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Archive for the ‘Personal Mythology’ Category

 

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I too am not a bit tamed,

I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric yawp

over the roofs of the world.

 

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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This new painting,a 24″ by 30″ canvas that is part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery, is titled My Brisant Bellow. The term brisant bellow is one I have used in the past, my equivalent to Whitman’s barbaric yawp which comes from his Song of Myself in Leaves of Grass.

It is included in the four lines above that have been a guiding beacon for me throughout the past 25 years as I have tried to be an artist. These words instructed me to be only myself, to openly and boldly express my feelings without fear or shame. To not hide my scars, my fears or my weaknesses because they are part of my wholeness and keep me in balance. To not be underestimated or devalued by myself or anyone else. To claim a foothold in this world and bellow out the proof of my existence in my own voice:

Here I am.

There are paintings that I do that are meant to represent this thought, paintings that are meant to be plainly expressions of that Here I am. I consider them icons in my body of work, pieces that fully represent my work and what I want from it. This painting definitely falls in that category. It’s simply put but not a simple expression.

When I look at this painting I personally see myself and all my hopes and aspirations, all that I am or desire to be.

What I hope for this painting is that someone else sees that same here I am in it for themselves, that they see in it those things that make them a whole and perfectly imperfect person with a place in this world and a voice that demands to be heard.

Is that asking too much?

 

 

 

 

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I am in the midst of a crazy busy week as I put the finishing touches on work for my yearly show at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. This year’s show is called The Rising and opens a mere two weeks from today, FridayJuly 13.

I primarily chose the title because the focus of many of these pieces in this show rested on the rising of the ball-like suns and moons in them. Add to that the posture of the Red Tree in a number of these paintings where it has seemingly climbed to the top the nearest mound and appears to be attempting to rise up to merge itself with the sky.

To transform itself from the worldly to the ethereal.

Ultimately, that is what I want my work to accomplish.

That’s a big jump, I know. And maybe I am foolhardy in thinking I can find it in my work. Certainly, to rise up above the baseness of the earthly and move into a spiritual realm comprised of higher ideals and virtues seems a far reach for any artist. But shouldn’t we attempt to reach beyond our grasp?

Shouldn’t we always aspire to be better?

It’s that quality of aspiring to be better that I hope comes through in this show. The painting at the top shares its title with the show, The Rising, and I hope lives up to it.

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Again, my new show, The Rising, opens Friday, July 1, at the West End Gallery with a reception that runs from 5-7:30 PM.

Plus, pencil in the date for my annual Gallery Talk at the West End takes place Saturday, August 4, beginning at 1 PM. There are more details on that to come but I can promise I will do my best to make it a good one. Like I said, shouldn’t we aspire to be better?

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For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves…

Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems

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The painting at the top is titled The Spirit Tree and is part of my show, Sensing the Unseen, that opens tomorrow at the Kada Gallery. It is 11″ by 15″ on paper.

Trees have always held a firm spot in my heart as symbols of strength, wisdom and calm perseverance. My early memories of childhood often revolved around the black walnut trees in our yard and the hardwoods on the hill behind it. When I was among those trees I felt at home, safely in a realm that moved at pace that was beyond our own idea of time. Ageless.

Even now while the world teeters on the edges of chaos, walking among the trees is a source of great comfort, letting me know that as dire as it may seem this period of time is but a hiccup in the great continuum of the time of trees.

And that is how I look at this piece and the central tree. It stands strong and with an air of ageless wisdom, creating a band of light between the darkness of the earthly dwellings and that of the foreboding sky. As Hesse wrote above, like the most penetrating preacher.

That piece of writing at the top is from Hermann Hesse is from an essay in his book, Trees: Reflections and Poems. It’s a piece of writing that I adore and have posted here before. To read the longer version of this essay  click here.


Sensing the Unseen is now hanging at the Kada Gallery in Erie. The show opens with a reception tomorrow, Friday, December 1, running from 6-9 PM. I will be there to answer your questions or just shoot the breeze. I look forward to seeing and meeting you there.

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pinocchio_shrekI’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible. 

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the truth and lies lately.  It’s hard to not do so given the current administration’s adoption of using falsehood as the most important component of their strategy in dealing with the press and public.

Every day we are hearing numerous statements and “facts” that are bewildering to behold in that they are so easily proved to be false. I think they are basing this strategy on the old adage that says a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The lie moves out there into the great unknown and remains even after it is proven to be false.  The very existence of the statement, even though it is absolutely a lie, is proof enough of its reality for the uninformed.

These are lies that have purpose. These are not innocent misstatements or poor word choices. There is motive. They are meant to do damage, to create effects such as confusion and division.

This is some high level lying, my friends. It’s a world away from the adolescent lies that Holden Caulfield spoke of in the passage at the top of the page.

And a world away from the many, many lies I have told in my life.

You see, I ‘m a confessed and dedicated lifelong liar.

If you ask most people if they lie, they are going to say no.  Most likely it will be an indignant NO! that comes with a glare and a little spittle on their lips like you just tried to stab their baby with a fork.

But if I am asked that question I always tell the truth–Yes, I am a liar.

I heard many lies early on from well seasoned and highly convincing liars.  It was an apprenticeship of sorts.  I learned to fib to get what I wanted, to avoid blame and responsibility, to make others feel better and to cover my inadequacies and my shames.  Sometimes they were petty lies like those of Holden Caulfield, lies for the sake of lying where I would do it simply because I could.  It was just a small thrill to create a false reality that I knew would most likely go undetected.

To the kid’s mind, there was no harm or consequence involved. But of course, that is only a lie we tell ourselves to make it all seem okay. It did damage. Even those little fibs stressed my moral boundaries and acted as a gateway to a higher level of larger, more harmful lies as I moved into adulthood.

Along with this came that ability to rationalize the falsehoods that would temper the sense of shame I began to feel as my life progressed. Every lie became part of bigger construct, an ever growing tower built of lies. I am not going to get into specifics here but I will say that there came a point when when I didn’t know if the words coming out of my mouth beforehand were going to be the truth or another addition to my tower of lies. It came down to whatever was the easiest course through the situation at hand.

Fortunately, and this is not a lie, the shame I felt in living this way prevailed. I became a born again believer in truth, even the hard ones that I once avoided with all sorts of lies. It was liberating in so many ways.  Life became simpler with truth.

My tower of falsehoods was disassembled and I now reside in a snug and modest bungalow of relative honesty. I say relative because I have found that in dealing with my father’s dementia there are acceptable lies that we allow ourselves to tell so as not to alarm him and to ease his anxieties. That rationale does make it any easier to accept and I often find myself wracked with guilt.

I also use the term relative because lying is like a monkey on your back that will not let go.  Once in a while I feed the monkey exaggerations ( I think a million or a million and a half people came to my last gallery talk) and meaningless and ridiculous fibs such as saying that I got out of bed at 6:30 when I know for fact that it was 6:15.

That satisfies the monkey for now but someday soon I hope to send the monkey to a farm at some remote place where I will hopefully not visit it at all ever again. I am working on it. That is the truth.

You would think that with this long personal relationship with lying, I might find something admirable in the artistry of the liars we’re experiencing today.

I don’t.  We can’t rationalize it nor can we accept it as a normal mode of operation.  Every lie must be challenged, every lie must be counted and displayed for the world to witness.

To tolerate it is to choose to live on a very tall tower of lies. And that is a dangerous and precarious perch for us all.

Think about it before you shrug off yet another obvious lie from those who want to govern you.

I have to go. I have a Liars Anonymous meeting that starts 30 minutes from now.  That’s a lie– it starts in an hour. Liar!

 

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Shadowland

GC Myers- Shadowland 2003This painting, a 24″ by 20″ canvas is titled Shadowland. It’s from back in 2003 and has been living with me for almost all of the time since, floating from wall to wall in the studio. It’s been with me for so long that it sometimes go unnoticed and unappreciated for long periods of time.  But sometimes I find myself stopping as I am passing it with some other thought in mind.

There are times when I’ll look at it and think, almost dismissively,”It’s just too simple.”

But there are moments like this morning when I find myself completely swallowed by the scene, as though the simplicity of the composition were drawing me close so that it could envelope me in its warm tones.

In those moments, I am entranced, embraced in a colorful atmosphere that surrounds me like a blanket. I am safe. The anger, the anxieties and the cares of the physical world are kept at bay for a moment.

A brief but glorious moment.

And those few seconds give me hope and fill me with energy.

And I find myself wondering how that emotion, that feeling, was hidden in such a simple thing.  And I am gladdened that there is that mystery, that it is so far beyond me.  I need that mystery, that wonder.

It means that my work is still ahead of me.  My task.

And I say, “It’s just too simple.”

But I am not being dismissive this time.

 

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There’s so much craziness taking place in this country at this point in time.  I wanted to write something that would plead for our patience and tolerance,  asking us to avoid the knee jerk reactions, finger-pointing and extreme behaviors that have brought us here.  To ask that we just breath and take a moment to consider the consequences of our words and actions.

I could do that.  But there has been so much said, so many words asking for calm  and some unfortunately, asking for retribution and more anger.  So instead I am going to focus on a different time and place.  Below is a piece from back in 2010 that focuses on the Coney Island paintings of Reginald Marsh, a favorite of mine, and some of my recollections of Coney Island.  Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh Coney Island Beach I’m always intrigued by the paintings of Reginald Marsh, who painted scenes depicting the urban world of New York City throughout the early part of the 20th century until his death in 1954.  His paintings always seemed densely packed with figures and constant movement, all rendered with easily recognizable line work and colors that were strong yet had a soft transparency.  Striking.

One of his favorite subjects was Coney Island, the famous part of Brooklyn with its beach, boardwalk and amusement park.  Whenever I see Marsh’s Coney Island paintings I am always reminded of the several trips I made there as a child in the late 1960’s.  My parents and I would go to NY to see Mets’ games, leaving my older, busier siblings at home, and would sometimes go to Coney Island on the day when the games were at night. 

It was always like entering an exotic, much different world than my country home.  It was dirty with  trash strewn everywhere.  I remember the first time we swung into the parking lot at Astroland, the amusement park there, and thinking we’d entered a landfill as there were literally piles of paper and bottles over nearly the whole lot.  If you spent much time in NY at that time, it was not an unusual sight.

Reginald Marsh The Lucky DaredevilsBut it was great fun and over the few visits there I had many memories that burned indelibly into my memory bank.  My parents, and my aunt and uncle who sometimes were with us, would, after a while stop at one of the bars that opened to the boardwalk to have a cold one and I would wander alone.  It was a wonderland of colorful attractions and games, their facades faded by time and sun. I have sharp memories of standing at one bar’s doorway and watching a singer all dressed in cowboy regalia standing on the bar with his electric guitar singing out country songs in the middle of the afternoon.  I sometimes wonder if it might have been country troubador Jerry Jeff Walker who had come out of Brooklyn. 

 Reginald Marsh Coney Island SceneI remember seeing the crowds down on the beach and suddenly seeing everyone there pointing out to the water and yelling.  Looking out, I saw two legs bobbing straight out of the water, almost comically so.  The lifeguards rushed out and dragged the body in.  Dead and, now that I think about it, had probably been so for a while.

I also remember going into a boardwalk arcade and approaching an older man with a gray moustache and a coin changer on his belt.  I asked for change and handed him my dollar bill.  He made a couple of clicks on the changer and poured a pile of nickels into my hands.  As I turned to go the machines, he put his hand on my shoulder.

Reginald MarshTunnel of Love“Hold on!” he exclaimed in a thick accent that sounded Greek and a little angry to a terrified nine year old.  He started chastising me.

“You don’t know me! Don’t ever trust anyone you don’t know.  I give you money and you trust me and don’t count.  You should not trust me.  Now, count!”

I stood there petrified and counted out loud.  It was the right change, of course, and the man’s gruff demeanor suddenly changed and he beamed a smile at me.  “You understand? Now go.  Have fun,” he said as he gave me a pat on the shoulder.

A little life lesson along with the change on the boardwalk in 1969.

That moment is clear as yesterday and it always reappears when I see images from Marsh or images of Coney Island.

Reginald Marsh Pip and Flip

 

 

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GC Myers- Icon: Joe H.Here’s my latest entry into the Icon series, a 12″ by 12″ canvas piece that is titled Icon: Joe H.  He is my 3rd great-grandfather and his name was Joseph Harris and he was born in the Lindley (the town named after our common ancestor, Eleazer Lindsley,who was among the first Icons) area south of Corning in 1833.

He led a fairly typical life for the time and place, serving in the Civil War and raising a family.  He worked primarily as a blacksmith and a sawyer ( I have a lot of lumbermen in my family– maybe that’s where my affinity for trees comes from) in his early years, working for a number of years in the then booming timber business that was taking place in northern Pennsylvania and western NY.   It was there that his wife, Emeline Whitney, died just a year or so after the end of the Civil War.  Later in his life, he returned to the area of his birth, settling in as a farmer  just over the border in Pennsylvania where he died in 1922.

That was about the extent of his life for me, at least what I could find of it in records.  I did discover that he married his step-sister, Jennie, who was twenty years younger, as his second wife.  But it was my research into local newspapers that gave me a better sense of him.

Looking at records gave no indication of anything but the basics but in his 1922 death notice printed in the Wellsboro Agitator ( I love the name of that paper!) the headline lists him as a “Skilled and Noted Musician.”  It goes on to say that he had been the one-time Banjo Champion of the United States.  He very well may have picked up the banjo from his Civil War experience as it’s popularity in the time after the war is often attributed to many people being exposed to it for the first time during their service.  I could never find anything to document a championship which was no big surprise as it most likely occurred somewhere in the 1870’s or 1880’s and whatever group sanctioned the competition is more than likely no longer in existence.

But I was pleased to know that music played a big part in his life and I later found an item that confirmed this.  It stated that his son, William Harris, was working as a musician in one of the  oilfield boom towns in northern PA in the 1890’s when he tragically took his own life by shooting himself at the hotel where he was living.  As is often the case, you find a lot of tragedy when you look backwards so it’s some consolation to know that there was a bit of music and joy mixed in there somewhere.

I did visit Joe’s gravesite a while back.  It is a bare-boned and flat plot of land that sits next to a harsh little trailer park visible from the new interstate.  Standing at his grave you looked into the backyard of several trailers, the kind of yards scattered with kids toys, spare tires and oil drums.

It made me a little sad but then, I guess a guy who lived through the Civil War, endured the death of his first wife and several of his children before him and lived to see the first World War, this wasn’t all that bad.

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