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GC Myers- Blue Haven sm



From my spirit’s gray defeat,
From my pulse’s flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault’s slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.

For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit’s sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

― Sara Teasdale, Refuge



Today, I am sharing the painting at the top, Blue Haven, which is another from my annual show, Between Here and There, that opens a week from today, June 4th, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Previews of the show become available today by contacting the gallery.

I thought I’d pair this painting with the short poem above, Refuge, from Sara Teasdale, the great and tragic American poet. Teasdale (1884-1933) wrote a poem, Strange Victory, that remains a favorite and was the inspiration for a group of my early paintings. Her poem and the painting both deal with creating a refuge or safe haven from the forces of the outer world that so often make us feel as though we have been pummeled without mercy. Finding a way or a place in which we can  hunker down and endure is sometimes all we are left.

Sometimes, just enduring is a form of triumph.

I believe that is what this painting says for me.

I hope it shows itself properly here, so that you can see it for what it is. It was a very difficult painting to photograph with its multiple contrasts and shades of blue, which has aspects and depths that are especially hard to properly capture. After a quite a few attempts I am still not sure that this image fully captures it. The difficult ones, those that are hard to capture and those that deal with complex emotions, are often my favorites. I think it’s because the viewer has to work a bit to fully understand the piece in their own way. It doesn’t offer its rewards easily.

I am also sharing a choral piece that is based on this Teasdale poem. It is surprising how much of her work has been the basis for musical works. I had no idea until I did a quick search this morning and found that there are several different compositions based on this poem alone. The one below spoke most clearly to me. It is  short piece for solo piano written by Edward Enman during the early days of the pandemic using Teasdale’s poem as inspiration. There is also a choral selection from composer Audrey Snyder that is lovely as well.

Give a listen to one or both, if you have a few moments.



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GC Myers-  Symphony of Silence  2021



Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

― Rumi, 13th century Persian poet



The new painting at the top, titled Symphony of Silence, is an 18″ by 36″ canvas. This weekend, it is headed down to the Principle Gallery as part of my solo show, Between Here and There, which opens June 4th.

I have written in the past about what I see as the connection between painting and music, how I see some of my pieces as simple songs and others as more intricate compositions. Perhaps symphonies or concertos.

This, in my eyes, is one that seems simple at a first glance. It is sparse and without great details. But the more I look at it, the more I see in it. How each element and color plays off the next and how they are fortified by each. It feels like there are rhythms and melodies running through it, from side to side as the terrain flows and up and down with rise of the moon.  There is inward and outward movement with the light of the stars and the undulation of the trail. The blocks that make up the night sky seem to swirl and rotate in all directions. The far mountains appear almost as sound waves. 

There is seemingly constant movement throughout the landscape and the skyscape. Almost a cacophony.

Almost.

It is silence.

Somehow the movements, the rhythms, and contrasts all run together at some point.

Harmony. Made up of the stars in motion countless lightyears away and the ancient wisdom contained in the stillness of the land and water. Always there but in silence. 

It is a simple piece but one that constantly shares something more than it lets on with a mere glance.

Here’s a piece of music to accompany it, a longtime favorite of mine and one that has played a large part in how I came to view my own work. It’s from composer Arvo Pärt and his composition Tabula Rasa. This is the second movement, fittingly titled Silentium. It feels right with this painting.



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Turner-Peace_-_Burial_at_Sea framed

Peace: Burial at Sea- JMW Turner 1842



I have been super busy lately but when I get a free minute I have been listening to short bits of poetry read online. Most are only a minute or two long which provides a short break in the thought process which I find refreshing. I particularly enjoy works read by narrator Tom O’Bedlam.

Who this Tom O’Bedlam actually is has been a question for some time since he emerged around 2008 as a reader of poetry and garnered a folowing. He is an anonymous reader whose name is based on an equally anonymous 16th century poem, Tom O’Bedlam’s Song, which is considered one of the great anonymous poems in the English language perhaps the greatest of the mad songs, those verses dedicated to the ramblings of the seemingly insane. There is quite a long tradition of mad songs in poetry which makes one wonder about the link between poets and madness.

But the identity of the present day Tom O’Bedlam is still up in the air though his name does link to the website of contemporary poet David J. Bauman. Even so, it is never quite clear that he is the voice of O’Bedlam and his own readings sound much different. It is surmised that he uses an audio program to achieve the timber and tone of O’Bedlam’s distinctly pleasing voice.

I don’t really know and to tell the truth, it doesn’t matter much. I just enjoy the results and the choices of the poems selected for him to read. I particularly enjoy the work of British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) who often has a slightly acerbic, misanthropic skew to his very engaging work. I used one of his poems, High Windows, years ago for the inspiration for a painting.

Here’s a short example of Larkin’s work as read by the aforementioned Tom O’Bedlam. They linked the verse with the stunning painting at the top, Peace; Burial at Sea,  from a favorite of mine, the exquisite JMW Turner. Maybe that’s why I chose this one today.

Can’t really say but this is Next, Please. Take a break if you can and give a listen. Maybe it will refresh you, as well. If not, at least it make make you think a bit.

And that’s never a bad thing.



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I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

–Song of Myself  32, Walt Whitman



leaves of grassA little busy this morning but wanted to share a few lines from Uncle Walt. I find that it has a soothing effect much like the effect of watching the wild creatures that live around us. My current best animal friend is Howie the older tom turkey who sometimes runs down the path toward me when he sees me coming, gobbling loudly as he comes. I know it’s just because of the sunflower seeds I put out for him and his other bird friends but his evident joy in seeing me always makes me smile.

I think we all appreciate someone displaying a little bit of joy when they see us, even if it’s just an old tom.

I sure do.

Here’s a reading of an excerpt from Whitman’s Song of Myself from his eternal classic Leaves of Grass.



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GC Myers- Late Fragment- Raymond Carver ca 1997 sm



And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

–Late Fragment, Raymond Carver



I was looking for something yesterday in the bedroom here in the studio that I call the library. It’s a room lined with bookshelves and the floor littered with boxes with old unframed paintings. It’s a great place in which to retreat when I am feeling stuck. I can pull out a book and read a passage that I haven’t thought of since I last read it, in some cases that being forty years ago. It always feels like there is something new or old or, at least, interesting to find in there.

But yesterday I stumbled across two long thin pieces of old matboard held together with artist’s tape. I couldn’t remember what might be sandwiched between them and opened it, revealing the piece shown at the top. Seeing it brought back a flood of memories.

It was an old painting done back in the 1990’s, probably 1997. It is called Late Fragment after the short Raymond Carver poem above. I had once had it framed and displayed it at the West End Gallery many years ago. I remember distinctly discussing it with several folks at an opening. But it eventually came back to me and for some reason it ended up being unframed. It obviously has bounced around in my old studio in the woods and now my current one as it is stained and a bit grimy.

But there are things in it that had slipped my mind that came back yesterday. I remembered that this piece was originally meant to be in a handmade book of my small paintings accompanied by favorite short poems. I did a couple back around that time. I haven’t seen them in many years and have no documentation on them that I can find but I remember binding them with thick heavy thread along with bookcovers made from heavy dense cardboard covered in rice paper. I would love to see them again.

This piece was meant to be in the center of one of these books and would fold out to reveal itself in whole. You can see the creases where it was folded which gave it a segmented look that I have replicated in paint may times since. If I remember right,  the heavy watercolor paper made it too thick for the book in which it was intended so it ended up in a frame instead.

It’s not a great piece. There are so many ways in which it would be different now. But there’s something in it that is endearing to me. Maybe it’s rawness of it which is accentuated now by the grime and stains that adorn it. Maybe it’s attraction comes from this as a metaphor for the aging process we all go through.

Or maybe it’s the nascent quality of the painting itself. The way the tree is handled as more of a silhouette than with real details of any sort. Or the tiny sun/moon off in the distance. That was not uncommon in my work at that time.

Or maybe it was just the reality and potential held in it. It was a whole entity then, both as a painting and as a symbol of who I was then. It remains true now but I have changed in the intervening years and while I remain basically the same, I am different. My views and ways of expression have changed and evolved, hopefully for the better.

But who knows? Maybe twenty some years from now, if I can keep myself alive that long, I will look back on this post or a recent painting and say the same thing:

Yes, that was me and while all in it is still true, this is where and who I am now. 

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GC Myers-The Fulfillment sm

“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery



Take your hand
and place your hand
some place
upon your body.
And listen
to the community of madness
that
you are.

How To Be Alone, Pádraig Ó Tuama



I am up and alone in the studio at 4:30 this morning, eager to get a brush in my hand. It might sound crazy but that doesn’t matter to me right now. I am excited about the work for my Principle Gallery show in June that I am working on and feel a compulsion to keep at it out of the fear that this feeling will soon pass.

But for as excited as I am still about the new work, I am not ready to show a lot of it quite yet. Something makes me want to hold most of it back for a bit, as though showing too much of it will somehow diminish the impact of it as a whole. Actually, the gallery hasn’t even seen a lot of this work, probably for that same reason.

I’ve spent more time already from this early morning than I had wanted before I get to work so I will get to the point of this post. It’s the author’s reading and animation of a piece, How To Belong Be Alone, from Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama. It’s a wonderful short poem that speaks to the need to belong which is similar to that driving need to have my voice heard that brought me to painting.

Some days I find myself questioning whether that need to have my voice heard is a necessity or a product of ego. I mean, here I sit writing about my paintings. Isn’t that an act of ego?

Part of me says that it is. But part of me rejects that idea. After all, we all need to know that our voices are heard, that our existence matters, that we belong in this world. Maybe if I believed that my voice or my work deserved to be heard and appreciated above all others or that it mattered more than that of anyone else, maybe then it would be an act of ego.

But I don’t believe that. We all deserve to let the world hear the voice of our unique selves. Each is as valid and valuable as the next.

I think this poem speaks well to this point.

… listen to the community of madness that you are.

Okay, got to get to work. before I burst. Take a look please.



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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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The Country

GC Myers- 2018 FingerpaintingLiving in the country, especially on the edge of the forest, makes one aware of their proximity to critters. There are deer and raccoons and squirrels and skunks and coyotes and bobcats and birds of all shapes and sizes.

But mainly living in the country makes you aware of the presence of mice in this world, how they live so closely to us, hovering nearby almost like little brown and gray shadows. Sometimes you hardly see them at all but they leaves traces that speak of their existence, often a hole chewed in a box or a bag in a closet or in the basement. Or those little hard nuggets on a shelf or table. I once had a mouse that had walked through a tray of wet paint that I had inadvertently left out overnight and walked across the edge of a piece I had been working on.

Little blue paw prints meandering around the edge of the surface. Hope they liked what they saw.

All these things occur here in the studio. At such times, I look over at Hobie, my studio cat who was once a known hunter of great renown, and ask her if she has been doing her job patrolling the mice population. She just looks away without an ounce of care for my concern.

I wonder if she has a secret pact with the mice now. After all, the gifts she once laid at my feet– poor mice, chipmunks, birds, and snakes– have ceased altogether.

They slowed considerably after she made the transition from stray cat to part-time outdoor cat to fulltime studio cat. But they did continue. I would sometimes come into the studio and there would sometimes be a sad prize waiting for me in front of my desk chair or at the base of my easel. Hobie would saunter over as if to proudly say, “See what I did for you while you were gone?”

But that doesn’t happen now. Actually, there are fewer traces of my little rodent housemates lately. Maybe the several feral cats who have taken up recent residency around our place have effectively shut down their runways in and out of our place. Maybe. But I doubt that even a terrible trio of hungry cats could completely stop the smart and versatile mice that I know so well. Their little brains work better than some folks I know.

I am sure they are still there. I don’t mind to be honest. Not that I am thrilled by the evidence they leave behind. So long as they don’t bother me, I can coexist with them.

Not everyone can. I used to work with a lady who proclaimed that her home had no mice at all. She lived in an old house near the river so I knew the idea that that critters somehow weren’t taking advantage of a warm place to live and eat was foolishness. I would just laugh at her and tell her that she might not see them but they were there.

She would let out a shiver and say that no, they were not there. I guess she had to say that for her own peace of mind but I know that somewhere in that old house, in the attic or basement, there is a meeting going on right now where all the mice are discussing the best places to eat in that house.

The reason I bring this up this morning is that I came across an animation of a poem by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins that is abut this subject. It’s called The Country. I never worried about my boxes of matches before but this has me wondering. Take a look.



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GC Myers- From a Distance  2020

“From a Distance”- At the West End Gallery



Wanted to just share a poem and an animation of it that features it being read by the poet, Gregory Orr. I chose this one because of a line in it — No purpose but what we make— that made me think about the nature of purpose. We often speak of finding purpose in ourselves but is it something to be found? Or might it be something that we create for ourselves, something that we actually choose?

I have to think on that for a bit. In the meantime, please take a look at the short reading of the poem.



This is what was bequeathed us

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

–Gregory Orr (b. 1947)



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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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