Archive for January 10th, 2023

Doubling Back

GC Myers- The Sky Is Always the Sky 1995 sm

The Sky Is Always the Sky, 1995

Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.

–Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

I have been working in the studio the past week or so, trying to reorganize and clean my workspace. I have a relatively large space here but somehow it has filled and become craped over the 15 years I have been in here. A lot of stuff that I thought might be usable has found its way to the trash and a few things that have been either forgotten or thought lost have emerged from the piles.

It feels good to get things back in order and to rid myself of things that cluttered my life without much purpose.

While reorganizing things, I inevitably end up going through old work here in the studio. I do this most years around this time. I feel like it’s a valuable part of my process, this doubling back. It helps me measure what I perceive is growth in my work. Well, at least what I hope is growth in my work.

The work has changed in many ways and stayed the same in others. The years have changed me as a person in many ways and that is reflected in the newer work. Parts of my skillset– and personality– have grown, some have declined, some have been lost altogether.

Looking back at the earlier work allows me to see where these gains and losses have taken place. In some cases, there are things I want to recapture. I should say try to recapture. Some things are, as I said, lost forever. Technique and materials evolve. The way I perceive things has changed. Eyesight fades a bit, my hand is a bit less steady, and some things are born of emotional moments that can’t be recreated organically.

Things change and there is work that I can’t fully recreate. That makes me a bit sorrowful. It’s like looking at a photo of yourself when you were younger, with more and darker hair and skin that didn’t have quite so many wrinkles or sags. You see yourself as the same but know that that time is past. You can try to go back but the miles are on the odometer and the engine. It will never be quite the same.

I use the word sorrowful, but I am not truly saddened by it. I am actually glad in seeing these pieces from that time, remembering the spirit in which they were created. That spirit is the thing that can be revisited, rediscovered.

It is energy-giving. And that’s a big deal this stage of the game.

Take the piece at the top. It’s called The Sky Is Always the Sky from the middle of 1995. I stumbled across it the other day and it thrilled me, much as it did when I first painted almost 28 years ago. I see things in it that I would struggle in recreating. The colors, the sedimentation of the pigments, and even the organic feel of the linework would be much different.

For some reason, I don’t think this piece ever showed in a gallery. Maybe I knew that its purpose would be in reminding me of that time and emotional feeling some years later. If so, its purpose has been fulfilled.

All I could ask of it.

FYI: The quote at the top, which rings especially true for me, is from Julia Cameron, the great 19th century British photographer. I wrote about some of her photos several times here years ago. Her photos have a freshness and composition that seem distinct and apart from the wok of her contemporaries. They sometimes seem out of their time for me.

Here’s a song about looking back. It’s Reflections on My Life from The Marmalade.

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