Archive for March, 2023

Seeking Balance


Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.

–Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, 1955

I am not going to make any comments this morning on the happenings of yesterday except to say that we live in a world that is forever seeking equilibrium.

It seeks balance against the weight of imbalance.

Order against the chaos of disorder.

Rhythm against the uncertainty of arrhythmia.

Harmony against the violence of disharmony.

Justice against the malignancy of injustice.

Yesterday may have just been the first movement of a world moving towards being back in balance. And if it can find that equilibrium, as Merton wrote, then I will express my happiness.

Until here’s a favorite song from the late great Harry Nilsson, I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City. You can take its implied meaning any way you want…

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Beyond the Trees

GC Myers- Passages: Beyond the Trees, 2023

Passages: Beyond the Trees– Coming to Principle Gallery, June 2023

Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. Let these influencing powers actuate, by the permission or disposal of Providence, from selfish or social views, yet in time the mysterious will of Heaven is unfolded, and we behold our conduct, from whatever motives excited, operating to answer the important designs of heaven.

–Daniel Boone

Never imagined I’d be using a Daniel Boone quote to open one of these morning essays. But while looking for something that would pair up with the new painting above, I came across a quote from the mythic frontiersman that was used to open the chapter titled “The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon; containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucke” in a 1784 book by John Filson on the discovery and settelment of Kentucky.

Can’t say that the Daniel Boone that lives in my mind, the one portrayed by Fess Parker on the old TV show, would utter such words. Fess’ Boone was a bit woodsier and more plainspoken. But the sentiment behind me was in line with the search that this piece and much of my work portrays.

Boone states that we are, by nature, curious creatures and that we are often driven by selfish greed or a genuine need to expand ever outward. But in the process of satisfying those external desires, we often find answers and designs whose scope is far beyond those things we originally were seeking. Answers having to do with the purpose and meaning of our lives.

That is pretty much what I have written innumerable times here about what I see beneath that which is represented on the surface of most of my paintings, though I don’t attribute it to any deity as does Boone. While often simple landscapes, for me they often represent the search for answers to existential questions that goes well beyond what is seen on the surface.

The painting serves as a passage, a portal, to those questions and answers.

That’s very much what I feel about this new painting. Titled Passages: Beyond the Trees, it is a 12″ by 24″ canvas that will be part of this year’s edition, Passages, of my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery, which opens June 9, 2023. It is very much about seeking something beyond what we know and what we can see.

About leaving our comfort zone of thought and belief to venture a bit further.

Are there answers out there beyond the trees?

I can’t say for you, and I don’t know that we can ever fully know the answers to the questions we ask. The answers we find might be to questions we never thought to ask. Or were afraid to ask because we didn’t want to accept the answers.

You might not see this in this painting. It might simply be a colorful landscape that you like. Or don’t like. Either way, that’s fine.

As a note, there’s another Boone quote from the Filson book that also rings true with something I often note here and often see in my work. maybe even this painting as well. He states:

Situated, many hundred miles from our families in the howling wilderness, I believe few would have equally enjoyed the happiness we experienced. I often observed to my brother, You see now how little nature requires to be satisfied. Felicity, the companion of content, is rather found in our own breasts than in the enjoyment of external things; And I firmly believe it requires but a little philosophy to make a man happy in whatsoever state he is. This consists in a full resignation to the will of Providence; and a resigned soul finds pleasure in a path strewed with briars and thorns.

There are some eternal truths in this short paragraph: Happiness and contentment are to be found within ourselves and not in material possessions; Anyone anywhere with the ability to think can discover their own sense of contentment and happiness; There is pleasure to be found in life’s journey, even in the inevitable hardship it offers.

It seems Old Dan’l was more of a philosopher than he is given credit for.

Let’s wrap this up for the day with a nice acoustic version of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For from U2.

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Complicated Life

GC Myers-  Silent Dusk

Silent Dusk– At the West End Gallery

Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore.

–Wallace Stevens, Letter, December 19, 1935

It is a complicated world, isn’t it?

I thought about what the poet Wallace Stevens wrote above, and it struck me that if life were without complexity, there would be no need for much of the art or literature that civilization has produced through the centuries.

Art and literature is a way of dealing with the innate hardship of life, of trying to simplify and make sense of the mystery that life presents to us each day.

If this life were sensible and simple, without mystery or complications, what would there be to simplify? Would there be a need for art?

Oh, I think art of some form would exist just for the sensory pleasure it provides. But it would be all surface. The meaning and depth would most likely be missing.

This tradeoff of meaningful art for a simplified and uncomplicated existence might be acceptable for most folks. There are plenty of days when I would take that trade.

But we all know that this proposition is just a pipedream. Despite our wishes and best efforts, life is seldom simple. Art still serves a purpose in helping us face the complexity of this life. To show us the meaning held in those inevitable darker moments that we all must face at some point in our existence. To attempt to make sense of the mystery we all must face.

On most days, I am thankful there is art to lean on. Not just because I attempt to create it. No, much more than that, art allows me to see that the feelings and emotions I experience in meeting these complications are universally felt, that I am not alone in my experience.

That is the comfort of art for me. And that’s not a small thing.

Here’s a favorite Springsteen song, Thunder Road, that is performed by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (Will Oldham) and Tortoise. Though the song in its original form had unmistakable meaning of its own, they transform it, making it into something different, but no less meaningful.

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Gun Rites

GC Myers Two Sides  2006

GC Myers- Two Sides, 2006


The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
“Forgive them, Father.
They know not what they do.”
The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.
When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.” People did not like it here.

–Kurt Vonnegut, February 4, 2005.


Again and again.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We chose this. We chose to tolerate the stupidity, selfishness, cowardice, and indifference that enables the culture of gun fetishism that is stalled over this country like a low hanging blood-filled cloud.

I think some people out there view it as a religious rite, a modern version of blood sacrifice. Simply the price we must pay to honor our Almighty Gun God.

Except instead of walking the Innocents up to the volcano, we send them off to school so that we might freely pose with assault rifles in front of our Christmas trees or fantasize about being John Wayne, James Bond, or Rambo or whoever the current bulletproof Apostle of the Gun might be. So that our elected officials might wear assault rifle pins on their lapels as a symbol of their devotion and loyalty to their holy master.

All it costs is a few kids every couple of days. That’s not too high a price to offer praise to the Gun God, is it?

Years ago, when I was first writing this blog, maybe 12 or 14 years ago, I had a reader object to something I had wrote about a school shooting that took place back then. She defended her Gun God fiercely, declaring that safety would only come with more people having more guns. I responded that if that were true, we should already be the safest place on the planet and that if you have to carry a gun to feel safe, you will never feel safe anywhere, anytime. 

As I said, that was quite a while ago and there are a many, many more guns out there. And many, many more sacrificial shootings.

I sure don’t feel any safer, though I would wager that I feel less fearful than many of those packing heat. 

In short, we deserve those things we choose.

Thus far, this has been our choice. And until we honestly choose to make real and effective changes, many more children and other folks will have to be sacrificed to the Gun God. Won’t be long– a few days or maybe a week– until this day’s shooting is faded from memory and the next time when we pretend to be shocked when the latest Rite of the Gun takes place. You can almost mark it down on your calendar. It’s coming any day now.

I’m done. Thank you for reading if you made it this far. I don’t know that Vonnegut’s poem fully fits today but it is born of the same attitude that shortens and degrades our time in this world, regardless of how it ends– by the gun or by our abuse of the earth.


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GC Myers- In Rhapsody

In Rhapsody— At the West End Gallery

We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.

― Hermann Hesse, Reflections

Things that have to be done so I have to keep the next couple of day’s posts a bit shorter. I am hoping that this triad of image, word and music are somewhat in harmony. I would like to think that the feel of Billie Holiday singing the Duke Ellington classic Solitude is a fine example of what Hermann Hesse was describing in the excerpt above. She certainly went through bitter suffering to arrive at that point of mellow solitude. Hopefully, the painting above, Rhapsody, matches up well with both, creating some sort of indivisibility.

Something to think about on what I hope is a mellow Monday…

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To Know the Dark

GC Myers- The Stars Above, The Stars Below sm

The Stars Above, The Stars Below— At Kada Gallery, Erie

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

— Wendell Berry, Farming: A Hand Book, 1970

I love this short Wendell Berry poem. It reminds me of the many times I have had to make my way in the dark in the past.

I worked every day in my old studio up in the woods for about the first ten years I spent as an artist. Much more rustic with no running water, internet, or television. Many days I would forget my flashlight and when it was time for me to head down the hill, I would do so in the dark of the forest night.

There was surprisingly little stumbling on tree roots or rocks or rolls in the path. After thousands of times trudging up and down that path in all sorts of conditions of weather and light, the muscle memory of where the foot should fall with each step was fully developed.

I always liked those walks in the dark, especially when it was an absolute blackness. Thought I spent each day amid the trees and creatures of the forest, I never felt closer to them than on these walks, immersed in darkness.

The silence was often total higher up the hill but when the wind stirred the trees would begin talking as their limbs and trunks rubbed against one another. Sometimes they were sharp cries and other times low moans. I would often stop to listen just to see if they were actually speaking. Sometimes I was convinced they were.

Along with the voices of the trees, there was the occasional yip of a fox or distant howl of coyotes. Or the low hoot of an owl or the thumping of a roosting turkey high above who was disturbed by my walking below it. There might also be the rustle of small creatures along the path. Raccoons scurrying for protection up the nearest trees. It always amazed me how a small squirrel bouncing away through dry leaves made as much noise as a large buck.

The darkness also allowed me to notice the trickle of the runoff creek that runs alongside the path and even the slightest sound of wind rustling through treetops.

I know that for some, being in the dark is a scary thing. It raised my awareness of naturalness of the dark, that I did not have to feel out of place in that darkness because I, too, was a part of nature. Darkness became a comfort to me.

Thanks, Mr. Berry for reminding me of that.

Okay, for this Sunday Morning Music, I am going to continue on the theme of darkness though this song is about hiding one’s discretions in the dark. A cheatin’ song, if you will. But what a song. The song is The Dark End of the Street, first recorded in 1967 by soul singer James Carr. There have been many, many covers of it that are fantastic– Aretha, the Commitments, etc. It’s one of those special songs that just fits with the sound and style of most any singer. But for me, the James Carr original is the one and only.

James Carr never fully realized his potential, struggling through most of his life with bipolar depression before dying at age 58. He had a few other small hits but this song is his monument. He knew a little about the darkness.

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GC Myers-  On the Sunny Side  2022

On the Sunny Side – At the Principle Gallery

The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.

Walt Whitman, Preface, Leaves of Grass

Uncle Walt always says it right for me. So, in the spirit of his words I am going to keep it short and sweet this morning. A sunny piece of art, a few words from Uncle Walt and a song about sunshine. Of course, the singer is telling the sun to leave him alone, he’s in no mood for dancing or anything joyful.

The song, Sunshine from Jonathan Edwards, is actually a song of protest and independence, written around the time of the Viet Nam protests here in this country. Ironically, the song feels very danceable. But it is a simple song to go with Whitman’s words and the simplicity of the painting at the top. 

Simplicity is the theme today. Bet you thought it was going to be sunshine.

Doesn’t matter either way. Here’s the song. Give a listen then get out of here– you’re blocking my sunlight.

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Vigil in Blue

GC Myers- Vigil in Blue sm

Vigil In Blue, 2023

Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)—
Though some savants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

Fragmentary Blue, Robert Frost

Ah, the color blue. Though my work is often associated with the color red or the red and orange-tinged tones of the Indian Yellow that marks much of my inky wet work, it is blue that has me in its hold. Maybe that comes from its ability to do and say so many things. It can carry a multitude of deep feelings and emotions in its many shades and variations.

While it often can be used to depict the most mundane of scenes, the soft blue spring sky in a landscape, it can often carry with it a mystic, spiritual quality. A deeper meaning that is hidden within the tone and hue of the color.

As the artist Wassily Kandinsky wrote about blue:

The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural. The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.

That awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… might well be the quality of it that stokes my affinity for the color. I think that is the case with the new smallish piece done for my June show at the Principle Gallery that is shown above, Vigil in Blue. While it has the trademark elements of the Red Tree and the golden tones of Indian Yellow in the fields, the color blue carries the emotional weight here.

You can point to the other colors or the depth that the fields and distant hills bring you into the picture or the presence of watching crow as being the dominant feature in this piece and you wouldn’t be wrong from your perspective. But from my point of view, it is that blue that says it all, that is the object of the painting’s sentence.

But that’s just one guy’s opinion. As I said, you are free to see it in your own way.

Art is always open to interpretation. And therein lies its strength and beauty.

Here’s a song from Joni Mitchell that deals with the color blue in its bluest form. This is Blue from her 1971 album of the same title.

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Lucy Kaplansky This Morning I Was Born Again

This morning I was born again, I was born again complete
I stood up above my troubles and I stand on my two feet
My hand it feels unlimited, my body feels like the sky
I feel at home in the universe where yonder planets fly

This Morning I Was Born Again, Woody Guthrie lyrics/ Slaid Creaves music

I have been coming across a name on social media lately that I didn’t recognize, belonging to a musician whose work I didn’t know. One of the posts had very good reviews for one of her recordings so I was intrigued enough to look her up and give a listen.

It’s folk/ Americana and I have liked the small sample I have been able to hear this morning thus far. I liked it enough to examine her background a bit more. Her name is Lucy Kaplansky and was born in Chicago, the daughter of a well-known mathematician. At 18, around 1978, she decided against going to college and moved to NYC. She became involved in the folk scene there playing with the likes of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. After about five years of playing, she decided to go back to school where she studied clinical psychology.

While pursuing her PhD, she formed a duo with Shawn Colvin which began to get noticed, even attracting record company interest. However, Kaplansky withdrew from the duo and went to work as a staff psychologist at a NY hospital. For several years, she focused on her career as a psychologist while maintaining just a fringe relationship with the music biz.

But the world of music eventually lured her back. in the early 90’s, Colvin, now somewhat successful, produced a record for Lucy Kaplansky and around 1993 she completed her transformation from clinical psychologist to full-time musician. She has released a number of well-received albums, has collaborated with a number of other musicians such as Nanci Griffith, and has performed multiple times on television and radio.

I am always interested in reading about how people reinvent themselves, changing careers to follow a dream or find a different form of existence. Lucy Kaplansky seems to have done this well.

I am playing a song from her this morning that is in itself a sort of reinvention. It’s a song, This Morning I Am Born Again, that began as one of the many lyrics written by Woody Guthrie that were found after his death without being set to music. Several contemporary folk/ Americana musicians, most notably the group Wilco, have reinvented Guthrie’s songs with new music. This particular song was seamlessly transformed by Texas musician Slaid Creaves.

It’s a fine and interesting song. You might mistake it at first glance as a new country gospel song, but it is actually the antithesis of that. It is a song that proclaims that there is no need to seek a distant heaven that is only obtainable after death, that paradise is at hand here and now on Earth:

This morning I was born again and a light shines on my landI no longer look for heaven in your deathly distant landI do not want your pearly gates don’t want your streets of goldThis morning I was born again and a light shines on my soul

The song’s narrator sees each day as a rebirth with the past washed away. Each day becomes an opportunity to experience the wonder of this would-be paradise, to feel the unity of all things natural, and to extend to others a helping hand.

It’s a powerful song and a good way to kick off the day. Maybe it will be a day of reinvention. Who knows?

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Beyond the Title

GC Myers -Saints and Sinners, 2019

Saints and Sinners, 2019

“But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition— and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation— and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity— the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.”

― Joseph Conrad, Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus

I was a bit unsure about sharing the excerpt above from Joseph Conrad‘s preface to his 1897 novel. The title made me uneasy about endorsing anything about the book, especially on the hyper- reactive internet. It’s a title that creates reaction.

I have to admit that the title has kept me from reading the book though it has been on my shelves for forty-plus years as part of an old set of Conrad novels I have that was printed in 1919. Back when having sets of similarly bound books by one author was a thing. I read and enjoyed Heart of Darkness, Suspense, and Lord Jim but could never bring myself to start reading this title. I pulled it off the shelf this morning and found that the pages were still pristine inside, 104 years after it was printed. The previous owner or owners might have been made equally uneasy by that title.

Interestingly, when the book was first published here in the states in 1897, the title was changed to The Children of the Sea. This came after its original title had caused a controversy in Britain where one reviewer called it “the ugliest conceivable title.” The novel was reprinted again in 2006 with awkward title The N-Word of the Narcissus. They also excised any use of the n-word in the book.

I am not crazy about either the altered title or the inner revisions. I would like to think that most readers can differentiate between their own beliefs and historically based usage of language in fiction, such as was the case in Huckleberry Finn. I can read that word in the context of history and literature without endorsing its meaning now.

By 1919, when my set of Conrad books was printed, they had obviously decided that the original title, as ugly as it was, was integral to the artful nature of the story. Which brings us to the preface to this book.

In its preface, Conrad lays out a manifesto for artistic aspiration. He doesn’t limit his words to the aims of solely the writer but includes artists in all creative fields. I was surprised at how closely my beliefs on this subject echoed Conrad’s thoughts in this short essay, including his succinct summing up: Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.

I will be reading it again. And probably again after that. Not what I was expecting from a book with that title or from a book that has laid idle and unopened on my shelves for decades. I might have to read the whole book sometime soon.

There is something worthwhile beyond that title.

If you would, like to read this preface from Joseph Conrad, click here. It will take you to a Wikisource page that contains it.

Here’s a classic that was written and originally recorded by Willie Dixon but popularized by the inimitable Bo Diddley. It’s a song that might well apply to Conrad’s book. I’ve played a couple of different covers of the song here over the years. This is You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover.

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