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A few days ago, a good friend introduced me to a singer/songwriter I had never heard, a fellow by the name of Dan Reeder. My friend had stumbled on this fellow and had discovered that he was on Oh Boy Records, the label that John Prine recorded on and founded almost forty years ago. That this Reeder follow was Oh Boy was enough to make me want to give it a listen.

Glad I did.

It’s considered “outsider modern folk” which is probably an apt description of John Prine’s music as well. You can hear echos of the John Prine influence in his music but he definitely has his own frank perspective on the world.

The song I am showcasing is Clean Elvis just because it made me smile — not always an easy things these days– plus I wanted to show the old painting at the top, a favorite of mine called Elvis in the Wilderness from 2006, I think. Part of the Outlaws series. It’s one of those pieces I wish I had never let go.

I am also throwing in a lovely, gentle song called Maybe that has a real Prine feel in its tone and message.

So, give a listen. And to my old pal Clifford who lives out in the greater Amesbury area, thanks for the intro to Dan Reeder. I have a feeling he will be on my playlist for some time to come.


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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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Earlier, I came across this blog post from several years ago that features an older painting of mine at its top. It’s a favorite of mine that hangs in my main painting space, high in a far corner. But even tucked away, it’s one that often has me glimpsing over it or going over to it and standing in front of it to ponder it for a bit. It seemed like an apt companion for this post years ago and still does now. Its simplicity and stillness echo the final line of Berry’s poem perfectly: make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.

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GC Myers- Trio:Three Squares

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I came across this poem from poet/author Wendell Berry on Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings. It’s a lovely rumination that could apply to any creative endeavor or to simply being a human being.

I particularly identified with the final verse that begins with the line: Accept what comes from silence. I’ve always thought there was great wisdom and power in silence, a source of self-revelation. Perhaps that is why so many of us shun the silence, fearing that it might reveal our true self to be something other than what we see in the mirror. Berry’s words very much sum up how I attempt to tap into silence with my work.

At the bottom is a recording of Wendell Berry reading the poem which gives it even a little more depth, hearing his words in that rural Kentucky voice. It’s fairly short so please take a moment and give a listen.

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HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

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Steely Dan is one of those musical acts that has been around for so long that you kind of lose track of them, take them for granted or just plain forget about what they’ve done in the past. I know that’s the case for me. And inevitably, when I stumble back on them unexpectedly, I am reminded of how much their music was a part of my own past. I find myself singing along easily to songs I haven’t heard in years– no, decades.

They are always just plain good. Great musicianship, smart lyrics and strong hooks that pull you in. I always find myself asking how I don’t listen to them so much more than I do.

If you don’t know, Steely Dan consisted of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. In the 70’s they used a cast of incredible studio musicians– guitar great  Larry Carlton was a frequent player with them. Steely Dan was a very enigmatic group that achieved huge successes from both commercial and critical standpoints throughout the 70’s even though they retired from playing live in 1974. They broke up in 1981 then reunited in 1993 and recorded and toured consistently up until Walter Becker’s death in 2017. Fagen continues touring as the sole member of the band.

I loved their work at that time and listened to most of their albums on a consistent basis then. Like I said, I don;t know how they slipped away. Here’s a couple of faves from an album I really enjoyed– and enjoy now, The Royal Scam. Here’s Don’t Take Me Alive and Kid Charlemagne.

Have a good day, okay?

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“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

― Maya Angelou

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I am back to being angry this morning and badly want to vent.

But I won’t.

Instead, I am going to follow my own request from yesterday’s blogpost that we look past our own instincts for self preservation and try to do something good for others now.

I have to confess that the current crisis has me in my survival mode. As an artist, my business and livelihood is effectively in shutdown as many folks are also in survival mode which means that very few are buying paintings. I expect the income from my work to be cut by anywhere from 50 to 75% for the year unless something dramatic and unforeseen occurs. So, as a result, austerity has become the watchword around here.

I am not whining or complaining. It’s simply a fact that has to be handled. And we will deal with it. In fact, I am exceedingly grateful to be fortunate enough to have a small cushion to protect us, for the most part, for a reasonable period of time into the near future.

It’s those people who were less fortunate before this all started that make me worry most. They were already living on the fringes of survival. They were already experiencing food anxiety, not knowing where their next day or week’s meals were coming from. They were already struggling to meet rising rents and the many costs associated with raising a child. These were the folks who didn’t have $400 in savings to spare should an emergency arise. These were also, most likely, the folks working jobs that paid near the minimum wage and may have very well been laid off during this shutdown. And also most likely had little healthcare.

In normal times, with a smaller percentage of the population experiencing these problems, charitable organizations could pick up a lot of the slack that government assistance misses. But we are talking about a pretty thick slice of the pie now which makes it a problem that affects us all. Food banks around the country are being crushed by the huge demand from people in need.

I know that’s the case in my home area, which is an area that was never on very sturdy economic footing even in the best times over the past 30 or 40 years. In fact, just before the virus hit, this area was determined to be one of only two metropolitan areas in the entire nation to still be in recession.

Our local food bank, Food Bank of the Southern Tier, has been a mainstay for many years now, doing yeoman’s work on the behalf of those in need. They are heroes all the time and in normal times, I try to donate cash to them on a regular basis. However, my own self survival mode has me cutting back on that a bit, unfortunately.

But I still want to help them and about the only way I can right now is by putting a piece of work up for auction to benefit them.

Here’s what I propose:

The painting shown at the top is an 18″ wide by 24″ high painting on canvas from a couple of years ago. It’s not a painting that has been shown much at all. It began it’s life as as a demonstration piece for the annual workshop I lead in Penn Yan. The class that year did a remarkable job with their own pieces while working from this painting. After the workshop, I brought this piece back to the studio and earnestly went to work on it. There was something in it that really spoke to me. It just felt like a prototypical piece for me and when it was done, it meant enough to me that I gave it the title Hero’s Call.

So, I am putting this painting, Hero’s Call, up for auction with all funds going completely to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. I will pay all shipping costs.

A painting of this size of mine normally is valued at between $2400-2600. My goal for this auction would normally be to get as close to that amount as possible but I know that given the circumstances of these time, that would be a reach. So, I am shooting for getting about half of its value, $1250. That would do a lot of good for my local Food Bank.

The opening bid is set at $200.

The auction ends when a bid of $1250 is received.

You can bid by emailing me at info@gcmyers.com with Hero’s Call on the subject line.

If a bid of  $1250 is not received, the auction will end on Saturday at 12 noon EST. The high bid at that time will receive the painting.

This is your call, your chance to be a hero in a way.  Your winning bid will help a lot of people, perhaps taking away a bit of that anxiety about where their next meal comes from. Plus, you also receive what is, for me, a meaningful piece of art.

I know it’s a lot to ask in these times, but I do ask that you help if possible. If you can’t help me and my local Food Bank, help someone in your own area, even if can only spare a few dollars to your own food bank or similar charity that is being stressed by this moment.

Answer the call. Please.

UPDATE 8:15 AM: The call has been answered. I have received a bid of $1250. I am stunned at how quickly this came to be but am grateful beyond words. This will help a lot of folks in this area.

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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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There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the virtues of capitalism and the free market versus the perceived downsides of socialism. The free market is always put forth as some sort of beacon of purity that allows the market to determine which businesses fail or succeed.

Survival of the fittest. The perfect maxim for the view we take of ourselves as rugged individualists.

But the big boys, the huge corporate entities, don’t really practice this form of capitalism. No, it’s not really the free market if whenever there is a crisis– be it natural or self-inflicted or as in this case, a mix of he two– they always have a safety net to cushion the fall. Bailouts by the bushel and the sorts of extravagant handouts that would make a socialist blush keep the big boys afloat. Hardly a string attached and, in many cases, they don’t even have to touch the huge warchests of cash they have amassed in the past decade or so.

As it has been said, too big to fail. Hardly adhering to code of the free market.

As this crisis has once again shown, there is only one real free market in this country.

It’s right there on Main Street in every village and city in the country. Small merchants are the bravest people in the business world, operating in the real world in real time without safety nets of any sort. Added together, the numbers of true small businesses make up a huge chunk of our economy and are the businesses that most of us deal with more on a day to day basis than the big boys, either in dealing with them or in working for them.

But nobody is throwing big wads of cash at these people now or, in the limited cases where there is some relief, making it easy for them to access it. No, they are out on the line by themselves, along with their employees, acting like true free market warriors.

So, what I am asking you today is to make sure that you make an effort to support your local businesses at this time of crisis, when they are teetering on the brink. If you have the financial ability at this time, please help the little guys in your town by ordering some take out, buying gift cards or shopping their online sites. For some, especially the restaurants which employ tons of people and are especially hard hit, this is their only lifeline during this crisis.

In this region, for Corning’s Market Street/Gaffer District merchants, have a wonderful program currently operating called Buy Now, Shop, Later. If you go to their page by clicking here, you can access a menu of all the shop, restaurants and galleries in the Gaffer District that are offering gift cards. The money from your purchases of each gift card goes immediately to that merchant. And to make it even sweeter, Corning Enterprises, a subsidiary of Corning Inc dedictaed to nurturing local small businesses, is making a matching donation to each merchant during this crisis.

For example, if you buy a $50 gift card to the West End Gallery ( obviously a favorite of mine and one that you could says employs me) you would receive a $50 gift card to be used anytime, now (they have a website!) or later , and the West End would receive a payment of $100. That additional bump is an enormous help to any small business. especially those that run on a tight budget but are still serving the public and paying as many employees as possible.

In Alexandria, VA, where another favorite of mine, the Principle Gallery is located, a group representing the many great restaurants of that beautiful city, Alexandria Restaurant Partners, is offering gift cards to many of those restaurants. 50% of gift card sales will be donated directly to a dedicated employee relief fund. And as a special thank you for your support, all gift card purchases of $25 or more will receive a 20% bonus gift card that may be used for food or drink purchases at any ARP restaurant.

So, buy a $50 gift card and you’ll receive that $50 card, a $10 bonus card and $25 will go the relief fund for restaurant employees who have been affected by the many closures. You can access their site by clicking here.

This only highlights what you can do to help in two areas. But there are loads of great restaurants and shops in every area that are holding on right now and need and would greatly appreciate your help, if you have the ability to spend a few dollars now.

Think of it as a bet or, better yet, an investment. By doing this small and simple thing, buying a few gift cards, you are showing faith that they ( and you!) will still be there on Main Street (or Market Street or King Street) with open doors and smiling faces when this damn thing passes.

Now, that’s free market thinking.

 

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Like the dead sea
You told me I was like the dead sea
You’ll never sink when you are with me
Oh, lord, I’m your dead sea

–Dead Sea, The Lumineers

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Don’t have much to say today.

Oh, I have plenty to say. Just don’t want to say it and am pretty sure you don’t want to hear it.

So, I was looking at some paintings that are still out in the galleries that I could feature here and came across the piece above, Soul Boat. It’s from last year’s Multitudes series and is now at the Principle Gallery. There’s a certain clarity in it that I like but can’t clearly define.

After taking some time this morning to study it to see what that might be, I tried to find a song that might pair well with it. Of course, the first thing that jumped to mind were songs with titles like Ship of Fools. It’s a title used by many artists over the years and there were a lot of good choices from the Grateful Dead to Robert Plant to the Doors or a great piece of 80’s music from World Party that I featured here before. Then there was Nick Cave‘s brilliant Ship Song.

All of them would have worked perfectly well. Probably better than the song I ended up choosing but this morning, this song from The Lumineers jumped out at me. Plus I liked the video. Here’s their song The Dead Sea.

It might not be the perfect companion for this painting but who cares? They can coexist together on this page.

Give a listen and have as good a day as you can.

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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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I have a project that needs tending this morning so I am going to replay a post about a painting from the enigmatic Symbolist painter, Fernand Khnopff, whose work has been described as “visual realism combined with a mood of silence, isolation, and reverie.” It also includes an interesting video about this painting from the Khan Academy which is a great free site for well done courses and videos on a wide variety of subjects. For those of you with a lot of extra time these days, it’s worth a look.

Fernand Khnopff I Lock the Door Upon Myself

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God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?…

Christina Rossetti

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The painting at the top, I Lock My Door Upon Myself,  is from Belgian Symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff who lived from 1858 until 1921.  The title is taken from a verse of a poem, Who Shall Deliver Me? (shown in part above), from Christina Rossetti, the pre-Raphaelite poetess whose brother,  Dante Rossetti, was an influence on the work of Khnopff.

It’s a haunting painting, one that always makes me stop a bit when I stumble across an image of it. Perhaps it is the symbolist elements in it but for me it is probably the beautiful construction of forms and color that give the overall piece an almost abstract feel. Just a great image in so many ways.

I came across a video from the free educational series Khan Academy that offers a short and insightful exploration of the painting’s symbolism. Very interesting if you have five minutes or so.

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