Archive for December, 2022

Get Up, Stand Up

GC Myers- Solitary Song- 2022

Solitary Song— At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria VA

You will be wrong and you will be bad quite often. That is the process of growing. Keep failing, but keep listening and keep learning. Do not let the failures allow you to shrink and to move into some small corner to do your work: Always be big and bold. Take risks. No one grows without a lot of stumbling.

–Tennessee Williams, Interview with James Grissom, 1982

I have been in that annual period of retrospection, looking back on the past year’s work. I am trying to determine where I went hit or missed with my creative decisions and where I want to work to take me in the coming year.

I feel really good about this past year’s work. It has done everything I needed it to do for myself, which is always my first goal. I feel that much of it ranks among my best work.

But even so, I have had a nagging indefinable doubt and dissatisfaction about the year as a whole. It’s like everything is there and where I want it to be artistically in individual pieces but the accumulated body still somehow lacks some element that I have overlooked.

This is not an easy thing to discern and might not even make any sense to the casual observer. I mean, if the work is strong and totally satisfying, isn’t that enough? Isn’t that the goal?

The short and easy answer is yes and I could easily go along with that– except for that nagging doubt that is hanging around. Then I came across this quote from Tennessee Williams the other day and it stopped me cold, especially this line: Do not let the failures allow you to shrink and to move into some small corner to do your work.

I immediately recognized that the missing element from this past year– and maybe much, much longer– was that I was allowing myself to shrink within my work. I was not taking risks, working big and being bold.

Going back through the years, I realized that the scale of my work kept getting progressively smaller. Looking at this year’s shows as they were hung, I didn’t see the big statement pieces that have often reinforced and tied things together in past shows. In fact, most of my early shows always had multiple pieces that were larger than anything I have painted in a while. They were big and bold and seemed to have a positive effect on the surrounding work.

This might not seem like much of anything, let alone a revelation, to you. I understand that. But for me, it was most enlightening, like I had come across the missing piece of a murky puzzle. It gives me something to work on, to build off.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I might follow the advice of Tennessee Williams as a goal for the coming year: Always be big and bold. Take risks.

We shall see.

To complete this triad of image, words and song on this New Year’s Eve, here’s a well-worn classic from Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up. More good advice to heed.

Have a good New Year’s Eve…

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Quiet, Please


GC Myers- Sacred Solitude sm

Sacred Solitude— At Principle Gallery, Alexandria VA

Meditation is holy to me, for I believe that all the secrets of existence and nonexistence are somewhere in our heads—or in other people’s heads. “And I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle. The motto of this noble library is the motto of all meditators throughout all time: ‘Quiet, please.’ Thus ends my speech. I thank you for your attention.

~Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday

I entered the phrase “songs about solitude” on Google yesterday and it came back with “songs about loneliness” on the search line above the results. It kind of bugged me because the two words, solitude and loneliness, are not synonymous. Not even close to my way of thinking. 

Maybe there just aren’t many songs about actual solitude. On the other hand, there are plenty about being lonely: Only the Lonely. Oh Lonesome Me. Are You Lonesome Tonight?, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and on and on. And that’s just off the top of my head. I am sure you can come up with many others pretty easily.

Nobody’s writing songs about being placid in their solitude. When you’re serene, you probably don’t feel the need.

I that know my compulsion to paint really decreases when I am close to feeling totally at peace. Not that I’ve had much experience with that. But when I am stressed and bothered, maybe even a little angry, I feel the need to paint the most. Some of my best work, in my opinion, has come from those times.

But even though the work might be great, the goal of working through those turbulent times is to get past them, to a place of solitude. A place of meditative stillness where one can read and think in the way Kurt Vonnegut describes in the passage at the top. It’s a weird give and take– you want to be at peace with yourself and create great work but the best work comes when you are not.

Right now? I am not exactly on that island of sacred solitude that appears at the top of the page. Roiled, flummoxed, and maybe even a little pissed. That might not sound great personally but from a creative standpoint, it’s pure rocket fuel. Just got to light that fuse.

Here’s a rare pop song about solitude. You can find more classical compositions dealing with silence and serenity pop or rock songs about it are hard to find. This is the classic I Am a Rock from Simon & Garfunkel.  To be honest, this song is a Trojan Horse. It feels like it is about the beauty and power of solitude but it ends up being about the character in the song pretending to be fine with his isolation when, in fact, he is lonely. And somewhat emotionally stunted, to boot, not being able to cry or feel pain.

But even as Trojan Horse it is, it’s still a great song.

Now, quiet, please!

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Mind in the Sky

GC Myers- Symphony Serene sm

Symphony Serene— At the West End Gallery

As the skies appear to a man, so is his mind. Some see only clouds there; some, prodigies and portents; some rarely look up at all; their heads, like the brutes,’ are directed toward Earth. Some behold there serenity, purity, beauty ineffable. The world runs to see the panorama, when there is a panorama in the sky which few go to see.

–Henry David Thoreau, Journal

I had already paired the painting at the top, Symphony Serene, with the passage from Thoreau when I came across a song, Hymn #101, from singer/songwriter Joe Pug that I liked very much. One verse really jumped out at me, and I almost subbed it into the blog in place for the words of Thoreau:

And I’ve come to be untroubled in my seeking.
And I’ve come to see that nothing is for naught.
I’ve come to reach out blind
To reach forward and behind
For the more I seek the more I’m sought
Yeah, the more I seek the more I’m sought.

But then I remembered that there are no rules here. That’s a big sky at the top and there’s plenty of space for both, isn’t there? That and a lot more, no doubt. But for today, let’s just leave it at that.

Here’s Hymn#101 from Joe Pug. Hope you’ll give it a listen.

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Time Is…

GC Myers- Tempus Pacis

Tempus Pacis– Currently at the Principle Gallery 

          Hours fly,
          Flowers die
          New days,
          New ways,
          Pass by.
          Love stays.
    Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
    But for those who Love,
          Time is not.

Henry Van Dyke, For Katrina’s Sundial

You don’t hear much about Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) these days though he lived a life filled with achievement. He was a Princeton English professor, an influential Presbyterian clergyman, US Ambassador to Luxembourg and the Netherlands during WW I, and a widely read bestselling author and poet. Not to mention that he was good friend to many of the luminaries of that era including Helen Keller and Mark Twain, whose funeral he officiated in 1910. A big life.

Much of his literary output has not fared well in modern times. It’s considered a little old fashioned and sometimes a bit too religious– he was a clergyman so this is to be expected– for modern readers. I’ve got a few of his old books and they’re okay. Perhaps a bit dated and overtly sentimental, sometimes maudlin. There’s not a lot that fills the modern reader with excited inspiration and self-revelation, like the evergreen verses of Walt Whitman. But it’s well-composed and well-thought and there are gems among them.

For instance, the verse at the top was composed to be used an inscription on a sundial on the estate of a wealthy friend, thus the title For Katrina’s Sundial. The second verse part of it has become well known on its own as a poem called Time Is. It has been read at the funeral of Princess Diana and used on a London memorial to British victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as inspiring a 1969 song from the rock group It’s a Beautiful Day.

Van Dyke also wrote the lyrics that were set to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy which became the hymn, Joyful Joyful We Adore You.

Now you know a little more about Henry van Dyke. Here’s the song using his poem from It’s a Beautiful Day, the San Francisco based band best known for the song White Bird which I have shared here in the past. This is a good old hippie era jam with passages that slightly recall Time Has Come Today from the Chambers Brothers.

Whatever time is, it’s time for me to go…

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Still Waiting

GC Myers- Imitatio

Imitatio– At the West End Gallery

We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.

― Voltaire

After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting.

― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

I am using two quotes to kick off today’s post. They are from two very different sources, one the intellectual leading light of the Enlightenment of the 17th century and the other the hard-edged contemporary author of Fight Club.

But both say pretty much the same thing, albeit in different terms: Life is often mainly a matter of waiting.

Waiting for things to begin. Or end.

Waiting for signs or a proper time. Or conditions to change.

Waiting for the Muse to visit.

Waiting for the sun to shine or the dark clouds to recede.

Waiting for justice.

Or the next shoe to drop.

Waiting for things to get better. Or worse.

Waiting for hopes or horrors.

That’s certainly how the last couple of years have felt, like I have been treading water in a deep pool. Not going forward in any way but paddling like hell to just stay afloat, waiting for something to which I can’t even name.

Not even sure I will recognize whatever it is if when and if it appears.

The scary thing about this time is that feels like the normal state of being now even though deep down, something tells me this should not be so.

So, I wait in my corner trying to appear as patient as possible to see if this will soon change. All the while, my brain is furiously treading water, nervous and impatient.

To accompany this little foray, I am going way back with the Rolling Stones. Here’s one of my favorite Stones songs, I Am Waiting, from 1966.

Now, time for me to get back to my chair in the corner. Gonna get some good waitin’ in today. Close the door on your way out, okay?

This post ran about a year ago at this same time of the year. I feel this same sense of waiting every year around now, like I am waiting to get past the requirements and anxieties of the holidays, get past the marker in time that is the new year, get past the creative blocks that seems to build around this time every year. Waiting for the Muse to either inspire or belittle my efforts. Who knows when she will show up? I sometimes feel like the refugees described by the narrator at the beginning of Casablanca:

Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon; and from Lisbon, to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca… and wait… and wait… and wait.

So, I wait. And wait. And…

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Where Is My Mind?

GC Myers- Pursuing the Light

Pursuing the Light– Now at the West End Gallery

I only believe in temporary denial. You know, the kind that gets you home to get your act together and try again. That’s a good denial. The kind that helps you finish the audition or the dinner or the job interview or the credit application–the whole time keeping it together, cool and confidant–then you go home and rewrite your whole autobiography and game plan and prepare to take over the world. That’s good denial. But I don’t believe in denial beyond the period you need to cool down and pep up: I believe in revision. Garson [Kanin] and I both refused to face the facts. People didn’t like a writer or a film, and we both realized they were wrong. We were right, and we trusted that in time other people would join us. And they did! Trust your instincts and trust your taste. It will work out. It has to, if you have talent, and you can’t be in denial about that, and you can only revise your talent so much. Listen and see if people believe in you and want you to succeed. Then go out and earn the faith they had in you. Deny and revise. It’s a good motto.

–Ruth Gordon/Interview with James Grissom/1984

It’s that time of the year as we approach the final squares on the calendar page. It’s a period of time to sum up, to reflect on our triumphs and defeats, both big and small. For me, it’s a time of reflection, one that focuses on the work I have done over the past year, one that normally entails facing the doubts that seem always around me. I’ve written about this subject of self-doubt ad nauseum in the past so I am not going to go too long about it today.

One of the hardest parts of this job is when the work that feel you most passionate about, the work that you feel represents a step forward in your creative progression, doesn’t garner the response you feel it deserves.

Intellectually, it is easy to rationalize this since one realizes that art is subject to personal tastes and desires, that it cannot reach every person in the same way.

But emotionally, it feeds directly into a vein of uncertainty and self-doubt about your own tastes and talents. Mainlining, immediately in the bloodstream and throughout every system. The intellectualized rationalizations don’t stand a chance. It’s like trying to wish away a virus.

I have said in the past that getting past this becomes easier when you can fall back on the experience of having endured prior episodes of this self-doubt. And I believe that is mainly true. However, there is something to be said for the naive confidence of the less experienced, those who have not yet become gun-shy from the inevitable failures and disappointments to come. That innocent naivete carries with it a certain fearlessness and bravado that is important in the creation of art. It is exuberant, hiding nothing and naked to the world for all to see.

Nothing to lose.

That feeling is hard to find again as you progress in your career. You begin to shade things, to be less transparent in an attempt to protect and maintain what your earlier exuberance produced.

This creeping self-doubt is a quandary, a puzzle to be solved. If it, indeed, can be solved. Maybe it requires getting to a point where you feel you have nothing less to lose once more. A point where all is transparent again.

This probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to most folks. I understand that since this is more like a diary entry than a blog post. Just thinking out loud this morning. I came across the excerpt from a Ruth Gordon interview above and it really hit a nerve for me since I am currently in that No-Man’s-Land where self-doubt resides. It reminded me that sometimes it is simply patience that gets you past the self-doubt that has you denying your own abilities and value. If you have enough belief in your abilities and tastes to honestly produce and show work that is a true expression of yourself, that talent and work will someday be vindicated.

Changing yourself or your work for anyone is never a lasting answer.

Okay, I lied. I went on way too long for what I thought I wanted to say. Not even sure I said whatever that was.

Here’s a song to put a bow on this odd little package. It’s a song from the Pixies called Where Is My Mind? performed in an altered manner by the Postmodern  Jukebox featuring vocals from Allison Young.

For some reason, it makes sense here this morning.

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Merry Christmas…



There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child…. Time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness, and exhaustion can take the Christmas out of the child, but you cannot take the child out of Christmas.

–Erma Bombeck, I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression

Merry Christmas…

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2011 Christmas Card Framed


Everything perishes except the world itself and its keepers…But while life lasts everything on earth has its use. The wise seek ways to be helpful to the world, for the helpful ones are sure to live again.

― L. Frank Baum, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

I was going to start today’s blog with an old Phyllis Diller joke– betcha didn’t see that one coming!— about her husband, Fang:

Fang is the cheapest man alive. On Christmas Eve, he puts the kids to bed, fires one shot, and tells them Santa has committed suicide.

I decided against using it as the opening because I didn’t think it would be appropriate. As you can see, that didn’t stop me from still using it. It made me laugh and made me a little nostalgic for all those variety show Christmas specials that were ubiquitous on TV in the 1960’s.

Of course, we all know Santa would never do such a thing. He’s a man on a mission, a man with a purpose, which is, as good ol’ L. Frank Baum further points out in his chronicle of Santa Claus:

Every man has his mission, which is to leave the world better, in some way, than he found it.

And for Santa, his way of making the world a better place is to try to protect the innocence of children before the world overtakes them. As Baum once again states:

Childhood is the time of man’s greatest content. ‘Tis during these years of innocent pleasure that the little ones are most free from care. […] Their joy is in being alive, and they do not stop to think. In after-years the doom of mankind overtakes them, and they find they must struggle and worry, work and fret, to gain the wealth that is so dear to the hearts of men.

But this year is going to be a tough slog for Santa tonight. It’s early Christmas Eve morning and it’s a windy 0° outside. Mind numbingly cold. It’s part of the job, I suppose. And most likely the reason he earned that Saint title. Because, again, as Baum added:

It is possible for any man, by good deeds, to enshrine himself as a Saint in the hearts of the people.

Let’s try to keep that Santa spirit alive and burning through the coldness that exists both in the weather outside and in the hearts of those who have lost the innocence of childhood. Have a good Christmas Eve.

To warm you up a bit, here’s a good early performance of Bruce’s version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, from Houston in 1978.

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Silent Night All Day Long

2008 Christmas Card Image


There’s a room out there somewhere with a woman in a chair
With memories of childhood still lingering there
How pretty the paper, the lights and the snow
How precious those memories of long long ago

We held hands and stared at the lights on the tree
As if Christmas was invented for you and for me
When the angel on the treetop requested a song
We sang, “Silent night all day long”

–John Prine, Silent Night All Day Long

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Boogie Woogie Santa Claus

Santa Claus 1994

Santa, Early Work July 1994

And, afterward, when a child was naughty or disobedient, its mother would say:
“You must pray to the good Santa Claus for forgiveness. He does not like naughty children, and, unless you repent, he will bring you no more pretty toys.”
But Santa Claus himself would not have approved this speech. He brought toys to the children because they were little and helpless, and because he loved them. He knew that the best of children were sometimes naughty, and that the naughty ones were often good. It is the way with children, the world over, and he would not have changed their natures had he possessed the power to do so.

L. Frank Baum, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)

Came across this old piece from the time when I was just starting to paint in earnest. I hadn’t yet found the technique and style that typified my later work but I was starting to zero on it at this point in 1994.

I don’t know how this piece came about. It certainly didn’t start out with Santa as its subject, especially in July when it was done. It most likely began as a pool of paint from which I began moving the pigment around until something caught my eye, until some form or pattern emerged. Kind of like reading tea leaves.

It’s not a great piece by any stretch of the imagination. But it always makes me smile probably because I have always imagined Santa huffing along as he toted this chubby kid in his arms while whispering to him to cut out the sweets because Santa was getting too old to for this crap.

Of course, we all know that Santa would never say such a thing. He remains for many much like L. Frank Baum portrayed him in his book on Santa cited above, as a tolerant and benevolent caretaker of children the world over.

If only…

Anyway, that leads me to a song from Mabel Scott. I play her rocking version of Baseball Boogie here quite often at the beginning of the season and it never gets old. This tune has all that same boogie woogie energy which Santa needs– the dude’s got a lot of work ahead of him. From 1948, this is Boogie Woogie Santa Claus.

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