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Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

Jean Arp- Torso of a Giant 1964

Jean Arp- Torso of a Giant 1964

 

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Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation… tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.

–Jean Arp

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GC Myers- Quiescence

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I had a quote on the last post with a quote from artist Jean Arp about man turning his back on silence. Rather than savoring the quiet, he runs from it, instead distracting himself with all manner of noise. Anything to keep him from facing the fears that the quiet represents to him.

It’s a theme that has been large in the background of my work. Early on, when I felt that I wanted to be a writer, I would find myself writing about large open spaces and the caverns of silence that rested in these places. I called it the Big Quiet. Of course, it’s a pretty limited subject and there is a certain redundancy in writing about silence and stillness. I mean, how can you use the noise of words to aptly describe the absence of noise?

So I gave up writing about it and went on with my life, always with an eye out for this Big Quiet. I don’t know that I was craving it or fearing it at most points. My life was pretty much filled with the noise of the world, all the snaps and pops of sound and distraction that creep into every living space. I was like so many others who needed the security blanket of sound to protect them from what they might discover if they were forced to face the silence.

But the sounds that I hoped would lessen my anxiety only seemed to feed it.

However, painting gave me a path to finding this Big Quiet. It was wordless and calm, creating an inner space absent of the sounds of the world that I was and am still occupying. It became a destination, an oasis to turn to when the din of world became too loud, too overbearing. It eased my fears of looking inward and allowed me to savor the quiescence of the brief moments I actually myself there in those scenes of stillness and calm. It became real and necessary to me.

I don’t know where this going, this wordy noise I’m creating about the stillness I find now. I just felt that I should add a bit of context to my work, to give a an understanding of what I hope to take from it for myself. This moment came about from running across the image above, a piece from several years ago that is called, fittingly, Quiescence. It’s a piece that brings me quiet immediately and seeing it at any time makes me again think of the main reason that I paint.

So, I am going to be quiet now…

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The post above is comprised of two posts that ran here on consecutive days back in 2013. They served a great purpose for me this morning when I read them again for the first time in many years which made me think they were worth sharing.

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Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have-nots
Money, we make it
Fore we see it, you’ll take it

Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

-Gil Scott Heron, Inner City Blues ( Make Me Wanna Holler)

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I showed a painting last week in progress last week and mentioned that I was working on a series of cityscapes. This is a different painting from that series that I am calling Inner City Blue. It is 22″ wide by 28″ high on canvas.

These pieces are painted in the same way as the Multitudes series that consisted of masses of faces. I normally start at one spot and just work outward from it with little or no plan as to where it will go or how it will emerge. There’s an excitement in working this way because there is always the tension that comes from not knowing whats going to come out.

I often find myself eager with anticipation as the painting progresses. It’s still a mystery at that point and I need that. That not knowing is a big part of how I work, a driving force. I don’t think I would last long if I knew with any certainty how any painting would come out in the end.

And these cityscapes, with all their moving parts and angles and shapes and shades, are totally unpredictable. And that just engrosses me in the process, allows me to find little bits of meaning and beauty in the cracks and crevices that are being created.

Hopefully, a little bit of what I am getting from these pieces comes across to the viewer. That reaction is as unpredictable as the painting itself.

I compared these cityscapes to the Multitudes series earlier. There are similarities beyond the process. Much as I left the faces without eyes in the Multitudes pieces, I leave elements out of these cityscapes. There are no traces of people on the streets or in the windows. There is no signage, no lettering. No street lights or anything on the street. It creates a skeletal effect, showing the bones of what gives the city its appearance while leaving a void.

That void could be described as the anonymity that very large cities often provide.

You know what I mean. That sense of being lost in a throng of faceless people moving on the street. Little, if any, eye contact and as you jostle along with the crowd, your own eyes are locked on some far distant point, fending off the intrusive eyes of the street vendors, hustlers and beggars.

You try to look stoic and determined, like you’re on a mission that should not be interrupted. You’re like a silent rocket hurtling through the space between the buildings that tower above the street and each building is a new alien world to you, filled with life and lives about which you know little.

A stranger in a strange land. That feeling might be the best way to describe what drives much of my work. I often feel out of place in this world– a stranger in a strange land– and am trying to put it, in my work, into some sort of order that allows me to fit in.

Don’t know if that makes any sense. But I do like these city pieces and feel there is something in them that I need to see. So, I will keep looking for a while.

Here’s the song Inner City Blues (Make me Wanna Holler), written by Gil Scott Heron and performed by the great Marvin Gaye. I didn’t mean to borrow the title but after I had titled it I remembered that there was the song. So, here it is. Enjoy.

 

 

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Stuart Davis- Swing Landscape 1938

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For a number of years Jazz had a tremendous influence on my thoughts about art and life.

-Stuart Davis

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I wrote yesterday about how as an artist I am influenced by many things other than the paintings of other artists. I thought I’d share some paintings from artist Stuart Davis (1892-1964) whose work itself is considered a huge influence on the Pop Art movement of the 1960’s. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, particularly after seeing how his work evolved through his career from a Robert Henri trained Modernist whose early work echoed the influence of Van Gogh through a Picasso inspired Cubist period into his own style with its own vocabulary that was largely inspired by the Jazz of the time.

I also always keep something in mind he said when I am at work: Always remember that in a painting, color has a position, and a place, and it makes space. As a result, I try to make color a vital element in my paintings, sometimes more important than the actual subject of the painting.

But, this morning let’s just look at a few of Davis’ Jazz inspired paintings and take a look and a listen to the great Duke Ellington‘s Jazz classic Take the A Train. I get the feeling Stuart Davis might have painted a bit to this track.

I am not sure but the video here looks to be a Soundie, which were short, well produced music films that were played on video jukeboxes in bars and clubs the late 1940’s. They mainly featured popular black Jazz musicians, giving these often musicians, who really didn’t have an many outlets for their music as their white counterparts, an exciting venue that really spread the popularity of their music.


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Joni Mitchell- The Mountain Loves the Sea- watercolor 1971

Over the years, I have often been asked about influences on my work and I often list several artists that I feel pushed me in certain directions. Then I also point out that there have been influences that fall outside of the painter mode. For example, literature, poetry and film come immediately to mind. Then there’s pop culture such as cartoons and comics, television and so much more. I’ve mentioned that there was a Coca Cola tv ad back in the 80’s that featured saturated colors– reds and golds– that stuck in my mind for years before I began painting.

There are so many contributing sources of inspiration.

I mention this today because as I was looking for a piece of music to play this  morning, I came across the old Joni Mitchell album from 1974, Court and Spark. It was a great album, one that I loved even as a teenage boy. I had not listened to it in years but each of the songs was imprinted in me by this time.

I also hadn’t looked closely at its album cover for many, many years though it was a beautiful cover, cream colored with a small watercolor painting, The Mountain Loves the Sea, that Joni Mitchell had painted a few years before, tastefully in its center. It had a simple elegance that I recognized, again even as a teenage boy. But it was just one of those things that, because I had seen it so many times before, I didn’t look with any attention at all.

But I looked closer today at the painting in the cover’s center and was surprised at how much my own work sometimes held echoes of this little painting. I would never thought of Joni Mitchell as an influence beyond her music but looking at this little image made me rethink that.

Maybe it was just one of those little things that push you without your knowledge in one direction or another. Influences that you internalize and can’t recognize or name until you come face to face with them. We all have them, those small things we take in and blend together to make us who we are.

I am glad this was one of those things for me. So, let’s give a listen to the title track from Court and Spark.

Have a great Sunday.

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Édouard Vuillard – Landscape at Saint-Jacut

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To say that a thing is beautiful is simply an act of faith, not a measurement on some kind of scale.

–Édouard Vuillard

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If you asked me about my favorite painters, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) is not a name that would come to mind. In fact, I never even gave much thought to his work and didn’t have much of an opinion on it. I knew a little bit about the interior scenes for which he is well known but if you asked me to name or even describe his best known work, I would be at a loss.

But the more I look and the more I see of his work, the more of a fan I become of Édouard Vuillard. There is such a wide array of style in the body of his work that shows his exploration and growth.

The interior scenes I once shrugged over now seem to be wonderfully dense explorations into abstraction, pattern and color. There is so much to latch onto in each piece that a cursory glimpse doesn’t often suffice. I now see his work with a bit of a sense of awe and can honestly take that leap of faith and say that I see them as beautiful.

I even like a few of the things from him I have read, like the words at the top. Beauty is indeed subjective, not measurable with any set scale. My sense of beauty may well differ from yours. You may be moved by things that do nothing for me and vice versa. I don’t know that there is any one things, any one piece of art, that is absolutely beautiful to everyone.

Maybe there is. Who knows? Certainly not me.

He also wrote: I do not belong to any school, I simply want to do something that is personal to my self

These words depict that need to create something that is only mine, not something instantly attributable to a school or movement or any other artist, that has always been the driving force behind my own work. I don’t know that I have always been successful but I can say that Vuillard definitively did create a distinct body of art, beautiful work that is all his own.

Just good stuff. Here are a few examples from a sea of choices.

 

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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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Artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilization are at stake.

–Pablo Picasso

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I always worry about alienating people who come to this blog to read about art and are greeted with my opinions and beliefs on the world. But reading the words above from Pablo Picasso this morning reminds me that my art is a product of all that I am and all that I witness in this world. I like to think that the work is about the human spirit and emotion. As such, I can’t remain indifferent or ignore those things that set off my emotional alarms nor those that eat away at what I see as the collective human spirit that we all share.

Thinking this made me look for another blog entry that I wrote just a couple of years back that featured some other words from Picasso as well the painting above, his masterpiece Guernica.

Here it is:

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Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Pablo Picasso

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Many of my favorite artists worked and produced their greatest works in times where the world was under great stress. Two World Wars only decades apart and– in the case of Picasso– the Spanish Civil War in between. Here, we had the Great Depression. Times of social transformation and spiritual upheaval. Even when the work didn’t overtly deal with the events of the day, much of the work reflected on the collective consciousness of that time.

I think that is so because art is, just as Picasso so succinctly states, a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Artists fabricate, often creating work that is on its surface pure fantasy with little relation to the world as others might observe it. But their fabrication is made up from everything that impacts them– their knowledge, their observations, their opinions and emotions. Artists take in the world and create something that seems like a pure fabrication.

A lie.

But what seems the lie often proves to be built of ultimate truths, just constructed in a manner that allows others to see this truth clearly.

I don’t know that we artists always succeed. I certainly don’t feel that I do as often as I would  like. But when a piece succeeds and shows us something far beyond what its surface represents, it is a true revelation.

Believing that, so long as we feel deeply and continue to create our lies, we will at some point reveal a truth.

Got to get to work now…

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