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Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

It’s a time for great swings of emotion that have me off balance much of the time. Waves of bewilderment that sometimes lead into anger followed by fear then anxiety. In between are interspersed moments of peaceful calm and even a full blown laugh that bring the whole shebang back into a more workable balance.

Then, once in a great while, there are moments that feel like a bit of grace being extended. The balance suddenly seems manageable and perhaps there is even hope.

That was just yesterday.

I was up early to head out to our local Wegmans supermarket, to be there at opening which had been advertised as being 6 AM. We needed a few items and I thought getting there early would beat the potentially infectious larger crowds and also give me a chance at finding my needed items on the freshly stocked shelves.

I pulled into the parking lot around 6:20 and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. There were only a handful of cars, outside of the employees vehicles parked further out in the large parking lot. I would be able to get in and out without running into many folks at all. I was out of the car with my shopping bags in hand when the window of a car near me rolled down. The guy inside spoke, telling me that the opening time had changed, that it was now 7 AM.

Oof. I slumped a bit and got back in the car to wait it out. By 7, there were quite a few cars but it wasn’t crazy busy as we shuffled in, everyone doing a pretty fair job in trying to keep their distance. Inside the store, with my gloves still on, I maneuvered my cart through the store and was kind of knocked out by the number of empty shelves that were there at opening time. The produce was sparse but I found the couple of items that we needed.

In the section that held canned beans and the like, there were 3 single cans of vegetarian beans. One had a pretty large dent on the edge of its lid, so I grabbed the other two. The pasta and rice sections were also picked pretty clean except for sporadic spots that held what appeared to be a case or two of a single item that would no doubt soon be gone.

All in all, I found most of the items I needed– there is never a shortage of Count Chocula cereal. Just kidding. We will just do without those other things that I couldn’t obtain.

I was able to keep a good distance from other shoppers but checking out was a bit unnerving to suddenly be a little closer. I tried to keep as far back as possible from the frail looking lady who was checking me out. I felt so bad for her and the cashiers who were constantly within a foot or two of a constant stream of different shoppers without knowing where those people had been or how seriously they took their responsibility to maintain distance or wash their hands. They would be there all day exposed to who knows what.

If you must go to a shop, bear this in mind. Keep your distance for their safety and yours as well. And be extra kind to these people who most likely have no choice in whether they can be there.

There are going to be shortages for the near future. It’s understandable. Along with the panic buying of regular shoppers, there is a whole group of people who are suddenly forced into the stores, putting further strain on the food chain. These are the people who used to get most of their meals at restaurants. You might say that’s ridiculous but even when I worked at the Perkins Family Restaurant twenty-some years ago, there was a remarkable number of people, even whole families, who would get two and sometimes three meals a day there.

According to stats, that trend hasn’t lessened in recent decades as more and more people eat out for many of their meals. Suddenly, these people are forced to either make their food or order the allowed takeout. And since many are also now under some sort of financial stress, perhaps laid off with no way of knowing when and if they will get back to work, they must begin shopping for food in a supermarket, trying to save a little money where they can. Throwing these people into the mix makes for even more shortages.

It will be that way until we get some sort of reassurance that the food supply will be stable and that we will be able to have access to the foods we need. And that reassurance is definitely lacking from the leaders at the top who seem woefully unprepared to handle a situation of this magnitude. Their inability to be forthcoming, accountable and honest has created a lack of credibility that now makes us distrust every word they utter, every move they make. Average people are beginning to realize that they must fend for themselves and that creates a frenzy in a population that hasn’t experienced this sort of potentially existential crisis in their lifetimes.

Will that reassurance come? I don’t know but my opinion that this administration is incapable of doing so., given their lack of empathy and their constant desire to assign responsibility or blame for anything to anyone but themselves. A great leader doesn’t keep saying that he is doing a great job. He doesn’t need to– his actions speak louder than hollow self praise.

Okay, let’s call that the anger part of my day. Like I said, this was how my day went yesterday. Up and down. Bewildered at the supermarket. Angered and made anxious by the news. Worried about the near future and our personal situation. Talking nonsense to my studio cat, Hobie, then laughing like an idiot at a sitcom that I had put on the tube for some sort of relief, even though I had seen it a hundred times before.

I was all over the place.

The new normal. Or is it the new abnormal?

Wait, I mentioned there was a moment of what seemed like grace, didn’t I?

Well, in the midst of this day, when I riding a ridge of anxiety down to its lowest point, I received an email. It was from a local man, a doctor, who asked about buying a large painting for very specific site in his home. I had only one painting that fit his need and it was one that has been dominating my space lately, both in the studio and in my mind. I turned and looked at the painting. I look at it a lot these days.

I read the email a couple more times and asked myself if this was a real inquiry? Who would be looking for a large painting right now? Are they pulling my leg and if so, how cruel would that be?

But after a minute or so of consideration, I thought it must be real. I actually teared up a little in that moment because it was just what I needed in this new abnormal day.

It felt like a small bit of grace. I don’t know if that’s right but I can tell what it was.

It was reassurance.

The reassurance that I, like so many others, was lacking. The reassurance that, even in a time of dire crisis, what I do has some meaning, that I exist and count for something.

Reassurance that I will be able to persevere and weather the storm.

I don’t know that this person was just looking for a painting at this particular time or if he decided to do this now because his action would be greatly helping out a local artist and small business at a time when it was truly needed. Whatever his reason, it moved me.

I sent him the image, writing a bit about the painting, and it looks like it may be moving to a new home very soon. I have often said that, in my mind, every time a person chooses to buy my work is a small miracle of some sort. I don’t know if that is absolutely true but I know that this sale will linger with me and have meaning for a long time to come.

We all need reassurance now. Each of us has the ability to give others some measure of reassurance.

Be kind. Be generous, even if you only afford to do so in spirit.

It goes a long way.

Sorry for the length of this post. If you got this far, thanks for sticking it out. There was a lot to say, I guess.

Have a good day and be careful.

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The painting at the top, Life Pop, is at the West End Gallery in Corning. Their doors are closed currently but they are still operating normal hours via phone and online, as well as with private appointments.

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Ah, another St. Patrick’s Day.

No parades this year with the drone of pipe bands and local fire departments showing off their freshly shined trucks while kids aboard them throw fistfuls of candy at the yelling crowds. No raucous drunk buses trekking from pub to pub filled with folks in plastic Kelly green derbies and Kiss Me I’m Irish t-shirts. No restaurants, firehalls or Hibernian Centers packed with revelers chowing down on their corned beef and cabbage and pints of Guinness.

No, this is not a year that will be tipped toward the louder side of this holiday. Instead, it will be one that leans toward the more somber and melancholy side of the Irish character, which is never far from the louder and more sociable part.

For me, moving to this more melancholy part is not a challenge. It usually brings memories of my mom, who has been gone nearly 25 years now, to the forefront. This would have been her 88th birthday. St. Patrick’s Day and her are permanently connected in my mind, down to the color green that I associate so much with her memory.

It’s the cool green of damp ferns, bright and vibrant in the yellow of the sun yet more fully beautiful and rich in the blue darkness of the shadows.

I stopped for just a moment now and a flood of memories came over me. That made me even more melancholy because they were so many of the same memories that I have been relishing for years now while I know there are so many more that are deeply tucked away in the folds of time and mind, hidden so that they would most likely be forever lost to me.

So, try your best to enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day this year, be it with a pint and a song or a tear and a memory. Or both.

Here’s a bit of Irish from the Chieftains, who we lucky enough to see at Carnegie Hall on St. Paddy’s Day many years ago.  Wonderful show. These are two songs with Morning Dew in their titles that are distinctly different. The first is the instrumental The Morning Dew which has the feel of march and the second, the wistfully sad song of memory, May Morning Dew.

Have a good day.

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I do a one-man show every June at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA and have done so since the year 2000. This year’s show, my 21st such show, is slated to open June 5. I am keeping hope alive that the current situation will have subsided to some degree and that the show can go on by that time but the experts’ projections, based on what little data they can obtain from our inadequate testing, make it look a little shaky.

But I am continuing to work on this show on the premise that the show will go on.

It’s what I do. All I can do.

That being said, I have determined that this year’s show should reflect this time. At least, my take on it. To that end I am calling the show Social Distancing. It’s a term that, while it has really taken hold in this world in recent times, I don’t think I have encountered much before now.

I have practiced it and painted it in many ways but just didn’t know to call it that.

From my earliest days, much of my work has dealt with the duality that runs along that line between solitude and alienation. The yin and yang, the joy and the sorrow, that comes from being apart from others. Many of my series have focused on this separation, the Exiles and Outlaws series jumping to mind.

But even my most used archetype, the Red Tree, usually concerns itself with distancing.  It almost always is alone or at least apart from other trees. Most of the time, it is about finding strength in recognizing those things which makes us unique individuals but occasionally it is about feeling alienated from the rest of the world.

Some find empowerment in their solitude. I believe that’s been the case for myself as I have seldom felt loneliness, especially in my adult years. But for many, that line between simply being alone and lonely is a thin one.

Solitude and silence can be frightening to those unaccustomed to it.

This being the case, there will be a pretty substantial nod to my earlier work, such as the painting at the top. It’s a 14″ by 24″ piece on paper that I call Social Distancing: Approaching Storm. I guess it’s a timely title.

For me, this return to that earlier method which focuses on sparse landscapes and big blocks of transparent color is like comfort food to me. The more I immerse myself in this work the more I understand what its appeal was to myself and those folks who were drawn to it in the early days. Working on this group over the past week or so has been steadying in the face of the great uncertainty we face.

I could say more but I think I want to stop. Hopefully, the show will go on, at least in some form.

I am going back to the solitude of my work now.

It’s what I do. It’s all I can do.

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Social Distancing, this year’s edition of my annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria opens June 5.

Stay tuned for further details.

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This quote came from Hermann Hesse‘s most famous book, Steppenwolf. A great book but my favorite Hesse book is Demian, which I have referenced here a couple of times in the past. It was a book that I read at a time when I was at a crossroads in my life and it was very influential in my heading in the direction which led to this point. I think this quote very much jibes with my perception of the world portrayed in my work, that being that it is a real entity, a real place.

It has as much substance as the outer world to me. It has depth and layers. It has breath and light. It has emotion and its truth comes the fact that it is a precise portrayal of itself– not a replication of the outer world.

It just is.

That may sound nutty or perhaps egotistical to some. I get that. But without this belief in the reality of this inner world, the validity of the work to myself comes undone. It fades to nothingness and certainly doesn’t move across the void to the viewer. It loses all meaning for everyone, myself included, without this certainty in its being real.

I’m going to stop at this point. I may have said too much already, maybe too much for the outer world. In here, in my little inner world of colors and shapes, it sounds right…

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This post was from about five years back. I reread it for the first time again this morning and thought it deserved another run.

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Joni Mitchell- The Mountain Loves the Sea- watercolor 1971

Over the years, I have often been asked about influences on my work and I often list several artists that I feel pushed me in certain directions. Then I also point out that there have been influences that fall outside of the painter mode. For example, literature, poetry and film come immediately to mind. Then there’s pop culture such as cartoons and comics, television and so much more. I’ve mentioned that there was a Coca Cola tv ad back in the 80’s that featured saturated colors– reds and golds– that stuck in my mind for years before I began painting.

There are so many contributing sources of inspiration.

I mention this today because as I was looking for a piece of music to play this  morning, I came across the old Joni Mitchell album from 1974, Court and Spark. It was a great album, one that I loved even as a teenage boy. I had not listened to it in years but each of the songs was imprinted in me by this time.

I also hadn’t looked closely at its album cover for many, many years though it was a beautiful cover, cream colored with a small watercolor painting, The Mountain Loves the Sea, that Joni Mitchell had painted a few years before, tastefully in its center. It had a simple elegance that I recognized, again even as a teenage boy. But it was just one of those things that, because I had seen it so many times before, I didn’t look with any attention at all.

But I looked closer today at the painting in the cover’s center and was surprised at how much my own work sometimes held echoes of this little painting. I would never thought of Joni Mitchell as an influence beyond her music but looking at this little image made me rethink that.

Maybe it was just one of those little things that push you without your knowledge in one direction or another. Influences that you internalize and can’t recognize or name until you come face to face with them. We all have them, those small things we take in and blend together to make us who we are.

I am glad this was one of those things for me. So, let’s give a listen to the title track from Court and Spark.

Have a great Sunday.

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One of the benefits that come from writing this blog for nearly 12 years now is that on those days when I am super busy and have to get to work early, I can go into the archives and pull out a favorite. Below is a such a favorite from back in 2013, made doubly so in that it is in itself a reposting of an even earlier entry from 2009. Give a look ( and a listen) if you have a few minutes.

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farmer[2013]– Yesterday, I checked my blog with a search to see if I had ever written here before about that day’s subject, Long John Baldry. I found that I had only mentioned him once in a post from back in 2009. I read the older blog and it made me chuckle. It was titled You Can’t Judge a Book… from a song that Baldry had once covered and had to do with how our preconceptions are often wrong about people. It immediately brought to mind something that had happened over the weekend here at the studio.

My niece, Sarah, brought a friend and her husband to visit the studio from their NYC home. Sarah didn’t share much about her friend outside of saying that they danced together and that she was a filmmaker for one of the large big-name auction houses in NYC.  I had no idea about what her husband did for a living. That was the extent of my knowledge outside of knowing they had been married the year before in New Orleans.

But they arrived and we had a wonderful visit. Both were charming and inquisitive, asking real questions and relating their own experiences in response to my answers. They were easy to speak with and made me feel comfortable in describing my work and process, not something that a lot of people can do easily. We visited for a couple of hours and they headed back to the city.

During our visit we learned a bit about the friend’s husband, whose name I won’t use out of respect for their privacy.  He was in the music business in some fashion, performing as a DJ, and had spent a lot of time touring here and abroad. He also was working on soundtracks for films. When I asked what sort of music he worked in, he said, in an almost apologetic way, that it was mainly rap and hip-hop. The manner of his response struck me in a curious way. He went on to explain that it was the music of when and where he grew up, in the neighborhoods of NYC. Again, this was said in an apologetic manner.

I didn’t think much about it until after they left and I decided to see if I could find out more about his music.  Googling him, I discovered that he had a prodigious reputation in the rap genre, with over twenty years in the business as a DJ and producer for a pretty big name rapper. He had recently started his own record company and had released an album  of his work only weeks before our meeting. I watched a couple of videos of his work and listened to several songs.

I am not an authority on rap/ hip hop in any form but this was powerful stuff. I was really impressed and thought back to his apologetic description of his work.

I understood it then.

He didn’t want to be judged and was trying to make it easy for me to not judge him. I mean, here I was, a middle-aged white guy with gray hair out in the country— not exactly a prime candidate for a hip-hop connoisseur. He had surely heard the venom directed toward his musical genre before from people who looked like me.

So, he judged me before I could judge him. I understood that.  It’s most likely what I would have done had I been in his place. My only regret is that it robbed me of an opportunity to ask the many questions that I formed in looking up his work after they had left the studio. It would have been fascinating to compare our creative processes, to see how he synthesized his influences. I got the impression from our talk that, though we worked in vastly different environments with disparate influences, we both working on a similar creative rhythm, expressing emotion within the framework of our own personal environments.

Well, the next time we will both know and won’t worry about judging one another. Here’s the original post from back in 2009:

I’ve just put the final details on a couple of paintings that will be part of my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. The show opens June 12th and I’m scheduled to deliver the work to the gallery a week before so I’m in the final stages of preparation. This is my tenth one-man show at the gallery and before that I did two shows as part of a group of painters from the Corning , NY area that was dubbed the Finger Lakes School.  

I particularly remember one moment from the first show with that group. There was a pretty good crowd and several of us from the group mingled, answering questions and such. I had a small break in the conversation and I heard a female voice from behind ask her companion where we were from. Her friend answered that we were from the Finger Lakes region in New York, pointing out that it was a pretty rural area with a lot of wineries and farms.

“Well, you know, they do look like farmers,” she replied.

I think I did a spit take. Over the years I often think back to that lady’s comment and sometimes laugh. Maybe we shouldn’t have all worn our overalls and straw hats that night. It just reminds me how people judge others by that initial glimpse and how often they end up being wrong. Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in the end, I would prefer being mistaken for a farmer than an artist anyhow. Offhand, I can think of more positive attributes for the farmer. So, if you can make it to the opening look for the guy who looks like a farmer…

That brings me to a song, You Can’t Judge a Book, that was originally written by blues great Willie Dixon and made popular by Bo Diddley. This is a personally favorite version from Long John Baldry, one of the pioneers of the British blues/rock movement in the early 60’s and a guy who had real panache. Give a listen and be careful before judging someone, okay?

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exANll1Mk7o

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Since I have much to do this morning, I am running this post from back in 2013 that concerns a few early pieces. I came across one of these pieces, Doug’s First Day on the Job, early this morning and, while it made me chuckle, it reminded me of current events. Thought this post was worth looking at again.

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GC Myers Early Interior sm“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

Charles Bukowski, Post Office

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I have often shown early work here, stuff from when I was still trying to find a path forward. Most of it is from before I ever thought  that showing my work in public was a possibility. As I have pointed out, I still revisit this early work on a regular basis in an effort to stay connected with that time in which the need to create was the only motivation needed. There’s also an element of backtracking in this as well, trying to put together how this work somehow led to what I do now.

Sometimes it is hard to see the connections as the work is so singular and never followed up on, then or now. I think those are the pieces from that time that intrigue me the most, making me wonder how my journey forward from that time would have been different had I chosen and stayed on that path.

For example, here are three pieces from around the same time, all painted within a month or so of each other back in 1994. None really lead directly forward to the current time but I really always enjoy seeing these three pieces, wondering what my motivation was at the time. The first , shown above, is an interior scene that just formed on the paper. I had no idea what was going to be there, outside of the checkered tablecloth. I remember that the cross on the wall was a last minute addition, one that changed the whole feel of the piece. I can understand why I didn’t follow this path but it still makes me wonder.

GC Myers Still Life smThe next was this still life, here on the left. I remember this piece well, having ambivalent feelings about it as a whole. I liked the clear graphic look of it but it was almost too clean, too sharp. It had really good eye appeal but it seemed all surface to me. I see things from this piece that I did bring forward, such as some of the clearness of the colors which I like in some instances. The thing that always strikes me is that I see a face in profile, looking to the right. Faces subconsciously built into the composition are something I often look for in my work, feeling a curious satisfaction when I find them. I wish I knew why. Maybe that’s what draws me back to these early pieces.

GC Myers- Doug's First day on the Job smThe last was one that had a title, Doug’s First Day on the Job.  I remember this as a piece that I viewed as an exercise even as I started, experimenting with forms and color. The resulting scrum of arms and fists with the strange authoritarian figure in the foreground, hooded and  pointing ominously out of frame reminded me of the chaos and confusion of  a kid’s first day on a new job. A strange environment with new procedures to learn and strange new people who struggle with each other and boss the new guy around. I knew even as I painted this that this was not my path but I enjoyed this piece anyway. It had a cleansing effect and was a wonderful lesson in color and form .

Plus it made me chuckle.

I don’t know that there is any great connection between these pieces or to my future and current work. I always wonder though at how these disparate  pieces formed in such a short time, wondering if I have that same burst of energy within me still. Maybe that is the reason for this backtracking, looking for that energy source, that fount of inspiration.

I don’t know…

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