Archive for April, 2023

Crystal Blue Persuasion

PG GCMyers-- Comforter sm

Comforter – At the West End Gallery

That life is difficult, I have often bitterly realized. I now had further cause for serious reflection. Right up to the present I have never lost the feeling of contradiction that lies behind all knowledge. My life has been miserable and difficult, and yet to others, and sometimes to myself, it has seemed rich and wonderful. Man’s life seems to me like a long, weary night that would be intolerable if there were not occasionally flashes of light, the sudden brightness of which is so comforting and wonderful, that the moments of their appearance cancel out and justify the years of darkness.

–Hermann Hesse, Gertrude (1910)

It was one of those mornings when you wake up with an air of glumness around you. You know it’s going to rain all day, that there will be no sunshine to hold you up like a crutch. No light to wash out the stain of gray. In the early light of morning, the grayness seems even more stark, the rain giving everything out the window a graininess, like you were looking at an old photograph.

You sigh and it feels like the glum and the gray might infect everything for the day. Maybe longer. It makes you reflect and all you can pull up are other memories of this glumness and all the other difficult passages of life.

Hesse’s words begin to ring true, that life is difficult and miserable. A long and weary night.

You gird yourself for the coming day, knowing that it might be a constant struggle. One of those days where nothing goes the way you desire and everything feels like it’s turned to pure crap…

That’s how my morning began.

An absence of light.

I was ready to simply find a song to play for this week’s Sunday musical selection and get on with it. Face the day and do battle with it. But in doing so, the first song that caught my eye on the opening YouTube page was an old song from Tommy James and the Shondells. From 1968. Heard it a thousand times before and always liked it. Probably played it here before after it was used to great effect in a late episode of Breaking Bad.

So, I clicked on it. It was a video that had the lyrics so I read along. It felt like one of those flashes of light that Hesse mentioned above, with a sudden brightness that is comforting and wonderful. In that flash of light, the glumness receded and I felt that my spirit was lightened.

I am ready now for the day. Maybe even eager.

Such is the power of music, of art. And, man, am I thankful for that.

Here’s that song, Crystal Blue Persuasion.

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GC Myers- The Impossibility of Crows sm

The Impossibility of Crows– Soon at Principle Gallery

The crows like to insist that a single crow is enough to destroy heaven. This is without doubt, but it says nothing about heaven, because heaven is just another way of saying: the impossibility of crows.

-Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms, #32

When I finished this new painting that is headed to the Principle Gallery for my annual solo show there in June, I thought of the above aphorism from Franz Kafka. It’s sometimes eludes my understanding when I come across it and it takes me several moments to recall the logic it holds.

Basically, at least in my reading of it, it declares that crows know that since they have always been the targets of hatred and scorn among humans, they are not part of heaven as constituted by humans. Therefore, they know they could not exist in that realm. Thus, if one crow were to appear in heaven it would destroy the very illusion of heaven that humans had constructed.

Now, I know nothing of heaven — don’t even have an opinion on the reality of its existence– so I can’t speak on it with any certainty. I am also a longtime fan of crows, believing them to possess an intelligence and consciousness that we have long misunderstood.

But I know they have also historically been vilified by most people so the idea that they would be excluded from the average conception of heaven makes sense to me. So, the idea of a crow suddenly appearing in heaven being a calamitous event makes sense as well.

In real world terms, anytime we hold a belief that denies the existence of others, we are creating a world — a heaven, if you will– that is ripe to be upended when those whose existence we deny show themselves to be.

I think this could be applied to the past and current cultural wars surrounding the civil rights of minority groups. There are those who wish to deny the existence of these groups, to exclude them from the deniers’ concept of what the world should be. When it is proven that they do in fact exist and are present in this world, it creates a sense that the world — their conceived heaven — is in the midst of being destroyed.

Ultimately, I find myself both understanding and questioning this aphorism. First of all, I wouldn’t want to have a heaven that didn’t include crows or for that matter, any other creature or being. Just as I wouldn’t want a world without the full variety of people that make up this world.

Because who’s to say that I might not appear as a crow in the eyes of others? Couldn’t we all be the crows in some way in this exercise?

Like I said, I don’t know if there is a heaven. But I do know there is the here and now and, in the absence of a heaven, we need to make of it what we can. For all– crows included.

I am calling this new 24″ by 8″ canvas The Impossibility of Crows. Maybe it should be called The Possibility of Crows? After all, it shows what could be considered an idyllic landscape complete with crows.

Here’s version of a folk song, The Crow on the Cradle, that was written in 1963 by English songwriter Sydney Carter. It has been covered by a variety of artists but this one from Jackson Browne, accompanied by David Lindley, is a favorite of mine.

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GC Myers- The Incantation ca 1994

GC Myers- The Incantation, ca 1994

Trouble in the jailhouse, trouble out in the street
You can’t blame it on someone else, you’ve got no place to retreat
Trouble in your courtroom, trouble written on the wall
And all the pieces of your mistakes are starting to fall

How long have you been blind
Been coming a long long time

–How Long Have You Been Blind?Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 1984

Got things to do this morning but thought I’d share a song performed by the recently late and always great Harry Belafonte from back in 1985. The song, How Long Have You Been Blind?, was written and originally recorded in 1984 by Floyd Red Crow Westerman, a Dakota Sioux musician and political activist. Belafonte’s version never appeared on album or single, only appearing as part of a Canadian television special, Don’t Stop the Carnival.

But the song with its words of warning against complacency and this performance had real staying power. Lenny Kravitz recently recorded the song in tribute to Belafonte. I am including Belafonte’s 1985 performance and the new Lenny Kravitz version.

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Dr. Seuss-  Gosh Do I Look As Old As All That

Dr. Seuss- Gosh Do I Look As Old As All That?

Say what you mean and act how you feel,

because those who matter don’t mind,

and those who mind don’t matter.

Dr. Seuss

I think these words about sincerity from the wonderful and wise Dr. Seuss are good advice for just about anybody.  For myself, I pass this advice on to young artists. Make your own meaning and feeling the focus of your work…

I ran the short post above several years ago and it resonated with me again this morning. For one thing, it reminded me of how much the imagery and messaging of Dr. Seuss influenced and informed my own perspectives and art. I never thought about it at the time I started drawing and painting but his way of representing the landscapes of his worlds very much infiltrated my own way of looking at my own inner worlds. I see the bendy curves of his trees and smile because I see them in many of my own Red Trees.

The other reason this older post resonated with me were his simple words about honestly saying what you mean and acting how you feel. There are many days when I am trying to write this blog and I feel inhibited by not wanting to offend anyone with my own personal views. I have many times set aside posts that I deemed potentially too offensive. But more and more, I am less shy about sharing my honest opinions for just the reasons that the good Dr. points out: those that matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

And that also translates to my work. I am also less shy in sharing work that moves outside my comfort zones for this same simple reason. I figure if I am being honest and sincere in my work and in my opinions, what do I have to fear from the opinions of others?

So, thanks for that Dr. Seuss, wherever you may be. Your words and art and storytelling have changed the worlds of many, myself included.

Here are a few more of his paintings that weren’t in the original post. [ The above post ran on this date, April 27, back in 2000. I have added several more Seuss paintings for your enjoyment]

Dr. SeussDr. Seuss 4Dr Seuss 1Dr Seuss 2 Cat Carnival in West VeniceDr Seuss 1Dr Seuss 4Dr Seuss 5 Incidental Music

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If I Could Tell You

GC Myers- Transcending Words 2022

Transcending Words-– At the Principle Gallery

If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose all the lions get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

— W. H. Auden, 1940

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GC Myers-  Say Hallelujah

Say Hallelujah– At the Principle Gallery

Now I’ve done my best, I know it wasn’t muchI couldn’t feel, so I tried to touchI’ve told the truth, I didnt come here to London just to fool youAnd even though it all went wrongI’ll stand right here before the Lord of songWith nothing, nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

–Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

A video came up on my YouTube feed this morning that I remembered sharing here several years ago. It’s a fine performance of the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah performed by Choir!Choir!Choir! which is a loose knit group of singers that was formed in a Toronto pub back in 2011. The group requires no commitment and still meets twice a week in the back of a local pub. Over the years it has performed publicly in many venues in Canada and the US with greatly expanded choirs — sometimes well over 2000 singers! –made up of folks who just want to get out and sing in a communal way.

There’s something wonderful and powerful in the collective voice.

They’ve had a number of guest singers join in over the years: David Byrne, Patti Smith (her Because the Night is one of the group’s unofficial anthems), Eddie Vedder, Rick Astley and others, including Rufus Wainwright on this song.

This particular version is filmed at the Luminato Festival in Toronto in a decommisoned power plant with an assembled choir of 1500 people with Rufus Wainwright singing the lead.

Just a lovely version of the song and not a bad way to kick off a Tuesday morning, as I also wrote about seven years ago when I first shared this song here on another Tuesday morning. It was good then and good now. Hope you’ll enjoy…

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A Hartley Trio

Marsden Hartley Himmel

Marsden Hartley- Himmel, 1915

My work embodies little visions of the great intangible. … Some will say he’s gone mad – others will look and say he’s looked in at the lattices of Heaven and come back with the madness of splendor on him.

–Marsden Hartley

I have a busy morning so I thought I’d run a trio of three short posts from the past about a favorite artist of mine, Marsden Hartley. Hope you’ll enjoy his words and paintings.

marsden hartley berlin abstraction

Marsden Hartley- Berlin Expression

I have come to the conclusion that it is better to have two colors in right relation to each other than to have a vast confusion of emotional exuberance. . . I had rather be intellectually right than emotionally exuberant.

–Marsden Hartley

I have been a fan of the paintings of Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) for some time now. I was reading about him earlier and came across this quote  that caught my attention, making me think about what I hoped to accomplish in my own work.

I often speak about creating work that has an immediate emotional impact achieved with colors and forms. But maybe, as Hartley’s words have prompted me to think, this first purely visceral and emotional impact is pure exuberance. Just a gut reaction that comes in that instant before the mind has time to engage.

A shout that makes you turn and look.

While that is good and desired, it’s doubtful that it can stand by itself and have a lasting effect unless it has an intellectual aspect to engage the viewer’s mind. There needs to be a balance between the mind and the gut.

If you turn at hearing a shout and the person doing the shouting is shouting just to make you turn and has nothing more to say to you, you keep moving and soon forget that person. But if you turn and the shouter has something more to offer, you might linger a bit to consider what is being said and engage in a conversation.

When you do move on, you take something from this engagement with you, something that will stay with you.

I am not sure this an apt analogy but it immediately came to mind on reading Hartley’s words. I don’t exactly know how this mind/gut balance works or how it can be accomplished in reality. Maybe even consciously trying to do so throws the whole thing off kilter.

It’s early in the morning and I am just thinking here. Time to go try to put it into action…

—From April 2018


Marsden Hartley- Portrait of a German Officer, 1914

I have always said that you do not see a thing until you look away from it. In other words, an object or a fact in nature has not become itself until it has been projected in the realm of the imagination.

– Marsden Hartley

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) is a favorite of mine both for his paintings and his words, which often express thoughts about painting that ring true for my own experience. For example, I love this quote above. Some of the strongest images for me are those that are taken at a glance, sometimes while driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour.

If the imagery strikes me in a powerful way, my mind immediately starts breaking down the image into a sort of shorthand, blocking in the forms and organizing them in a way that registers deeply. It is simplified but contains the elements and the effects that struck me. Sometimes I will move my arms while doing this, trying to create a muscle memory of the rhythm of that which I am seeing in my mind.

The image is thus entered into my imagination. Everything else around it that is not part of image that spoke out to me seems to not exist in that moment. It s a funny process and is deeply ingrained to the point that I don’t even think about it but for this reminder from Hartley.

Got to get to work. Have a great day.

–From March, 2019

Marsden Hartley Painting Number 5 1914-15

Marsden Hartley- Painting Number 5, 1914-15

All things that are living are expression and therefore part of the inherent symbology of life. Art, therefore, that is encumbered with excessive symbolism is extraneous, and from my point of view, useless art. Anyone who understands life needs no handbook of poetry or philosophy to tell him what it is.

–Marsden Hartley

I think this is an important point from a favorite artist of mine, Marsden Hartley. Trying to paint work that is pointedly symbolic, that tries to force meaning that doesn’t naturally flow from the subject, often feels flat and lifeless to me. Or extraneous and useless as Hartley put it.

Generally, the subject evokes its own meaning and feeling and the best the artist can do is enhance it with their own skills and style — the artist’s tools for storytelling– to make it apparent to the viewer.

Sounds easy. It’s not.

We often add symbology or clutter that either clouds, alters, or detracts from the inherent meaning of the subject.

We complicate when we should simplify.

It’s the story of communication throughout time. Simplicity always triumphs.

I hope that makes sense. I am tired this morning and it sounded okay halfway through my first cup of coffee. A couple of hours from now I might have questions about this.

— From August 2021

marsden hartley the iron cross 1915

Marsden Hartley- The Iron Cross, 1915

Marsden Hartley - Portrait ca 1914

Marsden Hartley- Portrait, 1914

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All of Time

GC Myers-  All of Time  2023

All of Time– Coming to the Principle Gallery, June 2023

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

–Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress, 1650

This is a new painting that is part of my annual solo exhibit opening in June at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. It’s an 16″ by 8″ canvas that I am calling All of Time. which refers to the Baucis and Philemon aspect of the painting as depicted in the two intertwined trees.

If you recall the myth, Zeus granted a wish to the poor elderly couple who had treated him with warmth and generosity when he appeared in their village in the garb of a beggar. Their wish was that when they died they should remain together for all of time. They later died simultaneously and were transformed into two separate trees growing from the same trunk, forever as one.

While that is the obvious subject, this piece is primarily about the depth and juxtaposition of the colors throughout it. The magenta in the foreground, for example. Or the opal-like quality of the colors in the sky and even in the way the light breaks through those colors.

Even without having that myth in mind, this painting would make me think of some form of eternity. Or at least a contemplation and reminder of our limited time here. That’s why I chose the lines above from the 17th century British poet Andrew Marvell. They are from his To His Coy Mistress which is considered one of the finest examples of a carpe diem poem. Seize the day. In it, the narrator of the poem is attempting to seduce a young woman who is resistant to his advances. He tells her that if they had the benefit of eternity, he would gladly spend centuries wooing her. He then stresses that their time here on earth is short and that their time for love and passion is now.

Those are two different views of love and eternity. In the Baucis and Philemon myth, love can exist for all of time while in the Marvell poem, we only have a limited time to love and that eternity is a vast and empty desert devoid of love. However, I think both work for this painting, that both can be equally true.

Just the way I see it. You may see it differently.

As it should be.

Here’s a fitting song for this week’s Sunday Morning Music. It’s a strong cover of the Bee Gees classic To Love Somebody from The Revivalists, the roots rock band from New Orleans. Recorded in a specially equipped van at California music festival back in 2013, their version gives off strong Levon Helm/ The Band vibes for me. Which is to say, it’s good stuff. See — or rather, hear for yourself.

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Day Laborer

Pablo Picasso Seated Harlequin 1901 a

Pablo Picasso– Seated Harlequin, 1901

“I wrote to Picasso once: I did not receive a reply. I saw Picasso at a party or an opening or something crowded and awful in New York. I spoke to him. I repeated what I had written in my letter: How do we do it? What do we do when the images and the words do not come forth? How do we survive? How do we remain artists? He looked at me with those glorious eyes, snapped back that shiny, bald head and told me that we are not artists; we do not concern ourselves with ‘art.’ We are workmen, day laborers–who happen to work with paints and clay and actors, and curtains part on occasion to display what we do. Tell the truth, he said. As you know it. Art may happen; it may not. We are not owed its presence. His point was made.”

–Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom/New Orleans/1982

I still cringe a bit when I tell people that I’m an artist. It seems presumptuous to take on that label or to assume that I am creating art at any time. How do I know if my work reaches the level of art? Can anyone ever say with certainty that they are creating art?

I am much more comfortable with the definition Picasso put forward to Tennessee Williams in the passage above.


Day Laborer.

Though I believe it does in many cases, the question of whether whatever I do reaches the level of being categorized as art is out of my hands. I just do what I do and hope for the best. Keep my head down and work at expressing a truth as a I know it with the hope that someone sees something in it that sparks some feeling in them.

But, as Picasso pointed out, art may happen; it may not. We are not owed its presence.

I reflect on the fact that I am in my 25th year of doing this as a full-time day laborer in this field and I realize what a leap of faith it has been to keep doing this year after year with the hope that something approaching art will be produced, never knowing if art will deign to attach its label to my work.

Like Picasso, I know that it doesn’t matter. I just have my appointed tasks before me each day and I do them as best I can.

And maybe that is where the art begins, in continuing to diligently work each day, year after year, with the dogged belief that there is something in the work beyond myself. Something to be expressed, to be seen and transmitted.

Maybe it is in the whole of it that art approaches. Maybe it comes in pure persistence, in finding meaning in both those grace-filled days when the work comes effortlessly and on those days when the work feels like Sisyphus pushing his rock up that steep hill.

Maybe it is the accumulation of time and effort and thought and desire.

Maybe not.

Who am I to say?

I just work here.

Though I see myself as a worker and not a prisoner, this song feels right for the morning. It’s a historic Alan Lomax recording of a prison work song from Parchman Farm, a former plantation turned maximum security prison in Mississippi. This is Early in the Mornin’.

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GC Myers- Written in the Wind

Written In the Wind– At Principle Gallery

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

These are the first four lines of a poem, Auguries of Innocence, from William Blake. It was written in 1803 but not published until 1863, 36 years after Blake’s death in 1827. These first lines point out the interconnectedness of all things, that all living things possess meaning in the grand scheme. These four lines might well be the best-known lines of Blake’s work but is much beyond those four lines in this piece.

The poem serves as a plea for compassion and empathy as well as a warning (an augury is an omen) against cruelty and deception, pointing out that these harm not only the offended but also damages the offender and the rest of the world as a whole. It’s a wonderful piece filled with a multitude of notable couplets that speak to the cruelty and deception of our current time. For example:

A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent

To twist and manipulate a truth for less than honorable gain weakens society and demeans us all. Or there’s this:

He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out

Or this:

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State

You get the idea, I’m sure. There’s a lot more to say about it but, in short, it’s a poem worth reading and hearing. I am sharing a marvelous reading of it from the actor Michael Sheen. I suggest reading along to it by clicking here which takes you to the poem at the Poetry Foundation site. I assure you that it is 6 minutes or so well spent.

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