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Archive for August, 2019

The Working Hands

 

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I have always regarded manual labour as creative and looked with respect – and, yes, wonder – at people who work with their hands. It seems to me that their creativity is no less than that of a violinist or painter.

-Pablo Casals

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I came across this shot of working hands and it made me think of how I’ve viewed hands through my life. I’ve always looked at people’s hands since I was a child. The liver spotted hands of my grandmother had thin ivory fingers that seemed like translucent china, for instance.

Growing up, the hands of our landlord Art, an old farmer [and a onetime bootlegger but that’s a story for another day], were thick and strong and missing at least one digit down to the knuckle on several fingers, the result of an ornery, impatient personality and dangerous farm machinery. Not a great match. I saw quite a few farmers with missing fingers and limbs back in the day.

Fat Jack, who I wrote about here a ways back, had hands whose nails were longer than you might expect and permanently rimmed with the black from the oil and grease of the machines on which he was always working. They were similar to the photo above. His hands were round and plump, like Jack himself, but surprisingly soft and nimble, good for manipulating the small nuts and bolts of his world.

There was a manager when I was in the world of automobiles who was a great guy and fantastic salesman who had extremely soft and damp hands. It was like handling a cool dead fish when you shook hands. A mushy, damp, boneless fish.

I admired working hands. They reflected their use so perfectly, the scars and callouses serving as badges of honor and the thick muscularity of the fingers attesting to the time spent at labor. They seemed honest with nothing to hide. They were direct indicators of that person’s life and world.

My own hands have changed over the years. They were once more like working hands, calloused and thickening from many hours spent with a shovel. There are a number of small scars from screwdrivers that jumped from the screwhead and into the flesh time and time again and another on the end of my middle finger from when I cut the very end of it off while trying to cut a leather strap with a hunting knife. Not a great idea but, hey, I never claimed to be Einstein.

I always felt confident when my hands were harder and stronger. Now, I have lost some of that thickness of strength and the fingers are thinner and a bit softer from doing less manual labor. I look at them now and wonder how I would have judged them when I was younger, when I measured a man by his hands, something that  I don’t do  now. I now know there are better ways to measure a life, that the work of the mind is now a possibility– something that seemed a million miles away then.

But when I come across working hands, strong and hard, I find myself admiring them still.

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This post has ran a couple of times over the years, generally around Labor Day. I have always admired hard workers, people who didn’t swerve away from having to use their hands and backs to get something done. I have been a hard worker at times though I have spent as much time, maybe more, as a bone idle slob.

I like myself a lot more when I am the hard worker.

Have a good Labor Day weekend.

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This is one of those post where I am just using the content as a pretext for playing a piece of music I want to share. In this case, the pretext is that this year’s edition of my annual solo show, Moments and Color, finishes its run at the West End Gallery at the end of business today. It is a show that blends my better known motifs, such as the Red Tree above in Life Pop, with new directions such as the faces (or masks) that populate the Multitudes series. It’s a show that very much pleases me, both in how it came together and in the response to it.

I want to than everybody who was able to make it to the gallery. Thank you so much for the feedback and for giving homes to many of the works that were part of this show. And, as always, all the thanks I can find to Jesse and Linda Gardner at the gallery for doing a masterful job of hanging the show and for their friendship and encouragement through the past 25 years.

As I often point out, my life would be so much different if I had never encountered the Gardners. And for that I eternally grateful.

Today is the last opportunity to see this show, so if you’re so disposed, pleases stop in at the West End Gallery today. Plus, there is a wealth of great work by the gallery’s many other talented artists that you should take the time to see.

American Music- January 1995- GC Myers

Now, on to the real purpose of this blog– playing some music that I have wanted to share for a bit. I thought the song So Long Baby, Goodbye from The Blasters back in 1981 would fit this subject perfectly. The Blasters, headed by Dave Alvin, were at their peak in the early 1980’s. They were the favorites of many critics and their big thumping sound ushered in the rockabilly revival of of the 80’s and predated and paved the way for the Americana music genre that we know today.

Since that time they have flown under the radar and a lot of folks don’t know the name or have long forgotten it. I was a fan from their first album and even put the name of one of their songs, American Music,  to a small experimental painting back in early, when I was first starting out. It was painted about a month before I began showing my work at the West End Gallery, no doubt while I had The Blasters on the turntable.

Here are two songs from The Blasters– So Long Baby, Goodbye and American Music. Again, many thanks. Have a good day.


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“Pondering Solitude”- Part of the West End Gallery show ending Friday

Around this time of the year, I always want to apologize to the folks that read this blog. Much of the content revolves around promoting of the work in my shows or my talks. Though I know it’s a necessary evil and part of my job, it’s still something I would rather not have to do. With two shows hanging and two more talks coming in the next few weeks, which means more promotion here, I thought I’d run a post from 2015 that includes a post from 2011. It sums up pretty well what I feel about the whole thing.

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The time just before the solo shows and gallery talks that are a big part of what I do is the hardest time for me, by far the most stressful and difficult part of this whole art thing.  There’s a direct conflict between my internal need need to seek solitude and the external need to discuss and promote my works and the galleries where they hang.  For weeks leading up to events, solitude is pushed to the rear and the act of promotion takes center stage.

The ego becomes a foe at this point and I am soon tired of hearing my own voice and experience a bit of self-loathing at times. But I feel compelled to persevere out of the duty and loyalty to the galleries that represent me and the need to make a living for myself. It is the part of the job that probably is the hardest hurdle for any artist to clear, a sometimes unsavory task that keeps many artists from reaching their largest audience.

Here are a few other thoughts on the subject from a few years ago, right around this same time in the 2011:

I was asked yesterday what I was going to speak about in today’s gallery talk at the West End Gallery. I kidded that I was going , of course, to speak about me.

Me, me, me.

I went on to explain how I approach these talks, trying to read the group in attendance and finding something of interest in the work that sparks a dialogue where they participate. The hope being that they leave with a little more insight into the work and I leave with with a little more knowledge of how they view it. But that offhand joke yesterday about me has stuck in my craw. Just joking about it has bothered me somehow. 

One of the conundrums of art is that you are expressing a sometimes very personal aspect of yourself in a public forum, exposing one’s weaknesses and flaws to the world for all to see. The need to do this is the need for an affirmation of one’s own existence in this world. I know that this has been the case for myself. I have often felt insignificant throughout my life in this world, unseen and unheard. But it seemed to me that my life, like all others, had to have meaning of some sort and that my feelings and thoughts mattered as much as any other being’s.

If I was here and thinking, I mattered.

Cogito ergo sum.

Until I fell into painting I never found a way to affirm this existence, an avenue to allow my voice to be finally heard. But having found a method of expression, the question becomes: What part does ego play in this? Where is  that line that separates the need for self-expression from base self-glorification?

This has always bothered me. Even though I want to express myself and want my work to hopefully affect others, this constant self-promotion puts one at least on or near this dividing line. For me, that’s an uncomfortable position. Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to my work, I certainly have the confidence of ego. It may be the only part of my world where I have supreme confidence though, on many days, even that is shaky.

But on days like today, when I have to talk about “me, me, me,” I always get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach both before and afterwards. Before because of the dread of exposing myself as a fool and afterwards from the fear that I did just that. 

Oh, well.  All just part of the job…

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Sitting down by my window
Honey, looking out at the rain
Sitting down by my window, looking out at the rain
All around that I felt it
All I can see was the rain 
Something grabbed a hold of me
Feel to me, oh, like a ball and chain
Hey, you know what I mean that’s exactly what it felt like
But that’s way too heavy for you, you can’t hold them all

Big Mama Thornton, Ball and Chain

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Sitting here this morning, watching the rain outside the studio window. Got much to do but find myself just watching the rain and the deer shuffling around the yard. It’s gray and misty with an air of sadness. Brings to mind the opening lines of Ball and Chain, a Big Mama Thornton song that Janis Joplin immortalized with her performances of it, most notably one from Monterey Pop in 1967.

Here’s that performance. There’s a part around 3:28 in that shows the late Mama Cass Elliott in the audience, totally transfixed by the performance. I think she knew that she was witnessing something special.

Take a look, give a listen and have yourself a day. You can choose whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Myself, I’m going to watch the rain a little bit more then get to work.

 

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Art is polymorphic. A picture appears to each onlooker under a different guise.

–Georges Braque

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Polymorphic.

I like the sound of the word and the fact it describes the idea that every picture is seen by each viewer in a distinct way. Everyone responds to whatever speaks loudest to them in that picture. Some respond to the colors or forms. Some to textures or brushwork. Some to the subject represented and some to an emotion felt by them that they see in the picture.

As an artist, you often see your own work in one way which is your own personal take on a particular piece. As such, you expect others to see it in the same way. But after a while of being an artist you begin to understand that the polymorphic piece that inspires different responses and interpretations in others is what you desire for your work.

It means the work is beyond the flatness of a single unified response. It is fuller, with more levels of depth of meaning and expression. It means the work has moved beyond your control and become something more, with its own voice and message that is beyond any contrivance you might impose on it.

It’s actually an exciting thing to have others respond to your work in ways you never anticipated, even when it widely swerves from what you yourself saw in it. You know it’s alive then.

And that’s what you seek as an artist– polymorphic creations.

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“Breakout” Currently at the West End Gallery

Not much to say here today.

This week marks the last chance to see my Moments and Color show at the West End Gallery. The show ends this coming Friday, August 30.

My Icons & Exiles show will hang until September 20 at the Patterson Library Octagon Gallery in Westfield, NY. There will be an Art Talk there on Thursday, September 12 at 6 PM.

I am in the process of getting ready for my 17th annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. It takes place on Saturday, September 21, beginning at 1 PM. I am looking for a prize to give away that equals the 1970 Gremlin from the West End Gallery talk earlier month. This is going to be a tough task.

I thought I’d play a video this morning to kick off the week with some energy. It’s a video of Led Zeppelin from 50 years ago, in March of 1969, playing live in a Danish television studio. This was just after the release of their first album. In another video from this session you can see the small audience file in and sit in a semi circle around the band. There are maybe 50 or 60 people, at best. And they played like they were in front of a full arena. It’s a great but long performance, over 12 minutes long, but the first couple of minutes are definitely worth a look. Have a good day and here’s How Many More Times.

 

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First, want to thank everyone who came out to the Octagon Gallery at  the Patterson Library on Friday evening to see the work in the Icons & Exiles show that opened there. I met a bunch of new folks who were not familiar with my work and got to tell the stories behind a number of the folks that populate this particular group of paintings. It was a very enjoyable time.

And many thanks to Nancy Nixon Ensign who curated and hung the show. She did a fantastic job of mixing the works from various series into a cohesive unit that invites you to move slowly around the space so that you can take it all in. Great job, Nancy!

I will be giving an Art Talk on this show on Thursday, September 12, so if you’re in the Westfield area– which is a charming town!–try to make it there. The show itself hangs until September 20.

For this Sunday morning music I am going with one of my favorite Bob Dylan song from more recent times. By that I mean within the last twenty years or so. With a career that spans almost 60 years, you sometimes have to specify from what period a song might come. This song, Thunder on the Mountain, is from 2006.

Have yourself a good day…

 

 

 

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