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Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.

–Thomas Huxley

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This painting, Golden Beacon, was an addition to my current show at the West End Gallery that got its first showing at the Gallery Talk on Saturday. I am pleased to say that this piece found an adoring home in the aftermath of the talk.

I spoke with its new caretaker for a while after the talk, describing what I saw in this painting and how it differed in feeling from a similar painting hanging in the show that I wrote about in an earlier post. That painting, The Center Holds, was about the individual holding strong to its beliefs and core values as the chaos of the world swirled threateningly above and below.

I see this piece in a slightly different light. It is still about strength, still concerned with perseverance and staying true to inner truths. But it is also about how that type of behavior acts as an example for others to follow. Standing up to the fear, anger and hatred that is so often sowed by agents of darkness serves as beacon shedding broad beams of light that guide others past those perils.

I see a calmness in this painting that is based on a belief in logic, knowledge and truth. And in the glow of that light, the darkness separates and flees.

I think this piece is about both finding a source of light and calmness to guide you through times of darkness and, in turn, becoming a beacon to others. My hope is that the new owner of this painting sees this as such an inspiration. I know that it will always live that way in me.

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I first read the poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats over forty years back and it left a mark. Cut and scarred me. Its first verse still resonates in my mind, especially that last line– the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. It just reeks of the current political bog in which we are mired.

After putting the final touches on the piece above, a 12″ by 36″ canvas, I began examining the painting, trying to discern what it held for me. Immediately, the image from Yeats’ poem came to mind of a world in disarray,  spinning out of control in dark chaotic clouds and rising tide that overtakes and drowns all hopes.

But instead of Yeats’ forewarning that the center ( or centre, as is in his Irish version) cannot hold, I saw the Red Tree standing strong and resolute against the troubles swirling around it.  It holds tight to its core, not allowing the madness surrounding it to overtake it or alter those values of goodness that it holds dearly as definitions of its own humanity. It will die before it will succumb to becoming part of the blood-dimmed tide, as Yeats put it.

I am calling this painting The Center Holds.

I think this is a strong piece although I am not sure the photo above captures everything in it, its depth and contours. It’s coming with me to the West End Gallery for my Gallery Talk there next Saturday, August 5. Stop by and check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, here’s Yeats’ The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.                                                                                                                                                                               .
Surely some revelation is at hand; 
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

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Here’s an update for upcoming events on my schedule for the next couple of months:

First, on August 5, I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in conjunction with my show, Self Determination, that is currently hanging there. The talk begins at 1 PM and generally runs about an hour, give or take. As is now tradition, one of my paintings will be given away to one of those in attendance, along with several other surprises that are currently in the works. This is normally a brisk hour of questions and answers with some laughs along with some serious moments. If you have questions about the whats, whys and hows of my work, this is a great way to have them answered. Plus, you might cart off a piece for yourself!

Then the following month, on Saturday, September 16th, I take the Gallery Talk on the road down to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. This is the 15th year for this annual talk and, like the West End talks, features a drawing for one of my paintings along with some other surprises. There is generally some fun and a few revelations. I am always surprised at how much I learn from these talks myself from the input and insight provided by the audience. This talk starts at 1 PM and goes to around to 2 with the drawing at the end of the talk.

Sunny Point on Keuka Lake

And in late September, I will again be leading a painting workshop at Red Barn at the lovely Sunny Point location on beautiful and tranquil Keuka Lake in NY’s beautiful Finger Lakes region for the Yates County Arts Council. The past two years doing this have been an unexpected pleasure for me and I think this year’s edition will be a couple of days of fun, good conversation and, hopefully, some useful instruction. The dates should be finalized this week and details will be forthcoming. Most likely, this two day workshop will take place in the last week of September. Enrollment is limited to 8 or 9 attendees so, if you are interested, don’t hesitate in getting in touch with Kris at YCAC  to get your name on the list.

Hope you make it to one of the talks or to the workshop. I think it could be a lot of fun.

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I am in a real hurry this morning but wanted to at least share my Sunday morning song and I thought that my choice this week fit this particular painting very well. This painting, The Way of the Master, has spent a couple of years in Kuwait being displayed at the American Embassy there. When Ambassador Silliman’s appointment changed to being Ambassador to Iraq, the painting returned to me. It was a favorite of mine from the time I painted it and I was thrilled to have it back. It’s showing at the West End Gallery as part of my Self Determination show.

I am sharing what I wrote about this painting a few years back. The accompanying song is Tomorrow Never Knows from the Beatles, off their classic 1966 Revolver album. Give a listen and have a great Sunday.

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GC Myers- The Way of the Master

“There is one single thread binding my way together…the way of the Master consists in doing one’s best…that is all.”

– Confucius 

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I originally had a different title in mind for this new painting,which is 24″ by 36″ on canvas. I saw it as being about the end of a journey, about coming to a point that marked the highest level of emotional  and spiritual development. But then I remembered this quote from Confucius and it had immediate resonance.

It all comes down to effort in the end. Everything that comes to us, everything we desire and value,  ultimately depends on the amount of effort we choose to put forth.  Things done half-heartedly and with little attention never prosper or develop. Those things you take for granted never grow into something more.  They only diminish with less attention. You can witness  this in every aspect of your life. I know I can see it in my own. Everything I value– my marriage, my work and my peace of mind– requires hard work and maintenance, my very best effort.

This full effort ultimately leads to a deeper sense of connection with those things we value, emotionally and spiritually, and I suppose that’s what this piece signifies for me. I believe that any thinking person wants to reach their highest point of development, wants mastery over their own physical and spiritual life. This painting reminds me that it is obtainable if I am willing to give my very best.

As Confucius says: and that is all.

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So runs my dream: but what am I? 
         An infant crying in the night: 
         An infant crying for the light: 
And with no language but a cry.
                                                                                                          .
Alfred Tennyson, Canto 54, In Memoriam A.H.H.
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I came across an online article a few weeks back that captured my interest. Written by British designer Benjamin Earl Evans, it is titled 11 Brutal Truths About Creativity That No One Wants to Talk About. It’s a pretty short read.
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Many of the points Evans makes seem pretty evident to me– your ideas are not original, everybody is creative, creativity is hard, success depends on the assistance of others and so on. Art, like any business or real endeavor, is filled with difficulties and harsh realities and if someone has spent anytime trying to be a working artist, they recognize many of these as absolute truths.
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Perhaps the greatest difficulty for the visual artist is that you are faced with the prospect of competing with other artists, many with greater skills and training than yourself, for dwindling opportunities to show your work in the traditional gallery spaces that best gets your work in front of prospective collectors. Add to this that the artist then has to have their work somehow create an emotional bridge to the viewer, something that connects with them on the most visceral level.
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I find myself often wondering what might be the differentiating factor in why the work of some artists succeed at these difficult tasks while the work of other greatly skilled artists does not? It is surely something beyond technical prowess and a solid resume. Something almost indefinable.
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Evans provides one possible answer in this article, one that stopped me in my tracks with its simple obviousness– allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
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It made me think the many times I have seen artists with incredible technical and observational skills create work that just doesn’t seem to reveal itself emotionally. Perhaps their ability has overshadowed their need for expression? I don’t know that answer.
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But reading that, I immediately recognized the place of vulnerability and my willingness to share it in my work. I realize that my fears and shortcomings come through in my work.  My weaknesses, my uncertainties and my tears are readily on display as are my affections, hopes and aspirations. Even my lack of certain skills is a vulnerability that I am willing to expose and share, mainly because I cannot hide behind them.
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Maybe that kind of vulnerability is one of those differentiating factors. I don’t know for sure though I tend to lean that way in my belief. How does an artist gain vulnerability? Again, I don’t know. Not even sure they can outside of trying to work on those things that allow them to really feel deep emotion.
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No easy answers, unfortunately. But for me, I will continue with my transparency, my own vulnerability. It’s all I know.

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Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future. 
― Hermann HesseSiddhartha

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The painting above is a 30″ by 30″ canvas titled River Angel and is part of my show, Self Determination, that opens tomorrow night at the West End Gallery.

This painting is a continuation on a theme that I have been working in recently, based on the negative space that makes up the river and sky forming a silhouette that reminds me of that of the shape of a stylized flying angel. I did a rough crop of the piece, shown here on the right, that I hope displays what I am talking about. It may not be so evident to you but my eye reads that shape immediately in that way.

Now, as I have stated in past, I don’t know much about angels and can’t attest to their existence or even my own belief in them. I would like to believe that they look over us and that they guide us in some way. There have been days when I could swear they exist, that I have come in touch with them at some moment when I really needed them, but the skeptical part of me tells me it was only coincidence.

But what I do believe is that if there are angels, they would be drawn to the eternal flow of the river, the convergence of the river with the sea and the land and the sky. This great trinity of elements– sea, land and sky– has an inherent grace that just reeks of angels. Well, maybe reeks isn’t the right word but I’m sticking with it for now.

But it is that power and grace that I see in this painting, in the way the three elements come together to create a harmony that calls out to me. Maybe the moon here acts as a halo. Or maybe the Red Tree is the symbolic representation of that River Angel.

Or perhaps the flow of the river into the sea represents the transition from human to the elemental and onto the spirit.

I can’t really say.

But I do sense a place and moment of grace and harmony here, one that, if angels do exist, would be right at home to them.

 

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The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The painting above, a 24″ by 18″ canvas, shares its title with that of my solo show, Self Determination, which opens this Friday, July 14, at the West End Gallery in Corning.

That title, Self Determination, refers to a thought that came to me some years ago. It was that we have a choice in deciding what kind of person we want to be. While we can’t always change circumstance, we have the ability to change our course, our outlook, our reactions and so many other things that pertain to how we are defined.

It’s not an original idea, as Emerson’s concise words above attest. I’m sure I could dig around and come up with the same idea from the time of Socrates or Plato.

No, it’s a universal truth. But it is one that, while seeming  self evident, is overlooked by the majority of people. We often live our lives with little consideration given to our actions and reactions as we stumble through our precious time in this world.

We just accept who and what we are as a given, even when we are less than pleased by what we see.

I know that was the case for me for much of my earlier life. Not that I didn’t think about my choices. No, I just never thought about what my decisions might be if I were the person I wanted to be. Instead I often opted for short-sighted and expedient answers, usually those that required little effort or sacrifice on my part.

I didn’t often like or respect the person I was at those times.

But once I realized I could decide what type of person I wished to be, I began to ask myself conscious questions that set a new course for myself. Gradually, I began to move toward the person I chose to be. Oh, I am still quite a distance from that destination and I still find myself disliking the person I am at times. But I know now that I am headed in a direction that is of my design and not simply living life in a default setting, letting circumstances and the desires of other people dictate my actions.

And maybe that is why I am so drawn to the painting above. I feel it is a great example of what I have been trying to express with my work– that we have an ability to move beyond expectations and circumstances to become better versions of ourselves.

For me, I want to be that Red Tree, simply satisfied with its place in the world.

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