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Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

I’m not a religious person and wasn’t raised with any religion in my life. Growing up, Easter was just another excuse to gorge myself on candy and boiled eggs.

But the idea of resurrection that this day represents is a potent theme, one that resonates deeply with me. I am not talking about actual resurrection, the rising from the grave type of thing. But the idea of rebirth, of washing away the past and beginning anew has always struck a chord within me.

Maybe that’s why I am a morning person. Each day is a personal resurrection of sorts. There is a new start each day the sun comes up, a new chance to redeem yourself in some way. So, in a way, Easter is just part of a continuum of  constant rebirth, one that transcends personal religion.

For this Sunday morning music I am choosing a song that concerns itself with a more literal form of resurrection. It is Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down) which was written in 1934 by Claude Ely. He was twelve years old at the time and was stricken with tuberculosis. His family is said to have prayed for his health to return and in response, he spontaneously performed this song.

I can’t attest to that part of the story but it is a pretty well known gospel standard now. This version is from the great Odetta.

The newer painting above is a small 8″ by 8″ panel that I call Resurrection. It feels very Easter-y to me.

Have a good Sunday.

 

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You Ain’t Alone

GC Myers- Observers (with frame)

I normally don’t replay past entries from the blog on Sundays but I thought this week I’d make an exception. I very much like this entry, written a few years back after the opening of one of my shows, and share it with a small alteration to the original post by changing the music from the original Hold On from the Alabama Shakes to their song You Ain’t Alone. Both songs are great and fit with the painting above, at least in my mind.

Sunday morning and I think I’m much more decompressed than yesterday morning after the show.  All back to normal, whatever that is.  This show has made me think on a wide variety of subjects, about purpose and meaning beyond what I see in the work as well the potential for legacy in these paintings– would they endure into the future?

A good friend stopped in the studio yesterday and we talked for a moment about the subject of legacy.  I pointed out that legacy is a big if for any artist and that I can only do what I do — where it ends up in the future is something that is far beyond my own control.  It could be in enduring collections or it could be in garage sales and dumpsters– you never know what the vagaries and tastes of the future hold.  I witness this all of the time when I go through the  records from the auction houses and see painters who were celebrated in their time who are now basically unknown.  Their work sells for a pittance, far below what one might expect from reading about their fame when alive.

As an artist, you can only hope that your work has a transcendent quality that allows it to live out of the time of its creator and be of the time in which it is viewed.  I don’t know how you do that outside of maintaining consistency in your own vision and hoping that it is one that somehow speaks to those in the future.  But there is always the question  that if your work does move ahead, does maintain life and attracts future collectors, what would your legacy work be?

I know that this a fool’s game– no one has the ability to predict that future for their own work.  You can’t be objective when you are so close to it, can’t discern your own personal feelings for it from how it reads to the outer world.  But there are pieces that I see that nag at me, that have a weight that tells me that they may be vital pieces in a potential legacy.  Pieces that I could see easily living in the future.  There are a number in the current show, including the piece above, Observers.

These pieces have an intangible quality that I wish I could more fully understand so that I could better describe it.  Or capture in a way  so that it would be in all of my work.  There is just something that seems beyond me, something that is beyond this time.

Could I be wrong?  Of course.  I have been wrong many times in the past and will no doubt be wrong in the future.  But for my work I can hope that in this instance I am correct and that they hold on.

Actually, this was all just an elaborate lead in for a little Sunday  morning music , some soul stirring from the Alabama Shakes and lead singer Brittany Howard.  It is a song titled, of course, You Ain’t Alone.

Have a great Sunday!

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pinocchio_shrekI’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible. 

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the truth and lies lately.  It’s hard to not do so given the current administration’s adoption of using falsehood as the most important component of their strategy in dealing with the press and public.

Every day we are hearing numerous statements and “facts” that are bewildering to behold in that they are so easily proved to be false. I think they are basing this strategy on the old adage that says a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The lie moves out there into the great unknown and remains even after it is proven to be false.  The very existence of the statement, even though it is absolutely a lie, is proof enough of its reality for the uninformed.

These are lies that have purpose. These are not innocent misstatements or poor word choices. There is motive. They are meant to do damage, to create effects such as confusion and division.

This is some high level lying, my friends. It’s a world away from the adolescent lies that Holden Caulfield spoke of in the passage at the top of the page.

And a world away from the many, many lies I have told in my life.

You see, I ‘m a confessed and dedicated lifelong liar.

If you ask most people if they lie, they are going to say no.  Most likely it will be an indignant NO! that comes with a glare and a little spittle on their lips like you just tried to stab their baby with a fork.

But if I am asked that question I always tell the truth–Yes, I am a liar.

I heard many lies early on from well seasoned and highly convincing liars.  It was an apprenticeship of sorts.  I learned to fib to get what I wanted, to avoid blame and responsibility, to make others feel better and to cover my inadequacies and my shames.  Sometimes they were petty lies like those of Holden Caulfield, lies for the sake of lying where I would do it simply because I could.  It was just a small thrill to create a false reality that I knew would most likely go undetected.

To the kid’s mind, there was no harm or consequence involved. But of course, that is only a lie we tell ourselves to make it all seem okay. It did damage. Even those little fibs stressed my moral boundaries and acted as a gateway to a higher level of larger, more harmful lies as I moved into adulthood.

Along with this came that ability to rationalize the falsehoods that would temper the sense of shame I began to feel as my life progressed. Every lie became part of bigger construct, an ever growing tower built of lies. I am not going to get into specifics here but I will say that there came a point when when I didn’t know if the words coming out of my mouth beforehand were going to be the truth or another addition to my tower of lies. It came down to whatever was the easiest course through the situation at hand.

Fortunately, and this is not a lie, the shame I felt in living this way prevailed. I became a born again believer in truth, even the hard ones that I once avoided with all sorts of lies. It was liberating in so many ways.  Life became simpler with truth.

My tower of falsehoods was disassembled and I now reside in a snug and modest bungalow of relative honesty. I say relative because I have found that in dealing with my father’s dementia there are acceptable lies that we allow ourselves to tell so as not to alarm him and to ease his anxieties. That rationale does make it any easier to accept and I often find myself wracked with guilt.

I also use the term relative because lying is like a monkey on your back that will not let go.  Once in a while I feed the monkey exaggerations ( I think a million or a million and a half people came to my last gallery talk) and meaningless and ridiculous fibs such as saying that I got out of bed at 6:30 when I know for fact that it was 6:15.

That satisfies the monkey for now but someday soon I hope to send the monkey to a farm at some remote place where I will hopefully not visit it at all ever again. I am working on it. That is the truth.

You would think that with this long personal relationship with lying, I might find something admirable in the artistry of the liars we’re experiencing today.

I don’t.  We can’t rationalize it nor can we accept it as a normal mode of operation.  Every lie must be challenged, every lie must be counted and displayed for the world to witness.

To tolerate it is to choose to live on a very tall tower of lies. And that is a dangerous and precarious perch for us all.

Think about it before you shrug off yet another obvious lie from those who want to govern you.

I have to go. I have a Liars Anonymous meeting that starts 30 minutes from now.  That’s a lie– it starts in an hour. Liar!

 

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Over the past couple of months, I have found my work  moving more and more small in its size.  It wasn’t a conscious thing. It wasn’t because I wanted to simply make smaller paintings.  I have simply found myself feeling smaller.  Less expansive.  Less confident in making bolder, larger statements.  Hoping to move away from this trend, I went back in the blog archives and came across the post below from almost eight years back that captured my mood when I was in a somewhat similar place.  I thought sharing it might remind me to begin thinking bigger again, to trust my vision.Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***********

I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks.  The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have admired Smithson’s work whenever I came across it.

The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy.  Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world.  There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly.  Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.

I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations.  I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.

I was being safe.  It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above.  I was in the spiral.

This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty.  Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.

I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people.  Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.

So I have to remember to think big.

To look past the horizon.  Just freaking do it.

Then progress will come…

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Is It There?/ A Replay

GC Myers- First View 1994It’s that time of the year when I get to take a deep breath and begin to look forward into the next year, trying to determine where my path will lead next. It’s never an easy time doing this, trying to see change of some sort in the work  especially after so many years of being what I am and painting as I do. It always comes down to the same question:

What do I want to see in my paintings?

That seems like a simple question.  I think that any degree of success I may have achieved is due to my ability to do just that, to paint work that I want to see myself, work that excites me first. So I have been doing just that for most of my career, painting pictures in colors and forms that I want, or shall I say, need to see. But there is another layer to the question:

What am I am not seeing in my work that I would like to see?

That’s a harder question. How can you quantify that thing that you don’t know, might not even have imagined yet?

It might be a case of  knowing it when you see it. I know that my first real breakthrough was like that.

I was a beginning painter simply fumbling along.  Even then I knew I would never be a great craftsman following in the long tradition of fine art painters and I had little interest in showing the world or people in any sort of exactitude.  I saw it then and now as way of painting the unseen.  But I wasn’t able to visualize in any way what that unseen might be at that point.  I found myself looking for something that nagged at the edge of my mind, something that called out to me from just out of reach. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, had not a concrete idea of what it might be. It was just there in a gaseous form that I couldn’t quite grasp.

But when that thing finally stepped forward into view on my painting table and revealed itself in a tangible form– which is the painting at the top here, First View, from 1994– I instantly knew what it was that I had stumbled on and that it was something that  very important to me.

It might not look like much to the casual viewer now but in an instant I could see in this little painting the completeness of what I had been sensing in that gaseous, hazy form that hovered at the edges of my mind. I could see a full realization of all of the potential in it, in the present and shooting forward into the future like a strong beam of light. Even now, after years of evolving from it, I can see how it connects to everything in my work, even those things I had could not yet see when I painted it.

And that’s where I find myself at the moment.  There’s something out there ( or in there, I probably should say) that I want to see, might even need to see.  But I don’t know what it is yet. But I will know it when I see it.

And, trust me, I do plan on seeing it.

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GC Myers- Waiting on the Light 2006Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.

 
Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

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I was looking at this older painting from years ago this morning.  It was a late entry into my Outlaws series back in 2006 and I think I only showed it for a very short time in one gallery.  It has floated around the studio for the past decade, never really finding a place of its own in which to dwell.

I wouldn’t call it a great piece.  Maybe not even a good piece but it has a lot of meaning for me.  Every so often I pick it up and find myself captured in the moments that I see in it.

I see myself in it, those early mornings when I find myself wide awake at 4 AM with the wheels in my minds spinning furiously.  Sometimes it is a good thing with something positive and creative emerging from this pent up energy.  Other times, it is sheer angst and I find myself much like the figure in this painting, staring out the window waiting for the dark to recede and be replaced by the first dim light of dawn.

On the good days that light is full of high hopes for what is coming.  It’s exciting.  On the not so  good days it is just a painful wait for what seems to be nothing but the possibility of having enough light to wash away the darkness and maybe spark something to move ahead on.  It is a dull and drab ache, a suffering that I am reminded of in the words at the top from author Paulo Coelho.

So you can see that this painting, though it may not be among the finest of my work, has real meaning for me.  So perhaps in a small way, even in a way that only applies to me, it is somehow a good piece.

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Silence Speaking/ Redux

 

It’s hard to believe that I have been writing this blog for over eight years now.  It’s become part of my process and provides me with a place where I can go into greater detail about the work as well as receive instant feedback.  The post below was written about this time seven years ago when I was still unsure about the value of the blog to my work.  

GC Myers-Graceful Living 2004Silence is as full of potential wisdom and wit as the unshown marble of great sculpture. The silent bear no witness against themselves.

—Aldous Huxley

____________

I’ve been scratching around in the studio for the last few days.  Straightening up a little, putting things in their places.  Taking inventory, as it were.  Seeing what materials I have on hand and what I’m short on.

I do the same with the creative side of my mind.  I take this time, as I’ve noted in the past, to look back at the year and the body of work I’ve created over this period.  What have I done?  What is strong and what needs to improve?

One thing I’ve done in the past year is the continuance of this blog.  It’s done far better than I ever expected as far as readership and it has become a big part of my morning in the studio.  The feedback has been great and  I’ve taken a lot from the comments and e-mails received as a result of this blog.

But I still worry that this provides too much information about a subject, painting, that often communicates best without words.  I still fear that the impact of my words and thoughts will never add up to anything near the sum of my painted work and, as a result, a seed of doubt will be planted.  A doubt that makes the viewer question their own view of the work.  If I speak and write and eventually expose all my flaws and deficiencies, will the work still stand up?

As Huxley said, the silent bear no witness against themselves.  There’s much to be said for that.  Maybe the silent artist allows the narrative surrounding their work to form on its own, to grow beyond what they themselves may be.  I can see that in some cases.

But I’ve found that I’ve always wanted to control the narrative around my work.  To not let it be spun out of my hands.  So I talk and write.

For better or worse…

The inventory goes on.

November, 2016: You can see that I was still debating whether this writing would overexpose my personal flaws and deficiencies to the detriment of my work.  Looking back now, I have reached the conclusion that this hasn’t injured perceptions of the work– my flaws are evident in the work even without my writing about them.  I’m good with that.  And any worries I had about controlling the narrative of the work have also been unfounded.  I can push it in certain directions but ultimately the narrative is formed between the work itself and the viewer’s mind.  

As it should be…

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