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kuebiko

n. a state of exhaustion inspired by an act of senseless violence, which forces you to revise your image of what can happen in this world—mending the fences of your expectations, weeding out invasive truths, cultivating the perennial good that’s buried under the surface—before propping yourself up in the middle of it like an old scarecrow, who’s bursting at the seams but powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.

— The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows



GC Myers- Scarecrow sm

“Scarecrow” -At the West End Gallery

I was browsing through the The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and came across the definition above for the word kuebiko. It certainly felt right for the time in which we live. It seems there is a flood of senseless violence – a strange term as though there is other sensible violence. I don’t even want to turn on the news in the morning for fear of seeing yet another mass shooting or some other atrocity.

It leaves me feeling, as the definition says, like a scarecrow that has lost all power in scaring off the crows, who is left to just stand there exhausted and exasperated as more and more crows flock around me.

It turns out the word kuebiko is the Japanese name for the Shinto god of folk wisdom and agriculture. Kuebiko is incapable of moving but has comprehensive knowledge and awareness which no doubt makes for a certain degree of sorrow in not doing anything abut the events taking place within sight.

Just thought I’d share a little new knowledge this morning. But now I am feeling a little kuebiko myself and am going to that safe space in my work where I can totally effect change within it.

I am sure there is a word for that as well.

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GC Myers- In Radiance sm

“In Radiance”- Now at the West End Gallery



gnossienne – n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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I don’t have much to say this morning. I just wanted to share a little music from the French composer Erik Satie, someone whose work has always spoken to me in its elegant spareness. It was a great influence on some of my earliest works. In fact, I even titled an early piece or two after the composer but I can’t locate the images at this point.

I thought I’d share his  Gnossienne no. 1 as played in this fine video from the contemporary Italian pianist/composer Alessio Nanni. The word gnossienne was created by Satie.  He sometimes created new terms or appropriated terms from other fields to describe his compositions. Gnossienne is generally thought to simply denote a new form although I like the alternative definition at the top from the website The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.  It seems to fit the composition very well.

I ran this in a post several years back but since I am busier than expected this morning and didn’t want o spare the time to write too much, thought it was worth sharing again, if only to point out the The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows website. Well, and to couple the beautiful Satie piece with the painting, In Radiance, at the top.

Now, off to a very full day.



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Ickle Me



Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

I have a lot on my plate this morning so let’s just listen to the late Shel Silverstein sing his song/poem, Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too, from his marvelous book of children’s verse, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Like most of Silverstein’s stuff for kids, it’s a blend of word rhythms and nonsense that just works. I have probably watched this short video a dozen or more times over the years and it always holds my interest

I love kids songs and literature. Don’t know what that says about my mental development but I am not going to worry about it. When I was putting this together I thought of another really simple kids song from Woody Guthrie that I am going to stick on here. It’s his Grassy Grass Grass. My thinking is that with our spring weather finally taking hold that anything that urges the grass to grow and things to green more is a good thing. Plus it has a nice drum rhythm to start the weekend.

So, give a listen to a couple of simple ditties for the kiddies this morning. What can it hurt? In the meantime, I’ll get to my day. Some new work coming in the next few days so check back in.





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Hey, today is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was born on this day back in 1853. I thought it might be fitting to rerun a post from several years back about Van Gogh’s self portraits and the lessons they offer.



van gogh self-portraitI showed this short video here about six years back, in 2010. It’s a compilation of morphing self portraits from Vincent Van Gogh put together by video maker Phillip Scott Johnson that I found intriguing then and now.

It’s a short piece, less than a minute in length, and it’s interesting to see how the familiar views of Van Gogh relate to one another and how his appearance or, at least his perception of it, changed through the years. For me, Van Gogh’s self portraits are among the most revealing and compelling of any artist. His state of mind is evident in each piece, with some showing a vibrant, seemingly healthy man and others showing the more tortured Van Gogh that we tend to think of as the man.

Seeing them together as in this video allow you to see the changes in the man and in his art that take place over time. Interesting.

I also found it interesting now because I have been spending some time recently looking at my own older work in a different way. I am often not looking at the pictures as whole images. Instead, I have been looking at the individual marks I am using in each and seeing how it has changed through the years. Or how it has stayed the same in some cases.

I’ve always said that my painting for me was a continuum that, while changing all the time, always seemed the same to me– always in the present. But looking at it in this manner I am finding that my mark-making does change periodically which fundamentally changes the way a picture is painted and how it emerges in the end.

It’s not something I often think about– I just paint in whichever way the moment strikes me. Sometimes it is dependent on the condition of the brush or the weight and quality of the paint I am using. As a brush ages and wears, especially with the rough treatment given to them by me, it makes a more and more distinct mark that I find appealing. Looking back, I can often tell when I am using fresh or old brushes.

So, I watched this film in the same way and it is fascinating to just look at Van Gogh’s mark-making throughout without focusing on the faces. It is varied and each differing style serves the image in different ways. Some marks are wildly expressive and others small and quietly acting in service to the greater whole.

As I said, it’s less than minute and interesting even if you don’t give a damn about the mark-making part of it.



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singularity4



I had other things on my mind about what I would write here this morning. I was going to question how a law that makes giving a drink of water to someone in line at the polls a crime is supposed to prevent voter fraud. I was also going to question the motive for other such suppressive provisions in legislation being moved into law around much of this country.

But before I could start, I came across this short animation of a poem from poet Marie Howe and I decided that maybe this was the better way to go this morning.

Her poem is titled Singularity and refers to the theory Stephen Hawking (among others) set forth that the universe and all that it is was once a single thing before the Big Bang created all that we know the universe to be now.

We were all part of one thing.

No, we were that one thing.

That is as simple as I can put it and still understand it. I am not even sure that simple explanation is correct. Much as Howe explains to her audience, my own grasp of advanced physics and most other great scientific theoretical concepts is limited. But the idea that we were once one and that we may all at some point become one again is somehow appealing to something inside me.

I don’t know. My eternal refrain.

Take a look. The Marie Howe poem is below the video.

 





SINGULARITY
by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?

There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

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I am on the run this morning. Busy. That painting that I mentioned yesterday is still cooking on the easel and calling out for more. It’s a piece that will play a part in my annual June solo showmy 22nd there— at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. More details to come.

So, I need to get other stuff done as I am in the midst of prepping for that show. Plus I am a little giddy since I get my first dose (or only dose if it turns out to be the Johnson & Johnson shot) later today. It doesn’t seem like something like a shot should raise one’s spirits but it feels like it marks the coming end of the pandemic, at least in its severest and deadliest phases.

So, I am getting right to work this morning. But I wanted to share a song to go along with the old painting from back in 2001 — that seems a lifetime ago now, so many consequential thing having occurred– that runs alongside this post. I don’t paint as many pieces in this tall, skinny format as I once did. Might have to revisit it soon. Anyway, this one feels like it goes with the song.

The song is called Loco Amor and was featured in an episode of the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the very funny series from Amazon about a burgeoning female stand-up comedian in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. If you haven’t seen it, it has great comedic writing and a terrific cast including Alex Borstein’s hilarious portrayal of Susie Meyerson, Mrs. Maisel’s agent. 

I didn’t know anything about the song when I decided to feature it so I looked up and found out a bit about it and Pedrito Martinez, the Cuban-born musician who does the modern version featured in the show. In doing so I also discovered that the Mrs. Maisel episode used the song in a way that directly mirrored, in a shot by shot way, its use in a a 1964 Spanish language film titled Soy Cuba. That film version was performed by Los Diablos Melodicos, a Cuban rock group of that era.

Cuban rock is not well known here, understandably, but group likes Los Diablos were heavily influenced by American rock and roll of the 1950’s that was popular in Cuba before Castro and the revolution took place. Rock music was banned there in the early 1960’s, though it survived via performance. The ban was eventually lifted but there was always a close watch on the lyrics and message of the music.

I am sharing both the modern version below from Pedrito Martinez and the original as it was performed in Soy Cuba by Los Diablos Melodicos.

Now, to work I go.



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Got to be honest, this wasn’t the blog entry I thought I’d be writing this morning. Had something completely different in mind.

I was going to talk about an old piece from my earliest painting days. Not the one above, which is a pretty early painting from around 1996 or 1997 that is called Faust’s Guitar. I did several versions of this painting in the first few years that I was showing my work publicly. I’ll save the other older painting for another day.

I came into the studio early this morning, about 5:30 AM. Still dark outside. And cold, only 10º. After flipping on the computer and hooking up to the interwebs, I went to the YouTube to look for a song that might accompany the other older painting. As I scanned down the list of various titles their algorithm had selected for my viewing pleasure, one title jumped out at me:

Dracula Hates Killer Icicles.

I couldn’t resist. had to click on it. I mean, come on– it’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. If it was Dracula Loves Banana Bread, I most likely don’t watch. But this has Killer Icicles, folks” Killer Icicles!

I watched and laughed at the sheer goofiness of it. I decided that something that had me laughing aloud at 5:50 AM deserved a post of its own.

This song, Dracula Hates Killer Icicles, is from a surf band  from St. Petersburg, Russia called Messer Chups. They play 1960’s style surf/ psychobilly instrumentals with a lineup that feature Igor Gitaracula (yeah, that rolls off the tongue)  on the guitar and Zombierella on the bass. The drums are provided by Rockin Eugene who is not seen in the video.

They also have featured the theremin, that electronic device that made that weird sustained woo-ooh sound was a staple of old 1950’s horror films, in several of their songs. I wrote about the theremin here many years back. It fits their profile well.

All in all, it’s just goofy, stupid fun. Nothing more. And on a cold Monday morning, is there anything wrong with listening to a Russian surf band playing a kitschy tune?

So, without any further ado, here’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. Who doesn’t? 

PS The video is from a video show Domino’s Batcave which is hosted by Domino Barbeau, a burlesque queen turned horror show host. That’s a career path every parent desires for their child, right?



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Soul Cakes



Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If the barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we’ll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.

Soul Cakes, Traditional British Folksong



Going to just play a tune this morning that is a bit seasonal. It’s a performance of Soul Cakes from Sting at Durham Cathedral from 2009. He also included the song on his If On a Winter’s Night album. 

The song itself comes from England in the early 1800’s, if not earlier. It was one of the souling or begging songs that were sung by the soulers— usually children or the poor– who went from door to door on Allhallowtide and Christmastide— Halloween and Christmas as we know them– offering songs and prayers for the givers’ departed family members and the givers themselves. In exchange, they were often rewarded with soul cakes which were often spice cookies with raisins or currants. Though the practice had pagan roots, the cakes were sometimes blessed by parish priests.

It’s a practice, much like mumming, that still exists in corners of the world. A little connection to our near distant past.

This is a really fine performance of the traditional song from Sting. Hope you’ll enjoy. Have a good day and if you hear me singing outside your door, you better have a cookie ready for me!



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Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.

–Robert Green Ingersoll

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After writing yesterday about a person* with no honor whatsoever I thought I would write just a few words about a man with honor in abundance.

Most likely you don’t know his name, Robert G. Ingersoll. I know he was unknown to me. But while looking up a quote I kept coming across quotes from well known men who spoke of this man in what can only be described as glowing terms. Thomas Edison described him as being perhaps the closest thing to a perfect man on this earth. And Clarence Darrow eulogized him with these words: 

“Robert G. Ingersoll was a great man. a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, one of the great men of the earth — and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great orators, great soldiers, great lawyers, often use their gifts for a most unholy cause. We meet to pay a tribute of love and respect to Robert G. Ingersoll because he used his matchless power for the good of man.

And Walt Whitman said this of the living Ingersoll:

“It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is ‘Leaves of Grass’ … He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen—- American-flavored—- pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.”

I found myself asking who the heck was this guy?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) was perhaps the most famous American of his day. He was a lawyer who was recognized as the preeminent orator of his time. As an enlightened freethinker and pioneer of humane, rational, and agnostic views, Ingersoll was a tireless advocate of rational thought, battling superstition and hypocrisy wherever he found it. Ingersoll would regularly address huge audiences, opening their minds to ideas that often provoked guarded whispers in private. He was a man far ahead of his time, advocating such progressive causes as agnosticism, birth control, voting rights for women, the advancement of science, civil rights, and freedom of speech. He had a wide influence in his day but somehow has been overlooked in the century or so that has passed since his death in 1899.

Ingersoll was born in 1833 not too far from here, up in Dresden, near the west shore of Seneca Lake. I just discovered that there is actually a small museum there dedicated to his life and work. I look forward to visiting it at some point. He only lived there as an infant because his father, an abolitionist preacher, was often on the move. However, a collection of his works published just after his death is called the Dresden Editions, published by the Dresden Publishing Company which was formed to publish this 12 volume set and was named specifically  after his birthplace.

I am still discovering more on this interesting fellow so I am going to urge you to do so as well on your own. I would think that someone who garnered so much openly warm praise from the great men of his time deserves a few moments and has something to offer us now.

Note:

I thought his words at the top were an appropriate response to the ignorance and abhorrent behavior we have been exposed to on a daily basis for the past four years. Also, Ingersoll was a Colonel in the Union army during the Civil War and is buried at Arlington National Cememtery, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

He was captured during the war which I guess, by current standards, makes him a sucker for enlisting and a loser for being captured.

However, even though Ingersoll might be considered a sucker and a loser, I sincerely doubt that the current occupant of our white house will have any of the greats of this age, save Kid Rock and Scott Baio, trumpeting his good works, his love for humanity or his good heart once he is stone cold and forever dead.

 

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I came across an article this morning that had been forwarded to me by a friend several years ago in response to a blog post.  Appearing in the online magazine Psyche, it was written by three researchers ( Julia Christensen, Guido Giglioni, and Manos Tsakiris) and was largely about how creativity and wellness were often boosted by allowing the mind to wander. It’s an interesting article that discusses the neuroscience behind their research into the wandering mind.

While those that daydream have often been chided through history as being lazy and counterproductive, there has also been a school of thought that encourages random thought and rumination. The Germans had a phrase for this, ‘die Seele baumeln lassen,’– ‘let the soul dangle.

One part of the article that struck a chord with me discusses how art causes biological responses and often serves as a prop for emotional catharsis. As they put it:

“…art can help us adapt to the immediate source of pain by acting as a prop for emotional catharsis. We all know the strange, pleasurable, consoling feeling that comes after having a good cry. This experience appears to be precipitated by the release of the hormone prolactin, which has also been associated with a boosted immune system, as well as bonding with other people. The arts are a relatively safe space in which to have such an emotional episode, compared with the real-life emotional situations that make us cry. Even sad or otherwise distressing art can be used to trigger a kind of positive, psychobiological cleansing via mind-wandering.”

I immediately responded to this point as this is something that I experience on a regular basis. I often am moved to tears by artistic stimulus while in the studio, most often in the form of music, film or the written word. It is such a common occurrence that I have come to use this response as a barometer for how emotionally invested I am in the work I am doing at that time. I have found that the work that I feel is my best comes at times when I am on this edge of induced emotional catharsis. I feel most immersed in the work at that time, both open and receptive, even vulnerable. And that is normally when I produce my best work.

It’s something that has taken place with me for decades now and it’s interesting to see that there might be a neurological component behind my response. I think I am going to go now and see if I can produce some more prolactin this morning.

Click here to go to this article. It’s a relatively short read plus there is a an audible version available on the page if you would rather listen.

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The painting accompanying this post is a small piece that I call The Daydream. It is part of my solo show, Social Distancing, that opens June 5 at the Principle Gallery.

 

 

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