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Archive for the ‘Early Paintings’ Category

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“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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When my solo show, From a Distance, opens next week at the West End Gallery, a couple of the included paintings will not be new work. There are a couple of pieces in this show that are older and have an interesting provenance.

One is the painting shown above that I call The Dance. It was painted sometime around late 1996 or 1997. When I painted it, I determined that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out at that time. It was too sloppy, too raw. It seemed to be moving in a different direction from the the path I was following. I decided to put it aside, unshown to the world.

But 23 or so years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

The interesting thing is that in the intervening years, this piece disappeared from my sight. When I moved from my old studio up in the woods which I had worked in from around 1996 to 2007 to my current studio, this painting, along with several other paintings, were carelessly overlooked in the move. They had been bundled together and this bundle had somehow been misplaced.

I wrote about this episode last year, when I was looking for a group of lost pieces from my Exiles series for an exhibition, heading up to the old studio to search for them. The old studio had suffered greatly in the decade since I had last worked there. A tree had fell on its roof, breaking through to the inside in one small area and the rain and snow had taken a great toll on it. The whole building was now racked and reeling and one side of the studio’s floor held piles of dark rotting debris from the roof and ceiling.

On a rack of old frames in that space, only several feet from the hole in the ceiling and the mound of dark debris on the floor, there were several sheets of old cardboard all pushed together among the frames. I had been looking for awhile at this point and was getting ready to call it a day when I decided to pull out that stack of cardboard.

Nothing.

Behind the cardboard, there was a piece of old plywood pushed up against the end of the shelf. Frustrated, I pulled out the plywood and, lo and behold, there was a bundle of sheets of watercolor paper pressed against the end of the shelving. I pulled them down and found a spot amo0ng the wreckage where I could examine them.

The paintings were all in oddly good condition, given that only several feet away there was gaping hole where all sorts of weather were free to fall. There was some foxing and a little grime but it wasn’t terrible and could be easily addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided a degree of protection.

Kind of like wearing a mask, people!

Each piece was thrill as I shuffled through them. Most were pieces that I remembered distinctly, some very good and one or two that were what I would consider failures that should have been destroyed long ago. This piece was wonderful to see when I came to it. I was giddy with being reunited with this work that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.

But the very last piece in the bundle made me tear up. It was a landscape and it had a title and a date at the bottom of the sheet. It was painted on November 9, 1995 and its title was The Sky Will Never Forget ( Hoping For Light). My mom from cancer died later that night, in the first few hours of November 10. The memory of working on that painting and the emotions of that time flooded back to me.

So, this piece lived in dark peril, lost and forgotten for more than decade. I think it was just waiting to be unleashed so that, in its raw exuberance much like the character in Yeats’ verse at the top, it could dance upon the mountains like a flame.

I am glad to see it dance once again.

 

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In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

–Carl Jung

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My annual show at the Principle Gallery each June is normally made up of solely new work. But I think we can all agree that this year is anything but normal. There’s been a little bit of everything thrown at us. I think that if a swarm of Bigfoots — or is it Bigfeet?— suddenly descended upon us from every mountaintop, we would just shrug it off as being just the next shoe to drop.

So, this being such an unusual year, I chose to change things up a bit and include a group of vintage pieces of my work in this year’s show. My only criteria was that they had some sort of link to the theme of the show which is, as the title states, Social Distancing.

Many of us are new to the concept of social distancing but for me it’s something I’ve been practicing for much of my life, even if I didn’t use that particular phrase. I have, especially for the last twenty five years, kept to myself, more or less. I have tried to simultaneously live in two worlds, the outer and the inner. Much like the view Jung takes in the words above, I have tried to straddle both of these worlds and have found that Jung’s observation is pretty close to the bone. The more and more time I spend in that inner world, the more real and expansive it becomes. I then find myself willing to sacrifice more and more of my connections to the outer world.

Reading that last paragraph just now, I realize that it doesn’t sound exactly healthy.  But even so, it seems to suit my temperament and disposition, to use Jung’s words again. Plus, in my inner world, it’s not considered unhealthy.

Two of the vintage paintings from this show that I think relate directly to this straddling of worlds are shown here today. The one at the top is a piece called Flower Shadow, that was painted back in June of 1995, twenty five years ago. It was never shown publicly but was always a favorite when I went through my older work, a piece that always made me stop for a few extra moments to consider it.

While part of me is attracted to it because of how it connects me to that early work, there’s something in it that speaks directly to me. Maybe it’s the idea of this rough flower, inside looking wistfully out a window. Living in two worlds, the inner and the outer, with an air of lightly wistful melancholy around it. It still speaks clearly to me, twenty five years later.

The other vintage piece is from ten years later, in 2005, and is from a limited series from that time that I called In the Window, which featured interior spaces with a window looking out on a landscape, which was the focal point of these pieces. This particular painting, In the Window: Dream Away, shown here on the right, was one of the first from that series.

Initially, this series was intended as a means to present my landscapes in a different way, like placing a gem in a different setting in order to highlight that gem. But as time passed, this concept of two worlds became more apparent to me in this work. I believe this particular piece, with its clarity and clean expression, exemplifies both of those concepts, the gem in a new setting and the being existing in two worlds.

I am really pleased to show these pieces now, though I do not being able to get some in person reactions like those normally received at a reception. But, as noted, these are not normal times so I will just put them out there and hope they speak clearly for themselves.

Hope you can make it to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for Social Distancing, my annual solo show that opens there this Friday, June 5.

 

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I started writing an angry screed here about the whiny, weak Karen occupying the white house and all the Karens who take their cues from his persistent behaviors of entitlement and victimization, about how it enables more and more racism and hate.

But I had to stop. It was making me too crazy. And most likely you didn’t come here to read my morning rant.

Let’s move on to something more in line with the premise of this blog: Art.

So, let me talk a little about my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens next Friday, June 5, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Normally, I would be adding the times for the opening reception on that day but due to the covid-19 restrictions, there won’t be a regular reception. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable in such a setting at this point and can imagine that most of you would equally uneasy in a crowd as well.

It’s a weird feeling, having such a show and not being there to interact with the people who come to see the work. This is my 21st solo show at the Principle Gallery and something like my 56th or 57th solo exhibit overall and I have attended the opening of all of them. It’s a chance to talk about the work with new and existing collectors, to catch up with folks who have been attending the shows for years and to spend a little time with my friends in the gallery. I get a lot of great feedback and enthusiasm from these receptions and often bring that back with me into the studio.

so not having that same experience this year certainly feels like a palpable loss.

In the beginning, thinking that this was a possibility ( and the pandemic itself) made it difficult to find focus for the show. But as I adapted to the new circumstances, I found a nice groove, seeing parallels between the current situation and the themes that are the mainstays of my work. Solitude and quietude set against an underlying uneasiness are regular themes in my work and they came to the forefront for the general population, even fr those not seeking solitude or isolation.

I think much of the new work for this show speaks to this situation well.

I also felt that this was a perfect time to include a group of what I call vintage work, a group of early paintings that date from before I was publicly showing my work in the mid-1990’s up to to about 2007. The thought was that they would serve as a before to the after of the current work since we are going through a time that will certainly leave us with memories of what thing were before this and how things will be after. The time just seemed right to offer this work.

Two of those pieces are shown here, both watercolors from the early part of 1995. The one at the top of this page is called View From the Lonely Steps. It is a good example of my early work and the cobalt blue watercolor in the sky does a neat and lovely job of settling in the depressions of the paper, an effect I very much like.The steps that make up the left side of the foreground forms a close mound that creates an illusion of depth and are some of the earliest use of that element in my work. It’s something I use on a regular basis in my compositions now. I also noted on the sheet of watercolor paper on which it is painted that I painted it on April 1 of that year. I don’t date things like that anymore but it was common for me to do so back then. I like having that date. It gives it greater context for me, as far as where it comes in the continuum of my work, which makes me think I should reinstate this practice.

The piece at the bottom is from January of 1995 and is called I Can’t Remember the Moment. This is another fine example of the style of work that marked my early days with two blocks of color set one above the other separated by a thin white unpainted strip. It is simply put and lets the two forms and the effects of and in their colors play off each other. At the point that this piece was painted I was still signing the pieces in pencil, albeit in the same style that I have used for my whole career.

Though I have gained experience and ability well beyond that which I possessed then, there was something pure and real in the simple expression of these pieces that I can’t replicate now. My joy and wonder is expressed in different terms now and find myself envying this work, recalling the excitement that came with the new discoveries revealed to me as they were painted. I still get those feelings now but they are more hard fought for now and more sporadic. Back then they felt as though they came on an almost daily basis, each giving me an almost giddy feeling as though I had uncovered some great secret treasure.

That feeling is so wonderful and so hard to get across, let alone find. But these pieces are filled with that feeling for me.

Hope you will get a chance to see these pieces at the Principle Gallery.

Finally, an apology to all the Karens I know. It is unfortunate that your name has became a social media buzzword for spoiled, ugly, hateful, entitled, and stupid behavior. I know several Karens and Karyns and they do not display these behaviors at all. I wouldn’t want to know them if they did.

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“When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.”

Wisława Szymborska, Poems New and Collected

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“When I pronounce the word Silence, I destroy it…”

I love that line from the late Nobel Prize winning poet Wisława Szymborska. It so well sums up my own forays into writing as a young man when I found myself trying futilely to write about silence and places of silence. My words always seemed to defeat my purpose.

You can’t really write about silence.

Using words to describe silence is like using hate to demonstrate love or war to peace.  It doesn’t really work well.

No, you can’t write about silence.

You can only be silent.

Silence is a way of being.

That brings me to the painting shown above called Song of Silence.

This painting, Song of Silence, is being included along with a small group of vintage pieces in my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens at the Principle Gallery on June 5. Most of the early work for this show comes the mid 1990’s but this is the latest of the vintage pieces, from 2007.

It is a fairly large piece at 32″ x 32″ on paper and its size seems to accentuate its quietness. I did a number of similar pieces in the mid 2000’s and they were some of my favorites to paint. There was something special in the delicacy and restraint of these pieces. Their simplicity would lead you to believe they were simple to paint but capturing such an ephemeral feelings with minimal elements made them real challenges. Anything even slightly askew could make the whole thing fall apart.

For me personally, when these pieces worked, when they came together in that special way, they felt like magic. They transported me to a different state of being, to that place of silence, if only for a few short moments.

This is one of those pieces for me.

It’s been quite a while since I exhibited this type of work and I am eager to see what sort of response this brings in the gallery.  We’ll see.

The title, Song of Silence, seems like it might contradict my words at the beginning of this post but wordless music often has the ability to convey silence. As an example I am including a selection below from one of my favorite pieces of music, Tabula Rasa, from composer Arvo Pärt that I believe does this effectively. This music, as performed by violinist Gil Shaham, served as a large influence on much of my early work.

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Was going to write something new today for Mother’s Day but decided to replay a post from five years back about my own mom, who died close to twenty five years ago now.

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I thought I would take the opportunity on this Mother’s Day, to dedicate this week’s Sunday music to my late mom. It’s hard for me to believe but later this year will mark twenty years [25 now] since she passed away after a short but brutal battle with cancer. Needless to say, I miss her very much and wish she could have seen the things that came in the years after she died, such as how well her grandchildren grew up and the great-grandkids she never got to meet or dote on.

For my parts, she never lived to see my work hanging in a gallery or museum, never got to see how it has grown over the years. Looking at two large pieces on easels next to me at this moment, I realize that there is a whole different world of mine she never got to witness.

But I think she would be pleased to know that things worked out okay, that I found something to ease my mind and give me something of a purpose. I would hope she would like the work I’ve done. I know she liked the earliest pieces, the only ones she would know, like the piece at the top. It was one of my earliest efforts in early 1994, long before I had experienced any kind of creative breakthrough. It was gift to her on Mother’s Day of that year and it hangs in my studio now, always reminding me of her.

So, for this bit of Sunday music, I thought I would play one of the songs I know to be a favorite of hers. She always loved Eddy Arnold‘s voice and I have specific memories of this song coming from our old stereo console. The title and the song itself,  Make the World Go Away, just seemed to fit Mom so well. For that matter, looking at the alternative world that surrounds me here in the studio, I guess it fits me as well. I am my mother’s child, after all.

Have a good Mother’s Day.

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Last July, I wrote here about going up the hill to the old studio that I had worked in everyday for over ten years before moving into my current digs. It was in pretty bad shape back then, with a gaping hole in the roof and the floor heading in several different directions, none of them level. It was a mass of decay and debris but I had found several paintings tucked away that I had overlooked when I was cleaning it out years ago.

There were some I remembered well and had wondered where they were before finding them. It was great finding these pieces, most of them in pretty good shape considering the exposure to the elements– and critters of all sorts– they had faced.

I wandered back up the hill yesterday. There were still a few things there that I needed to bring back down the hill plus I wanted to see how the old structure had fared during this past winter.

Well, the structure was in even worse shape, the walls and floors beginning to part company at some spots and the hole in the roof expanding to let in even more of the weather. Mother Nature was quickly reclaiming everything she could. I gingerly moved through the tilting doorway and picked around in the debris, finding the items I was looking for. As I prepared to leave, I stopped by group of three or four old paintings that I had left last year. They were not good in any way. Kind of embarrassing , actually. Plus, I didn’t even want to waste the time to carry them back down the hill.

But I went through them again and while I agreed with my decision from last year to leave them, there was one that grabbed my attention. It’s the piece at the top. It was painted about 25 years ago and I remember, even then, not knowing what it was meant to be.

It was an enigma even when I first painted it. I may have painted it but I still don’t get it, don’t fully understand what it’s supposed to say. But I do remember painting it and liking things about it. The colors of the sky the mass of the crowd behind the glowing figure that seems to be reclining on a cross. Not nailed. Like it was his decision to be there.

Maybe it’s saying that we choose the crosses we bear?

I don’t know.

Perhaps it was just the contrast between its colors and the destruction around it, but this piece seemed to ask to be freed from the wreckage. It’s in rough shape from a decade or more of exposure and neglect. It was painted on a cheap canvas panel and the cardboard backing that was now deteriorating and falling apart. But something in it sparked my imagination, made me want to look at it again. Made me save it for another day.

So, I brought it back down to my current studio. It’s been propped up on a chair and I have stopped to examine it several times over the past day. And even now, I am still mystified by it and how I came to paint it.

I am pretty sure I didn’t have a title for it back then and maybe it doesn’t deserve one now. Like I said, I still don’t know what to make of it. But if I were to give it a title I might call it You Can Have the Crown, taken from the title of a Sturgill Simpson song. I think the guy on the cross might understand. Give a listen and see if you do as well.

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Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

–Who Knows Where the Time Goes, Sandy Denny

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Kind of a convergence of things today. I was looking at some work form 2002, from the period after 9/11. My work at that time went primarily from transparent bright colors painted on a white ground to deeper saturated colors painted on a black ground, which became known as my Dark Work. There was a group of paintings in this series that featured interior scenes with with windows and an occasional open door along with a single red chair.

While these pieces were still being shown in galleries, I began hoarding them a bit, wanting to hold on to them. It felt like there was something personal in them that I didn’t want to share. at that time. Too close to the bone. I have several of these paintings and they are among the untouchables, those pieces that aren’t for sale.

The feeling in them had rhythm and feel that spoke to the bleaker days of this current isolation– a mix of sadness, resignation and longing. A lot of introspection and stillness in them.

At the same time, a friend sent me an email asking if I had heard of a singer named Eva Cassidy. I had heard her name and knew a little about her from years before but hadn’t found the time to listen to her work. She was a gifted singer/songwriter who, while well known in the DC area, never achieved wider recognition before succumbing to melanoma at the tender age of 33 in 1996. After her death, her work took off in the UK and the rest of Europe. Her recording released after her death have sold over ten million copies and have went to the top of the British charts 3 times.

Her music, or rather her voice, often has that same mixture of sadness, resignation, longing and stillness that I see in this group of paintings.

I am playing one of her recordings today, a cover of a Sandy Denny song called Who Knows Where the Time Goes? There is a bit of a convergence in her having recorded this song. Sandy Denny, for those of you who don’t know the name, was a tremendously talented British singer/songwriter, who is hailed as being “the pre-eminent British folk rock singer.” She fronted Fairport Convention for a while, alongside Richard Thompson, and was the only guest singer to ever appear on a Led Zeppelin recording, The Battle of Evermore. 

But she had bouts of depression along with alcohol and drug issues that often caused her physical injury. In late March of 1978, she suffered a fall where she banged her head on concrete. Soon after, she began to experience severe headaches. On April 1, she made her last public appearance with Who Knows Where the Time Goes? being the last song she ever sang in public.

She died on April 21, 1978 from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 31.

Like Eva Cassidy, her renown only grew after her death, with multiple posthumous releases of her work.

Two tragic lives that ended at much too early an age, bonded by this song. Both do haunting versions of it. I think I will listen to it again while I look at the painting at the top.

Have a good day and be thankful for the life that you have.

 

 

 

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Charley bought some popcorn
Billy bought a car
Someone almost bought the farm
But they didn’t go that far
Things shut down at midnight
At least around here they do
Cause we all reside down the block
Inside at ….23 Skidoo.

–John Prine, Jesus, The Missing Years

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Though I am not what you would call a religious person, I do love good gospel music and am often moved by it. Usually, on Easter, I use the occasion to highlight this powerful music. I’ve highlighted the music of the great Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke‘s incredible work with the Soul Stirrers before he became the pop legend we all now know.

But on this Easter Sunday, as a small homage to the death of John Prine, I thought I’d play his song Jesus, The Missing Years. It’s not gospel but is a beautiful example of his humor and songwriting skills. I am using a live version because the intro to the song makes me chuckle. The song was originally from his 1991 album, The Missing Years, which is a favorite of mine with many memorable songs. I am going to throw another one in at the bottom.

The painting at the top also makes me chuckle and it’s sort of Easter related. I remember painting it about 25 years ago. The color in the sky got away from me and skewed a lot more pink than I liked. It just felt so wrong and when I looked at it all I could see was a pastel Easter egg. It kind of miffed me a bit and I scrawled the title under it that lives with me to this day–Its Easter! So Kiss My Ass.

As I said, I am not a particularly religious guy. I did, however, crop that part out of the image above.

This painting, a small one, never left my studio, of course. But I still like to pull it out once in a while. I have a laugh every time I do and it has actually grown on me. The pink of the sky doesn’t feel like such an egregious violation now. It’s a lovely little piece that I now find soothing when I look past that memory and title.

I wish you a nice Easter Sunday, if that is part of your faith.

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Going forward, I think I am going to designate Tuesday as a No-News-Day. Just turn off the news and the social media. Whatever is there will catch up to me soon enough, that’s for sure. Listen to only music and try to focus on the work at hand.

So, Tuesday’s a No-News-Day.

And if this works out, maybe Wednesday, Thursday and a couple of others will follow.

Probably not Friday though. The masochistic part of me that seems beyond my control wants to go into the weekend at least a little pissed off.

So, I am starting this Tuesday No-News-Day with some comfort music. Well, at least, for me. It’s Darkness on the Edge of Town from the 1978 album of the same name from Bruce Springsteen, which was his long awaited followup to the classic Born to Run.

It was an interesting and dark period for Springsteen in the 3 years or so between the release of Born to Run and the making of Darkness. He had all these accolades for Born to Run which was hailed as an instant classic and seemed to be on top of the world. But he was in the midst of an ugly, protracted lawsuit with his former manager that stripped him of the rights to his music, left him broke and prohibited from recording. He survived by a heavy touring schedule with long epic shows that built up the base of hardcore fans that would support him for the rest of his career. This period of time was reflected in Darkness on the Edge of Town.

There was an HBO documentary from about 10 years ago about making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. In it, Springsteen talked about wanting to create a cinematic feel and sweep with the music, one that evokes a visual image with the sound. Sound pictures, he called them. I understood what he meant by that because I have always viewed my paintings in the reverse of this, as being visual music. As though the message or feel he (and I) wants to get across is caught somewhere in between the two mediums. Or maybe even more than the two.

I believe a lot of artists must see their work as a mixture and synthesis of multiple mediums. I certainly sometimes see my own work in terms of literature or poetry or cinema.

Anyway, this is an easy throwback in time for me. I am coupling it with an older small piece from 2006 that I think fits the song’s feel. This was from a series of small cityscapes that featured the outskirts set against skylines of tall buildings or industrial structures. I loved painting these piece and they still bring me a lot of joy when I revisit them.

Give a listen. Enjoy your own No-News-Day if you can.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0ekQBmzKs

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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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