Archive for December, 2015

A Gorey Christmas

Edward Gorey Great Veiled Bear ChristmasMay the Great Veiled Bear bless you with Christmas cookies this year.

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Norman Rockwell Tiny Tim  I am taking a short hiatus from writing the blog just to recharge a bit.  This has been a part of my day for over seven years now and I have tried to put out something every day.  But I am a little run down at the moment , a little depleted.  I need a short break and figure this time around the holidays is the right time to put the blog on hold.  Maybe for a week or two.  Maybe more. Maybe less.

Who knows?  Nothing is written in stone and I might feel like I have something to say tomorrow or next week.

Or not.

Regardless, I send out many thanks to those who check in here regularly as well as my warmest wishes for happy holidays everyone.  Here’s hoping the New Year is a peaceful one.  May Tiny Tim’s wish come to be.

So for this Sunday’s musical selection I have chosen a holiday selection.  It’s a beautiful version of the traditional A Child is Born done by the the late jazz great Thad Jones with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.

Have a great Sunday and a great holiday.  I’ll be back soon…

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christmas-treeFlipping on the car radio this time of year brings torrents of holiday music.  Many of the local stations change to an all Christmas format from Thanksgiving to the end of the year and you are bombarded with holiday tunes from every era and every level of quality– good , bad and ugly.  Most are happy, solemn, goofy or stickily sentimental.  Or nostalgically melancholic.

Melancholy plays a big part in many Christmas songs, especially in those songs about being separated from loved ones at Christmas– I’ll Be Home For Christmas and White Christmas for examples.

But there are very few that fall into the category of a Fairy Tale of New York from the Irish band The Pogues.  Released in 1987, it is about two Irish immigrants in NYC who look back on their stormy relationship and their dreams that have fallen due to drugs and drink.  I would be optimistic in calling it melancholic or bittersweet.

But it is a beautiful song and something in it connects on a very human level even through the harshest imagery of the song.   And it has connected in a big way through the years.  It has been the most played Christmas song in the UK since the turn of this century and is consistently named the most popular holiday song in many polls throughout Britain and Ireland.

Below is the video from the 80’s for the song.  A small bit of trivia: there is no NYPD Choir so the band recruited the NYPD Pipe and Dreams to appear in the video.  They were asked to sing “Galway Bay” but since they didn’t know the song they sang the one song they all knew, especially in their reputedly drunken state at the filming– the theme from the Mickey Mouse Club.  The film is slowed to better sync their lips to the intended song.

So, enjoy?  Maybe this song does so well because it makes our own Christmas melancholy seem not all that bad…

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Victor Brauner- "Signe" 1942- Mounted on his tomb in Montmartre

Victor Brauner- “Signe” 1942- Mounted on his tomb in Montmartre

Painting is life, the real life, my life.

Victor Brauner, epitaph on his grave in Paris


The sculpted piece above is part, along with the quote above,  of the Montmartre tomb of Victor Brauner, a Romanian Jewish painter/sculptor who lived from 1903 to 1966, spending most of his life in France.  It depicts the heads he often portrayed in his Surrealistic paintings.

I can’t quite remember how I first came across the work of  Brauner.  I think it might have been in an article that had anti-Nazi art from the 1930’s.  He had painted a couple of paintings in 1934 and 1935 during Hitler’s rise, one depicting a fantasy portrait of Hitler with his head being pierced with all sorts of implements.  A knife in the eye , for example.  The other depicted a German military figure standing atop a swastika that is crushing the bodies under it. Both are powerful propaganda images and are shown below.

But I stumbled across his other work apart from these images and they caught my attention on their own.  They are surreal images that often have a Paul Klee-like mysticism in them that I am drawn to.  Maybe I also identify with something Brauner once wrote in his notebooks: Each painting that I make is projected from the deepest sources of my anxiety…

Whatever the case, I find them interesting, something more to delve into.  Take a look.

Victor Brauner- The Surrealist 1947

Victor Brauner- The Surrealist 1947

Victor Brauner- Hitler 1934

Victor Brauner- Hitler 1934

Victor Brauner- Untitled 1935

Victor Brauner- Untitled 1935

Victor Brauner- La Petrification de la Papesse

Victor Brauner- La Petrification de la Papesse

Victor Brauner- Prelude to a Civilization 1954

Victor Brauner- Prelude to a Civilization 1954

Victor Brauner- Consciousness of Shock 1951

Victor Brauner- Consciousness of Shock 1951

Victor Brauner- Antithesis 1937

Victor Brauner- Antithesis 1937

Victor Brauner- The Triumph of Doubt 1946

Victor Brauner- The Triumph of Doubt 1946

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GC Myers- Party lights smallIn this part of the country, childhood memories from this time of the year usually include the cold and snow in some form.  Frozen ponds with skaters on them.  New sleds at Christmas going down white covered hills.  Bundling up in heavy clothes and hats and boots.

It’s a little different this year thus far.  Today and tomorrow it’s going to be in the 60’s here and there’s hardly a hint of snow or real cold in the future forecast.  While it is pleasant weather to enjoy, it makes feeling the holiday a bit different than in the past.  Christmas lights just seem to have more sparkle in the reflection on snow than on the the still green grass.  Maybe the piece shown here, Party Lights from 2005, was a hint at what this season will look like in the future.

I don’t want to argue the subject of global warming here today.  However, it definitely feels real this holiday season and if this is to be the new norm, it’s going to take a bit of time to recalibrate and adjust to how this time should feel for those of us who live– and enjoy– where it is normally colder this time of year.

Okay, it’s time for a little Sunday music and I thought that the piano of Vince Guaraldi would fill the bill.  If the ponds won’t freeze over for the skaters at least they have his music to enjoy.  Here’s Skating.


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Chaim Soutine Les Maisons 1921Chaim Soutine was yet another brilliant but tragically short lived painter, dying at the age of 50 in 1943.  He was a Russian Jew who studied art as a youth in his native Belarus then emigrated to Paris in 1913.  There, among the many diverse artistic influences, his distinct expressionistic style found its voice and over the next two decades he produced a powerful body of work.  However, he wasn’t hailed as the great painter he truly was until the days just before the start of World War II.

As a Jew in German occupied France, he was forced to be always on the move from safe haven to the next in order to avoid the Gestapo. He sometimes found himself sleeping outside in the forests.  In 1943, he suffered a perforated stomach ulcer and died during emergency surgery.

He is best known for his paintings of the carcasses of meat and his still lives, all painted in his wild, heavily impasto manner.  However, for me, it is his landscapes that are the real treasures.  They have a tremendous amount of movement through them that forms a rhythm that, along with the color and contrasts of the surface, make them sing for me.  I just see them as being very powerful pieces.

Take a look for yourself at some of my favorite Soutine landscapes.

Chaim Soutine Landscape with Red Donkey Chaim Soutine Landscape at Cagnes Chaim Soutine Houses of Cagne Chaim Soutine Landscape with Cypress Chaim Soutine The Old Mill

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GC Myers- Between the Sea and the SunThis new painting, a commissioned 36″ by 24″ piece that is on its way to California, is called Between the Sea and the Sun.  It’s a piece that I very much enjoyed painting , allowing the composition to grow in its own manner.  It helped clear my mind and drew me back into my former self, at least in terms of confidence.  I am thankful for that and eager to move on to other new work that has been forming in my mind.

The title is somewhat self explanatory in describing where we reside in this world.  There’s a certain sense of intimacy in those words but there is also one of being caught between two vast and mysterious entities representing nature.  For all the knowledge we have gained through the ages we are still often at the mercy of the great forces of nature.  We appear to be nothing more than temporary guests in this mysterious world.

And that is a humbling thing or at least it should be.

There are, of course, those with the hubris and certitude to believe that we are the masters of this world, that they have the knowledge that allows them to do what they will to this space between the sea and the sun.  But knowledge is a tricky thing.  It is often an evolving and changing thing.

And it is not wisdom.  Wisdom exists in a province separated from knowledge.

And maybe what I am hoping this piece represents– a place where we value the wisdom in respecting the world around us.

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GC Myers- Heliotrope sm“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

-John Quincy Adams


I don’t what made this pop into my head but I was thinking about a conversation from a few years back that I had with a friend who is also a painter. He has been an artist for almost his entire adult life, pretty successful for much of that time. We both agree that we are extremely fortunate to have found the careers that we have, one that feels like a destination rather than a passageway to some other calling.

For me, I knew this was the career for me when I realized I no longer looked at the job listings in the classified section of the paper. For most of my life, I felt there was something else out there that would satisfy me but I didn’t know what it was or how to find it. Maybe it was as simple as finding the right job. Or so I thought. When you don’t know where you’re going, any direction might be the right direction.

But during this particular conversation this friend asked, “What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t paint? What if you were suddenly blind?”

For him, it was unthinkable. His life of creation was totally visual, based on expressing every emotion in paint.

I thought about it for a second and said simply, “I’d do something else. I’d find a way.”

In that split-second I realized that while I loved painting and relished the idea that I could communicate completely in paint, painting was a mere device for self-expression. But it was not the only way to go. I knew then as I know now that the deprivation of something that has come to mean so much to me would, in itself, create a new need for expression that would somehow be satisfied. I have always marveled at the people who, when paralyzed or have lost use of their arms, paint with their toes or their mouth . Their drive to communicate overcame their obstacles. Mine would as well.

If blinded, I could or do something with words, using them to create color and texture. Perhaps not at the same level as my painting but it might grow into something different given the circumstance. The need to communicate whatever I needed to communicate would create a pathway.

It was an epiphany in that moment. Just knowing that I had found painting gave me the belief that I could and would find a new form of expression if needed. And i found that greatly comforting.

Yes, I’d find a way…

This post ran back in 2009 and remains one of my favorites.  I often think of this one when I feel myself floundering a bit and need a reminder that perseverance is needed.

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GC Myers- Two Sides  Aww, change the channel.  It’s a rerun…

Wait, it’s not another rerun, just another mass shooting/ terror event in Anytown, USA.

Another episode of America- The Series.

Same basic script– crazy ideologue(s) with automatic weaponry goes into a school/church/community center and kills multiple people before dying in a firefight with responding police forces.  Insert a montage of non-stop cable news network coverage with “experts” and politicians  praying and posturing in clips of some saying there are too many guns and others who say we need to be even more armed.

You could even insert a clip here of a nutty bible college president — let’s have him played by Jerry Falwell, Jr. of Liberty College–saying he wanted the students on his campus to have carry/conceal permits so they could “shoot the Muslims.”  Because that’s the kind of measured rational response we expect from those entrusted to lead our kids.  Besides, nothing says safety like an arena filled with armed college age kids.  Kids with inflated self-images emboldened by being raised on a diet of action movie heroes who are somehow never hit by the hail of bullets from their enemies and in a culture of video games that cheapens life.

Seems reasonable to me.  There certainly won’t be any confusion or problems with law enforcement agencies when some of those young armed students are of  African or Middle Eastern descent.  I see a spin-off in the future.

The script plays out for a few days of hand-wringing and funerals but little real action before fading to black.  Hit replay and do it all over again.

That’s seems to be the gist of it.  I wish whoever is writing this crap would come up with a new storyline.

996-226 Elvis in the WildernesssmI am going to change the channel now.  It’s time for Sunday music and I’ve been singing this song all week.  It’s the Tom Jones version of Elvis Presley Blues which was written and performed originally by Gillian Welch.  I am a big fan of Gillian Welch and love her version but I really admire Tom Jones’ take on it as well.  It’s pared down accompaniment really highlights the power of his voice which is still formidable even at age 75.

The images shown here are from my Outlaws series from back in 2006.  The one at the top is Two Sides and the one to the left is Elvis in the Wilderness.  I thought they fit today.

Enjoy the song and have a good Sunday.

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I’ve written lately about the funk that I was in, how I was experiencing a crisis of confidence.  This has made approaching my work difficult and I have been wracking my brain trying to find inspiration or some new catalyst to drive me forward.  But deep inside I know that the remedy is just pushing aside my insecurity and doubts to do the only thing I know that has helped me in the past– get to work and paint.  I came across this post from several years back with some advice from Chuck Close that pretty much sums up this cure.  Here it is:

chuck-close-phillip-glassI’ve been a fan of the work of Chuck Close for some time, admiring the grand scale that much of his work assumes as well as his evolution as an artist, especially given his challenges after a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down in 1988.  He regained slight use of his arms and continued to paint, creating work through this time that rates among his best.  He also suffers from prosopagnosia which is face blindness, meaning that he cannot recognize faces.  He has stated that this is perhaps the main  reason he has continued his explorations in portraiture for his entire career.  The piece shown here is a portrait of composer Phillip Glass that was made using only Close’s fingerprints,  a technique which presaged his incorporation of his own unique form of pixelation into his painting process.

His determination to overcome, to keep at it, is a big attraction for me and should be an object lesson for most young artists (and non-artists, also) who keep putting off projects until all the conditions are perfect and all the stars align.  Waiting for the muse of inspiration to take them by the hand and lead them forward.  Sometimes you have to meet the muse halfway and Close has this advice for those who hesitate:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the… work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.

Amen to thatThe process provides the inspiration.  I’ve stumbled around for some time trying to say this but never could say it as plainly and directly as Close has managed.  Thanks, Chuck.  I think I’ll take your advice and get to work.

chuck close at work

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