Archive for February 5th, 2023

Archaeology: The Red Shoe

GC Myers- Archaeology: The Red Shoe, 2023

Archaeology: The Red Shoe at the West End Gallery

Well, my poor man,
seems we’ve made some progress in my field.
Millennia have passed since
you first called me archaeology.

I no longer require
your stone gods,
your ruins with legible inscriptions.

Show me your whatever
and I’ll tell you who you were.
Something’s bottom, something’s top.
A scrap of engine. A picture tube’s neck.
An inch of cable. Fingers turned to dust.
Or even less than that, or even less.

Using a method
that you couldn’t have known then,
I can stir up memory
in countless elements.
Traces of blood are forever.
Lies shine.
Secret codes resound.
Doubts and intentions come to light.

If I want to
(and you can’t be too sure
that I will),
I’ll peer down the throat of your silence,
I’ll read your views
from the sockets of your eyes,
I’ll remind you in infinite detail
of what you expected from life besides death.

Show me your nothing
that you’ve left behind
and I’ll build from it a forest and a highway,
an airport, baseness, tenderness,
a missing home.

Show me your little poem
and I’ll tell you why it wasn’t written
any earlier or later than it was.

Oh no, you’ve got me wrong.
Keep your funny piece of paper
with its scribbles.
All I need for my ends
is your layer of dirt
and the long gone
smell of burning.

Archaeology, Wisława Szymborska, 1986

The new painting at the top, Archaeology: The Red Shoe, is included in the Little Gems show that opens this coming Friday, February 10, at the West End Gallery. The Archaeology series began in 2008 and was a reaction to me feeling blocked in advance of  my annual shows. I had three or four solos shows that year. The Red Tree had been my signature element for almost a decade at that point and I had lost a bit of confidence in it, felt that it may have run its course and that I could say little more with it. I was wrong about that, of course, but this concern pushed me to this series with their artifact fields beneath the trees and landscapes above.

It has been one of my more successful series and has had lasting appeal. I still hear from people around the world on this particular series even though I’ve only painted a few, maybe four, of these Archaeology pieces in the past six or seven years or maybe even longer.

I don’t exactly know why I don’t do more of them. Maybe I am fearful they say more about me than I want to share though I doubt that’s the case after 25 years of exposing myself via my work and nearly 15 years of this blog. I imagine that I have given enough data so that anyone who is paying attention — online archaeologists, if you will–would know much about me. Maybe too much.

No, I think it’s because they are draining to paint. They take full concentration as I am constantly weighing and balancing the composition. I like doing them but always feel a bit exhausted after working on them. And I like examining after they are done to see how things come together, to see if they tell a story or if there is any common ground between the objects.

They have a cryptic quality that appeals to that repressed archaeologist part of me, the one who wants to figure out how things might have come to be how and where they ended up.

The part that wonder what we leave behind will say to those in the future.

As the late Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska said in her poem above:

Show me your whatever
and I’ll tell you who you were.

I wonder who she would say I was from viewing this painting?

For this Sunday Morning Music, here’s a song that borders just a bit on the idea of archaeology but it makes up for it in the fun factor. The song is The Mesopotamians from They Might Be Giants. No, it’s not about the people of ancient Iraq. It’s about a band called The Mesopotamians who hope that one day, perhaps long after they are gone, their work will be newly discovered by some musical archaeologist from the future.

Now, on with the day…

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