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Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

Tonight, the West End Gallery celebrates its 40th anniversary of selling art on Corning’s lovely Market Street. There is a coinciding opening for a retrospective show of the paintings of the gallery’s co-founder, Tom Gardner. The festivities begin at 4:30 this afternoon with a ribbon cutting and following that there will be music from guitarist Bill Groome, plenty to eat and drink and a few surprises.

I’ve said and written this many times before, but without the West End Gallery I have no idea what or where I would be. The chance to show my work given to me by then gallery owners Lin and Tom Gardner forever changed the direction of my life, opening new doors of opportunity that I couldn’t even imagine in my former life. Ultimately, it changed how I viewed the world and myself.

It’s rare that you can pinpoint a moment in time that alters your life in such a drastic manner that you can see the results that extend from that moment a la It’s a Wonderful Life. But I have such a moment from a day in early 1995 when Tom critiqued my work and Lin asked me to show a few pieces in their next show. Without that moment with them, every good thing that has come to me via my work most likely would have never happened. The numerous paintings that have found their way around the world, the 50 or so solo shows and the many, many wonderful people I have been fortunate to encounter through my work– all of it would probably have never occurred.

I don’t want to even consider what would be without that moment.

In my own way, I say “Thank You” to them every day I enter my studio and take part in the life and work that I so enjoy now. It is all due to that moment and I will never forget that.  Nor will I ever be able to thank them enough.

For forty years, the West End Gallery has given me and so many other artists an opportunity to take a chance on a different life.  It has persisted through the ups and downs of the economy, through booms and busts.  Now under the capable hands of Tom and Lin’s daughter Jesse and her husband, John, it is looking forward even as it celebrates its past tonight. They are working hard every day to make the gallery better in every way.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another 40 years in the cards for the West End Gallery.

So, if you’re in the area tonight, make your way to the West End Gallery for a celebratory drink, a little bite, some great conversation and some wonderful art and music. If you’ve never been, they’ll make you feel right at home.

I can tell you that from first-hand experience.

Thank you for everything, Lin and Tom and Jesse and John.

I mean that literally.

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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

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de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data. Very mystical. De Chirico’s work after 1919 became more realistic and more traditional.

His later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that work.  It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark.  The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them.  The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives.  It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence.  I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  My work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing  something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

This post is a combination of a couple of posts from years ago. I really wanted to use his quote at the top because I often get that feeling from certain paintings, that they represent “voices from another planet,”  that they come from a point well beyond our realm of knowledge. I also wanted to include the video below that shows much of De Chirico’s metaphysical work. Take a look below.

de-chirico



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It’s a busy morning with lots to be done here in the studio. I thought I’d rerun a post form five years back about an artist whose work always grabs my eye, Eyvind Earle. I’ve added a video featuring his paintings set to a sparse piano score. Enjoy and have a great day.

I recently picked up  the second volume of The Complete Graphics of Eyvind Earle, a 9-pound behemoth of a book featuring the work of the artist who I have written about here once before. It’s an incredible book, full of spectacular imagery and pure color that I find both inspring and humbling. He had a tremendously long career, about 70 years, that began with a one-man show at the age of 14 and continued through stints as a fabled Disney artist. landscape painter, and a graphic artist known for his highly stylized greeting card design. Through it all, there was an amazing consistency and brilliance to the many pieces produced by a prolific artist in such a long career. I find myself overwhelmed by the variety and quality of his work as I go through the book which only covers a small part of work.

Just incredible.

There’s great clarity in the work of Eyvind Earle.  The compositions are often both complex in design but come across as simple, a duality that I really find appealing.  The color is bold and could be a little sharp in tone if it weren’t harmonized so masterfully within the picture plane.  He is a pure genius at handling harmony and contrast– another duality that strikes me.

I also like the fact that Earle was an unabashed landscape artist, feeling no desire to express himself  through figurative work.  He found total expression in his handling of the landscape around him, often depicting the open spaces and coastlines of California. They are not mere scenes but have emotion and a depth that goes well beyond the surface, another aspect that appeals greatly to my  desires for my own work.  In short, it’s just beautiful work and an inspiration with every look.

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Again, I am busy this morning but want to share something from one of my favorites and an influence on my work, Grant Wood. I’ve written about his work here in the past, about how his treatment of his landscapes really affected the way in which I approached my own. There is always such a great rhythm and a beautiful harmony of color and forms in his work. They seem like living beings.

The painting shown here on the right, Near Sundown, which was once owned by Katherine Hepburn, was a piece that really sparked me early on. The impression of it in my mind and memory still informs how I treat a lot of the elements in my own work.

This is a nice video with an interesting song backing it.  It’s a folk pop hit, Greenfields, from The Brother Four from back in 1960. It was a song that went all the way to #2 on the charts when it came out but it’s a song that I had never heard. Well, maybe I’ve heard it and just plain forgot it. That’s a definite possibility. It might not have been my first choice as the soundtrack for this video but it gives this a kind of neat, kitschy feel.

Give a look and enjoy the work of Mr. Wood. Have a great day.

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Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves.

Ray Bradbury

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Yesterday I wrote briefly about the Aboriginal art of Australia, work that really stirs me up in a lot of ways. As I was looking at the Aboriginal paintings while writing the blog, different ideas for my own work were running through my mind. There was a rhythm and a pattern that kept biting at me and by the time I got to my own painting I had a sense of what I was hoping to see, as far as forms. The color would evolve as the painting moved along through the process.

Using a 12″ by 36″ piece of masonite prepped with gesso and a layer of black paint, I began and moved quickly.  Like late author Ray Bradbury said in the quote above, the idea was creating its own energy and I was feeding off it. At these times, the painting is absolutely effortless.  As the painting is finally all blocked in,  begin to see the final finished version come to form in my mind.

Layer after layer of color are applied quickly, each layer slightly altering the overall feeling of the piece and moving it by steps closer to what I am now seeing concretely in my mind. After a final pass through, I stop and feel satisfied.  That’s what you are seeing at the top of the page.  I am satisfied in the moment but am still spending time taking it.

Sometimes when I paint like this, the energy from the actual act of painting hangs with me for a while.  I have learned that I need to give these pieces a little more time so that I can see them without the influence of the energy created in the process.  Sometimes after a bit I might see that some colors need to be deepened or brightened in order to move the energy in the painting.

Looking at the piece now I can see the synthesis from the work I was looking at yesterday morning into the finished piece above. I took in the shapes, colors, rhythms, and patterns of that work and tried to translate it into my own visual voice without imitating or copying it in any way.  It is more about appropriating the energy and rhythm of that work.

Now without the context of yesterday’s blog, you might look at this piece and simply see my work.  But artists are, at their core, synthesizers that constantly take in information and imagery and sounds and movements then shape them into a unique form that fits the vision they have for the world. This is one very basic and direct example of that synthesization of influence.

So, gotta run– there’s some synthesizing to be done!

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GC Myers- The IntentionEvery intention sets energy into motion, whether you are conscious of it or not.

Gary Zukav

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I am calling this new painting, a small 5″ by 7″ panel, The Intention.  It is based somewhat on the quote above from Gary Zukav although the thought behind it, that we must first identify that thing that we seek in order to find it, is one that I have believed for quite some time.

I have long thought that once we identify our true need or desire that the energy of the universe reacts to that intention and sets a course for us to that destination which satisfies our want.  We begin to move in ways, sometimes subconscious and almost imperceptible, that lead us forward to that goal.  Small decisions end up having large consequences and we creep ever closer even though we may not be fully aware of our progress.

However, that end is not always reached nor is it always attainable.  Sometimes along the way we may reset our sights, realizing that we weren’t as earnest in our desire as we first believed.  The required effort may be more than we are willing to give or the results we are getting don’t produce the satisfaction we thought they might.

Or we might simply not be equipped to complete the journey.  We may just not have the ability, talent or temperament to reach our dreamed of goals.  But in that case we normally, while discovering what we cannot do, have uncovered some things that we can.

In finding what we are not, we sometimes uncover what we truly are.  And the universe takes note anew and leads us to that.

And that all starts with that initial intention which in turn becomes purpose.

I like to think that this piece reflects this idea, that the Red Tree here is sending out its plea to the universe and it is responding by setting energies in motion.

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9913217-fragments-sm“All there is, is fragments, because a man, even the loneliest of the species, is divided among several persons, animals, worlds. To know a man more than slightly it would be necessary to gather him together from all those quarters, each last scrap of him, and this done after he is safely dead.”
Coleman Dowell, Island People

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It’s been hard finding footing lately in the studio.  It’s been hard to just get started on most days.  There are plenty of factors that play in to this, some external and some internal, some that I can control and some I cannot.  But the end result is the same: I am left feeling fragmented, broken into shards that don’t want to reassemble easily in the form of my work.

I am not worried however.  This is not the first time I’ve felt so fragmented nor will it be the last.  I know that I come apart at times and have to bide my time, just continuing to try to put myself back together so that I may uncover what I know is waiting there for me.

It’s there. It may seem an awfully long way away but I can see it and I know that while it may take time and much effort, I shall be together with it again.

The painting above is a piece that has been with me for a while now.  One of the orphans that come home to reside for a bit.  I wrote about it last year when I thought I might change its name to Dimming of the Day but it still remains under its original title, Fragments, in my mind.  And I suspect it will stay that way.

This painting is based very much on this feeling that I am experiencing at this moment and when this feeling emerges, I often think of this painting.  There is darkness and distance here.  The space between the Red Chair and the house has a certain weight that makes me feel as though there is something more than physical distance at play here. The sky, a confetti-like blend of thousands of little fragments of brushstrokes that gave the painting its title originally,  represents, for me at least in this piece, the world falling out of harmony.

Dark, distant and coming apart.

Yet despite that I find this painting very comforting.  I think that goes back to what I said above, that I know this place well from past experience .  I know how to navigate it and know that the distance is not so great nor the darkness too deep.  And I know that the parts are still in place to come together again in the future if I simply exercise patience and don’t give in.

It’s funny how that works.  I walk by this painting several times a day in the studio and it’s often without a thought as my mind is preoccupied with something else.  But every so often I stop before it and suddenly all of these feelings flood back on me when I look closer.  I’m glad it works that way, actually.

Here’s a nice version of the Richard Thompson song whose title, Dimming of the Day,  I was thinking about renaming this painting.  It’s a strong yet tender version from Tom Jones.  Have a good day…

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