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Archive for the ‘Early Paintings’ Category

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” 

― Malcolm Gladwell

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I am using these words from Malcolm Gladwell today because it fits well with my feelings on the painting I am showing here. By that I mean that this is a piece on which my mind has changed over the years, from feeling it was okay at first to loathing to grudging acceptance to now actually liking it quite a bit.

It’s a small painting, something like 7″ by 8″ on paper,  from 2006 that is titled In the Eye of Grace. When I first finished this piece it felt pretty good and evoked an emotion that hit a mark for me. It wasn’t blessed with that initial giddy excitement that often comes when finishing a painting but it felt right. It was good and I felt confident in showing it in the galleries.

So it was framed and sent out. It never found a home and came back to me a year or two later where it has been ever since. After being with it for a while, I began to actually dislike this painting. It bugged the hell out of me and I could never determine why that was the case.

I finally decided that it might be the way it was framed, set in a very wide mat and an extra heavy wide frame. It was a cumbersome setting for a small piece and I began to realize that I didn’t like– actually, I hated– the grandiose feeling of the frame for such a quiet small painting. It was like having a small simple gem placed in the middle of an overly large and ornate setting. Overwhelmed and eclipsed.

So I began to accept that I was letting my judgement be swayed by its setting. I no longer cringed when I came across it in the studio. It felt okay enough.

But in the past several months I placed this painting, still in its fat frame, in a place where I saw it while doing my morning workout. I began to really look at it and my doubts and distaste faded away. It was like I had disregarded the title I had given the painting years ago, In the Eye of Grace. It did have a simple grace that was easy to overlook.

It became a favorite in my morning ritual. I determined that I would change the frame to one that would let its grace shine through a little more easily. It’s funny how things sometime change, how even my own perception of a piece of myself can transform in several directions through the years even while that piece of self remains the same.

We are sometimes strange creatures living with moments of grace that we fail to see…

 

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Exiles--QuartetWe all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.

Albert Camus

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I have written about and showed a number of the pieces from my early Exiles series here on this blog. It was a very important group of work for me in that it was the first real break towards forming my own voice, creating and displaying work that was emotional for myself. It was also the work that spawned my first solo show in early 1997.

The inspiration for this work was mainly drawn from the experience of watching my mother suffer and die from lung cancer over a short five or six month period in 1995. Her short and awful struggle was hard to witness, leaving me with a deep sense of helplessness as I could only wish that there was a way in which I could somehow alleviate her pain. Most of the work deals with figures who are in some form of retrospection or prayer, wishing for an end to their own suffering.

But another part of this work was drawn from my own feelings of emotional exile, a feeling of estrangement in almost every situation. I had spent the better part of my life to that point  as though I didn’t belong anywhere, always on the outside viewing the world around me as stranger in a strange land, to borrow the words of that most famous biblical exile, Moses. These figures were manifestations of that sense of inner exile that I carried with me.

Little did I know that these very figures would help me find a way out of this exile. With their creation came a sense of confidence and trust in the power of my self-revelation. I could now see that the path from the hinterlands of my exile was not in drawing my emotions more and more inward, allowing no one to see. No, the path to a reunion with the world was through pouring this emotion onto the surface of paper or canvas for all to see.

This is hard to write and I am struggling with it as I sit here this morning. I started writing this because I had been reconsidering revisiting this series, creating a new generation of Exiles. But in pondering this idea I realized that the biggest obstacle was in the fact that I no longer felt so much a stranger in a strange land. I no longer felt like the Exile, no longer lived every moment with these figures. It turned out that they were guides for me, leading me back to the world to which I now feel somewhat connected, thanks to my work.

If there is to be a new series, they will most likely not be Exiles.

The piece shown here, Quartet,  is one of my favorites, a grouping of four figures.  You may not see it in these figures but the visual influence for this work were the carvings found on Mayan ruins of Mexico and Central America.  I myself see this mainly in the figure at the bottom right.

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Let Us Now Praise...

 

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

      – Thomas Edison

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I was going through old blog posts recently and I noticed that I had used the painting above a number of times in my earliest posts. It’s part of my Exiles series from back in 1995 and is titled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, borrowed from the title of a group of Depression-era photos of sharecroppers in the American dust bowl shot by photographer Walker Evans.

I never really wrote about this painting except in what I saw as it’s similarity to what I saw in those photos of Depression era workers. I always felt a connection to this piece but thought it was an outer connection, one that simply had to do with my reaction to form and color and not with anything I might see of it in myself.

Maybe that was my hope.

But it is a painting that I find has more meaning for me than I might want to let on. It’s a piece to which I always return, again and again, to study closely. While I sometimes see it as apart from me, more and more as I live with it, part of me feels like I am that man, standing alone in his landscape.

A sometimes self portrait.

It’s not a flattering self portrait. I used to see this figure as sad or regretful, world weary. But that has changed over time.  There is some sadness, some regret but more than anything, I now see him as resigned, neither happy or sad. He is in his place with work behind him and much more work to do. It still has a weariness in it, but not from a physical standpoint. It is more a sense of tiredness from working to stay ahead of the world’s constant encroachment, the world’s constant erosion. But while it appears tired there is also a sense of implied strength and determination to stay on task.

The hand here is important to me, a symbol of the bond of a working mind and working hands. Ideas set in motion and realized.

It’s a painting that means more and more to me as times passes and the world works its erosive qualities on my self and my world, my landscape. Maybe I am that dirt farmer, looking back with pride in his work along with an apprehension that it will someday be carried away like dry soil in the wind.

I am not going to be around Sunday so here’s a little music for the morning, a day early. It fits pretty well in tone and substance to the painting above. It’s the immortal Otis Redding with I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.

Have a good weekend.

 

 

 

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I came across this blogpost from four years back and it made me go over and closely examine the painting about which I was writing. It’s one of those things where you walk by it every day and after a bit, you fail to really see it. But looking at it reminded me of how much it bolstered me at the time it took its little prize.

I haven’t entered a painting in a competition for many years now. I never liked the idea of judging one painting against another as though there was some objective scale on which to judge them. Plus the idea of a group of judges trying to get a grasp of your work with 10 seconds exposure to it seemed kind of unfair in some way. Not that I didn’t have successes in the competitions I did enter. I took third place in a national competition and had a couple of Best in Shows along with a couple of other awards in regional events. But it never felt good to me and when I felt like it no longer served my needs I stopped entering them. 

But those competitions did wonders for me early on in my development and I may not be writing this today if not for them. Here’s what I wrote a few years back:

GC Myers-The Sky Doesn't Pity 1995smI was looking around my studio, taking in some of the work hanging on the walls throughout the house.  There are pieces from other artists, including some talented friends and young fans along with some notables such as David Levine and Ogden Pleissner.  But most of it is older work of my own.  There are a few orphans, paintings that showed extensively but never found a home.  In some I see flaws that probably kept someone from taking it home but most just didn’t find that right person with which to connect.  Most of the other hanging work is work that I won’t part with, work that somehow has deeper meaning for me.  Work that just stays close.

One of these paintings is the one shown here, The Sky Doesn’t Pity, a smallish watercolor that’s a little over 4″ square.  It was painted in 1995 after I had started publicly showing my work for the first time at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, not too far from my home.  The gallery has been what I consider my home gallery for 18 years [22 years now], hosting an annual solo show of my work for the last eleven years.  This year’s show, Islander, ends next Friday.

But when this piece was done I was still new there, still trying to find a voice and a style that I could call my own.  I had sold a few paintings and had received a lot of encouragement from showing the work at the gallery but was still not sure that this would lead anywhere.  I entered this painting in a regional competition at the Gmeiner Art Center in Wellsboro , a lovely rural village in northern Pennsylvania with beautiful Victorian homes and gas lamps running down Main Street.

It was the first competition I had ever entered and, having no expectations, was amazed when I was notified that this piece had taken one of the top prizes.  I believe it was a third but that didn’t matter to me.  Just the fact that the judges had seen something in it, had recognized the life in it, meant so much to me.  It gave me a tremendous sense of validation and confidence in moving ahead.  Just a fantastic boost that opened new avenues of possibility in my mind.

I still get that same sense even when I look at this little piece today, a feeling that would never let me get rid of this little guy.  I can’t tell you how many times I have glimpsed over at this painting and smiled a bit, knowing what it had given me all those years ago.

It encourages me even now.

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I thought I’d replay this post from back in 2011 about a little piece that is one of my personal favorites.

I came across this little piece that I had painted long ago, before I ever showed my work to anyone.  It’s a tiny little thing, barely 2″ by 3″ in size, but it’s a painting that I consider one of my favorites.  It’s not because of anything in the painting itself, although I do like the way it works visually with its simple forms and tones.  Actually, it’s because I see an entire narrative in this piece and it always comes back as soon as I see it, even after many years.

I call this Guenther Hears the Boogaloo Softly.  The story I see here is a German soldier on patrol in the second World War, in a wintry forest,  perhaps in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.  He is separated from his group and as he is alone in the forest he suddenly hears a sound from deep in the woods, echoing softly through the frozen trees.  It is a piano and it is like nothing he has heard before.  It has a loping bassline that churns and pops and over it is a tap dance of notes that bounce and roll on the rhythm.  It’s American boogie woogie.  Somewhere unseen in the forest a piano is rolling out that boogie woogie beat.

Guenther is transfixed and holds his breath to better hear the music that enchants him. A siren’s song.  He loses all thought of his mission and his duty.  He is engrossed by the music.

I don’t go any further with this scenario in my mind.  There are obvious directions the story could take.  Guenther might allow the music to transfix him to the point he doesn’t hear the American patrol coming upon him.  Or he might throw down his weapon and flee.  But most likely, he would return to his patrol and  if he were lucky enough to survive the war, the memory of that music would haunt him for years, sending him on a search to recapture the sound of that moment in the forest.

I see it simply as a being about the transformative power of music and art, about how they unify humans despite our differences.  When we hear or see something, we don’t do so as a German or an American, as a democrat or a republican, as a Christian or a Muslim.  We react as a human to our individual perceptions.  Sometimes we cannot shake these other labels we carry with us but there are moments when our reaction is pure.  Which is what I see in this little bit of paint and paper, in Guenther’s reaction to the piano.

Such a little bit of paint yet such a lot to say…

Afternote: There is a certain irony that the boogie woogie sound is largely kept alive by Europeans now with people such as Axel Zwingenberger and Silvan Zingg, a  pianist known as the Ambassador of Boogie Woogie  who hosts a boogie woogie festival in his native Switzerland each year. But here’s a little taste of boogie woogie from the late pianist Dorothy Donegan (1922-1998) as she performs Hallelujah Boogie Woogie. In her 70’s, she’s having a good time and putting on a real show.

 

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I wrote the post below back in 2009.  I’ve revisited the use of multiple images a few times since but only on a limited basis.  Maybe once or twice a year. But it’s a concept that appeals to me and just seeing these images again always sparks something.

I was looking through some older images on my computer, searching for a painting that I had completed several years back.  As I scanned through the paintings, I noticed several pieces through the years that were different from most of the work I’ve been doing recently.  They were multiples, such as Peers, shown here.  They were  paintings with several windows with a new scene in each, although most of the scene were very similar to the others.

It was a format in which I really enjoyed working and one that I have not revisited in a couple of years.  I really don’t know why. They have a very graphic appearance and really stand out on a wall, making them pretty well received as a rule.  I guess in the past few years I’ve been focusing more on working on texture and heightening the color, as well as working in the Archaeology series, so that I haven’t even thought of revisiting this format.

I remember some  of the early ones very well.  One had 48 cells and had a great look, the result of overlaying the paint with layers of chalk and pastel.  Another was the same number of cells with 48 individual small paintings,  each window having a separate opening in the mat.  It was a pretty difficult piece to mat and frame but it also popped off the wall.   I will have to go through my slides from that time (pre-digital) and see if I can wrangle up a few shots.  I would like to see them again to see how they really hold up against my memory.

Maybe I will revisit the multiples sometime soon.  I often run across things that have slipped from the front of my painting mind when I go back looking for something else.  It may be a format such as these multiples or may be a small compositional element.  It’s always interesting for me to try to re-insert this older element into the new work, to see how the inevitable evolution of the work will change this older concept.  We’ll have to see what this brings…

Fourfront  - GC Myers 2003

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GC Myers- The Deacon's New Tie 1995I was thinking about what song to use for this week’s Sunday morning musical interlude and the song I chose brought to mind an old painting of mine, one that lives with me still. It from the early Exiles series from around 1995 and is called The Deacon’s New Tie.

Finished near the end of the series, it is a bit lighter and more whimsical than the other pieces in the earlier post. Outside of going out for an exhibit many years ago, the Deacon has been a constant companion here in the studio.

There’s really no back story to the Deacon. He sort of just emerged from the surface. I had no preconception of what he would be when I started. I remember clearly starting this piece on a blank sheet and making a nose. Slowly, the face formed and when his eyes with their hangdog look came around I knew he was different than my other Exiles characters.

The funny thing about the Deacon is that several months after the piece was done and include in the Exiles show, I came across an article in the newspaper about a 95 year-old man in central Florida who had won a case where he was trying to be forced from the land on which he had lived for nearly 70 years. There was a picture of a bald old man sitting on his veranda, a slight smile on his lips. There was something slightly familiar in that face, something that caused me take a second look. There it was: he was the spitting image of my deacon.

Then, reading the article, it stated that he was a longtime member of a local church and was known to friends and neighbors as the Deacon. Coincidence or maybe just a certain look reserved for those Deacon-like characters.

As you may have already surmised from the title, this week’s song is Deacon Blues from Steely Dan, a group that I often think people have let slip away in the collective memory.  I was a fan and know that I often forget them until I stumble across their music by chance.  Luckily, there’s a local restaurant where we’ve dined for many years and we can’t remember a single visit where a Steely Dan song hasn’t played on their sound system at some point during the meal. The owner must be a Steely Dan fan but I think many people would be surprised at the huge success, both critical and commercial, that this band achieved in the 1970’s.  Solid then and now.

Anyway, this is one of their hits from back in 1977, Deacon Blues. Give a listen and have great Sunday.

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