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Archive for December, 2016

Over the past couple of months, I have found my work  moving more and more small in its size.  It wasn’t a conscious thing. It wasn’t because I wanted to simply make smaller paintings.  I have simply found myself feeling smaller.  Less expansive.  Less confident in making bolder, larger statements.  Hoping to move away from this trend, I went back in the blog archives and came across the post below from almost eight years back that captured my mood when I was in a somewhat similar place.  I thought sharing it might remind me to begin thinking bigger again, to trust my vision.Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks.  The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have admired Smithson’s work whenever I came across it.

The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy.  Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world.  There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly.  Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.

I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations.  I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.

I was being safe.  It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above.  I was in the spiral.

This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty.  Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.

I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people.  Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.

So I have to remember to think big.

To look past the horizon.  Just freaking do it.

Then progress will come…

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false-news-1903I’ve been saying for while that fake news is a dangerous thing.  And it turns out that it has been killing people for over a century.

And I have the proof.

While going through some old family genealogy, I came across this story about a great-uncle of mine from three generations back.  His name was Sylvester Odell and he was a fairly well-to-do farmer in Central NY  who was about 77 years old in 1903.   Like the Britney Spears item from earlier this week, a rumor began and spread through social media that Sylvester had died. Of course, social media at that time consisted of the mail, telegraph, an occasional telephone and yelling out to your neighbor.

But even so, the rumor spread quickly.

Friends and family gathered and headed out to Sylvester’s farm where they found him alive and well.  In fact, he was doing his normal chores in his barn.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief then shared a big laugh.  A few hours after everyone in the party had left, a still surprised Sylvester sat in his chair and passed away.

He just couldn’t take the news of his own death.

Damn fake news!

The news of his actual death after the false report made all of the newspapers around the state.  Even when reporting the facts, some of the newspapers still got parts of the story wrong.  For example, the item above is from the Syracuse Telegram.  It gives the location of the story as Dresden when in fact Sylvester lived ( and died!) in Dryden. False or not, we seem to have trouble getting the story straight.

So there you have it, proof positive that fake news kills.  Be careful out there, folks.

 

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I don’t think I would be out of line in saying that there has been a coarsening of our public discourse over the past decade or so. Compassion, empathy and compromise, cornerstones of the history and growth of our nation, have somehow become a symbols of weakness.  We have taken the bait and allowed our wildest fears to dictate our actions, make us accept the craziest propositions and set aside our reason and logic.  

We have lost sight of the fact that our strength was never about simple brute force.  Our strength came from our idealism– things like equality and opportunity– and our courage in doing what was right.  Heroic qualities.

But it seems we have lost all sense of the heroic.

I thought I’d share this post from about 8 years back that features a favorite painting of mine and addresses those heroic qualities.

GC Myers- Legendary Heart 2006

This is a painting from a few years back that always sticks in my memory. There are many things I like about this piece, many things which I think make it notable but the part that sticks most with me is its title. It’s  Legendary Heart.

I suppose the title visually came from the shape of the tree’s crown or maybe it was something in the atmosphere of the piece that suggested the name. I’m not sure exactly except to say that I have always seen something quite heroic in this piece.

What do I mean by that? What is heroic?

Oh, it’s easy to define heroism in terms of combat or competition, the obvious examples for displays of courage and bravery.   Soldiers racing forward through a hail of bullets to capture an enemy or save his comrades, a fireman climbing into a burning building to rescue a child or even a competitor fighting through injury to bring about a victory– all are truly heroic.

To me however, this piece speaks to the root form of heroism,  the element that defines all heroism, from the most glorious to the most mundane  everyday variety that often  goes unnoticed.

I’m talking about self-sacrifice.

Heroism is the giving of  yourself to and for others.  Whether it’s a soldier or rescuer risking their safety so that others may be saved, a parent putting aside their own self interests for the benefit of their children or person who sacrifices their time and fortune for the betterment of those who truly need their help– all are heroic in terms of self-sacrifice.

Heroism is not about amassing accolades or wealth.  It’s about amassing a wealth of spirit and that that can only be achieved, paradoxically, through giving, not taking. It’s about shedding the greed and meanness of spirit that dwells deep within us, side by side with our sense of charity and courage, in some cases pushing aside these better traits and overtaking our characters.  We are living in a time where this has happened all too often.

The heroic is in compassion and empathy, not in domination of any sort.  It is in having the courage to let the better parts of our character shine.

We could all use a little of this courage.  I think many of us are always on a sort of hero’s journey, trying to find this bit of good while fighting back our baser demons. Occasionally, even momentarily, it appears to us and we feel nourished, strengthened  enough to continue forward.

That’s what I see when I look at this painting. Oh, it’s a striking image but it’s the message that I glean from it that makes it stand out and whenever I see this painting, on a computer screen or in my mind, I am reminded to keep moving forward, to hold strongly to my own compassion and empathy.

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Christmases Past

gc-myers-archaeology-happy-holidays-2011-smWe’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. 
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

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Hope you’re creating new memories, new touchstones for the future.  And perhaps today you will also revisit memories from Christmases past. Though they are buried beneath the layers of new memory and time that have fallen upon them in the passing years, they remain there for us like ancient artifacts just waiting to reveal their secrets and stories.

Merry Christmas to you.  Have a good day…

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With Peace on Earth

gc-myers-christmas-2013-sm

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
      “For hate is strong,
      And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
      The Wrong shall fail,
      the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

–Henry Wadworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells

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The lines above are the last two stanzas of a poem Longfellow wrote in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War.  Several years later, in 1872, the poem was incorporated into the Christmas carol we know as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I am hoping that the last three lines hold true for us going into the future.

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Klee and Color

blossoms-in-the-night-paul-kleeColor possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.

Paul Klee

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Just looking at some Klee paintings this morning and getting recharged. I’ve always felt an affinity with his work.

Another quote from him:

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.

fish-magic-by-paul-klee

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GC Myers- BluepeacenightA few years back I played a version of the song Riu Riu Chiu, an early 16th century song from the Iberian Peninsula that is about the Nativity story.  That version was a surprisingly lovely  a capella version from the Monkees.  I say surprising because it was part of a really bad Christmas episode of their television show from the 1960’s.  Watching it made me question my taste in television when I was a kid. But at least this song was there to somewhat make up for the bad parts.

I thought I would share another version today, this one from the Boston Camerata, which is, according to their website, “America’s preeminent early music ensemble.”  I obviously can’t speak to that but I do like this version of the song very much.

Enjoy.

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