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Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

It’s Father’s Day and, quite honestly, it’s a bittersweet thing for me. My dad is still alive and spends his days and nights in a local nursing facility, as he has for the last couple of years. He has Alzheimer’s dementia but still recognizes me and remembers quite a lot most of the time so long as he isn’t under stress. He has little idea of time and place right now. When I visit him today he won’t remember if I was there yesterday and an hour after I am gone will forget I was there today.

Our conversations are short and feel almost scripted.

How long did it take you to get here?

How old are you?

How old am I?

You still driving the same car?

Where do you live?

What’s the weather like?

Is there snow out there?

That last one always makes me laugh as he has a large window in his room with a great view of the local hills and the city along with the river that winds through it and all of its bridges. He asked me that question yesterday after I told him it was going to be 80 degrees. He seldom gets up and looks out the window. He has little interest in anything outside his room.

I wish I could go off on a long description of all the things I got from my dad, pieces of advice and gems of wisdom, but there wasn’t much passed along directly. Sure, there is the swearing and a few other things that I would prefer to keep to myself. I am sure there are things I do that are direct reflections of him and his influence, some good and some bad. But it was never consciously passed along. Much of what I got from him came in the form of genetics and in object lessons where my observations often led me to avoid emulating much of his behavior.

But, even though he was flawed as a father and remains a faded shadow of the man he once was, he remains my dad.

For this Sunday, here’s song, All Around You, from Sturgill Simpson, accompanied by the Dap-Kings, the horn section that had previously backed soul singer Sharon Jones before her death in late 2016. I am not a fan of a lot of modern country music– so much of it sounds like formulaic 1980’s pop/rock to me– but I do like Sturgill Simpson. There’s a certain authenticity in his work that feels like it is in a natural progression from early traditional country music, even when he’s covering a Nirvana song such as In Bloom.

When things aren’t going well I sometimes find myself singing the chorus from his You Can Have the Crown. I won’t repeat the chorus here but it and the rest of the song always make me laugh. I think it’s a song my dad would like.

The song All Around You is about advice being passed on from a father to his young son, that there is a universal heart that contains a love with the ability to transcend the hatred, meanness and stupidity that currently surrounds us. The video is quite well done and makes quite a political statement for the times.

Take a look and have a good Father’s Day.


 

 

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Lux Vitae- GC Myers

Tomorrow, Friday, June 1, is the opening for my show of new work at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. Haven is my 19th show with the wonderful folks at the Principle, a mark that still boggles my mind. When I first began painting after being injured in the fall from the ladder at the house we were building back in 1993, I had no idea it would ever amount to anything.

In fact, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. There was nothing in my past that pointed to any future level of success as an artist.

I just wanted something to call my own.

So from being invited to show my work with the Principle Gallery and onto my first solo show there in 2000– which was called, surprise,surprise, Red Tree— I have felt like I was playing with house money, that anything beyond this was gravy. Sorry for mixing metaphors there.

But in my mind, with that first show, I had already exceeded my expectations. Plus, beyond that, I had achieved my primary goal of creating something that I could call my own, something that would be validated internally by myself and externally by others.

So, each show is a reminder of how fortunate I have been in the past two decades. And knowing that I have been the beneficiary of such good fortune drives me to work a bit harder, to dig a little deeper for every subsequent show. I still believe that I have much to prove and room to grow with my work, as an artist and a person.

These years have given me no sense of entitlement. In fact, I think I feel less entitlement than I did in my earlier years in this field.  I didn’t know any better then. Now, I understand that as an artist you are on a constant  proving ground which requires real commitment and self-belief in order to stay relevant.

These were some of the thoughts that drove me while working for this show and I think it shows in the paintings. I am personally pleased and excited with this show, mainly because I know that I have done what I hoped to do with this show. It feels like an honest and real expression.

But, hey, that’s just my opinion. You can judge it for yourself. Or not. But if you do want to take a look, Below is a nice short video ( it’s only a minute and a half!) I threw together with some of the pieces from the show.

The painting at the top is Lux Vitae, a 30″ by 40″ canvas that I think is really symbolic of this show.

Hope you’ll come out and see it tomorrow.

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Well, I made delivery yesterday to the Principle Gallery of the paintings for my show, Haven. This exhibit opens Friday, June 1 at the Alexandria gallery with a reception that runs from 6:30 until 9 PM.

I guess I should say that it feels good to have the work in place but that wouldn’t be completely honest. While there is satisfaction in the simple completion of a large task I know from past experience that I will do little more than worry for the next several days. And the fact that this is my nineteenth solo show at the Principle Gallery and that I feel this may be among the most cohesive and strong group of work of these shows does absolutely nothing to stem the worry I feel.

In fact, this good feeling about the work, sensing that this work is as true to whatever vision and voice I possess, that makes me worry more than ever. To have it not connect with others, to have it feel distant and obscure on the wall, would have me questioning my own judgement about what I do. While I know that to base anything on the results of one show is foolish, it still makes a mark and creates a wound that makes you a little less willing to fully show yourself for fear of opening that wound again.

But hopefully this worry is baseless. For now, I will live with my worry and the belief that the work in this show ranks among the best that I have done. Time, as is always the case, will tell.

One of the paintings in the show is shown at the top. It is titled To the Siren’s Song and is 16″ by 20″ on canvas. It’s a piece I already miss having in the studio, one that constantly pulled my eye toward it in the months leading up to the show. The painting itself became a kind of siren to me and there is a perceptible void in its absence. For me, there is a blending of colors and forms,  of representation and abstraction, that I find compelling.

But that’s just me.

For this Sunday morning music I have chosen a song that I think fits into the blend of this painting. It is from the late singer/songwriter Tim Buckley who passed away at the all too early age of 28 back in 1975. Most of you are more likely to know the work of his son, Jeff Buckley, who also tragically died an early death at age 30 back in 1997. But Tim Buckley was as highly regarded in his time and his work has played a large influence on may other artists. This song is one of his better known and has been covered by a number of artists over the past half century. Fittingly for this painting, it is titled Song of the Siren. This video is from The Monkees TV show in 1968.

Have a good Sunday.

 

 

 

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“A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now, that’s a question.” 

― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

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Above is a new painting that is going with me down to Alexandria for my show, Haven, at the Principle Gallery, opening June 1. I am calling this 20″ by 16″ canvas Stars and Satellites. It’s a continuation of a series of recent works that are primarily stark nightscapes with skies composed of shards of color in an almost stained-glass manner. At the junctures where shards meet are points of bright color— the light of the stars and the planets of the night sky.

I think I have written here about the meditative effect of painting these pieces, how there is a feeling of both intense concentration and non-thought that blocks out all other things. If the television is on or music is playing, I don’t really hear it. If delivery vans or cars come up my driveway, I am totally unaware even though they directly pass in front of the large windows before which I work.

It’s like I am in that space in that time, especially in the first stages of composing the picture. All is quiet and all that moves through my mind is the simple geometry of placing blocks of red oxide in a way that makes sense in that part of my brain that is scanning the whole of the composition. It’s one of my favorite parts of my process of painting, this state of being so mentally attached to the surface of the painting.

Another favorite part comes later as the painting evolves from its red oxide skeleton. This moment comes after layer after layer of color is added and the painting crosses a tipping point where it suddenly becomes a fully fleshed being, an entity with its own life force and its own voice.

That is a really gratifying moment, one that makes me think of Carl Sagan describing the Voyager space mission and how it would travel through time and space as a reminder of our existence as a people and a civilization long after our Sun had turned our planet into an ember, long after we had ceased to walk this earth.

And in a way many of those stars in the night sky serve that same purpose. Many are the final traces of light from stars that have been extinguished eons ago yet remind us of their existence.

This piece has, for me, a feeling of an interdependence between the moon, the stars and we here on earth. We each need the other in order to be seen, to serve as a reminder that we have existed in this universe, if only for short time.

Like John Lennon sang in Instant KarmaWell, we all shine on/Like the moon and the stars and the sun…

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Whether this matters in the long term, I do  not know. But for the time being, it gives me the feeling that I am somewhat in control of my narrative. Here’s a post from a few years back that speaks a bit more about artists speaking about their work and the difference between doing so with words that actually say something substantive and those that are mere fluffy word clouds.

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David Hockney- Mulholland Drive 1980

It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work.

 –David Hockney

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When I first read this quote from the great British artist David Hockney, a painter whose work I admire and always find very interesting, I wanted to be offended. After all, I am an artist who has said plenty about his work through the years– this blog and gallery talks being evidence of that– and have tried to be always transparent and forthcoming when talking about my work. But even so, I nodded in agreement when I read his words.
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Part of my own desire to be honest and open about my work came from the frustration I felt in reading other artist’s writings that were filled with ArtSpeak, that way of seeming to say something important and meaningful without really saying anything at all. The words danced around all form of meaning and never fully jibed with the images that accompanied the words, leaving me with a single word resonating in my mind.
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Bullshit.
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And I know bullshit. I was a longtime bullshit artist. I sold swimming pools and automobiles– yes, I was even a used car salesman!– to the public for quite some time. I knew that you could sell by focusing on the strengths of the product and by dancing around questions about its drawbacks. Fill any voids with words that sounded like they were filled with meaning but really made no commitment to anything.
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For me, there came a time when I was determined to not deal anymore in that manner of speaking and when I finally came to painting, I knew I didn’t want my work to fall into that pool of bullshit.  I wanted to tightly control how I represented my work and to be completely open about it.  It’s whole purpose for me was my own honest expression and I want

David Hockney- Arranged Felled Trees

ed people to be able to witness that without a crap filter between them and the work.

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For the most part, I feel that I have been able to maintain that through these last several years.  Oh, occasionally I feel myself straying off the path but I simply remind myself that the product I am representing is the core of my self and once I cross that line I would be betraying everything art has provided for me.
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But these are just words and maybe you should take them with Hockney’s advice in mind.

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How often have I found that wanting to use blue,

I didn’t have it so I used a red instead of the blue.

 

–Pablo Picasso

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This year’s edition of the Genius series begins this coming Tuesday on the National Geographic Channel. This well done series premiered last year with a season dramatizing the life of Albert Einstein. This year it focuses on the life of Pablo Picasso, with Antonio Banderas portraying the artist. Given Picasso’s knack for pushing boundaries and stirring the pot, it could be an entertaining series.

He is probably the most quoted of artists, though many things are mistakenly attributed to him. It’s a case that if it sounds interesting and you’re not sure who might have said it, you credit him or Shakespeare or Lincoln or some other iconic figure.

But I have a feeling that the quote I chose here today is actually his. I can’t see Lincoln saying it.

I certainly know the circumstance to which he refers.

Been there, done that.

In a pinch, you just make do with what you have because you can’t always wait until you have perfect conditions, all the materials you desire and a moment of inspiration are in complete alignment. Sometimes inspiration is there and you don’t have what you would ideally want to use but you still want to make that mark.

A number of years back, I was having some real back problems. I had to that point always painted in a standing position but the pain forced me to sit. I found that there were points where I would reach for a color that I would normally use in certain instances and find it out of reach, across the room. Instead of straining out of my seat and limping to get it, I would take whatever was within my reach and try to either replicate the color or completely substitute another color.

In many ways, it was a good experience. Where I had used reds before, there were blues or greens. Turquoise tended to turn to purples and maroons.

Because my work doesn’t depend on accuracy in depicting natural color, it actually stretched the work a bit more and reinforced that idea that one must make do with what one has at hand. It’s something I have often tried to impress on young artists, that they should never use not having everything they think they need to start as an excuse to not start.

If they have a real creative urge, then they will make do, they will find a way.

The results may exceed what their mind had imagined.

 

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If isolation tempers the strong, it is the stumbling-block of the uncertain.

–Paul Cezanne
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I spend a lot of time alone in the isolation of my studio. Fortunately for me, it is the place in the world where I am most comfortable and feel completely myself.

It is the place where I can feel unrestrained to free the mind and go wherever it takes me. The place where I can shed the uncertainty I find in the outer world and feel free to daydream. The place where I can summon up pictures that exist only inside myself. A place to study. To listen. To see.

It is my my university, my library, my theatre, my monastery and my place of refuge.

My haven.

When I am out of the studio, I am all the while trying to get back to it.

When others come into my studio, the dynamic of that place changes and I feel myself suddenly self-conscious and a bit uncomfortable, like I am standing in someone else’s home.

The visitors’ eyes become my eyes and I notice things I never see on a day to day basis. The cat hair on the floor that needs to be swept up. The paint splatters on the wall or a fingerprint in paint on the wall switchplate. The windows that need cleaning. The piles of papers that I have been meaning to go through for too many months.  The paintbrushes soaking in murky water scattered throughout the place or the start of a not-too-good painting that will most likely never see the outer world.

In that moment, my perfect castle of isolation becomes a hovel of uncertainty.

But the castle remarkably reappears once I am alone again. The uncertainty recedes and I begin to feel myself once more.

My isolation is my default state of being.

I understand exactly what Cezanne is saying at the top. I have been more comfortable alone than in the company of others since I was a child. I don’t know if that is a strength or just a neurotic peccadillo. But I know that if I ever find uncertainty in my isolation, I will have lost my footing in this world.

But, thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet…

 

 

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