Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2018

Virgil and Dante in the Circle of Traitors- Gustave Doré Engraving

I came across the image above from an article in The American Conservative from September of 2016, written by a writer, Rod Dreher, who is labeled as a leading conservative intellectual. Neither the magazine nor the author are in my regular reading rotation and I might not find substantial common ground with either on may issues but the article was an interesting read. The article had to do with the current resident of our White House in the run up to the 2016 election and his historic inability to keep his vows in all aspects of his life.

Here are two paragraphs that stood out for me:

One of the themes in Dante’s Commedia is the terrible political consequences that result when people break their vows. Dante the poet was exiled through the constant strife in Florence, and throughout Italy. In his fictional person, a pilgrim through the afterlife, Dante learns that so much of the violence and discord that has torn Italian society apart has to do with the inability of people to trust others to be true to their word. In the Inferno, the lowest level of Hell is reserved for Traitors, the worst of whom — those whose treason had wide social consequences — are immobilized in a lake of ice for eternity. In Dante, punishments fit the crime. For Traitors, who lived with no ultimate loyalties except to themselves, because that preserved the absolute freedom of their will, the just punishment was to be frozen in place forever.

Why are Traitors the worst of all sinners, in Dante’s scheme? For one thing, they make social and communal life impossible. If you cannot count on people to honor their vows, you never know what is real, and who is trustworthy. For another, as the pilgrim Dante learns in Paradiso, free will is God’s greatest gift to a man. To make a vow is to make a gift of God’s gift — that is, to pledge one’s sacred liberty, to a cause, person, or institution, out of love. If vows are tossed aside lightly, love is cheapened, and the order of the entire universe is weakened. By breaking vows, we weaken the power of love and goodness in the world. This is how our free will, the gift most precious to God, the gift that tells us the most about His nature, becomes a source of disharmony and debilitation within ourselves and the community.

Dreher later goes on to make a prediction about the election saying that if the Republican candidate ( I just cannot write that name!) won, his presidency would be, using terms from Dungeons & Dragons, at best neutral evil and at worst, chaotic evil. This is a conservative thought leader speaking, certainly not a Democrat or liberal voice.

His prediction  has turned out to be prescient in, unfortunately for us all, in his prophecy of chaotic evil.

But is the president* a traitor to more than his vows?

Hearing the word Treason yesterday come from the mouth of Judge Sullivan in the Michael Flynn sentencing hearing was a seismic shift in the ongoing Mueller investigation. To hear it in the clear air was a stunning thing, a movement of the whole affair into a new sphere that everyone had been dancing around for some time now. I know that the words, treason, along with its running mate, traitor, have been running around the perimeter of my mind for some time now.

For those of you who don’t follow this, you might think I am peddling conspiracy theories or just plain crazy talk. Maybe you’re right but every day seems to reveal more and more of a large criminal conspiracy. Like me, there are those of you who have been watching and trying to amass all the data points, all the massive amounts of information that are being dutifully exposed, on an internal flow chart that would take up the wall of a gymnasium in reality. You folks are most likely nodding in agreement.

Now is the time for us all to pay attention, like it or not. We may be on the verge of the exposing of a large circle of traitors, actors of treason who, along with a foreign adversary, have sowed division and violence among their fellow citizens for political power and personal gain.

We must now all serve as witnesses.

I do not know where this leads but if it leads to a band of traitors forever encased in a lake of ice at the lowest level of Hell, so be it.

Read Full Post »

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

All that is necessary to paint well is to be sincere.

–Maurice Denis

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

In my opinion, sincerity is a huge part of how an artist’s work comes across, perhaps even more than the actual ability of the artist. Sincerity carries the emotion, the sensation, of the work of art.  It is the part of art that moves and speaks to you.

I guess that is why I was drawn this morning to the simple quote above from painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943). I’ve been an admirer of his work for some time and for some reason have yet to mention him here. He was not one of the bigger names of art in his time but was important in that era that encompassed the transition from traditional representation to impressionism then on to modern art. He was part of Les Nabis which translates from both Hebrew and Arabic as The Prophets. It was a group of young French artists who followed in the artistic footsteps of Paul Gauguin.

As Denis wrote about Gauguin’s influence:

We learned from Gauguin that every work of art is a transposition, a caricature, a passionate equivalent of a sensation which has been experienced. He freed us from all restraints which the idea of copying naturally placed on our painter’s instincts. All artists are now free to express their own personality.

That basically deals with the same sort of sincerity mentioned at the top f the page.

Denis had a long career that moved through a number of different phases, all done well and with sincerity. There is much in his work that speaks to me, things that I wish to carry into my own work. Things I have already used, in some cases. I urge you to check out his wiki bio or some other reference sites to find out more.

A parting line from Denis:  Don’t lose sight of the essential objectives of painting, which are expression, emotion, delectation; to understand the means, to paint decoratively, to exalt form and color. 


 

 

Read Full Post »

We are at a crucial time in this country and, maybe as well, the world as a whole. I think even those who refuse to pay attention are beginning to see that something very wrong has taken place and there is an effort to find the truth behind it. If this situation were a painting, it began with an underpainting of a scene based on lies. But each new day brings more and more strokes and color in the form of facts and truths that expose the underlying falsehood, the illegitimacy of the scene painted for us two plus years ago.

With each day, the final painting is becoming clearer and clearer.

I could go on but that would most likely be overkill. Too pedantic and preachy.

Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes– I do love a good quote— dealing with lies and liars. A page of lies. Actually, not lies but about lies. As a liar myself, I can attest to the veracity of most of these but you would have to take my word for that. And, believe me (the liar’s favorite phrase, by the way), you don’t want to do that.

Though I think these are all pertinent, the most applicable to the current situation might be the last from Ray Bradbury‘s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. Most people will not be told, will not dare to extrapolate into the future. They only see the present moment and even then, it is seen with a subjective sort of vision, the kind that only sees and knows what is in its immediate reach. But once the fallout from this hits them, they will ask how this could have possibly happened, even though they themselves enabled it with their lack of attention.

The Albert Camus quote is also a favorite. The projection of self by the liar is most illuminating.

But don’t trust me, take a look for yourself.

Read Full Post »

I normally don’t rerun posts on Sunday which is when I feature a musical selection. But this week I thought the chosen song matched up well with this post and the painting in it, which is one that feels very personal for me.. So, here’s a post from a few years back accompanied by a selection,On The Nature Of Daylight (Entropy), from contemporary composer Max Richter. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

Have a good Sunday…

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

GC Myers- CandleThere are two ways of spreading light… To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

–Edith Wharton

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

This is a new piece,  8″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Candle. Working on this painting, I determined that I wanted to keep the composition very simple and stark. There was so much energy in the radiating forms that adding anything beyond the blue panel at the bottom would change the whole feel of the piece as I was seeing it. The blue provides contrast and forms a horizon line that gives the whole image a measure of inward depth without detracting from the simplicity of the image, which I see as being essential to the strength of this painting.

Simplicity, as is often the case, translates as grace. And grace of some form was what began to show in this piece as it unfolded. I was reminded as I worked on this of the great (in my mind, the greatest British artist) JMW Turner‘s reputed dying words: The sun is God. There is a spiritual element in how the sun is depicted in his work and I often feel that I am representing something more than a source of physical light and energy when I paint these sun orbs in my work.

Perhaps that something more is a presence beyond the physical.

I don’t know. But for a moment, my uncertainty is relieved and I feel connected with the warmth and light from the presence that is the sun in this piece.

Read Full Post »

I was going through the blog from a few years back and came across this post, one that had slipped my mind. Reading it again was what I needed this morning. Sometimes you need a reminder to just sit down and be quiet. Thought it might be a good replay for these hectic days..
GC Myers- Trio:Three Squares
I came across this poem from author Wendell Berry on Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings. It’s a lovely rumination that could apply to any creative endeavor or to simply being a human being. I particularly identified with the final verse that begins with the line: Accept what comes from silence. I’ve always thought there was great wisdom and power in silence, a source of self-revelation. Perhaps that is why so many of us shun the silence, fearing that it might reveal our true self to be something other than what we see in the mirror. Berry’s words very much sum up how I attempt to tap into silence with my work.

At the bottom is a recording of Wendell Berry reading the poem which gives it even a little more depth, hearing his words in that rural Kentucky voice. It’s fairly short, so take a moment, sit down, be quiet, and give a listen.

HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

Read Full Post »

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

My originality consists in putting the logic of the visible to the service of the invisible.

Odilon Redon

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

This is a bit of a continuation of yesterday’s post where Magritte spoke of poetry and mystery in his work. The above quote from Odilon Redon (1840-1916) describes very much that same sentiment.

A work of art should have a sense of logic to it even if it might go against all that we know of the natural world. This created logic allows us to accept what we see before us, permits us to fully absorb the poetry and mystery–the invisible elements to which Redon alludes–without question.

This acceptance allows us to move beyond the visible, allows us to perceive our reality in a different manner, perhaps in an enhanced way.

As a viewer, I know the works of art that move me most of all fall into this category. They may not seem unusual at first look. Their subject might even seem mundane. They seem outwardly logical but there is something that moves them into that area of mystery and poetry, that gives them an sense of the indefinable.

As an artist, it is something you hope to achieve but don’t really know how to explain how you do it because you don’t really know for sure. It sometimes either happens or it doesn’t.

And that is its own mystery.

It’s a mystery that keeps the artist wanting to always move ahead with the hope that it will all someday be revealed.

Will it one day be revealed? Who knows? It’s a mystery.

 

Read Full Post »

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

People who look for symbolic meaning fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the images.

Rene Magritte

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

I absolutely love this painting, The Banquet, from Rene Magritte in 1958. It has the effect where I don’t question anything about it. I just accept it as it is presented. I am not looking for symbolism in it at all, not looking for a reason why the red ball of sun is hovering low in front of the trees. The colors, the contrast, the composition– they create a whole sensation doesn’t need a why or what or how.

As Magritte points out, it contains poetry and mystery.

And that is something to try to understand. I know I often feel the need to try to explain my work, to point out where I find an emotional base in a piece. Sometimes that is easy, almost jumping out at you. But sometimes it is not so obvious and it is simply the mystery of the created feel, a great intangible pulse, that makes a particular painting work.

You see it, feel it, accept its reality yet you don’t fully understand the why and how.

And maybe that is just as it should be. Not all we behold can or should be explained. Sometimes, maybe we simply need to experience poetry and mystery.

Read Full Post »

A blog post that ran here a couple of years back with some advice from poet e e cummings is consistently one of my most popular, always getting a number of hits. For example, there was quite a pop in its numbers yesterday. I don’t know what brought it on but it made me want to revisit the post. Reading it again made me appreciate even more the words. Even though it was aimed at potential poets it rang equally true for me as a painter, especially when I substituted the word painter for poet, paint for words, and painting for poetry.

I thought I’d replay it today doing just that. Where there is a word like [thiswith brackets, I have substituted an equivalent word. And if you’re not a painter, feel free to use any word that describes what it is you do to express yourself.

I think you might find it inspiring.

+++++++++++++++++

Whenever I am asked to speak with students I usually tell them to try to find their own voice, to try to find that thing that expresses who they really are. I normally add that this is not something that comes easily, that it takes real effort and sacrifice. It is a never-ending struggle.

The great poet e e cummings (you most likely know him for his unusual punctuation) offered up a beautiful piece of similar advice for aspiring poets that I think can be applied to most any discipline.

Or to anyone who simply desires to feel deeply in this world.

I particularly like the line: To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. That line alone speaks volumes.

Take a moment to read this short bit of advice and see what you think– or feel.

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

A [Painter’s] Advice To Students

Borrowed from (e e cummings)

A [painter] is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through [paint].

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And [painting] is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in [paint], that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a [painter] can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using [paint] like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time-and whenever we do it, we’re not [painters].

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve [painted one part of one real painting], you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become [painters] is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world-unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

Read Full Post »

Came across this old piece, an early attempt from 1994 before I was showing my work in public. It’s painted in way, a direction I never followed much further but it is a piece that always makes me stop.  Don’t know where it came from or why I painted it. Don’t know why I gave him some sort of seaman’s cap and striped shirt. I loosely refer to this as the Sea Dog.

I don’t think there was a narrative at all. It just came. But after 24 years or so, it has developed a story, of a sort, for me. I see him as sailor in an exotic South Seas port city on a misty and mysterious night. A scuffle, a knife fight and a man falls down dead on the dark, wet streets. He flees the port and begins on building a new life with a new identity.

For a minute this morning, I saw him as a young Santa.

Maybe that’s Santa’s backstory? A murderous sailor redeemed?

I don’t know about that. But, hey, you never know.

That brings me to a Christmas song. Well, kind of a Christmas song, one that’s keeping in the spirit of a Killer Kringle. It’s from  John Prine, and it’s Christmas in Prison. It’s been a favorite of mine for decades so I was surprised that I haven’t played it here yet, after ten years of this blog.

Well, today’s the day. Give a listen and don’t mind the subject or title too much. It’s actually a beautiful song. It could be Santa singing, in different circumstances.

Read Full Post »

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

“The world concerns me only in so far as I owe it a certain debt and duty, so to speak, because I have walked this earth for 30 years, and out of gratitude would like to leave some memento in the form of drawings and paintings—not made to please this school or that, but to express a genuine human feeling.”

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

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

Thought a good way to kick off this week might be to share a few paintings from Vincent van Gogh along with a quote from one of his letters that speaks very much to my own feelings about my own reasons for doing what I do. These are not his better known paintings, though some of you may well know these pieces. They’re pieces that speak to my own personal inclinations. You might notice that most of these paintings have his ball sun/moon.

The idea of feeling a need to leave a memento behind that expresses one’s gratitude and one’s expression of self is one that is not foreign to me. I often think about how my work will speak for me after I am gone. Actually, if it will speak into the future at all and if so, will it be an honest reflection, a true representation of my voice.

I know that an artist, for all of the ways they try to guide the narrative about their work and life, have little control on the future.

What will be, will be.

Their voice might echo but it is always just that, an echo, a one-sided conversation from the past. Hopefully, what is said in that echo reverberates and speaks to someone of that future time so that they can fully understand and connect to the feeling behind it. And if so, with the hope that they might respond to that voice in some small way that continues to give life to it.

As I said, an artist has little control over this outside of doing their work with honest efforts and emotions. It’s obvious this was the case in the work of van Gogh and we continue to have a conversation with his echoes from the past, his mementos of gratitude.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: