesterday as I trudged, head down, through the woods between my home and my studio.  I stopped on the path suddenly and looked around.  The trees were so graceful and  I caught sight of  the trunk of a tall shagbark hickory.  I let my eyes follow it upward to the powerful arms of branches that seemd to plead to the blue patch of sky above.  It was a grand moment and I thought about how often I traveled that path with eyes fixed on the ground before me.  How many times had I let the thoughts and worries in my head carry me without seeing past these things of beauty?  These signets of eternity.

Here is Tagore’s poem:

The day was when I did not keep myself in readiness for thee;
and entering my heart unbidden even as one of the common crowd,
unknown to me, my king, thou didst press the signet of eternity upon
many a fleeting moment of my life.

And today when by chance I light upon them and see thy signature,
I find they have lain scattered in the dust mixed with the memory of
joys and sorrows of my trivial days forgotten.

Thou didst not turn in contempt from my childish play among dust,
and the steps that I heard in my playroom
are the same that are echoing from star to star.


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GC Myers- Spellbound

“Be hole, be dust, be dream, be wind/Be night, be dark, be wish, be mind,/Now slip, now slide, now move unseen,/Above, beneath, betwixt, between”

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book


This new painting has a feeling of magic for me, the feeling of an incantation being cast out into the dark of night.  There’s a sense of wishing in the way the Red Tree postures beneath the moon, asking whatever force that moves the moon and brings the light to cast a spell and bring about some sort of change.

Perhaps a spell is nothing more than wishes spoken aloud and defining that gnawing desire inside ourselves.  After all, once we know what we truly want we begin to shape the world subtly, and often unwittingly, so that these wishes might be fulfilled.  And sometimes, if the belief behind them is strong,  these spells become reality.  But many other times the spell is lost in the ether of time and space and they  never come to be.

Such is the nature of spells.

I am calling this piece Casting Spells.

For this Sunday Morning Music, I thought this song  would be the right accompaniment to this painting.  It’s a version of I Put a Spell On You, originally written and performed by the inimitable Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  This version is from  another true original, the late great  Nina Simone.  Great version.

Have a great Sunday and watch out for spells–they’re floating all over the place out there.

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GC Myers-2001  Seeking ImperfectionI’ve been taking a stained glass class for a few weeks now, trying to shake up my routine and thought process a bit.  In going over my work there with the instructor who is teaching me on a one-to-one basis, I try to explain that while I am seeking to learn proper technique I am not shooting for perfection.  I am looking for expression and things like rhythm and harmony.  It made me think of the painting above , Seeking Imperfection, which was the title piece for my second show at the Principle Gallery back in 2001.  I am re-running a post from a few years back that better explains my search for the not-perfect aspects of our world.


Imperfection clings to a person, and if they wait till they are brushed off entirely, they would spin for ever on their axis, advancing nowhere.

–Thomas Carlyle


I was thinking early this morning about a comment made yesterday by Linda Leinen about how we go through life, starting fresh and clean, and progress as we absorb all that life deals out to us, leaving us somewhat scarred. It reminded me of  the title of  both a painting and a show that I did many years ago called Seeking Imperfection.  It remains one of my favorite titles, probably because it best describes my own relationship with perfection.

I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of perfection or the search for it.  Perfection is the antithesis of our humanity, at least in how I view it, and to seek it is to deny our imperfect natures.  We are flawed and scarred characters in a world that is definitely not perfect except in those rare moments when all of these flaws coalesce into instances of harmony and beauty.

That’s kind of what I hope for and sometimes see in  my paintings– harmony and beauty despite the inherent imperfections.  I can find flaws in any of my paintings but I don’t cringe at the sight of them.  Instead, they make me glad because in seeing them I recognize my connection to them, can see the struggle in trying to create these moments of harmony.  A pit here, a dot of stray paint  or a rough edge there, a bristle from a brush trapped in the paint– it all speaks to me, saying that it can be whole and harmonious-  beautiful- despite the flaws.  Perhaps not a bad way to view one’s life.

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GC Myers- Unafraid 2015There’s nothing I’m afraid of like scared people.

–Robert Frost,  A Hundred Collars


I think those eight words above from the Robert Frost poem, A Hundred Collars, says it all for me at the moment.  I don’t find myself filled with the fear of ISIS or terrorists in general.  I certainly don’t fear  that someone, a small child or a widow,  who has entered themselves into a long and grueling process to come here will one day attack me.

No, I am more afraid of the panic of scared people who throw calm thought and rationality out the window.  People who allow the fear raised by others to dictate their response.  People who react in a knee-jerk manner that does nothing to alleviate their fears and sometimes does harm to themselves and others around them.  People who fear the darkness and shoot blindly into it.

Don’t get me wrong– it’s a scary moment in time.  It deserves our full attention, cautious observation and appropriate response.  But to react in a reactionary manner that alters our identity, the makeup of who we are as a people, is to fall prey to the will of the terrorists.

So, while you may have fears, be careful and be calm.  Breath.  Think.  Know the world around you and try to let those fears go for a time.

I think that last short paragraph applies to the piece at the top, a new painting, 3.5″ by 5.5″ on paper, that I am calling Unafraid.

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POWs Marching to camp in Aliceville AlabamaFear sometimes produces acts of courage and honor.   Unfortunately, more often than not it brings out the worst in people, producing acts of shameful stupidity that stand out in history.  Watching the many US state governors over the last couple of days, all spouting about how they will not allow Syrian refugees into their states ( even though they don’t have the power to do so)  brought this thought to mind.  NJ guv Chris Christie even went so far as saying he wouldn’t accept a 3 year old Syrian orphan.  Classy move for a classy guy.

But I shouldn’t be surprised.  This behavior is not new to us here in the States.  In the beginning years of WW II in Europe, public opinion here was heavily against accepting any Jewish refugees fleeing the war there.   We even went so far , in 1939 when the Holocaust was underway, as barring the MS St. Louis, a German freighter carrying Jewish refugees,  from entering our country when they came to our ports.  Our ships even went so far as firing warning shots to keep them from docking.  The same went for Cuba and Canada.  The refugees from this voyage of the damned were returned to Europe where a number died in concentration camps.

Again, another classy move that we try to keep swept  under the rug of history.

I wonder what these governors would do if they were faced with the situation that took place here in WW II with the Prisoners of War (POWs) who were brought to this country?  A lot of you probably aren’t even aware that there were POWs on our shores during that war.

But they were.  And not just a handful.

I first became aware of it years ago when I was working as the finance manager at a Honda dealership.  An older lady that I was working with said I reminded her of her late husband who was an Italian who came from the area of the Italian Alps.  I asked how she had met him and she told me that she first saw him when he was marching down the street of her hometown in Alabama.  He was a POW heading to the camp outside of town where she later met him at a event there.

Imagine that happening today.

But imagine the outrage today if we were faced with bringing over 425,000 POWs here.  That’s right over 425,000 foreign fighters were here during WW II. Most were German but here were also Japanese and Italian troops.  The same troops who were responsible for many of the millions upon millions of troop and civilian deaths that took place during the war were just down the street in Anytown, USA.

POWs in UtahAnd not just down the street.  There were about 700 camps located in every state but a few and most allowed the POWs to be hired as workers in all fields except those that dealt directly with the war effort. They were out and about in many communities.  It is reported that great deal of the slack caused by a shortage of manpower lost to the war was taken up by POWs, especially in the field of agriculture.

And it wasn’t slave labor.  They were paid the same wage  (paid in scrip that could be redeemed at stores within the camps) as our own troops would have been paid.  In fact, they were treated just like our own troops.  In fact, their accommodations and food were often superior to the those being experienced by our troops still in the heat of battle.  And better than our own citizens of Japanese heritage were experiencing at the internment camps where they were held during the war.  Another shameful, fear-based move.

POW Theatre Production at Aliceville Alabama Camp WW II

POW Theater Production at Aliceville Alabama Camp WW II

There were classes, art studios, gymnasiums, camp newspapers and musical and theatrical performances put on by the POWs.  Throw in an activity director and you’ve got yourself a kind of Aryan Catskill Resort.  In one bizarre incident, Adolph Hitler even sent payment to sponsor an art exhibit at one camp.

Think about that.  During the worst war in the history of mankind, the greatest enemy ever known to mankind sent a check to the US for an art show for his troops.  If there had been a Fox News ( or television, for that matter) at the time, I can only imagine all of the talking heads that would be exploding all over the screen.

Some of those POWs stayed here and integrated into our country and some went home to try to rebuild their own countries.  There is a lot more that could be told and it’s a great story.  I urge you to learn more.  Below is a great story from the wonderful RadioLab from earlier this year called Nazi Summer Camp.  It’s about a half hour long but if you have time you will find it informative and entertaining.  It’s a half hour that will not remind you of the shameful behavior of some of our leaders.


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Lafayette Life Mask- Johnson Museum Cornell University

Lafayette Life Mask- Johnson Museum Cornell University

When the Paris attacks occurred I was just finishing up the latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, from the always entertaining and informative Sarah Vowell.  It tells the story of the love affair between the French boy general and the then forming United States.

I was interested in Lafayette because I have a great-grandfather down in my line who had served as an aide-de-camp to Lafayette and had also hosted the general in his home.  He was given a signet ring that Lafayette placed on his hand and he never removed it, eventually being buried with it.  It is also known that he also gave my ancestor a court vest that was eventually cut into pieces and made into pincushions so that all the members of the family would have a bit of the icon.

And Lafayette was an icon.

Lafayette loved the American people and the idea of America that was formed at that time, defying his family and his government to steal across the Atlantic to engage himself in our Revolutionary War.  Without his ardor and efforts, we would have never gained the backing of the French government in the form of money, troops, ships and arms that were absolutely responsible for our eventual victory and independence.

And I mean absolutely.  At the Battle of Yorktown which brought the surrender of the British and General Cornwallis, there were more French than American troops.  And in the Brits loss in the preceding sea battle at the Chesapeake Capes which allowed us to surround Cornwallis’ troops and make that ultimate battle possible, there was not a single American present.  All French ships and sailors provided by the government that was the first to recognize us as a free and independent country and the first to join us as an ally.

The Americans of that era and in the years after recognized the importance of Lafayette’s love for this country and returned the love.  His return to America in 1824 was like the tour of a gigantic rock star or the Pope.  When his ship came into NY harbor it was met by a throng of 80,000 people at a time when the population of NYC was only about 125,000.  Wherever he traveled massive crowds turned out to see Lafayette.  There were commemorative items of all sorts produced that were sold for a number of years after the tour.

And time didn’t entirely dim the affection.  When General Pershing marched into Paris in WW I, he went to the grave of Lafayette, where he was buried under dirt from Bunker Hill, and placed an American flag.  His aide, Charles E. Stanton, said the following words, although they are often mistakenly attributed to Pershing:

America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.

And the American flag has flown ever since over the grave, reportedly even during the Nazi occupation.  Every year on the Fourth of July there is a ceremony to change the flag.

There have been many terrible things happening lately along with the Paris attacks– the downing of the Russian airliner and the suicide bombers in Beirut, for example.  But I think it is the depth of our historic bonds to France that makes these attacks hit us even harder.  While there has been some Franco-bashing in recent years, we recognize their freedom in the same way we view our own, drawn from the same well.  An attack on their way of life might as well be attack on ours.

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