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I have written a little in the last week or so about the wildfires that are devastating the landscape, people and wildlife of Australia. It’s on a scale that I don’t think we can really envision. I saw the diagram above that allowed you to move a circle the approximate size of the acreage  that has burned in Australia over a map so that you can see how it would affect an area that you might recognize.

The image above is from an area that encompasses my home, extending all the way to NYC, covering all of the Pocono Mountains along with most of the Endless Mountains and the Catskills, most of central and eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, down to Philadelphia and into Delaware. If you’re familiar with this area, you know that it’s a substantial area.

Imagine, one day as you drive to NYC, that everything is suddenly gone. Every tree burned and every inch of ground scorched. The once verdant valleys that extend off of the highways for miles and miles in all directions stripped of all life. And not for just a short stretch of highway but for the entire drive.

Hour after hour of a suddenly empty, barren landscape extending as far as you can see.

There are no animals. There is nothing– no food nor shelter–there for those that may have somehow survived. And nowhere to go.

That’s pretty much the scenario that is taking place in Australia.

They are saying that perhaps a billion and a half creatures have perished in the fire. That is an incomprehensible figure, one that makes any effort to help seem so small, so insignificant.

But that is what it takes to recover from such a great blow– one small step to begin. Instead of wringing our hands and saying that there’s nothing we can do, we can do one small thing. A lot of people doing seemingly small things suddenly becomes a large and effective thing.

I don’t have many resources but what I can do, my small step, is to auction off a painting and direct the funds to a wildlife charity in Australia that is deeply involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of the affected wildlife in Australia. My research has led me to the organization, Wildlife Rescue Australia or WIRES as they are known. They are largest wildlife rescue organization in Australia. Though they are especially suited to this mission, they are in need of all the assistance they can get. This will require years and much effort to restore the environment and animals to this land.

The painting I am auctioning is below. It is titled A Clearing Comes and is a piece that is a favorite of mine, one that I had to convince myself to part with. I also think it’s one whose message and feel is relevant to this circumstance. I see the crow in the dead tree as being symbolic of the wildlife enduring the devastation. The sky, while dark and portentous, is clearing and the Red Tree and the richly colored fields in the distance represent a better, more hopeful future.

The painting is on paper and is matted under glass in my standard hand stained 16″ by 20″ frame. It has a value of $1600. The bidding starts at $500, please. I will end the auction at once if there is a bid reaching a maximum $1750. You can bid in the comments section or, if you desire privacy, you can email your bid ( please put AUCTION in the subject line) to info@gcmyers.com. I will ship the painting at my expense and will include a few additional doodads and geegaws to the winning bidder. Unless someone bids the maximum $1750, the bidding ends Saturday, January 18, at 12 noon EST. I will provide proof of all funds being donated to the winning bidder, as well.

I will post updates throughout the next few days.

So, if you can, take a step and help in some small way.

9:45 AM Update: There is a bid for $500.

10:15 AM Update: Current bid is now $1000.

A Clearing Comes- Auction for Australian Wildlife

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Rene Magritte- The Empire of Light – Guggenheim Museum

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Life obliges me to do something, so I paint. 

–Rene Magritte

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I wasn’t sure what this post was going to be about when I started. Still don’t know, to be honest. I was simply going to put up a short quote with a painting or two by an artist, as I sometimes do. In this case the artist was the famed Surrealist Rene Magritte.

I liked the quote above. Simple. Concise. Right to the point.

Plus, I think it lines up with an answer that I sometimes give when someone asks how I became a painter. I will answer, “Hey, everybody has to do something.

That opens up what could be a whole philosophical discussion about what our obligations really are in our lives as humans.

Are we really obliged to do something?

I don’t know.

Maybe. I guess not doing something is, in it’s own way, doing something. I know that when I am not a painter I am, among many things, sometimes a lazy slob.

Life obliges me to do something, so I do nothing.

That doesn’t have quite the same cache as Magritte’s statement but it is sometimes true.

But for the most part, when life obliges me to do something, I paint.

Not like Magritte. In my own way, at my own pace and of my own choosing.

Hey, life can push me around but only so far.

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PS: I was going to write about the painting at the top which is one version of a painting, The Empire of Light, that Magritte painted fourteen times. The subject was not going to be about the night scene of this painting with a blue sky above. Rather, it was to be about the repetition of forms by artists, a subject to which I am well acquainted. Maybe next time.

Now, let’s look at some other Magritte paintings.

Rene Magritte- Decalcomania – 1966

Rene Magritte- The Mysteries of the Horizon 1928

Rene Magritte- The Son of Man 1964

Rene Magritte- The Beautiful Relations 1966

 

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It’s interesting how an artist sometimes severely views a piece of their own work. Even more interesting when that same piece of work that fell under their critical eye becomes extremely popular. In the case of the great Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, that piece became arguably his signature piece of music.

This came to my attention last night when there was a question on the current Jeopardy Greatest of All Time Tournament (big fan- been watching Jeopardy since the 1960’s when Art Fleming was the host on the daytime version) that made me laugh out loud.  It had to do with Grieg’s work that he was composing as music for Henrik Ibsen‘s epic verse drama based on a Norwegian fairy tale, Peer Gynt. His work for the play was meant to be just incidental music but turned into 26 pieces for the long five act drama, much more than he had anticipated when initially agreeing to work with Ibsen. It was obviously a very trying collaboration and Grieg was not impressed with some of his work.

He wrote the following to a colleague about one of the pieces, part of which was also the question ( or answer, as the format requires) on last night’s Jeopardy:

And I have done something for the hall of the troll king in Dovre which literally I can’t bear to hear, it reeks so of cow-turds, ultra Norwegianism, and to-one’s self-enoughness! But I am hoping that the irony will be able to make itself felt.

The answer (or question) was : What is In the Hall of the Mountain King.

That he thought that this piece which is now so associated with his name reeked of cow turds just made me laugh. Maybe it was just the idea that he used that term. Okay, maybe that’s a little sophomoric but, hey, he said it first!

You most likely know the piece in question here. It is surprisingly short and has been performed and used in many ways over the years. It always makes an impression. I am sure it was used in a Warner Brothers or Disney cartoon at some point and I liked a version from the early 70’s from the Electric Light Orchestra.

Here’s a performance of the In the Hall of the Mountain King section from the ballet Peer Gynt from the Zurich Ballet in 2008. Great visuals to go with the music.

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I was going back through some old things on this site and came across this piece of music that I shared here several years ago. Listening to it took my mind far way from the subject I had intended to write about this morning.

So far, in fact, that I can’t even recall that original thought stream. It must not have been too important.

So, forget what I was going to say and, if you’re so inclined, give a listen to that piece of music. It’s called Miss Sarah off the album Blues Twilight from jazz trumpeter Richard Boulger.

Maybe it will distract you from something you intended on doing, as well.

PS: The painting at the top is a fave of mine, Pause in the Moonlight, which is at the West End Gallery.

 

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Vincent Van Gogh- Memory of the Garden at Etten 1888

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My aim in life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life… looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking, ‘Oh, the pictures I might have made!’ But this does not exclude making what is possible…

–Vincent Van Gogh

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Love this painting from Vincent Van Gogh with its wonderful color and the abstraction of the forms that comes from eliminating the horizon line. It was a piece that came to mind when I ran across this passage from Van Gogh. The words reminded me of something else, a thought that has been on my mind in recent times.

I was asked at my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery this past September if I ever had thoughts of retiring from my painting career. I think I made a bit of a joke about it, saying that I would no doubt die working away at a painting.

And that’s most likely true. I couldn’t imagine ever saying I am done as a painter.

It goes back to Van Gogh’s words above. I still see my artistic future brighter than my past, still envision important projects and better works to come. I still see my best work as being in the future, not dwelling in the distant past.

I can’t imagine that feeling ever changing. I can see myself on the day of my death, if I am capable of taking a moment to reflect on that day, will have that same regret that Van Gogh expressed: Oh, the pictures I might have made!

That being said, I must get to work. I am not retired yet and there are pictures to be made. The future is calling.

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Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

–Oscar Wilde

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Yesterday, I wrote about trying to go back through my work from the past decade and choose pieces that best summed up each year. It’s a difficult, if not impossible, task. There are often many different directions that the work moves in over a given period of time or sometimes pieces that strike a chord most for me may not represent the larger body of my work for that time period.

This past year, for instant, had many tentacles. The landscapes began appearing with multiple beds of flowers. The sailboats took on larger and more expressive waves. A new female figure emerged to paddle across flat waters. And, of course, the faces from my Multitudes series began to appear.

All of these elements will no doubt remain in play for the near future and maybe well beyond that. Who knows? And who knows what new things will emerge to grab my focus?

I sure don’t.

The piece shown here, Saints and Sinners, is from this year’s Multitudes series. It’s a favorite of mine, one that I might consider as a piece to represent this past year, at least for its particular tentacle. It’s a painting that I think works well for ending this year and welcoming the next. It has a feeling of looking backward and forward. Of examining what we have been, what we are and what we might someday be.

As I like to say: What I was then is not what I am now and what I am now may not be what I will be in the future.

None of us are fully saints or sinners. There may be a few who are fully sinners well beyond redemption ( ** comes to mind) but most of us are in that boat that drifts between the two opposite shores.

I am hoping that we drift closer to the saintly shoreline in 2020.

Have a good and safe New Year’s Eve.

 

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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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Time flies.

We’re looking at another decade slipping away. I originally didn’t give much thought to any way of marking this but in recent days began looking back at work from the past ten years, trying to to see if there was a single piece that summed it up for me.

That is really difficult. Even trying to choose a single painting that sums up a single show or year is often near impossible. There are favorites, pieces that speak to me more personally than others, but they often don’t reflect the body of work as a whole. But choosing one that stands as a symbol for ten years of hard work seems out of the question.

But I tried and came up with a few that stood out as possibilities. The painting at the top, for example. It’s The Internal Landscape from 2012. It’s a large piece, 4 1/2′ by 7′, and was the titular centerpiece of my show that year at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

It’s a painting that has meant a lot to me, as far as building a confidence in myself that my work had lasting value that might carry it into the future somehow. I had been a full-time artist for about 14 years at the point that this was painted yet I still wasn’t confident my own evaluation of my work. I felt that it was a real expression, not mere decoration. It was my inner reality and like, Jung’s words above, I often found myself torn between this inner realm and the outer realm of the world. I knew this as a real world but I didn’t feel that I was qualified to say if this reality was enough, that it transcended what it meant for myself.

But this painting and its acceptance by the viewers of that show made me realize that my work’s effect could move beyond me.

And that was vastly important to me in doing this thing that occupies my days and nights.

Now, I can’t say this painting fully sums up the decade for me but it may come as close any other piece I might choose. It occupies a wall in my studio now and I take moments now and then to take it in. Its size makes it an embracing piece, one that makes me feel as though I am stepping into it with the warmth of the colors and shapes wrapping around me. It’s easy to spend time in front of it and let my mind wander among the fields and hills.

I don’t know that it will ever find a home outside the studio and that is fine with me. It feels like family, like a part of me now.

 

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