Archive for July, 2022

Elan Vital

GC Myers-  Elan Vital sm

Elan Vital– At the West End Gallery

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Élan vital was a term coined in the 1907 book Creative Evolution from philosopher Henri Bergson. Loosely translated, it means life force or vital force. It’s that part of us that gives us that feeling of being alive, of being connected with the greater forces and energies of the universe.

I used the term for the title of the painting at the top which is now at the West End Gallery. as part of my Chaos & Light show, which runs until August 25. I see the Red Tree here as being aware in the moment of that life force, feeling itself connected to the elements of the world around it– the sun, the winds, the water and the landscape. The winds move it. The sun attracts it. The water nourishes it and the landscape provides a place in which to stand.

I chose the excerpt from Viktor Frankl to accompany this today. It describes another aspect of élan vital, that which allows us to endure the suffering of this life. Frankl writes of how those inmates of the Nazi concentration camps who survived did so by an inner decision, either conscious or subconscious, that allowed them to view this life force as a form of freedom, something that could not be taken from them.

Hopefully, we will never have to make that sort of decision in that circumstance. But we all must endure suffering of some sort in this life. It is unavoidable. Loved ones die. Illness, injury, tragedy, and insult take their toll on us all. It is this élan vital that allows us to persevere, that drives us onward.

At first glance, this painting has a bright and decidedly optimistic feel but the underlying darkness in it brings in that element of the suffering required to endure.

Perhaps this darkness, this suffering, provides the needed contrast so that we can better appreciate the magnificence of the elan vital within us and how it connects us to the greater forces of this world.

For this Sunday Morning Music, here’s a song that has a connection to this concept. It’s Alive from Pearl Jam from their 1991 debut album, Ten. Hard to believe that this song is over 30 years old.

Makes me feel old. But alive.

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Absorbing Light

GC Myers- Absorbing Light sm

Absorbing Light– Now at West End Gallery

When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.

 Edward Teller

To the end of all the light you know

Interesting thought from physicist Edward Teller, the man known, much to his chagrin, as the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb. Not sure that we are thinking about the same things or that his thought aligns completely with what I see in this new piece, Absorbing Light, that was a late addition to the West End Gallery show, arriving there just yesterday.

But then again, maybe it does.

In any pursuit, one must trust that the knowledge and understanding gained along the way will allow them to manage and even flourish once they find themselves in unknown territory, far beyond their previous ventures.

That kind of faith, as Teller calls it, is something I wish I had more often. I believe that I sometimes have it but it seems such a fleeting feeling at times.

Trying to be more ready for that moment when I come to the end of all light– speaking in the creative sense, not the existential, though that might well apply– is all I can do.

Maybe what I see in this piece, this trying to gain knowledge and understanding for that moment when I find myself in the absence of known light.

Hmm. Let’s think about that for a bit. While we’re doing that here’s a version of the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Long As I Can See the Light, performed by Marc Cohn. Nice interpretation. You probably know Cohn best for his song Walking in Memphis. I throw that in, too. What the heck…

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Ready For Day

GC Myers-  Lure of the Lake  2022

Lure of the Lake– At West End Gallery

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Gwendolyn Brooks, Speech to the Young

“Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”

Love that line from Gwendolyn Brooks.

Are we ever fully ready for the day?

Maybe we often carry the night with us as we head into the day?

Bits of dreams and nightmares, the fear and worry, the doubt and negativity– those things that lurk in the blackened corners of the nightmind are sometimes hard to shake each day.

The trick comes in shutting out the inner din and disharmony of the night and recognizing that you are standing in the light of day.

You are awake and the day is filled with the reward that comes in simply being.

Take a moment and look around. Take it all in.

Live in the along, as Ms. Brooks advises. It cannot always be night

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Mountain Dance

GC Myers- The Mountain Dance 2022

The Mountain Dance– At the West End Gallery

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

― Friedrich Nietzsche

One of those days when I am tired of talk and words so I don’t have much to say this morning. In fact, I spent far too long trying to figure out something to say before finally coming to this conclusion.

So let me just show a new painting from the West End Gallery show called The Mountain Dance. It’s a piece I like and one that I feel deserves plenty of words.

But today it stands pretty much on its own. 

But I think it’s one of those paintings that can do just that.

Here’s a piece of music that I thought was an interesting pairing. It’s an interpretation of a piece from the Peer Gynt Suite by  Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Most folks know his work from In the Hall f the Mountain King from this same work. Well, the Mountain King had a daughter and there is a piece with her performing a dance. Thus, you have Dance of the Mountain King’s Daughter.  I am sharing a traditional version of that piece along with one that is a blend of the Norwegian folk tale, classical composition and Brazilian jazz.

Kind of an interesting way to get through a morning of few words.

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Botanica Ascensus

GC Myers- Botanica Ascensus sm

Botanica Ascensus– At the West End Gallery

We rise by lifting others.

― Robert Ingersoll

I wanted to write about this new painting, Botanica Ascensus, which translates as Climbing Botanical, and went looking for some words, a quote or excerpt, to kick off the post. I came across the terse four words above from Robert Ingersoll and thought that they pretty much captured the essence of this painting, at least as I see it.

None of us is truly self-made or self-sustaining. None of us exists totally independent of others nor live in a vacuum. None of us has risen to any point in life without the aid and efforts of others.

We simply climb up the structures, those existing vines in this analogy, that have grown before our coming. Those vines support us as we grow higher and higher, allowing us to make the most of our circumstance.

And, hopefully, one day others will climb up our stems and vines, using them as the support they require in order to show the beauty of their own flowers.

Maybe that’s a somewhat tortured reading of the painting and I should just focus on the colors and the tone and structure of the piece or how it came about.


But I like– and need– the reminder of our interdependence that I see in this piece. That it comes in what I hope is an attractive manner is just icing on the cake.

Botanica Ascensus is, of course, part of my current solo show at the West End Gallery. It is 26″ by 8″ on paper.

FYI– I used the short quote from Robert Ingersoll at the top. I have mentioned him here several times, including a post dedicated to his life. I think he may be the most interesting character in 19th century America whose name is unknown to most of us.  Ingersoll was idolized by the greats of that era in the late 1800’s. Thomas Edison extolled his wisdom, Walt Whitman considered him the living epitome of Leaves of Grass, and Frederick Douglass saw him as being on the same level with Lincoln. He was a lawyer and orator, known as the Great Agnostic, giving speeches to huge crowds wherever he went. He was perhaps one of the most best-known people of that era in America, yet he remains a small footnote now. Here’s hoping more folks take note of his life and the words they left behind. Both are extraordinary.

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Pursuing the Light

GC Myers- Pursuing the Light

Pursuing the Light– Now at the West End Gallery

Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

I often see the boat paintings not so much as being concerned with sailing as being about the pursuit of something. It can be the tangible– new places, new people, riches, or sanctuary from the bonds of the past– or it can be the intangible, such as a quest for knowledge or the spiritual.

It is never about the pursuit of happiness because we understand by now, from the words of Hawthorne and so many others, that happiness is not a thing in and of itself to be pursued. It is a mere by-product that comes from one attaining certain elements in their life such as love, security, satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and probably a thousand other factors.

The list is incomplete because it no doubt varies to some degree for each of us. Also, because I am no expert on what constitutes a full and complete life. I am just throwing stuff out here as I am, like those sailors on those boats in these paintings, still largely in pursuit of something.

Some days I think I know what it is I am seeking, and it seems to loom on the horizon, almost near enough to reach soon. And on others, I am lost at sea, being thrown about by wild waves and holding on for my life.

But I remain afloat, still pursuing the light. And that is a good thing in itself.

Here’s song that came across the Pandora channel I was listening to this morning. It’s a song called Don’t Rock the Boat from a British duo called Skeewiff. They are, in their own words, an electronic breakbeat act that includes elements of jazz, lounge and big band music into their style. Electro-Swing?

Whatever it might be, they produce a variety of interesting instrumental sounds that have found their way into many films, TV shows and video games. It’s not exactly the style of music I normally choose to share here but this track really caught my ear this morning. It’s a remix of their sound with the original recording of the gospel song Don’t Rock the Boat by the gospel group The Charioteers from sometimes around the 1940’s or early 50’s.

I found myself listening to it several times this morning it and thought it might go well with the new painting at the top, Pursuing the Light. Give a listen if you are so inclined.

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Terra Firma

GC Myers-- Terra Firma  2022

Terra Firma— Now at the West End Gallery

The island is all eyes.
The silence ponders, notes, and codifies.
We discover only what we set out to find.

— Lawrence Durrell

Thankfully, there’s a soft but steady rain this morning, something I wish I could send along to my friends in those areas so desperate for the moisture.

I was going to simply leave this new painting from my West End Gallery show and a few words from Lawrence Durrell this morning. It seemed enough to say on a warm and wet Monday morning.

But I happened across a video that was filmed yesterday at the Newport Jazz Festival. It was Joni Mitchell singing Gershwin’s immortal Summertime. from Porgy and Bess. It’s a song that never fails to be moving for me but this performance seemed even more so. 

Maybe it’s this moment in time, in this year in the ease and strain that accompanies summer or maybe it’s the sight of a long-loved icon at the junction of age and illness still creating something beautiful, but there seemed to be something special in it.

Or maybe it’s just my own bias. You be the judge.

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GC Myers- Forms and Chaos sm

Forms and Chaos– Now at the West End Gallery

So I wish you first a
Sense of theatre; only
Those who love illusion
And know it will go far:
Otherwise we spend our
Lives in a confusion
Of what we say and do with
Who we really are.

― W.H. Auden

The new painting above, Forms and Chaos, is one of those pieces that I would consider for myself more than anyone else. It’s one of those paintings about which I have little concern how it is perceived by others, have no expectations for its acceptance or appreciation or the possibility of it finding a new home.

It may have meaning to it that words might point out but I don’t need them and don’t want to do anything–explain it, interpret it, defend it– beyond simply showing it.

It has no illusion. It just is what it is and that is all I need to know.

Maybe the shedding of illusion is how one persists through chaos.

I don’t really know.

And this morning, I am just going to let it be as it is.

Here’s a favorite song that I haven’t played here in a long time. I was reminded by its use in the TV ads for the new sci fi/horror film Nope. The version they use is not the 1970 original from The Temptations. The film instead uses 1971 remake from The Undisputed Truth, which was a group that was formed and managed by songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield.

You probably don’t know the name but Whitfield wrote or co-wrote many of the greatest hits of the Temptations and others, including “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “Cloud Nine”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “War”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)”, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”. 

There are many more but that, by itself, is quite a playlist.

The Undisputed Truth was formed by Whitfield as an effort to branch out into what he termed Psychedlic Soul. which employed different production techniques, effects, and instrumentation than the Motown Sound of which Whitfield was one of the original creators. His group covered many of the songs he had written for the Temptations and enjoyed moderate success though never truly to the level of the originals.

Though I prefer the Temptations original, the version below from The Undisputed Truth is still really strong. How can you not love a song that says:

Oh, great googa-looga, can’t you hear me talking to you
Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today

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Thank You, Again

GC Myers-  End O' Day sm

End O’ Day — At the West End Gallery

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Many thanks to all who came out last night for the opening of Chaos & Light at the West End Gallery. It was good to get to see a number of new folks, some others whose names I knew but have never met and a host of familiar faces. 

I am so grateful for those who chose to attend. It was good to talk again about art and, for a brief few minutes, it felt like a small return of normalcy in the strange new place in which we find ourselves.

I still felt awkward but not quite so much as I had feared.

And I guess that’s a good thing, a small victory, of sorts. That, at least, gives me something I can work with going forward.

Another thing for which I can be grateful.

I must also extend my heartfelt thanks to Jesse, Lin and John at the West End Gallery. Their constant support and encouragement along with the hard work and attention to detail they put into every show always knocks me out. I can’t fully express how appreciative I am of all they do and have done for me over the past 27+ years that I have been affiliated with the gallery.

Now, if I can only squeeze in another 27. I might be asking too much in that, but it is something to shoot for, a goal to put out in front of me.

We all need that, don’t we?

The excerpt on gratitude at the top of the page is one that I have used on this blog several times over the year. It’s author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is also the subject of one of my most popular blog entries, one from a number of years back that still gets a number of visits every day. That post, On Stupidity, is one worth reading if you are not familiar with Bonhoeffer’s life during the rise of Nazism in Germany before and during WW II. You may well see parallels with those perilous times in what has been occurring here in the present.

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GC Myers-  Lake Life  2022

Lake Life — Included at Chaos & Light at the West End Gallery

How can it be that I’ve never seen that lofty sky before? Oh, how happy I am to have found it at last. Yes! It’s all vanity, it’s all an illusion, everything except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing – that’s all there is. But there isn’t even that. There’s nothing but stillness and peace. Thank God for that!

― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

I came across the excerpt above from Tolstoy’s War and Peace and it really rang a bell for me. It seemed to capture the feeling I have often had when faced with big skies before, above and around me.

It feels as so much nothing and yet, so much everything. As though stillness and peace become an entity in the space of the sky, one with its own consciousness and being. That might be the reason I seldom feel alone in such spaces.

That’s the thought behind the new painting shown at the top, Lake Life. It is 30″ by 48″ on canvas and is included in Chaos & Light, my solo show that opens tonight at the West End Gallery with an Opening Reception that runs from 5-7 PM.

Ah, another show opening. I’ve taken part in about 60 of these in the past twenty-five or so years so it should be old hat. But because of the pandemic, this is only my second since 2019 where I will be in attendance.

I have to admit that I am nervous. There is always a level of anxiety and worry about meeting expectations, turnout, and how the work is received. That’s built in by now.

But more than that, I have become pretty hermitized over the past few years and the idea of spending any time out of the comfort zone of home and studio feels like a traumatic episode. Since I can’t drive because of the broken foot, I have only left my place only a few times, for doctor appointments and to deliver the show. As soon as we are heading down the road, I am already envisioning and savoring the return home.

Another part of my nervousness is that I’m a little out of practice in talking to people, in general and about my work. You’d be surprised how little I speak about my work to the very few people I do talk with on a regular basis.

It occurs to me as I write this, that this lack of discussion may be why it has become more and more difficult to write about the work here. So, maybe this will be a good thing.

We shall see tonight.

As I have pointed out in recent posts, I will be wearing a mask since I anticipate speaking with a number of folks in close proximity. But we are not requiring masks for anyone and will leave that choice to you based on your own level of comfort and concern.

We are still considering doing a Gallery Talk of some sort. We are trying to work out the logistics required to make it work in a way so that all who might want to attend –myself included– would feel both safe and comfortable. At my last in-person Gallery Talk at the West End in 2019, there were about 90 people jammed into that space. It was a fun talk for me and while I would like to do that again, that kind of crowding is out of the question at this point.

We are considering doing a talk with a smaller group with limited reserved seating. Of course, we don’t want anyone to feel left out. To that end, we might be open to a series of such talks with different groups of people, and maybe even different topics, for each. Maybe even a series over a couple of days. Just thinking out loud here.

Nothing has been determined but we do need some feedback. If you are interested in attending one of these talks with limited reserved seating, please contact the West End Gallery and let them know. 

West End Gallery email: info@westendgallery.net

West End Gallery phone: 607-936-2011

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