Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

You’re not going to hear any snarky comments from me on this even though the photo is obviously begging for one. There’s no context here so it’s a bit unfair to for me to shake my fist and yell for these kids to put down their telephoney-machines and get off my lawn.

Maybe they were asked to do some quick research by their teacher about Rembrandt and his masterpiece, The Night Watch, the painting shown in this photo from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I don’t really know.

But it does provide a stark example of how we often forget to experience the here and now, how we fail to calmly sit back and just take in our surroundings. Often, our present moment and place holds something remarkable and real.

I can’t say that we are better or worse off for being so tethered to technology. A case can definitely be made for either. But we should not lose our ability to look and listen, to engage and absorb the world directly around us. Without that ability there will be no more epic paintings made for future generations to ignore.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I am sure there are plenty of artists who would argue this point made by Jackson Pollock. Like religion, many would most likely defend their chosen means of expression as the best.

But I think he is saying there is no one right way, no one technique that ranks above all others in issuing an artist’s statement. Each artist’s individual voice comes through their own chosen technique. Their statement–their statement of belief, if you will– arrives via that technique.

I know that’s been my experience. I am generally looking for a statement of some sort from an artist in their work, something that displays their own truth regardless of how it is expressed.

Something that makes me feel the need to look at it.

It can be in any style, stretching from the most refined painting created by a classically schooled artist down to an untrained folk artist who uses their local mud as their painting medium because that is all that is at hand. So long as each is earnestly created (and that is an important distinction) and provokes a true emotional response, any and all technique is valid.

To bring it back to the religious analogy, the earnest belief of the lone person sitting in a decrepit hut somewhere may be as valid as that of  a priest in the grandest cathedral.

Art, like religion, is diminished when we fail to see the validity of all other voices.

 

Read Full Post »

There a new piece on the easel right now that is at a point in it’s progress that has me chomping at the bit to get to work this morning. I thought, in the name of expediency, I would share a post from a few years back about trusting yourself when it comes to something like art. I know a lot of people who won’t go into galleries or museums because they think they don’t know anything about art and feel intimidated. That’s a shame because you don’t need to know anything about art except how you react to it. Have a look:

*********************

He knows all about art, but he doesn’t know what he likes.

–James Thurber

******************

James Thurber Cartoon Art CriticThis may not technically qualify as a quote but who cares?  The message in this cartoon from the great James Thurber is so simply put and true and that’s what I am looking for in a good quote.

 And art.

That’s what I like.

In the past I’ve talked about how many people are intimidated by the idea of art, feeling that they don’t know anything about art.  This leaves them not trusting their own eyes and their own reactions to any given piece of art.

And that is a pity because art is mainly about the reaction to it.  Art is a reactive agent, reaching out and stirring something in the viewer.  All of the knowledge in the world about a piece of art cannot make you like that piece of work if it doesn’t first strike that chord that raises some sort of emotional response within you.

And I think most of us know within a few moments whether a work of art speaks to us or leaves us cold.  The trick comes in recognizing this realization and feeling okay with it.

I’ll admit that there are many celebrated works of art out there that do absolutely nothing for me.  They may have historical importance or elements of beauty or great craftsmanship in them but they simply don’t raise any emotional response within me.

I might be able to appreciate them but the bottom line is that I don’t like them, plain and simple.  That doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong.  It just means I know what I like.

And I accept that criteria from anybody, even with my own work.  While it would be nice to think that it speaks to everyone, I know this is an impossibility.  I’ve had people tell me that they didn’t like my work– in polite and respectful terms, thankfully– and I’m okay with that.

They know what they like.  And that’s good enough for me.

Read Full Post »

I don’t paint like a woman is supposed to paint. Thank God, art doesn’t bother about things like that.

Alice Neel

******************

Thursday was International Women’s Day and I saw an article on social media that asked if you could name five female artists. It wasn’t difficult for me but this is what I do so I am regularly scanning the work of others, past and present. I see a lot of work by women that is incredible and have been directly influenced by many of these women.

But I could imagine for the casual observer it might be a difficult thing to name five female artists. Any honest person that does a quick scan of the history of art can plainly see that this field has long been dominated by males. But this makes it like most other fields of endeavor and reflects a societal bias that has often long placed less importance on the accomplishments and the self-expression of women.

It is something that must and will change. It is changing before our eyes.  I say that because I have had the great fortune to be associated with a number of galleries that feature increasingly large rosters of female artists. This is not by design. It’s just that more and more interesting and wonderful work is being done by female artists who have finally realized that their voice, their expression, should be secondary to no one.

I have seen the numbers grow substantially over the years and am excited by it, mainly because the things that I see in the art that attracts me are usually perspective dependent, not gender dependent. Anything that broadens the field and gives a wider range of viewpoints and more options is a good thing in my opinion.  The gender, or race or nationality, of the artist should not play a role in our perception of their work unless that work deals directly with these subjects.

Hopefully, soon an artist will simply be an artist. Not a female artist or a black artist or a Latino artist or whatever subtitle people choose to attach before the word artist.

One of the artists that jumped to mind for me when I read the question about naming five female artists was Alice Neel (1900-1984) who was famed for her portraiture. She had a very distinct way of using color and always followed her personal muse, never adhering to any particular genre or school. She was a bold painter in a time when the female artist was still very much underappreciated. In the years since her death she has gained great recognition for he work. I urge you to take a closer look at her work and her life.

Alice Neel. Hartley. 1966. oil on canvas. 127 x 91,5cm. gift of Arthur M. Bullowa. National Gallery of Art Washington.

Read Full Post »

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Pablo Picasso

****************

Many of my favorite artists worked and produced their greatest works in times where the world was under great stress. World wars and– in the case of Picasso’s painting, Guernica, shown above– Civil Wars. The Great Depression. Times of social transformation. 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 so long as we feel deeply and create our lies, we will at some point reveal a truth.

Got to get to work now…

 

Read Full Post »

It’s a busy morning with much to do so I am running the post below from several years ago that deals with the indifference that so many of us exhibit about so many things. If something doesn’t impact us directly, we tend to shrug our shoulders and say “Oh, well.” The passive acceptance of this sort of  indifference has been the great enabler of many of  history’s darkest eras. We live in a time where we cannot afford to be indifferent or we will again find ourselves in another dark place sometime soon. The anecdote I share below is no doubt trivial in the greater scheme of things but indifference is an insidious thing at any level.

A little  indifference can lead to greater sorrow…

GC Myers Memory of Night sm

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel

*************

I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now, staring at the quote above from Elie Wiesel. I had planned on writing about how my work evolved as a response to the indifference of others but now, looking at those words and putting them into the context of  Wiesel’s experience, I feel a bit foolish. Wiesel, who had survived the Holocaust and crusaded so that it might never happen again, was eyewitness to indifference on a grand scale, from those who were complicit or those who did not raise their voices in protest even though they knew what was happening to the personal indifference shown by his Nazi guards, as they turned a blind eye to the suffering and inhumanity directly before them on a daily basis, treating their innocent captives as though they were nothing at all.

The indifference of which he speaks is that which looks past you without any regard for your humanity. Or your mere existence, for that matter. It is this failure to engage, this failure to allow our empathy to take hold and guide us, that grants permission for the great suffering that takes place throughout our world.

So you can see where writing about showing a picture as a symbolic battle against indifference might seem a bit trivial. It certainly does to me. But I do see in it a microcosm of the wider implications. We all want our humanity, our existence, recognized and for me this was a small way of  raising my voice to be heard.

When I first started showing my work I was coming off of a period where I was at my lowest point for quite some time. I felt absolutely voiceless and barely visible in the world, dispossessed in many ways. In art I found a way to finally express an inner voice, my real humanity, that others could see and feel a reaction. So when my first opportunity to display my work came, at the West End Gallery in 1995, I went to the show with great trepidation.

For some, it was just a show of  some nice paintings by some nice folks. For me, it was a test of my existence.

It was interesting as I stood off to the side, watching as people walked about the space. It was elating when someone stopped and looked at my small pieces. But that feeling of momentary glee was overwhelmed by the indifference shown by those who walked by with hardly a glance. That crushed me. I would have rather they had stopped and spit at my work on the wall than merely walk by dismissively. That, at least, would have made me feel heard.

Don’t get me wrong here– some people walking by a painting that doesn’t move them with barely a glance are not Nazis. I held no ill will toward them, even at that moment. I knew that I was the one who had placed so much importance on this moment, not them. They had no idea that they were playing part to an existential crisis.  Now, I am even a bit grateful for their indifference that night because it made me vow that I would paint bolder, that I would make my voice be heard. Without that indifference I might have settled and not continued forward on my path.

But in this case, I knew that it was up to me to overcome their indifference.

Again, please excuse my use of Mr. Wiesel’s quote here. My little anecdote has little to do with the experience of those who suffered at the hands of evil people who were enabled by the indifference of those who might have stopped them. The point is that we all want to be heard, to be recognized on the most basic level for our own existence, our own individual selves. But too often, we all show indifference that takes that away from others, including those that we love. We all need to listen and hear, to look and see, to express our empathy with those we encounter.

We need to care.

Maybe in that small ways the greater effects of indifference of which Elie Wiesel spoke can be somehow avoided.

We can hope.

The painting at the top is a new piece [at the time this was written] that I call Memory of Night, inspired by Wiesel’s book, Night.

Read Full Post »

Truth exists. Only lies are invented.

Georges Braque

******************

I am in the studio, looking at a new larger painting on my easel that is nearing completion. The words above Braque clang around in my mind as I look at it.

The painting is strictly an invention, a representation of a nonexistent place.

I ask myself, “Is it therefore a lie?”

No, of course not.

The painting is a true expression of my emotion and existence. That place represented on the canvas exists within me.  And maybe within others who see its symbolic truth.

But I think I know what Braque means with his words. I have some paintings in the studio that I know are lies, not done with honest emotion. They aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, a few have a shiny appeal and have an appearance of truth in them. But there is something just a bit off in the way they come across to me, like hearing the words of a well constructed lie that you know in fact to be untrue.

And if that feeling comes across to me, it no doubt does the same for some others, as well. Not everyone. Some people don’t want to look beyond the surface and are willing to accept the lie before them because it somehow fits their own needs. For them, it is an acceptable truth.

It is a useful lie that serves a purpose to fill their personal need.

And that is okay.

Well, at least it’s okay in the realm of art which is based on personal and subjective preferences.

In other aspects of this life, I think we are finding that this casual acceptance of invented lies can have dire consequences.

Hopefully, truth prevails…

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: