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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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