Archive for October, 2021

I Put a Spell on You

GC Myers-The Incantation 1994

The Incantation – 1994

Halloween today, in 2021, almost seems like a break from the scary people and behaviors that haunt and terrify on a day-to-day basis.

What I wouldn’t give to have the Frankenstein monster or the Wolfman or Dracula or even some other off-brand random vampire or ghost be the thing that most terrified me these days. At least, those scary beings could be rationalized away by simply telling yourself over and over that they did not exist.

The creatures that send shivers down my spine these days definitely exist and there is no chance of rationalizing them away.

Not going to go in to that now but let’s just say that I hope my fears today are as unfounded as those ones from my childhood based on monsters and myths.

For this Sunday morning music, let’s go with a scary classic from Screaming Jay Hawkins from 1956, his immortal I Put a Spell on You.  There are plenty of video versions of the song with Screaming Jay going through the schtick that served him well for decades after the song came out, with its glittery witch doctor costume and nose bones along with choreographed gyrations and kicks. But I want to keep it simple and am playing the original track.

Like other great songs, this song, written by Screaming Jay, has been recorded by lots of other artists. Nina Simone does a beautiful version. But my favorite cover is from CCR. It keeps the spirit of the song and honors it. I am throwing that on as well this morning.

Halloween  2021– scared yet?

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Monster Movie MatineeBelow is a repost of one of my more popular posts. After the 12 years since it first went online, I still occasionally get people contacting me who have come across this post and have memories of Monster Movie Matinee, the Syracuse-based show that ran for many years at 1 PM on Saturdays. A documentary was also made in the intervening years which chronicles the show and its effect on the many kids who found themselves glued to the couch watching classic (and not so classic) horror films. More clips and photos have come to light including those at the bottom. If you are interested in the documentary you can get more info at its Facebook page, Monster Mansion Memories.

Hope you have a very scary Halloween! Or not– it’s not necessarily a holiday suited to everybody’s taste. Here’s the post from 2009:



Monster Movie Matinee 1On this pre-Halloween Saturday, my mind switches back to past Halloweens and all the things that go with them.  Part of my normal Saturday routine growing up was to be in front of the TV at 1 o’clock to watch Monster Movie Matinee, a show out of Syracuse that ran for a couple of decades and showed classic ( and not so classic, as the years went by) horror and sci-fi movies.

It was a great kitschy broadcast. It would start with the camera panning in over an obvious model of an haunted-type mansion on a hill as eerie monster movie music played. It was hosted by Dr. E. Nick Witty (I think this is supposed to be a joke of some sort but it eludes me) and his assistant, the wretched Epal..Epal on Monster Movie Matinee

You never saw anything of Dr. Witty but his long emotive fingers but that was all you really needed along with his deep, rich voice and trademark laugh. His sidekick, Epal, was played by the station’s longtime weatherman who also played other characters (his other main character, an old seaman named Salty Sam, introduced me to Popeye cartoons) on a number of other locally produced shows, was covered in rough-edged scars and wore an eyepatch. His appearance seemed to constantly worsen and erode as the years passed.

They had storylines that they used as they introduced the films, little vignettes that ran from week to week. I remembered the show as goofy stuff but fun, though seeing some of the clips now I am surprised at the level of the performances by the two characters. They really put an effort into the production. But ultimately they let the movies they showed be the real stars and I saw most of the greats through them. All the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman movies were in regular rotation in the early years mixed in with a plethora of lower quality, monstery B-movies, which unfortunately took over in the later years.

215px-Creature_from_the_Black_Lagoon_posterI remember one wet and dark Halloween Saturday back then spending the afternoon watching one of my favorites with Dr. Witty and Epal. It was The Creature From the Black Lagoon. It was a movie that was shown at least a few times a year so it became part of the kid memory bank. It was the story of a group of geological researchers sent to explore a fossilized skeletal claw-like hand found up the Amazon where they encounter the Creature, a rubber-clad Gill-Man who makes repeated attacks on the research vessel, finally abducting the babe girlfriend of the main scientist.

Originally in 3-D in the theaters, was a pretty stylish 50’s monster movie. Pretty good quality, actually. The Creature was a great costume, very sleek and somewhat believable- at least to the kid sitting on the couch with the Fig Newtons. It had nice underwater photography of the Creature gliding after his prey and also had great sound and music that really enhanced the story. It wasn’t the scariest but it kept you involved with the story. Like many other viewers, I always felt more of a connection with the Creature than I did with the crew of researchers and actually felt myself kind of rooting for him at times. Much like King Kong, he seemed sadly alone.

That wet and dark Saturday many years ago seems to come to life now whenever I think of the Creature or Halloween, for that matter. I remember the light, the feel and smell of that living room. Funny how certain things, even the smallest trivialities, imprint on the memory  when coupled with something important, as Halloween was to a kid.

Today I’m thinking of that day and that lonely Gill-Man and Dr. Witty…

There are three clips below. One is the opening is from the show’s later years and one is from the earlier black and white days. There is also a clip from the documentary, Monster Mansion Memories. 

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Bacchae and Balance

"Harmonium" - GC Myers 2021

Harmonium” – At the West End Gallery

The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.

–Euripides, The Bacchae

The words from the great tragedy The Bacchae from Greek playwright Euripides still ring true 2500 years after they were first uttered. The play, considered perhaps the greatest ever written, dealt with the eternal struggle between the forces of control and freedom between the gods and the masses.

Like most tragedies, it doesn’t end well. And in a most gruesome manner. Shocking, even by today’s standards where we have become somewhat inured to the outrageous.

I won’t go into those details here this morning.

Beyond that, the passage above speaks of maintaining a fine balance between the two poles of restraint and release, both as individuals and as a society. Those dwelling in the extremes, either in forms of theocratic authoritarianism or in unrestrained nihilism, are destined for an unhappy ending.

It is an unsustainable existence.

I could go on and compare it to societies here and abroad but for today I want to just point these words toward ourselves, the individuals.

A sense of harmony in ourselves and with the outer world is always the better way.

Of course, I can’t tell you how to attain or maintain it. I suppose if you wander off the trail between the two poles and find yourself in the weeds of extremism, you might not recognize harmony anyway. It might be a false harmony you’re seeing.

And if that’s the case, it might not be revealed as such until the tragedy comes to its conclusion.

I don’t know if this makes any sense at all this morning. I am most likely talking through my hat. It’s very early still and I am just thinking out loud.

But even so, maintaining a sense of harmony and balance in ourselves and in the world should always be the goal. I know it’s my goal though sometimes I stumble off the trail a bit here and there. Fortunately, I somehow find my way back to it at some point.

Or so I believe.

I mean, who really knows?

Now get off my lawn! Get!

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The Creeper-- GC Myers 1995 sm

I don’t have any illusion that The Creeper is as popular or will ever be as popular as any of the classic movie monsters, but I think in the heart of every young horror fan is his desire to create his own creature.

–Victor Salva

The quote from director Victor Salva is about his character who menaced filmgoers in the Jeepers Creepers series of horror movies in the early 2000’s. I didn’t know it when I began writing this article this morning but a new  entry in the series premieres today. What an odd — and kind of creepy– coincidence.

To be honest, I have never seen any of the films and most likely will not. But I like the idea behind Salva’s words above. Wanting to see something that fully clicks with something inside ourselves is the basis for art of all sorts. Even horror movies.

My version of that is the advice I give to aspiring artists of any medium: Paint the paintings you want to see. Write the books you want to read. Write the music you want to hear.

This quote also reminded me of this painting of mine from about 25 years ago that bears a similar title called The Creeper. It predates Salva’s films so it was not inspired by them in any way. I have written about this painting before, mentioning that it was one of the paintings that I regret selling. This was part of my Exiles series that were painted in the mid 90’s, mostly grieving figures painted with segmented features. 

 It was the first real series I had painted and was the basis for my first solo show. I think I only sold three of those pieces and regret having taken any of them from that group of work. I think because those pieces were so much the product of a specific emotional state at a certain time, I will not be able to capture that exact feel again. I have periodically painted figures in that style over the years since and while they have their own emotional impact, they don’t strike me as personally as these earlier pieces.

These few pieces are gone but at least I have images to take a look at when their memories start to creep in, much like that fellow above.

Here’s a song that I featured here a decade ago when writing about this painting. It’s The Creeper from the Ventures. This song is very reminiscent of Wipeout ( with maybe a little Peter Gunn thrown in) but is really distinguished by some super organ work  from the late, great Leon Russell in an early appearance in 1964.  It’s a good listen as we head into Halloween.

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Wretched -Faces Off

Because night has fallen
and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned
from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
And now,
what’s going to happen to us
without barbarians?
They were,
those people,
a kind of solution.
C.P. Cavafy, Waiting For the Barbarians

Been reading some verse lately from Constantine P. Cavafy, the great Greek poet who lived from 1863 until 1933. He lived his entire life in Alexandria, Egypt and his work often captured the sensual and exotic cosmopolitan feel of that time and place. Readers of Lawrence Durrell and his Alexandria Quartet, in which Cavafy appears as a character, will know what I mean.

Though Cavafy was known for his poetry among the Greek community in Alexandria he spent most of his life working as civil servant. He didn’t actively seek widespread acclaim, turning down opportunities to have his work published while often opting to print broadsheets of his poetry that were distributed to only a few friends. His work didn’t realize wider acclaim until later in his life (and afterwards) when his friend, novelist E.M.Forster, wrote about his work, describing him as a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.

I love that description.

The lines at the top are from one of his most famous poems, Waiting For the Barbarians. It’s about a small principality in decline, with its governing bodies and citizens frozen in anticipation of an invasion from unnamed barbarians. It has a timely feel as it describes the power that fear plays in autocracies, how vilifying one’s opposition — the barbarians– is used as a tool to both govern and stoke fanatic nationalism in its fanatic followers, who in turn intimidate those seeking reasonable discussion and solutions to the problems faced by the nation as a whole.

The problem with this sort of strategy is that once that the strawmen created out of fear are proven to be less than formidable or even nonexistent, how does an autocrat keep control? 

Most likely they create new barbarians, someone newly found to fear and despise. Even if those strawmen turn out to be those people who hold the key to best addressing the needs of the citizens.

But, of course, even that strategy has an endpoint. We may find out for ourselves here, unfortunately, if we fail to pay attention in the next few years.

Here’s a fine reading of Cavafy’s poem from Miles Young, Warden of New College Oxford though I probably chose this particular version because of its use of gargoyles. There is also a bit of commentary at its conclusion.

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The River

GC Myers-  Symphony of Silence  2021

Symphony of Silence“- At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria,VA

I woke up on the couch last night just as a Stephen Colbert interview with Bruce Springsteen was coming to an end. Springsteen then finished the show with an acoustic version of the title track from his 1980 album, The River.

It’s a song that has always hung close to my heart and one, as Springsteen claimed last night, that has aged well. I spent a lot of hours in the dark back around that time, 40 some years back, listening to this song on my stereo, the soft blue light from my old Fisher amp setting a quiet and deep tone in the room.

Much of this album seemed to be made for listening in that blue light in the darkness. Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to recapture the feel of that blue light in some of my paintings such as the piece at the top. The feel, for me, is much the same. And the interesting thing is that though the circumstances of my life have changed dramatically for the better in the intervening decades, my reaction to this song is the same as it was when I was a depressed 20 year old married factory worker with little idea how to make my way in life with the few prospects available to me.

The fact is that I didn’t even know at that point that one could dare to dream of better things for themselves. And I think that’s the core of this song, that the inherent sadness of this life is not so much about unrealized dreams but more about undreamt dreams, about our inability to imagine ourselves in better circumstances in a better world.

Throughout the years, I knew so many folks without dreams or goals who languished in their day to day lives. When asked, many didn’t even know what they wanted for themselves.

They didn’t dare to dream. They were much like the  the narrator of this song, always looking back or in a sad present with nothing to pull them into the future. We need to dare to have a dream if only to have something that gives us a path into the future.

Failing to reach your dreams is a sad song but not having a dream at all is the saddest song of all. It is living without hope. Maybe the reason this song resonated so strongly with me is that I was in the midst of realizing this back then. It’s a realization that helps me still.

Here’s the song from Bruce Springsteen, pared down and still as powerful as it was forty one years ago.

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The Waiting Room

GC Myers- The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room– At West End Gallery

We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Fighting distraction is a big part of being an artist. Or for non-artists, in just getting anything done at all.

It’s much too easy to fall prey all sorts of distractions when you’re alone in the studio, waiting for some sort of divine– or even less than divine– inspiration to appear. It gets to the point that you are actually waiting more for the distraction than the actual inspiration or act of creation that comes from it.

I know that I often feel like I spend the better part of my time waiting for something that most likely will never come. Or, as C.S. Lewis points out above, favorable conditions that will never materialize.

He’s right on that account. Waiting for favorable conditions is a favorite excuse of the distracted among us, myself included. I often put off projects or ideas because it’s just not the right time to start a new piece or work out a new idea.

When exactly will the right time show itself?

The answer is, of course, when you say so, when you simply say you’ve waited long enough. You just get out of that chair and start, conditions, favorable or otherwise, be damned.

Conditions adjust to the effort.

I would like t say that this is advice for others but in reality it is a reminder more for myself. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself  so much so that it almost becomes a mantra that is always running in my mind. Otherwise, I fall prey to every sort of distraction, from shiny new objects of the images and sounds that come over the interwebs to the lingering doubts and worries of every shape and size that inhabit every corner of my studio.

There is part of me always looking for a reason to not start working and another part that is constantly at battle with that urge. Even that sometimes creates its own sense of waiting.

So, it’s time to get to work. But first, I have a couple of things that need to be done. Then, I promise myself that I will start.

Well, get ready to start.

Break out the mantra…

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GC Myers Early Work mid-1994

This post ran several years ago and I felt that it was fitting for today since, as we head into the week before Halloween, I was looking for a somewhat creepy song without going full blown psychobilly. This seems to fill the bill:

It’s Sunday morning which means I usually play a little bit of music. This morning I didn’t have anything in particular in mind so I went to YouTube and just punched in something general then let myself be led by randomly choosing from the selections that come up on the right side of every video. It’s amazing where this will sometimes take you, down rabbit holes of all sorts. Sometimes it takes you to music that you know really well and other times to people and places that are totally new. Today it led me to a song that I have always liked by the Stray Cats from back when they were leading a little rockabilly resurgence in the 1980’s.

It wasn’t one of their hits from the time and I’m not even sure it is on any of their widely released albums. But it is one of my favorites from them. It’s called Crawl Up and Die and has a nice build up and finish, the perfect thing to kick off a sleepy Sunday morning despite the somewhat gloomy title.

While trying to find an image to accompany this post and song I came across the old piece above from back when I was still forming a voice and working on processes. This is among my earliest attempts at my reductive process where I put on a lot of very wet paint and pull off what doesn’t belong. I usually describe this process as kind of like carving in paint.

I wasn’t sure at this point what I wanted to say or where I was going with my work, or even what it should look like. I was still considering straight  representation. While I don’t think this is a bad piece, especially from where I was in my evolution, it didn’t have enough to make me want to move further in this direction. So I moved down a different path and, fortunately, I believe it was the right choice I. do like the mood of this piece however and feel it fits the title here.

Have a great Sunday!


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GC Myers- Carried Across sm

Carried Across– At West End Gallery

While working here in the studio yesterday, I was listening to a podcast from TCM (Turner Classic Movies) about the making of the screen adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. Even though it was not a movie in which I found little worth watching and the novel, filled as it was with unsympathetic characters, did not thrill me in any way, I found the backstory of the movie’s production pretty interesting.

There was one bit where the movie reviewer from the Wall Street Journal, who was given total access at the time to the production, spoke of how director Brian DePalma would often isolate himself from the chaos from the production that swirled around him– and for which he was almost totally responsible– by putting on his earphones to listen to a favorite opera on his Walkman. As the huge budget overruns and other problems mounted, he tried to block it out with something he found beautiful.

The reviewer said that she thought this typical for artists, that they had to be able to block out all the noise and naysaying in order to be able to maintain their own belief that whatever work was at hand was the most important thing in the world at that moment.

That struck a chord. It’s something I struggle with on a regular basis especially at times like those which we are collectively going through. Unless you have an overly giant and problematic ego, it’s easy to see that in the bigger scheme of things that the world doesn’t revolve around one’s personal creations.

This is healthy from a psychological standpoint.  But creatively, it creates a problem because in order to make work that is truly vital the artist has to maintain total belief in the validity and importance of their work. That total dedication of self is an imperative.

If the artist doesn’t maintain belief why would anyone else?

I’ve said this before, that I recognize my own relative insignificance both as a human and in the grand sweep of art history. I’m okay with that. But when I am at work I have to have total belief that the piece in front of me has something vital to express.

That it has some degree of importance.

That is not comparing my work to that of anyone else. That is not for me to do. I am talking about the basis of my expression, the belief in what I trying to say. In that moment I have to believe that my expression is as valid and important as that of any other artist or person, now or in the past.

But sometimes in the midst of the swirl of the chaos of this world, self doubts creep in and that belief is weakened. It’s hard to create at those times.

I certainly know that feeling.

Hearing that yesterday on the TCM podcast was a reminder of the need to isolate myself in some ways in order to maintain that belief that whatever is at hand is the most important thing I can be doing at that moment.

I don’t know that I adequately described what I want to say here but the time has come to end this for this morning. I am once more finding  that belief and have to get to work before it decides to run away again.

So, you must leave now.

Here’s some exit music in the form of a lovely rendition of a Leonard Cohen song, Came So Far For Beauty, from Lisa Hannigan.

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GC Myers- Cool Rising sm

Cool Rising– At West End Gallery, Corning

Very slowly burning, the big forest tree
stands in the slight hollow of the snow
melted around it by the mild, long
heat of its being and its will to be
root, trunk, branch, leaf, and know
earth dark, sun light, wind touch, bird song.

Rootless and restless and warmblooded, we
blaze in the flare that blinds us to that slow,
tall, fraternal fire of life as strong
now as in the seedling two centuries ago.

–Kinship, Ursula Le Guin

It’s pretty obvious by now that I am a tree person. I have always felt most comfortable in the company of the trees of the forest, more so than in the company of people. Well, most people– you guys are okay.

I grew up wandering in the woods. I have lived and worked in the woods for decades now. My great-grandfather and many other ancestors worked the forests of the Adirondacks and northern Pennsylvania. Some died in those woods.

I have planted trees and cleared trees to build, cutting down my fair share of trees. That is the one act that is my least favorite and done now only when absolutely necessary. And even then, it is done with great sorrow and with reverence toward the life of that tree. You see, after all the time spent among the trees one begins to sense and respect the rhythm of their life’s slow and patient metabolism.

They simply are.

There is something greatly comforting in their presence, their quiet and unflinching witnessing of the other worlds that live under and around them. Being among them slows my own heart rate, immerses me in a quiet state of mind that I find in few other places.

It’s a kinship of some sort, to be sure. Though most will long outlive me, I find myself acting as a protective guardian for them now. There is the hope that someday someone will meet one of the large shagbark hickories around our home and feel the presence of their being as I do.

And will then feel as enriched as I have felt.

The verse at the top from the late author Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018) aptly describes how I see the being of trees. Below is a reading of it from Amanda Palmer.

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