Archive for March, 2022

Georgia O'Keeffe music-pink-and-blue-ii

Georgia O’Keeffe – Music, Pink and Blue No. 2

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.

-Georgia O’Keeffe

I am going to make it short and sweet today. I have to be out early this morning to take our newest kitten, Sweet Babboo, to the vets for spaying later today. I decided to run a rework of a very short post that ran several years ago.

It  was about he painting at the top is Music, Pink and Blue No. 2 from Georgia O’Keeffe. I had a calendar page with this image tacked to the wall of my old studio up in the woods for about ten years. I took a lot of cues from this piece about color, organic shapes and rhythm within a work. These things made it a favorite of mine

More importantly, O’Keeffe’s ability to make her unknown known resonated with me. It makes the point that revelation, the willingness to expose one’s totality including weaknesses and unknowns, is perhaps the key, the most important thing, to creating one’s art.

Every time I see this painting, I am taken back to the decade that I spent in that rustic studio where the image of it was tacked to the wall. It was a rough space with barely sufficient heat, no phone, no internet and no plumbing.

It had few comforts but more than that, there were few distractions. It was a great space for creating and having that cheap glossy calendar page image of it on my wall was a constant reminder for me to not worry about succeeding but to simply try to make the unknown known.

And as O’Keeffe points out, that is the important thing.

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Back in Shakeytown

Outside Shakeytown 1995 January GC Myers

Outside Shakeytown– 1995

I was looking through some old work again, something I often do when I feel like something is lacking. My thinking is that maybe I can find whatever it is I need or at least a hint as to how I might find it elsewhere. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. But it usually brings out thoughts or other questions which lead somewhere.

Looking through the older stuff this morning and comparing it with the new work here in the studio, a thought did come up. Realizing that I have been an exhibiting artist for over 27 years now, looking at this old work made me wonder how my work would look now if I had made different choices with technique or subject or style in those early years.

Would my work, my career, look very different? Or is where it is now a point to which the work would have always somehow found its way? 

Maybe those early works were just me picking at facets of my being, none fully capturing it. But maybe as the work aged and evolved, the work more fully captured a wholeness of self?

Thus, it was always going to end up here regardless of the route it took?

I don’t know, of course. And maybe it’s an unanswerable and futile question. But it’s all I got this morning and it keeps my mind off other things beyond my control. And that’s not a bad thing.

Here’s the piece that set me off along with a post I wrote about it several years back. I’ve added an old Jackson Browne song from 1977 at the bottom that partially inspired the title town. 

Looking through some older work, I came across this piece from January of 1995. It was from a time just before I first showed my work publicly. It seems like just yesterday in some ways but a hundred years ago in others. I was just finding voice in my work but still had some work to go before I  could fully utilize it.

This is called Outside Shakeytown and it’s obviously watercolor on paper. Shakeytown was the name I used sometimes at that time for a mythical dark and dank town that hovered under dirty gray skies and sooty foundries and factories. It is a name that could be used in place of any number of small Rust Belt cities and towns that have seen industries disappear over the past 40 or 50 years. These often impoverished towns often still have shuttered factories that stand like ugly monuments to a long gone past as they struggle to find a new identity in a modern world.

It can be a compelling setting, one filled with deep darkness that give rise to startling and dramatic contrasts. One of the birthplaces of art.

This piece is a favorite of mine, one that checks a lot of boxes in a list of what I want to see in my work. It always sends off sparks within me when I pull it out. For me, it acts as sort of a creative terminus from which all sorts of paths depart.

And like the beginning of any journey, it fills me with excitement and a bit of dread.

And those are good starting points for new work.

While I never had plans of showing this publicly, I had to laugh when I looked this morning and noticed that I had signed it twice. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is from what I think is a much later date when I must have not noticed the other signature. They are both in pencil so I could just erase one but I am going to leave it as it. That way, a couple of hundred years in the future maybe someone will stumble across it– in a gallery or a junk shop or a junk heap, who knows?–and will wonder what was meant by the two signatures.

I won’t be there but I can chuckle at the possibility of it now.

And these days, here in Shakeytown, that’s a good thing.

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GC Myers- Imitatio

Imitatio– At the Principle Gallery

There is no surer way of evading the world than by Art; and no surer way of uniting with it than by Art.

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

That Goethe guy sure knew some stuff, didn’t he?

I know that the aphorism above is a truth for myself.

Art, in all its many forms, takes me away from the world while also connecting me with it.

Art reveals my singularity in this world as well as my commonness.

Art centers me, keeps me from going too low or too high.

Art shows me what I am, what I am not, and what I might be.

Art gives me certainty when I need it and doubt when I need that.

Art supplies me with answers and questions. Beginnings and endings.

Art is a mighty thing, indeed.

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If…–Once More

GC Myers- If...

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
-Rudyard Kipling, If… excerpt

A bit of mental exhaustion this morning, feeling like the proverbial frog in the pot realizing that the water is now boiling. A mix of blah and dread. Not a good place to be.

I still wanted to post something even though I didn’t feel like writing or thinking. I do like to adhere to some form of consistency. I need it, actually.

Looking for something about which I could post quickly, I went into a back bedroom here in the studio where I keep some older work and immediately was drawn to the painting at the top, a piece from a few years back called If… after the famed Rudyard Kipling poem.

It’s one of those rare pieces that hold a lot of meaning for me that never found homes for ne reason or another. I guess it just never was in the right place at the right time. But it’s a piece that always jumps out at me and declares itself loudly.

It practically yells out its title to me.

There is something to be said for trying to live by the words that Kipling laid out as a guideline as a father to a son. Sometimes we need a reminder of right living.

I sure did this morning. Glad I was able to have this piece to remind me.

Here’s actor Michael Caine, who cites this poem as a favorite of his, reading the whole Kipling verse, which is included below the video.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


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Ukraine Pianist Zimmer Time

I came across a short video yesterday of a young pianist, Alex, playing on the streets of Kviv last week just as air raid sirens began blaring, warning of potential incoming bombs. It was one of those rare moments of convergence with the sound of the sirens serving as a sort of choral accompaniment to the ever building tone and rhythm of the music.

With the music, the sirens, and the look of angry defiance on the player’s face, It felt like a perfect artistic interpretation of the tragedy of this war.

The piece being played, Time,  was from composer Hans Zimmer from his soundtrack for the highly regarded 2010 movie, Inception. I have never seen the Oscar winning film ( four of the awards, actually) which is a science fiction story that deals with the theft and manipulation of dreams so I am not aware of the original piece. The video from the film that goes with this piece of music is haunting and disturbing in the light of the devastation we are witnessing in the civilian spaces of the cities and villages of Ukraine.

As is this performance.

For this Sunday morning music, I am sharing a French site’s video of the original TikTok video of the street piano player that ends with Hans Zimmer, who is on tour in Europe right now with Ukrainian musicians in support of the people of Ukraine, watching the video onstage in front of a London audience before playing his own version of the song. I am also putting up a lovely simple piano cover of the song that shows only the hands of the player, which I find mesmerizing, though not nearly so powerful as the street musician’s version.

There is also a link to the video from the film. It is age-restricted because of the imagery from the film so it cannot be readily shared. But it is worth taking a look.

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Piet Mondrian Broadway Boogie Woogie 1942-43

Piet Mondrian- Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43

Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.

–Piet Mondrian

I came across the words above from Piet Mondrian and it immediately struck a chord. It’s something that relates to my own work, something I have been trying to say for years. It’s about how I see my work, about it being less concerned with what it portrays — the concrete subject of the picture, as Mondrian says– but more about the linework, colors, and shapes and the relationships between them. I would throw texture into the mix as well.

For me, my feelings on and reaction to every painting of mine comes down to how these elements come together regardless of the object that is being portrayed on the surface.

The Red Tree paintings, for example, are always about more than the tree and the surrounding landscape.

It’s about the dance of color, lines, shapes, and texture. The mixture of these elements have almost infinite potential for expression, each with its own level of depth.

That’s why I am seldom concerned with repetition of subject matter. Each piece is comprised of multiple levels and never quite the same. A Red Tree painted now may resemble a Red Tree from years ago but if you look at the elements of both you will see a different story.

piet-mondrian-dutch-1872-1944-title-composition-in-red-blue-and-yellow-1937-42Colors change and evolve. Texture and surfaces change. Shapes change. Perhaps the only constant is the linework, which serves as as sort of armature, to use a sculptural term, around which the other elements are applied.

Kind of like the lines in Mondrian’s signature work that we know so well, like the piece shown here.

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) had a career that saw him involved with most of the great art movements of the Modern era. He created work in his long career that was Impressionist, Cubist, Fauvist, Expressionist, and Abstract. But because we have come to identify him solely with the works shown here, one would be hard pressed to identify some of this earlier work as being from Mondrian.

It was an interesting and continual evolution, one that I wrote about here several years ago. I am including a video from that post today that clearly shows this evolution, all set to the music of Philip Glass.

Take a look. I think you’ll see how his linework acted as the “armature” in his work as well.

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GCMyers-  Boxed In  2019

Boxed In, 2019

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

The Genius of the Crowd, Charles Bukowski

I have been watching current events closely for years and it seems like we are in a convergence of crazy at the moment. You’ve got the wife of a Supreme Court justice fomenting an insurrection, senators saying they would support overturning the law which made interracial marriage legal while spouting pure bigotry at the recent confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson, truckers driving in circles around DC for god knows what reason, and on and on.

And that’s without even mentioning the horror show of Putin’s War.

I don’t want to go into any of that right now. It’s maddening and chaotic. Not the chaos of which I wrote yesterday, that which spawns creation.

This is an ugly sort that destroys order and creates even more chaos to fill the void.It brings to  mind the poem The Genius of the Crowd. Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) wrote this in 1966 and it speaks of the ugliness and dangers of populism.

I am not a huge Bukowski fan but this one always makes me think. In it, he warns of those who tell you how to live and behave but don’t practice what they preach. He also warns of playing down to the lowest common denominator because at that level imagination and creativity is absent. In their place, those without imagination replace it with their sole area of genius, their hatred.

Their perfect hatred.

That seems to fit this moment. The unimaginative have rallied around their hatreds, finding a twisted sort of order in the chaos it creates.

I am not going to go on further. I will just share a reading of the poem from Tom O’Bedlam and let it go at that.

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GC Myers- The Garden Beyond Chaos

The Garden Beyond Chaos

“Disorder is inherent in stability. Civilized man doesn’t understand stability. He’s confused it with rigidity. Our political and economic and social leaders drool about stability constantly. It’s their favorite word, next to ‘power.’

‘Gotta stabilize the political situation in Southeast Asia, gotta stabilize oil production and consumption, gotta stabilize student opposition to the government’ and so forth.

Stabilization to them means order, uniformity, control. And that’s a half-witted and potentially genocidal misconception. No matter how thoroughly they control a system, disorder invariably leaks into it. Then the managers panic, rush to plug the leak and endeavor to tighten the controls. Therefore, totalitarianism grows in viciousness and scope. And the blind pity is, rigidity isn’t the same as stability at all.

True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”

Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

The new painting shown above is on my easel this morning, a piece that will be part of my June show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. It felt done at the end of yesterday’s session but this quick photo shows me a couple of small spots that need to be addressed this morning. Nothing big, nothing most folks would notice. Just a few little touches here and there.

There was a lot of energy in the painting of this piece. By that, I mean it moved quickly with little breaks in the process for me to ponder and make decisions. It felt like it was self-propelling.

That’s always a great feeling for me. Not just for the act of painting of the particular piece involved but because it usually translates to more energy in my work in the days ahead. Again, self-propelling.

Maybe the fact that this piece felt self-propelling gave me time to think about what meaning or symbolism it held for me. The paint strokes that make up the sky have a chaotic  energy that contrasts greatly with the order of the gardens of the foreground.

Chaos and order.

It’s this tension– and balance– between the two forces that make this piece work for me.

This is probably true for much of my work. And my life. And the rest of the world.

We need to have that balance of chaos and order. Chaos is the mother of creation and change in this world. Order makes sense of it, putting it in a stable, livable form.

The problems in our world and in ourselves come when we lose that balance between chaos and order and skew too far in either direction.

The excerpt above from Tom Robbins sums this up perfectly and much of what is taking place in the world serve as fine examples. An excess of chaos, either real or created, results in an overcompensation toward a more rigid form of order in the name of stability.

And as Robbins writes, rigidity isn’t the same as stability at all.

Finding that balance is the trick. We need both order and chaos. Maybe the purpose of art is to remind of this, to make us more tolerant of a little chaos and more wary of too much order.

It might just be me but I see this balance, this harmony, between the two forces, in this piece. And that’s all I can ask of it.

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Some have spoken of the “American Century.” I say that the century on which we are entering—the century which will come into being after this war—can be and must be the century of the common man.

Perhaps it will be America’s opportunity to—to support the Freedom[s] and Duties by which the common man must live. Everywhere, the common man must learn to build his own industries with his own hands in practical fashion. Everywhere, the common man must learn to increase his productivity so that he and his children can eventually pay to the world community all that they have received. No nation will have the God-given right to exploit other nations. Older nations will have the privilege to help younger nations get started on the path to industrialization, but there must be neither military nor economic imperialism.

–Vice-President Henry Wallace, May 8, 1942

The excerpt above is from a speech,  The Century of the Common Man, given by American Vice-President Henry Wallace to the International Free World Association, a diverse group of 33 nations from around the world including all the nations of Latin America. It took place in New York City in May of 1942, in the aftermath of the USA’s entry into World War II.

In his speech, which was widely and wildly celebrated, Wallace espoused a belief that the defeat of the invasive forces of fascism at that time would lead to a new century ahead in which the common man and woman would exist in a free world filled with the same liberté, égalité, fraternité liberty, equality, fraternitythose themes drove the  French Revolution.

Those particular forces of fascism were defeated and there are still about twenty years left in Wallace’s Century of the Common Man but I am not sure that we ever reached the heights to which he aspired. Fascism and authoritarianism have regained footholds around the world and there is less of the liberté, égalité, fraternité than we would like to believe.

But there is still time left in the Century of the Common Man and we are currently united in a struggle against fascist rulers and authoritarians.

Let’s hope Wallace was right after all.

One thing that came out of the speech was a request made by the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, to composer Aaron Copland. He asked Copland and several other composers to create fanfares to open the symphony concerts during that year, 1942, to mark our participation in the global conflict.

18 fanfares were written and performed but only Copland’s is remembered and still celebrated. It borrowed from the title and spirit of Wallace’s speech. It is his Fanfare for the Common Man.

I love this piece of music and am always moved greatly upon hearing it. Below is a sort of orchestral flash mob version from 2012 that took place in the Dublin Airport. It is performed by members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Watching it reminds me how much the world has changed in that short span of time and how little time we have to fulfill Wallace’s vision.

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GC Myers- Soul Boat

Soul Boat, 2019

A sick man’s dreams are often extraordinarily distinct and vivid and extremely life-like. A scene may be composed of the most unnatural and incongruous elements, but the setting and presentation are so plausible, the details so subtle, so unexpected, so artistically in harmony with the whole picture, that the dreamer could not invent them for himself in his waking state, even if he were an artist like Pushkin or Turgenev. Such morbid dreams always make a strong impression on the dreamer’s already disturbed and excited nerves, and are remembered for a long time.

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

I came across the excerpt above from Crime and Punishment and it immediately sent me to the series that includes the painting above. The painting is Soul Boat from my Multitudes series from a few years back. The paintings consisted of crammed masses of black eyed –or eyeless, depending on how you see it– faces.

Many of the faces that pop up in this series have been living inside me for many years, maybe 50 or more. Reading Dostoyevsky‘s words made me wonder if they had lived on from nightmares, remnants of childhood fever dreams. I know that the other details in some of those dreams still feel as vivid as now as they did then.

Maybe that’s why these faces, as unpleasant as they often seem, have lived with me for most of my life.

It was an interesting series., one that was short lived. It emerged like a cloudburst, as though it had welled up and had to emerge. It hasn’t came back to me since that rather short period in 2019 but it’s still there.

Maybe welling up once more.

The piece at the top of this post, Soul Boat, now sits on a stand in front of my computer, never having found a home. It’s one of those paintings, like many in this series, where it truly feels fitting that it returns to me.

It has the feel of an uncomfortably personal piece, one that belongs only with me.

To be honest, for just that reason, I was surprised at how many of the pieces in this series found homes. With a few notable exceptions, the faces are not welcoming, pleasant, or sympathetic in any way. They often feel like tortured souls, perhaps representing the darker aspects that dwell in all of us.

Maybe that’s the purpose of these pieces, to serve as a reminder of those ugly parts of us that are never too far from the surface. Maybe even breaking the surface more often now.

I don’t know.

Emotionally, I like, maybe even love, these pieces and I don’t. Maybe I like them because they are part of me and, for that reason, I somewhat understand them on one hand even as I loathe them on another.

As I said, I don’t know if the series will ever continue or if it will be a prominent part of my work’s legacy, if there is one at all.

But the work haunts me enough that I felt the need to write about it today. Plus, I often find myself poring over one of these pieces, finding new details that escaped me even as I painted them. It sometimes fills me with an urge to start new ones, perhaps even larger.

But not quite yet. Perhaps there needs to be a little welling up. God knows that there is enough misery and trouble in this world to inspire such work.

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