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Archive for December, 2017

Spirit in the Night

New Years Eve, folks, and an end to 2017.

Thank god for small favors.

I’ve been recalibrating here at the end of the year, as I’ve explained in some recent entries. I’ve been revisiting old works and writings, trying to blow off the shell of complacency and rediscover that urgent need that drove  my earliest creativity. This also has me re-examining early influences in all things– art, movies, literature and music.

To that end, I found myself watching a couple of hours of old performances early this morning from Bruce Springsteen, mostly grainy black and white films from the 70’s. It may sound odd but Springsteen’s work, his performances and his rapport with his audience throughout his career have informed much of what I have tried to create in my own career. From the first time I saw him perform over 40 years back, I was enthralled by his commitment to growing his work, his complete effort in every performance and his desire to reach out to every member of his audience.

The consistency of his work and his desire to seemingly give more than his audience expects every time speak volumes to me.

So, to end this year I thought I’d go back to a performance at the Capital Theatre in Passaic, NJ in 1978 and one of my favorite Bruce songs, Spirit in the Night, from his first album. It’s great to watch Bruce interact with the audience here.

Have a good New Year’s Eve and let’s hope for better things in 2018.

 

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Hank’s Lost Highway

The year is coming to an end and for me it’s a time of reflection. I reposted a piece yesterday on that subject and this post from back in 2009 speaks to that same theme. Plus, anytime I can look at a Hopper painting and listen to one of my favorite Hank Williams songs, it’s a good post to revisit.

Whenever I see an Edward Hopper painting I feel a bond with him, as though he were a kindred spirit in a world full of alienation.  There is always a great sense of distance in his paintings.

Aloofness. Looking out but looking in.  A disengagement of sorts from the wider world. Even in his cityscapes, one feels as though they are miles away from anyone else.

I suppose this disengagement may be the reason I and many others choose to communicate in paint. With few exceptions, I have seldom felt inclusion in many groups of people, always feeling a bit like an outsider. And while I have actually become comfortable in this position, always bearing a sort of suspicion toward groups or cliques, the need to be heard drives my painting.

Even in a world of alienation, one wants to have their say.

In my paintings, I sometimes see this aloofness in my red tree and the way it is often portrayed as a single figure in a large space. Sometimes the pieces reflect a celebration of the self and self-reliance but sometimes there is this sense of a Hopper-like alienation. The solitary character just wanting to be heard.

I don’t see this as being a sad portrayal. There’s much more I could say on this but I think that’s enough for the moment.  Here’s a song from the great Hank Williams that kind of speaks to this subject.  It’s Lost Highway, a song that is, for me, one of the most transcendent songs Hank ever recorded, a song with a spirit that feels new and alive even today, even with its early ’50’s production values.

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Is It There, Again?

I am at the point of the year where I am constantly questioning what I doing, looking back at the past year’s work and determining in which direction I want to move ahead into the new year. It’s a sometimes frustrating exercise, especially when I find myself still lacking in areas where I had hoped to grow or where there are paths of aspiration still unexplored. But frustrating as it might be, it’s part of how I work. 

I came across this entry from several years back and it reminded me of a question that I sometimes forget to ask these days, one that must be addressed even though its answer is basically an abstract notion. But it is a question that must be asked or the work begins to lose purpose and meaning.

GC Myers- First View 1994It’s that time of the year when I get to take a deep breath and begin to look forward into the next year, trying to determine where my path will lead next. It’s never an easy time doing this, trying to see change of some sort in the work especially after so many years of being what I am and painting as I do. It always comes back to the same question: What do I want to see in my paintings?

That seems like a simple question. I think that any degree of success I may have achieved is due to my ability to do just that,  to paint work that I want to see myself, work that excites me first. So I have been doing just that for most of my career, painting pictures that I want to see. But there is another layer to the question.

What am I am not seeing in my work that I would like to see? What is it that I need to see?

That’s a harder question. How can you quantify that thing that you don’t know, might not even have imagined yet?

It might be a case of  knowing it when you see it.  I know that my first real breakthrough was like that. I was simply fumbling along, looking for something that nagged at the edge of my mind. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, had not a concrete idea of what it might be. It was just there in a gaseous form that I couldn’t quite grasp.  But when the piece emerged in a tangible form– which is the painting at the top here, First View, from 1994– I instantly knew what it was that I had stumbled on  and that it was something that  very important to me.

It might not look like much to the casual viewer now but in an instant I could see in this little painting everything I was sensing in that gaseous, intangible form that hovered at the edges of my mind. I could see a realization of all of the potential in it. Even now, after years of evolving from it, I can see how it connects to everything in my work, even those things I had could not yet see when I painted it.

And that’s where I find myself at the moment. There’s something out there (or in there, I probably should say) that I want to see, might even need to see. But I don’t know what it is yet. But I will know it when I see it.

And, trust me, I do plan on seeing it.

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Been taking a little hiatus but still wanted to post something today, maybe just a simple song. I spent quite a bit of time this morning listening to music on YouTube, doing that thing where you keep choosing an obscure but somehow related video on the right side, seeing how far it can lead you down a twisting rabbit hole of oddball songs and forgotten genres. I heard a lot of songs I haven’t heard in years, some good and some not so much.

It was going pretty well and I thought I had my choice when out of the blue, the YouTube algorithm turned up this song from 1979’s Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I knew I had my choice for the day. During the Falklands War in 1982, the British naval ship HMS Sheffield was hit and sunk by an Argentine missile. As the crew was waiting to be rescued, the crew broke out singing this song and it has become tradition among British troops in dire situations.

So whether it’s sinking ship or a nation stumbling along at the end of an odd year, it might be the right song for the day. It made me feel better this morning. Feel free to sing or whistle along…

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Driving Home For Christmas

Wishing everyone out there a peaceful and comfortable day.

Here’s a holiday song that doesn’t get a lot of play here in the States. From 1986, it’s  Driving Home For Christmas from Brit Chris Rea. I have been a fan of his work from the days of his work in the 80’s and this song really works on many levels. So many newer  holiday songs try so hard and apply so much schmaltz that the things just seem to flounder around without ever taking flight. This song has strong wings.

Give a listen and have a great day.

 

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I wanted to play a Christmas song for this week’s Sunday music and thought I’d replay a song that first ran here back in 2009. It’s Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

While looking for an photo or two to accompany this post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness. It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with clowns in creep factor. You might see a rogue clown in the woods but Santa is, simply put, a bearded home intruder ( and flamboyant dresser) who slides down your chimney in the dark of night. He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

I picked a few that are pretty strange. I left out some that actually made me cringe and feel a little queasy. I have a feeling that many of their photos are also in some sort of registry somewhere.

Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday evening. And don’t worry about the weird old man hovering around your home tonight…

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The painter Pieter Brugel ( 1525-1569) is a favorite of mine,as the color, composition and rhythm of his work quickly draw me into his paintings. I had seen images of the painting above a number of times and had enjoyed it every time by just absorbing it as a whole. But knowing just a few facts about it make it even more interesting.

It’s titled Census at Bethlehem and is from 1566. It certainly refers to the Christmas story of Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem. They are depicted in the lower central part of the image, Mary on a donkey led by Joseph. But it is apparent that this is not the proper time or place for the story for the biblical tale. It is a Dutch/Flemish scene  fifteen hundred years in the future. But it turns out that this was not unusual for Bruegel. He often took myths and tales from other times and cultures and placed them in contemporary settings.

It is also suggested that this painting was a veiled criticism that compared the governance of the Netherlands, marked by heavy taxation and a rough suppression of Protestantism, under the Spanish king, Philip II, to that of the Roman Empire in the Biblical era in Judea. This was painted just a few years before a revolt against Spanish rule broke out.

Seeing this as a political protest adds a layer to its depth. But however you might look at it– as a simple peasant scene, political screed or religious allegory–for me it is a feast for the eyes.

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