Archive for August 5th, 2021

Self Portrait/ Drudgery

GC Myers- 1995- Exiles-Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Drudgery is one of the finest touchstones of character there is. Drudgery is work that is very far removed from anything to do with the ideal – the utterly mean grubby things; and when we come in contact with them we know instantly whether or not we are spiritually real.

― Oswald Chambers

I was recently approached by a collector interested in possibly obtaining some of my Exiles paintings that were from around 1995. They were pieces that were in direct response to my mom’s illness and subsequent death at that time. The offer made me think about what these pieces mean to me and what I see in them. I realized that they had become more and more precious to me over the years. 

I ran the post below about the painting above several years back, speaking about how I saw this piece. I changed the opening quote which had been one from Thomas Edison. I went instead with the one above from Oswald Chambers. an influential Baptist preacher from around the turn of the 20th century who died in 1917 from appendicitis in Egypt while ministering to the troops there. I felt that there was an element of both drudgery and the spiritual in this piece.

I was going through old blog posts recently and I noticed that I had used the painting above a number of times in my earliest posts. It’s part of my Exiles series from back in 1995 and is titled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, borrowed from the title of a group of Depression-era photos of sharecroppers in the American dust bowl shot by photographer Walker Evans.

I never really wrote about this painting except in what I saw as it’s similarity to what I saw in those photos of Depression era workers. I always felt a connection to this piece but thought it was an outer connection, one that simply had to do with my reaction to form and color and not with anything I might see of it in myself.

Maybe that was my hope.

But it is a painting that I find has more meaning for me than I might want to let on. It’s a piece to which I always return, again and again, to study closely. While I sometimes see it as apart from me, more and more as I live with it, part of me feels like I am that man, standing alone in his landscape.

A sometimes self portrait.

It’s not a flattering self portrait. I used to see this figure as sad or regretful, world weary. But that has changed over time. There is some sadness, some regret but more than anything, I now see him as resigned, neither happy or sad. He is in his place with work behind him and much more work to do. It still has a weariness in it, but not from a physical standpoint. It is more a sense of tiredness from working to stay ahead of the world’s constant encroachment, the world’s constant erosion.

But while it appears tired there is also a sense of implied strength and determination to stay on task.

The hand here is important to me, a symbol of the bond of a working mind and working hands. Ideas set in motion and realized.

It’s a painting that means more and more to me as times passes and the world works its erosive qualities on my self and my world, my landscape. Maybe I am that dirt farmer, looking back with pride in his work along with an apprehension that it will someday be carried away like dry soil in the wind.

Here’s a little music for the morning, a song that fits pretty well in tone and substance to the painting above. It’s the immortal Otis Redding with I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.

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