Archive for September, 2021

Catch the Wind

9921076 To the Limit sm

To the Limit – At the West End Gallery, Corning

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame

― William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

Things to do this morning. Places to go, people to see. Well, that’s not really the case but I do have things to do so let’s just go with a few lines from Yeats— which is always a good idea– and an old song from Donovan with a real Dylanesque vibe to go along with the Red Tree painting above, To the Limit, which is currently in residence at the West End Gallery.

That’s all I got for you today. Might not seem like much but you might something of value in one of those three things. Now get the heck out of here while I’m still in a good mood.

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Georges Rouault Profile of Clown

Nothing is old, nothing is new, save the light of grace underneath which beats a human heart. The way of feeling, of understanding, of loving; the way of seeing the country, the faces that your father saw, that your mother knew. The rest is chimerical.

–Georges Rouault

I’ve always loved this passage from artist Georges Rouault (1871-1958). It says a lot about the purpose of art and the mindset of some artists as they face their empty canvasses.

There is nothing new under this sun. Yet nothing is old so long as it is instilled with human feeling. And that feeling is the beat of the human heart, an individual rhythm formed by all that we have experienced and felt.

Art is not about creating something new that has never been seen. It is about using what and who we are in creating new ways of seeing things that have always been with us.

Well, that’s my take on Rouault’s words this morning. It also gives me a chance to show some of my favorite Rouault paintings. They never fail to inspire me.

And that’s a good way to start any morning.

Georges Rouault Three Clownsgeorges rouault-biblical landscapegeorges rouault- landscape with red sail 1939georges rouault- landscape with large treesgeorges rouault- automne ou nazarethGeorges Rouault 5Georges Rouault The Old KingGeorges Rouault -Christ in the Suburbs 1920-24georges-rouault-christ-and-the-fishermen-1939-Georges Rouault Sunset 1937Georges Rouault 1Georges Rouault 3georges rouault-mythical landscape

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Going to a Town

9920017 Exile on Main Street rev 21 sm

Exile on Main Street“- Now at the West End Gallery

I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced
I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I’m so tired of America

Going to a Town, Rufus Wainwright

I wasn’t going to display the lyrics above from the Rufus Wainwright song I am featuring here this morning. Saying that you’re tired of America isn’t a popular sentiment at any time and Wainwright says that this song, though one his more popular songs in concert, at times elicits strong response in the form of boos.

It was written in 2007 both as a relationship breakup song and as a protest against the Bush policies of that time, including an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, that Wainwright believed would lead to more and more damage here and abroad. America is symbolized here as being on fire and Wainwright is getting away by going to a city, a town, that has already went through this experience, as the lyrics at the top point out.

That town is Berlin with its dark history from the Nazi era. A place that has already burned down with people who have been let down and disgraced.

People who have endured the fire and came out the other side.

It’s an interesting song, one as much about rebirth as it is about the fire. It certainly has the feel of the bone-weariness that many folks here are experiencing now, as they can plainly see where things are headed. I know there are many days when I feel like saying that I am so tired of America and wish we could just move forward in time to the point where we are emerging from the fire.

But I won’t because we can’t. Just got to face the fire. Tired as we might be, someone has got to fight back the flames and start building once more.

Give a listen, if you are so inclined. It’s a lovely song. By the way, for those who don’t know, Rufus is the son of singer/songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate Mc Garrigle and the brother of singer Martha Wainwright.

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Dare to Know, Redux

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude!- ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’- that is the motto of enlightenment.

― Immanuel Kant,  What Is Enlightenment?

The painting shown here is one from several years back that made the rounds to the galleries and came back to me. This baffled me because it was and remains a favorite of mine, one that really burned itself deep into my memory. My own preference might be as much about the meaning I attach to it as its actual visual content. I see it as being a symbol for seeking and verifying truth on your own, without the overriding influence of any one person or group.

In this day and age, you might call this being anti-cult. I think of it more as being willing to know the truth of the matter even when it disappoints. Knowing the truth allows you to determine how to deal with it. That is a much more powerful position to move from.

Here’s the original post:

Sapere Aude!

From the Latin, meaning Dare to Know.

I came across the passage above from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant and felt immediately that it was a great match for this new painting. In fact I am calling this piece, 11′ by 15″ on paper,  Dare to Know (Sapere Aude!)

The Red Tree here is removed away from the influence and shading of the other trees and houses in the foreground, out of darkness and into the light. There is a light about the Red Tree and a sense of freedom in the openness of the space around it. It is free to examine the world, free to seek the knowledge it craves, and free to simply think for itself.

It’s a great idea, this concept of enlightenment and one that we definitely could use today. Too many of us form our own base of knowledge by relying on the thoughts and opinions of others, often without giving much consideration as to their truthfulness, motives, or origins. Or we shade our base of knowledge with our own desires for  how reality should appear, holding onto false beliefs that suit us even when they obviously contradict reality.

In short, there is no enlightenment based on falsehoods, no way to spin darkness into light. Enlightenment comes in stepping away from the darkness of lies and deceptions to see the world as it is, with clarity. It means stripping away our own self defenses and admitting our own shortcomings, prejudices, and predispositions.

It may not always be the desired outcome one hoped for, but it is an honest reality. And maybe that is enlightenment, the willingness to face all truths with honesty.

To dare to know.

Sapere Aude!

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Higher Ground, 2021

GC Myers- Eureka Moment

Eureka Moment— Now at the West End Gallery

I’m so darn glad he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground

Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder

I had something else in mind for this week’s Sunday morning music but I came across this version of Stevie Wonder‘s classic Higher Ground and changed course.

This song always reminds me that the purpose of this life is to constantly attempt to be better, to move to some sort of higher ground. It’s not always easy especially when faced with a mob who is dead set on displaying their ignorance, selfishness, and hatred in the loudest and most visible manner possible.

I don’t think this is a song that this mob would embrace. And they most certainly wouldn’t like this version from Playing For Change, an organization that raises money for social justice programs in underserved communities all over the world. They produce videos of musicians playing together from points around the globe. Many of the musicians in their videos are buskers who often play for donations from their audience on the street, which is the basis for the organization’s name, Playing For Change. This particular video has some brand name musicians along with many who may be new to you.

It’s a great version of a great song with a great message– lift yourself up to higher ground.

And while you’re up there, pull some others up. There’s plenty of room on that higher ground.

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Kandinsky/ Composition


Wassily KandinskyComposition 5, 1911

The word composition moved me spiritually and I made it my aim in life to paint a composition. It affected me like a prayer and filled me with awe.

-Wassily Kandinsky, Guggenheim Exhibit Catalog, 1945

Kandinsky is one of those artists whose words and images always seem to resonate for me, even when he’s talking about things in art that, in the writings of other artists, could quickly escalate into blathering, indecipherable artspeak.

I see it in this passage from his essay in the catalog for his 1945 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. The words we use to label and quantify our own work sometimes speak volumes. His use of composition signified an equivalency to a musical composition, complete and filled with movements.

More than a painting and certainly not a picture.

I seldom if ever use the term picture. It feels incomplete. Static and without flow or movement of any sort. I usually opt for painting or piece when referring to my work. I see piece in much the way Kandinsky saw composition. For me, it indicates a fullness in the work, that it contains the movement and emotional space of life.

More than a picture.

It’s a small thing and most likely of no importance to anyone but me. But the words used in referring to one’s work speaks loudly, revealing how the artist perceives and esteems their work. For example, using words like masterpiece or masterwork probably indicates a lack of self-awareness or an an excess of ego in the artist. I don’t think I’ve ever used those words when speaking about my work and would most likely cringe if I did.

I am more concerned with creating pieces or compositions that have their own fullness and reality. Work that doesn’t need me anymore and moves on its own once I have put my brush down.

The power of those simple words– pieces and compositions— is greater than one might think.

Sounds so easy and so difficult at once. But that’s art, folks.

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Thin Ice

GC Myers-The Nightwatchers  2019

Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.

― Werner Herzog

Humanity always had a fragile existence on this planet. Our time here has been comprised almost solely of efforts to sustain our existence, to maintain our health and safety from the dangers that surround us at every turn. There was always peril to our existence as we tried to find ways to feed and warm our people, to evade the diseases and predators that stalked us.

Without constant vigilance and mighty efforts in our distant past, we might well not be here today.

As Herzog says, we have always dwelt on a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness. And because of this constant presence of death and danger, where we could practically feel the thinness of the ice flexing beneath our feet, we were always aware of how fragile our existence was.

We understood how close we were to plunging into the darkness.

But for a short time in our existence, we lost sight of that awareness. We began to believe that we were safe and secure, that we were the supreme beings on this or any other planet. It took less and less personal effort for most of us to maintain our existence.

Food or water came easily and without thought for most.

Diseases that had plagued us for eons were effectively dismissed so that they no longer weighed heavily on our minds.

We no longer worried much about other predators as we effectively became the most dangerous predator on the planet.

We flew through the air, communicated instantly around the globe, explored the four corners of the planet, discovered some of the secrets of the atom and went into space. We felt invincible.

Yet all through that time, we still moved across that same layer of ice. We may have thought it had thickened, had become more secure through our innovation, but it was as thin and fragile as it was for our ancestors from centuries ago.

In fact, it may have become even more perilous because we no longer are aware of this fact and have seemingly lost the ability to put forth the effort needed to save ourselves. It’s on full display these days in the destructive actions of the anti-vaccine, anti-mask, covid denying, anti-science, anti-education, climate change denying, conspiracy embracing crowds.

They act as though we are are somehow entitled to a secure existence on this planet without any effort at all on their part.

I am here to tell you that these selfish nutjobs, or any of us for that matter, are not entitled to a future on this spinning rock. I don’t care what god or deity or belief system you embrace. Nothing here is guaranteed for any of us.

We still exist on that same thin layer of ice that has long kept us from the deep plunge into darkness. And these nihilistic nuts continue to build a bonfire on it.

I write this today just to put it into some sort of order for my own mind and to ask you to simply be aware, to recognize our responsibility in maintaining our existence atop that layer of ice. We are required to make some sort of effort to save ourselves and getting a vaccine or wearing a mask to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your neighbors doesn’t seem like too much to ask of anyone.

In the bigger scheme of things, it’s the least we can do.

See you tomorrow– if the ice holds.

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Ukulele Ike R. Crumb cover

I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds so dark above
The sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place
Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face
I’ll walk down the lane with a happy refrain
And singin’ just singin’ in the rain

Singin’ in the Rain, Arthur Freed, 1929

Got in the studio this morning with the forecast showing us getting a couple of inches of rain today. Couldn’t watch any more of the news on the tube so flipped to a film in progress, the screwball classic His Girl Friday.

The first face I see is of one of the other newsmen in the newspaper office where most of the action takes place. It’s one that seems really familiar but I can’t quite come up with the name. Then it hits me.

It’s Ukulele Ike.

Actually, his name was Cliff Edwards but to the world at that time he was Ukulele Ike. Both names most likely won’t register with most of you. Time passes by, after all, and most stars fade or are eclipsed by newer, brighter lights.

And Ukulele Ike was a star. He was a singer, comedian and actor who starred in vaudeville, Broadway, radio, film and television. He recorded one of he first versions of the classic Singin’ in the Rain in 1929 and had a #1 hit with it.

But that was not his only hit. In fact, Ukulele Ike sold more than 74 million records in his career. To put that in perspective, Neil Diamond has sold about 50 million records and the Rolling Stones have a total of around 67 million. Plus. many of Ike’s sales took place during the Great Depression.

That would be enough for most folks but Cliff Edwards also made his way into many films, had a national radio show during the Golden Age of radio, had one of the first national TV shows in 1949, and was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio from Walt Disney, as well as Dandy Jim Crow in Dumbo.

Quite the resume. Of course, as with so many of these cases, there is the downside. Edwards went through his millions several times over due to a lavish lifestyle, and addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling– the holy trinity of addictions. The last years of his life were spent in poverty as he hung around the Disney studios hoping for voice work in animated films. He was often taken to lunch by the animators who he would regale with tales from his storied past.

Ukulele Ike died in 1971 at the age of of 76. He was a charity patient in a convalescent home in Hollywood at the time. His body went unclaimed and was donated to the UCLA medical school. Disney heard about this and paid to recover his body and give it a decent burial.

It has a sad ending but the life of Cliff Edwards or Ukulele Ike, if you prefer, was one for the books. Highs and lows and everything in between. I don’t know that you can call that a wasted life.

I used a more contemporary album cover from R. Crumb to illustrate this entry. I like this cover plus the title of the song (and the song itself) make me smile. Here’s Ukulele Ike performing Singin’ in the Rain from 1929’s The Hollywood Revue of 1929, one of the earliest musicals of the sound era. Like much of Ike’s work, it’s a lot of fun. Makes me want to walk down the lane with a happy refrain…

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Finding My Way Back

GC Myers- Social Distancing- Approaching Storm sm

Approaching Storm“- Now at the West End Gallery

Gray, dark morning with rain today and tomorrow. Coolness coming. A fitting first day to autumn. I hope to do some real painting today, something I have been avoiding as of late. Feeling very distracted and am trying to find focus and fight back into form.

It’ll come around at some point. I know this. I always find my way back.

I am going to try to get at it now so I am leaving you with a song that echoes the feeling of this morning here in the studio. It’s a nice remake of the Blind Faith/ Steve Winwood classic Can’t Find My Way Home. This version is from vocalist Rachel Price from the group Lake Street Dive along with Chris Thile, mandolinist extraordinaire who was formerly with Nickel Creek.

It’s a strong performance and a hopeful start to what I hope will be a good day here in the studio.

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The I Am

GC Myers- The I Am sm

The I Am“- At the West End Gallery



I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

–I Am, John Clare, ca 1845

John Clare was an interesting case. He led a troubled existence for much of his 70 years on this planet. Born from a family of rural farm laborers,  Clare bounced from job to job and place to place, living a life of poverty. In an attempt to raise money to prevent his parent’s eviction from their home, Clare, through a local bookseller, submitted his poetry to the publisher who had published the works of John Keats. His book of verse, as well as a second soon after, was published and praised. 

But even then, recognized as he was as a poetic genius in farmer’s garb, he struggled with his  own mental demons. Much of the rest of his life was spent in English asylums. His most famous poem, I Am, whose final verse is shown above, was written in one such asylum, Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, around 1844 or 1845. 

His work was somewhat overlooked after his death in 1864 at the Northampton Asylum, where he had spent his final 23 years. But in the 20th century his worked received new attention and Clare’s work was elevated and he has been deemed a major poet of the 19th century.

It’s a sad life, indeed. It reminds me of those times when I have been going through genealogy records, following an ancestor’s life as it progresses, and come upon a record from some sort of institution. It might be an almshouse– a poorhouse– or a county home, a place where they gathered the paupers, the handicapped and those with mental problems so that they would be out of sight.

Coming across these records always makes me very sad. I can imagine myself in these ancestors’ places, the feelings that I would no doubt be experiencing– the loss, the alienation, the confusion that must have plagued their minds.

But even more than that, my sadness comes from knowing that their voices were no doubt unheard by the time these records were registered. They had, by that time, become problems to be swept aside.

And they, no doubt, wanted little more than the peace of mind that Clare describes in that final verse– the untroubled sleep of a child beneath a high, clear sky.

I find my own desires for this life dwindling down to those same simple wants. And in this, I find a bond with these poor, troubled relations. And with Clare in that English asylum.

And that in turn makes me grateful for the small graces that allow me to live the life I live and to find expression for my own small I Am.


Here’s a lovely reading of I Am from Tom O’Bedlam:

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