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GC Myers- From Here to There sm



Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Section 46



 

I thought some lines from Uncle Walt might fit well with the new painting above. It is titled From Here to There and is part of my annual solo show that opens this year on June 4th at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.

This show, titled Between Here and There, concerns itself primarily with the concept of the journey.   It could be as simple as an actual physical journey from one spot to another or it could be more metaphorical, symbolizing our journey through life, from birth to death.  

Beginnings and endings. Origins and final destinations. We all start and finish the journey.  

But the totality of the journey is never fully expressed in the start and end points. No, between here and there are all sorts of roads to follow, obstacles to conquer, bodies of water to cross, creatures to love, and things to be learned.

And dreams to be dreamed. Hopes to be hoped.  

In this journey, do we ever truly feel the satisfaction of reaching our destiny? There are other numerous destinations within the two endpoints of our life’s journey and sometimes we may reach a goal that we once thought was well beyond our grasp. It may produce a momentary feeling of euphoria that we take for satisfaction but eventually we yearn to be on our way once more. As Whitman points out later in this section:

This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look’d at the crowded heaven,
And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those
orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in
them, shall we be fill’d and satisfied then?

And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.

Maybe we are destined to be always going forward, to always have a gnawing inside us to move, to learn and do and feel more.

To fill the space between here and there.

Here’s the whole of the section from Song of Myself:



I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured.

 

I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!)

My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods,

No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,

I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,

I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,

But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,

My left hand hooking you round the waist,

My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.

 

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,

You must travel it for yourself.

 

It is not far, it is within reach,

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,

Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth,

Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.

 

If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip,

And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,

For after we start we never lie by again.

 

This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look’d at the crowded heaven,

And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those
          orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in
          them, shall we be fill’d and satisfied then?

And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue
          beyond.

 

You are also asking me questions and I hear you,

I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.

Sit a while dear son,

Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,

But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.

 

Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

 

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair




 

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20210331_055939 The Memory of That Time sm



I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.

― Virginia Woolf, Diary, March 18, 1925



This new painting at the top is titled The Memory of All That and is part of my upcoming solo show, Between Here and There, at the Principle Gallery. The show opens June 4, 2021.

This piece has held the feeling of deep memory for me since it was completed. Maybe it’s the burnished edge of darkness that runs around its perimeter, like looking through an old film cell that has aged and darkened. You hold it up to the light and the brightness from behind brings the central image to life once more while seeming to put the peripheral imagery in shadows. They’re still there, just not as distinct.

The Virginia Woolf quote at the top seems especially applicable here. I see the Red Tree taking on  the role of a being who returns to the their past, gazing at the old homestead. The memories that flood in take on an emotional feel that is often deeper and more pronounced than was evident at the actual moment being remembered.

The present is often incomplete. It sometimes lacks the context which comes from pertinent future events that add the emotional depth and flavor we feel when we later revisit it as memory.

I know that this is something I often see in my own memories. Even those that had emotion at the moment in which they occurred are often deeper and many times felt with completely different emotions upon recall. For example, take some incidents of the petulant anger of youth. I might remember the initial incident and anger but the memory now might contain a bit of embarrassment at my lack of self-control, naivete and wrongheadedness.

Or what might have been a fun moment then now contains feelings of familial love or even a sense of loss.

As I said, the present is seldom complete. And future events– changes within ourselves and in the circumstances our lives–will continue to change our memory of it.

That’s what I am reminded of in this piece. The Red Tree will grow larger and its perspective will change, as will the homestead and everything around it. Our memories sometimes seem like they are set in concrete but they often shift and change in ways that we barely perceive.

After all, we live in an impermanent world. Memory sometimes gives us the feeling of permanence, even though it may only illusory.

Okay, enough. I have lots to do today and its time to get to work.



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PG GCMyers-- Comforter sm



But there is a greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire, whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.

The things of Time are in connivance with eternity…

― Thomas Merton, “Fire Watch, July 4, 1952”



I had been looking for an image that would match up well with the lines above from the late mystic monk/theologian Thomas Merton when thought of this newer piece. It is titled Comforter and is part of my upcoming June solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.

The title feels self-evident in the painting with its shades of blue that are underlaid with layers of magenta that give it a warmth that I finding comforting. The warm light of the moon also has a calming effect and the patchwork effect of the fields speaks directly of a comforter.

As I said, the title speaks for itself.

But Merton’s passage adds a layer of spiritual comfort. It comes from an epilogue for his book The Sign of Jonas and details one of his first duties as a novice monk performing a fire watch. It entailed walking through the monastery in the early hours of the morning making sure that all was well, that no accidental fires or water leaks were taking place. It was a task filled with silence and vigilance but also one that offered comfort in the knowledge that all was well.

And that seems to fit with this small painting. The Red Tree seems to be overlooking all while pondering its own existence, its own purpose. And in doing this silent duty, it finds comfort.

Another passage from Merton’s essay seems applicable as well:

And now my whole being breathes the wind which blows through the belfry, and my hand is on the door through which I see the heavens.  The door swings out upon a vast sea of darkness and of prayer.  Will it come like this, the moment of my death?  Will You open a door upon the great forest and set my feet upon a ladder under the moon, and take me out among the stars?

Perhaps the Red Tree is looking for that ladder under the moon.

I think I will think on that some more. In the comfort of silence.

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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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“The Timeout” At West End Gallery

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Why do you so earnestly seek
the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the
bottom of your own heart.

― Ryōkan Taigu (1758-1831)

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Do the deluded know the truth of who and what they are?

Or has their delusion replaced the truth at the bottom of their heart?

Can truth and delusion coexist within the heart of a person?

Or is truth a form of delusion in itself?

I think if we could figure this out, a lot of the problems of the world might fade away. Well, at least, not not seem quite so dire.

But that’s just the deluded opinion of one person…

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“I tried to establish order over the chaos of my imagination, but this essence, the same that presented itself to me still hazily when I was a child, has always struck me as the very heart of truth. It is our duty to set ourselves an end beyond our individual concerns, beyond our convenient, agreeable habits, higher than our own selves, and disdaining laughter, hunger, even death, to toil night and day to attain that end. No, not to attain it. The self-respecting soul, as soon as he reaches his goal, places it still further away. Not to attain it, but never to halt in the ascent. Only thus does life acquire nobility and oneness.”

Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

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

I originally saw this painting with the three Red Trees hovering over the houses like three spiritual guides. Three angels, perhaps. But the more I looked at it ( and I looked at it a lot) the more I saw the trees, especially with the exaggerated elongation of their trunks, as continually rising higher.

They weren’t hovering angels. No, they were spiritual searchers straining to reach even further out into the unknown, represented here by the chaotic slashes of color that make up the sky.

Trying to make the unknown known.

Trying to find order in chaos.

This perception was made even more tangible when I came across the excerpt at the top from the fictionalized autobiography of the late great Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. The idea it presents of a life dedicated to seeking a nobler way of being, to attaining unity, oneness, seemed appropriate as a interpretation of this painting.

It also seemed appropriate as a basis for a way of living amidst the ever swirling chaos of this world. To seek to be somehow better, to attempt to rise above the petty and reactive behaviors to which we so easily assume, is indeed a worthy goal for any individual.

This added a layer of depth to my own appreciation for this piece. I see this painting, which I am calling Climb Ever Higher, as a lovely reminder to set my aims higher, to eschew my baser instincts. It’s a reminder that I certainly need in these chaotic times.

This 24″ by 24″ canvas is part of my Social Distancing show that opens a week from today, June 5, at the Principle Gallery.

 

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Rene Magritte- The Empire of Light – Guggenheim Museum

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Life obliges me to do something, so I paint. 

–Rene Magritte

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

I wasn’t sure what this post was going to be about when I started. Still don’t know, to be honest. I was simply going to put up a short quote with a painting or two by an artist, as I sometimes do. In this case the artist was the famed Surrealist Rene Magritte.

I liked the quote above. Simple. Concise. Right to the point.

Plus, I think it lines up with an answer that I sometimes give when someone asks how I became a painter. I will answer, “Hey, everybody has to do something.

That opens up what could be a whole philosophical discussion about what our obligations really are in our lives as humans.

Are we really obliged to do something?

I don’t know.

Maybe. I guess not doing something is, in it’s own way, doing something. I know that when I am not a painter I am, among many things, sometimes a lazy slob.

Life obliges me to do something, so I do nothing.

That doesn’t have quite the same cache as Magritte’s statement but it is sometimes true.

But for the most part, when life obliges me to do something, I paint.

Not like Magritte. In my own way, at my own pace and of my own choosing.

Hey, life can push me around but only so far.

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

PS: I was going to write about the painting at the top which is one version of a painting, The Empire of Light, that Magritte painted fourteen times. The subject was not going to be about the night scene of this painting with a blue sky above. Rather, it was to be about the repetition of forms by artists, a subject to which I am well acquainted. Maybe next time.

Now, let’s look at some other Magritte paintings.

Rene Magritte- Decalcomania – 1966

Rene Magritte- The Mysteries of the Horizon 1928

Rene Magritte- The Son of Man 1964

Rene Magritte- The Beautiful Relations 1966

 

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“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gifts: An Essay

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

I came across this essay, Gifts, from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is actually a practical guide to gift giving and receiving, well suited to the time in which it was written in 1844. I particularly like the line that states that rings and jewels are but apologies for gifts.

I have never looked upon a gift as an apology for not giving more of myself but when I really closely I find there is truth there. It is so much easier, so much less revealing to not truly give from ourselves and to simply go to the shops (or online these days) to acquire what often amounts to a poor symbol of what we might really feel for the person receiving that gift.

We’ve become accustomed to accepting these apologies because it excuses our own apologies to others. It’s to the point that we don’t know how give of ourselves nor do we know how to accept or acknowledge a gift that is really a true portion of the giver.

How do you do that? How do you bleed for someone else? Is it in the words of Emerson, as he continued after the quote above: Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift…?

I don’t know.

I used to think that giving my paintings were like giving a piece of myself. It certainly fits in with Emerson’s words as he used just that as an example. It certainly seems like it is a piece of the person creating it.

But is it any more than a different sort of apology? Maybe an apology for not giving of my time and self to people directly? An apology for keeping my distance?

Sometimes I think that’s true. But there have been times when I have been given something made by another and I certainly don’t look at it as an apology in any way. I am just touched that they took the time and made the effort to even think of me in any way.

For example, I received a Christmas card from a friend whose two daughter drew red trees inside the card. That is as precious as any gift I could have received.

So where does that leave us?

I don’t know.

I am just thinking out loud this morning. Tomorrow I might look at this and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. You can never tell.

Bottom line: You can’t go wrong by truly giving of yourself. Bleed for someone, okay?

 

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“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.
Let it teach you Being.
Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

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

I have need of a little serenity this morning. It’s a crazy world out there and sometimes, when I let down my guard and let my reactions to it rule my demeanor, it gets the best of me. I find myself looking too far into the both the past and the future, seeking the causes and effects of things. While that might seem like a wise thing to do, to seek why things go a certain way and where they may lead, it often neglects the present time, the now.

That’s where I find myself this morning. Not in the past or the future but not quite fully in the now.

I try to sap some of the meaning of the words above from Eckhart Tolle. I have long found serenity in watching the forest and its inhabitants that surround the studio. There is a beauty in the witnessing the lives of the creatures of the wood.

For instance, take the common white tail deer that lives in abundance in our woods.

Their lives seem so difficult. Their existence is a constant struggle to find food, water and a tiny bit of shelter from the elements and the predators that hunt them. I used to have a doe that would snuggle up at night between the shrubs in front of my studio, laying up against the wall of the building. It was as safe and dry a place as she could possibly find.

There are few breaks for them. They are always on high alert, always skittishly scanning for danger and bolting in bursts of leaps through the forest at the slightest wrong movement.

Yes, it is a hard life.

Yet to see them have absolute moments of joy where they play and run with wild abandon around the studio makes me envious. It’s such a pure thing, their glorious reveling in the moment. In the now.

Watching them at these moments is one of the few times when I myself feel in the now. Their joy becomes my joy in that moment and the bitter world that surrounds us is gone away, if only for that brief instant. Gone are the worries of living and dying, of hardships past and to come.

Just a small yet absolute moment of joy.

That might be as close to real serenity that I ever experience. It might seem like a small thing but it feels like an immense treasure in a world that seems ready to plunge into madness.

And that’s just what I need. It’s good enough on this morning.

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Innate Violence/Merton

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The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activity neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

-Thomas Merton

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This warning from the late theologian/monk/author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) seem well suited for these times. Many of us, myself included, are consumed with busyness and the effect of that combined with the frenzy and anxiety of the current state of affairs in this world have eroded our capacity to seek and find silence.

Moments of pure peace and solitude are fewer and further between because of the fervor, the innate violence, of these things. As Merton points out, this condition kills the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful.

For artists and anyone who employs creativity in their day to day life– hopefully, most of us– this creates a time of crisis. Our work suffers. Our concentration suffers. Our ability to find joy suffers. Our level of inner and outer comfort suffers.

So, just a small reminder to turn away from the world today, if only for a moment. Try to find some silence, some placid point inside yourself. Set aside your busyness and try to block out the chaotic innate violence of modern life, even for just the tiniest bit of time.

Find that stillness because, though it seems empty, it is filled with the joy and wisdom and peace and inspiration we all seek.

Okay, gotta run. Awful busy this morning.

Just kidding…

 

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