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"New World Passage"-- At the West End Gallery



We don’t receive wisdom we must discover it for ourselves.

― Marcel Proust



This painting, New World Passage, was one of those paintings that started as an idea quite some time ago. Late last autumn, in fact.

It was started with forest trees and dark rolls of land that dominate the foreground, creating almost a fence through which one would look forward. I loved the first efforts on it with the rich blues and magenta having a gemlike feel. The process at that point was all about painting the negative space, trying to balance colors and forms in the narrow slots between the trees to create something more than mere background.

It was at this stage that I ran out of steam. Actually, it was more fear than fatigue. I felt this was a deserving piece, one that was filled with some great unknown and still unseen potential at that point. I just didn’t feel up to moving forward on it out of the fear that my desire to see it finished would cause me to be hasty in my decisions which could easily drain it of all possibility.

It could sink dully back to earth instead of following the life arc I imagined for it. My thinking was that by not trying to finish it, its potential would always be there. Unfulfilled, of course. But there.

So, it sat for months and months. I kept telling myself that I would just finish it one of these days  and would count it among the pieces allotted for my annual show at the Principle Gallery. I missed that deadline, putting it off and saying that it was okay, I would just move it to the West End show. But as the months passed and the West End Gallery show came into form, this painting still sat unfinished in the studio. Its presence was almost aggravating because it served as a reminder of my cowardice and uncertainty.

It taunted me up until the final day that I had allotted for painting before moving on to final touches and framing for this show. I felt time constrained and anxious but made the decision that on that day, this painting would either live or die. I still wasn’t sure where it was going behind that fence line of trees but I dove in.

At first, the small amount of sky was going to be pale to let the deep tones shine off of the lighter background. But after doing a bit, I hated the look. It actually felt like it was sapping away the vibrance of the trees’ colors. I amped up the color, going to the Indian Yellow with hints of red and orange through it that has been my friend and companion for decades now. 

It felt right. It pushed the blues and purples and magentas up further. I added the house as destination, an end point to which the path headed.

Then I added the sun.

I wanted it there as compositional balance but the pale light one that I began with did nothing for the painting. It made the whole thing, even with the vibrant colors, feel bland. I wanted something that made it feel like this was path leading to something unknown, a trail to a strange new place.

Thus, the red sun.

It felt right immediately. No warming up to its presence was needed. It made everything come together. It felt like passing through the common known– just a few trees, fields and hills– to suddenly find yourself in a world you don’t completely recognize or understand. It looks familiar but it feels different., like you are sensing things at a higher level of awareness or comprehension.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. It has the life I had felt it might possess. I was glad that I waited because I don’t think this end point was yet there when I first thought about finishing it. It– and I– wasn’t ready to move on to a new world yet.



New World Passage is an 18″ by 24″ painting on panel that is part of Through the Trees, my new solo exhibit at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. The show opens this Friday, July 16, with an opening reception from 4-7 PM but you can see it beforehand. 

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GC Myers- Symphony Serene sm



O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

-Psalm 131, I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul



The painting at the top is titled Symphony Serene and is, of course, from my solo show, Between Here and There,  opening this coming Friday, June 4, at the Principle Gallery. The preview for the show is available by clicking here which takes you to the gallery site.

I have a lot of fondness for this piece and others like it that are spare and inward reaching landscapes with the broken sky, short-hand term that I use for the mosaic-like construction of the skies in these paintings. I believe its the peaceful nature of these pieces that does it for me. There is a serenity achieved in both the end result of the final work and in the process of painting it.

I believe I have spoke of this in the past but painting pieces such as this often have a meditative effect, one where the mind feels as though it is running on a parallel track, completely apart from the conscious. While working on these, everything but the surface in front of me feels blocked out and far away. My mind moves endlessly in and out of the composition, constantly balancing and weighing each individual block of color in a way that creates its own rhythm.

I barely notice but I am constantly sitting then standing then pacing back and forth before the piece. Without thinking, I often walk backwards across the room with my eyes fixed on the painting, sometimes stumbling over other paintings or lightstands in the process. I barely notice and my eyes seldom leave the painting when I stumble. 

Time slips away in the blink of an eye during the process and I will sometimes only stop when the phone rings, breaking the trance that I have been under for five or six hours. It’s only when I stop that I notice the fatigue in my eyes from being so locked in on the surface of the painting. But its a wonderful fatigue, one brought about by being totally in a serene place for hours, a place that I am creating in my mind and on the surface of the painting.

It’s as close to absolute calm and quiet as I ever get.

I wish I could explain it better. 

For this Sunday morning music, I am linking this painting with a choral piece from a favorite composer Arvo Pärt. This is from his work Da Pacem Domine, which translates as Give peace, Lord. This piece below is based on Psalm 131, I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul, which is shown above.

I am not a particularly religious person, as I have mentioned in the past. But there is something in certain sacred music of almost any religion that touches something in me, something more basal, more rawly attuned to the spirit than anything the liturgy and clerics of the churches have to offer. It reminds me of a book from the late 1970’s, The Dancing Wu Li Masters from Gary Zukav. He wrote about the similarities in the worlds of the spiritual and of physics. How theologians and religious scholars and theoretical physicists sometimes met and, stripped of the dogma of the theologians and the math of the physicists, spoke in very much the same terms about the same concepts. They found much common ground and agreement in concept and theory once they were far removed from the politics of their respective establishments.

I find that interesting. Anyway, here is Psalm 131 from Arvo Pärt as performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. For me, it matches up well with my Symphony Serene and is a fine way to start off what looks to be a gray cool day here.



9921029 Symphony Serene Catalog pg

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Vincent-van-Gogh-Whaet-Field-with-Cypresses.-Image-via-wikimedia.org_



A few days back, I shared a video from composer Barnaby Martin that concerned the work of Wassily Kandinsky and how color related to music. I thought I’d share another of Martin’s videos this morning, this one again about the role of music and its relationship to painting, this time focusing on the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

This interests me because I have thought many times about how painting is related to music and how I often view my paintings as musical compositions. Many are simple tunes but some take on the grander aspects of a concerto or symphony.

I notice this more in recent years as many of the paintings take longer and longer to finish. I would have finished many of these paintings much sooner in earlier years but they would have remained simple tunes. And that’s fine. Who doesn’t love a simple that stays with you long after hearing it?

But time has shown that the once simple tune can often expand and deepen, growing into something that speaks to larger universal concepts.  The extra time spent now on these paintings is used in deepening and expanding the range within itself. Finding extra rhythms and harmonies within the colors. Adding dissonance and consonance, small counterpoints and contrasts that may not even be noticed to the casual viewer.

It’s not something I intended to do with my work. It just evolved as I saw more and more room to grow within the work. A lot of that comes from working in the way this video describes the process of painter Eugene Delacroix who had an influence on Van Gogh. Much of Delacroix’s work dealt with repetitions of subject and form. This allowed him to focus on fully exploring color and its effects.

This is something that I understand very well. I have used similar compositions many times through the years and each is significantly different than the others. Differences in color, tone, shading, contrast, texture and other color qualities give each piece its own unique emotional feel and voice.

Every artist works a bit differently and has different aims for their work. They have their own reasons for doing what they do. To be honest, I don’t really know why I do things the way I do. Maybe I look at the works and writings of others with the hope of finding some illumination into my own motivation and rationale.

Maybe it’s just my way of making music in the only way I know. Who knows?

Anyway, hope you’ll take look at this video from Barnaby Martin. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.



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Ralph Fasanella Bread and Roses

Ralph Fasanella- Bread and Roses



This past week was the beginning of May and May Day, the first day of the month which is a holiday of several stripes, from a pagan celebration of the coming of summer to one that celebrates the rights of workers around the world. For me, it always reminds me of the late folk artist Ralph Fasanella. Before becoming a painter, he was a union organizer throughout his life and it is represented in much of his work. The painting at the top, Bread and Roses, for example, depicts the long and often violent 1912 labor strike against the textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The striker was called the Bread and Roses strike because the strikers demanded both better pay and benefits– the bread– as well as respect and recognition– the roses.

But when I think of Fasanella, beyond his labor and baseball paintings, I am also always reminded of a story about his response to a suggestion from someone about this painting. I have talked about it in posts here before but thought it would be a good story to share once more.

Anyone who does anything that people look at, listen to or read is always susceptible to a host of well-meaning folks who want to share ideas on how whatever it is that you do can be done better. It usually starts with some simple phrase: What you really need to do is… Or it could  be You should really try to… 

I generally listen politely and say something like I’ll look into that or Maybe I will try that sometime. Some of the suggestions are quite good and if I were so inclined might well be something I would do. But that is the key thing here: if I were so inclined.

If it’s not something that I want to do with great energy or excitement, if it’s not something that fits in with how I work and see things, then it ain’t getting done.

Another suggestion is that the artist or author should try to do something like other artists. That always hits a sour spot with me. It usually starts with Your work reminds me so much of… or Have you tried painting like….

I know when I was starting that a goal was to not have my work constantly compared to others so when I talk with young artists I try not to tell them that their work reminds me of another artist. There are exceptions to this, say when an artist is very new to the process and needs the affirmation that they are capturing something in the same way as a well known artist. But unless I know what the artist is trying to do and say with their work, it’s not my place to tell then how they should change their work or how it reminds me of other artists.

That brings me back to my Fasanella story. I am replaying a bit from when I first posted it here ten years ago. The portion with the Fasanella story is from a blog post from the Fenimore Art Museum which has a great folk art collection and whose president, Paul D’Ambrosio, was a friend and chronicler of  Fasanella’s work and life.

Here’s that post from 2011:



Over the years, I have been approached by several people who think they are doing me a great service by telling me that I should change the way I paint in some way or that I should try to paint more like some other artist. Early on, when I was first exhibiting my work, I had another more established artist tell me that I should change the way I paint my figures, that they should look the way other artists paint them. I responded to this artist and the others who offered me their advice with a smile and an “I’ll look into that.”

But that one time, I also mistakenly heeded the older painter’s words, being inexperienced and seeking a way as I was, and stopped painting figures for a while before realizing that this was not good advice at all. My style, after all, was my own and didn’t need to conform to what others thought were rules.

Here’s the post about Fasanella and his response to such advice.

Ralph Fasanella had trouble painting hands. A lot of trained artists do too, so it is not surprising that a union organizer who turned to drawing suddenly at the age of 40 would struggle with hands early in his career. But he did have something that proved better than years of formal training: he believed that he was an artist and that what he was doing – painting the lives of working people – was a calling that deserved his complete attention and all-consuming passion.

And that made him react when anyone suggested that his paintings weren’t up to snuff. He said that he was painting “felt space,” not real space. His people and the urban settings he placed them in were not realistic in the purest sense of the word, but they sang with spirit and emotion. As Ralph said, “I may paint flat, but I don’t think flat.”

Rembrandt Hands

His most memorable quote, and the one that says the most about him, occurred very early in his artistic career, when someone told him that his hands looked like sticks. He ought to study Rembrandt’s hands, they said, in order to get it right.

His response is priceless: “Fuck you and Rembrandt! My name is Ralph!”

I may not really adopt Ralph’s approach but you can bet his words will be echoing in my head the next time someone says “You should paint like…”


So, those are some of my thoughts on suggestions. Now I am going back to my work, doing it in the only way I know or can. If you have some suggestions for me, well… I’ll look into it.

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Fanny spoke her feelings. “Here’s harmony!” said she; “here’s repose! Here’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.

― Jane Austen, Mansfield Park



GC Myers- Tranquilium smThis is a new painting that is included in my new solo show, Between Here and There, which opens June 4 at the Principle Gallery. It is titled Tranquilium and is 10″ by 20″ painted on an aluminum panel.

I have recently started painting on aluminum composite panels which are two layers of aluminum sandwiched over a polyethylene core. They are rigid, acid-free and extremely durable which means that a painting done on one of these panels should be long-lasting.

The durability and  stability of my work is something I have thought about since my earliest days as an artist. While I have no control over how my work moves into the future after it leaves my hands, I can at least give it a chance to survive while maintaining the look and integrity of the original painting.

I don’t know if my work will live on but if so, I want it to look as good as possible. I believe work painted on these panels have the best chance at doing just that.

Plus, I like painting on them, Every surface– canvas, wood panel, or paper– has its own feel under the brush. A stretched canvas has an appeal for me in that there is often a drum-like feel and cadence as the brush bounces off the taut surface. It adds to the meditative quality of the process. Paper has a softness that comes through even when it is covered with multiple layers of gesso.

Much like wood or masonite panels but far more stable and unaffected by moisture, the aluminum panels have a unmoving solidity that lets me know how my brush will react as it meets the surface. That helps for my process. I know what is going to happen at that moment. And that’s a good thing.

This piece, Tranquilium, has satisfied something within me. It has a stillness and placidity that feels timeless so it’s natural that I would like to think that it will live a longer life than my own. Hopefully, it has something in it, perhaps that which Jane Austen’s Fanny described above, that will speak to someone in the future as it does to me in the present moment. Lifting the panel with this painting, feeling its weight and solidity and the way the image comes off the surface, it certainly seems like it might.

I will never know but at least I am giving it a chance.

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GC Myers- In Retreat (Shelter)



When I flew over the Atlas Mountains in a plane, I realized that their formation-through erosion, geological dramas, the action of winds-was completely independent of our moral anxieties; man is in a kind of cyclone; he builds solid houses to protect and shelter his heart. Outside, nature is nothing but indifference, even terror.

― Le Corbusier, When the Cathedrals Were White



As I have written recently, I am neck deep in the  work right now as I prepare for my upcoming solo show, Between Here and There, at the Principle Gallery. It opens on June 4 at the Alexandria, VA gallery that has graciously hosted my solo outings there for the past 22 years.

I am generally excited about each show as it nears but the anticipation to get this work out in the public, out in open air, feels even greater this year. Maybe it’s the events of this past year– a pandemic, an insurrection, the death of my father, a hobbled ankle that has constantly nagged at me, etc– but I felt somewhat distracted in my work over the past year or so. I feel that the work from this time was where I wanted it to be but it came with great effort and a focus that wasn’t always there.

The work from the past several months has been quite unlike that. I am in the midst of a great groove where I feel focused and locked in. It’s one of those rare and wonderful times where the work is coming easily, one piece throwing me instantly into the next, to the point where I will set aside a painting that is 3/4 complete so I can begin the next while the focus and rhythm is still resonating in my brain. I have several such paintings still awaiting completion around the studio as I sit here this morning.

It’s a wonderful feeling, one that I can’t fully explain to you. With this focus, the outside world is diminished, almost blocked out. The work becomes a sort of shelter, a retreat from the darkness and outrage of the world beyond my studio walls. Of the many benefits that being an artist offers, that might be the most valuable for me, the thing that keeps me afloat through thick and thin. The shelter of this work is a life saver.

So good to have it back. I only hope that the show lives up to the feeling. It’s at this point each year that I begin to worry that I am delusional, that my proximity to the work and the process makes me incapable of actually seeing it for what it is.

Contact intoxication, maybe?

But the benefit of being in such a groove is that the work engrosses me so much that it keeps me from fully fixating on this uncertainty. How it is received seems insignificant when it’s like this.

Now that’s the shelter I need.

This leads me to the small piece shown at the top, a 12″ by 12″ canvas that is part of the show, one of the first pieces completed. It set things in motion. It is titled In Retreat (Shelter) which only seems appropriate this morning. I could easily see that Red Roofed structure as my studio or myself as one of those Red Trees that seem to be seeking shelter behind it.

I am going to link this image and post to a song whose chorus has periodically entered my mind over the past 30 or so years. It’s fittingly titled Shelter and is from Lone Justice from back in the mid 1980’s. Led by vocalist Maria McKee, they were very hot for a few years but they couldn’t hold together long enough to reach the potential that so many saw in them. They disbanded in 1987 and Maria McKee went on to a solo career. I thought their two albums were very good and they were regulars on my turntable back in the day. But honestly, I haven’t heard any of their music for probably twenty five years though, as I said, the chorus from this songs pops into my head every now and then. It was produced and cowritten with McKee by Steve Van Zandt, who is known as Miami Steve with Springsteen’s E Street Band, Little Steven with his Disciples of Soul or with his Underground Garage Sirius show, or as Tony’s consigliere Silvio Dante on The Sopranos. You can hear his influence in this song.

Give a listen. Maybe it will help you find some shelter of your own or at least have its chorus pop into your head someday in the future.



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GC Myers Early Work 1994-Winter Park



From my seat here, I am looking across the studio at a canvas on the easel. It was nearly finished when yesterday’s painting session came to an end. It was just at that point where it was making the vital transformation into something more than just paint smeared on a surface. The most exciting and gratifying part of the process for me.

Thoughts of this piece  haunted me all last night and were there waiting for me this morning. I was envisioning where my next move on the canvas would come and how it would blossom after that.

I found myself eager to move quickly through the woods and over to the studio.

Almost compelled, as though I had no choice in the matter. That painting was demanding my presence in its service, like I was serving some sort of strange psychic bondage to it. As though it was something that needed to released for my own wellbeing, and the sooner it was done, the better.

The difference, of course, that this is a voluntary thing, a welcomed binding to service. I don’t feel restrained by this.

Instead, I feel freed by the ability to follow this impulse.

It’s a hard thing to describe. And to be frank, I don’t have the time this morning to try to do so any further. That painting is waiting to be released out into the world from its own bondage. Got to go set it free.

Here’s a fitting song, I Feel Free from Cream from many moons ago, back in 1966. It has a real atmospheric, cinematic aspect to it. The painting at the top has no relevance here at all. It’s just an early piece from around 1994 that I call Winter Park. I include it this morning just because it pleases me and I am free to do this.

Enjoy.



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Diebenkorn Ocean Park 67

Richard Diebenkorn- Ocean Park #67



When I am halfway there with a painting, it can occasionally be thrilling… But it happens very rarely; usually it’s agony… I go to great pains to mask the agony. But the struggle is there. It’s the invisible enemy.

–Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)



I am in the middle of painting and preparing work for my upcoming shows, the first being my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria in June. This is my 22nd show there so there is a definite pattern of behaviors and responses that occur during this process of putting together a show.

Some are quite good, resulting in me feeling a sense of purpose or worth. Then there are others that have me wondering why I am doing this or if I am good enough. It’s a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, sometimes both taking place within hours of each other.

Sometimes a new painting will elicit both elation and doubt. I sometimes finish a piece being totally enamored of its effect on me then begin to doubt my own feeling. Is the appeal I feel real and from the piece itself? Or is it something else? Does my own bias blind me to its flaws?

I had that happen yesterday as I finished a piece that had me very satisfied at its completion. I just loved it, thought that it captured what I felt and needed to say in it. And did so in a bold way. But within hours, my doubts dispensed with all good feelings. I felt like maybe I was seeing things in it that would not be visible to others.

I ended the day not sure what to think of it and not trusting any reaction I felt.

The words from the late painter Richard Diebenkorn above ring very true for me at times like this. There is a constant struggle in the process for me during this time of my painting year. I am up one minute and down the next. At least, I know and accept this so I don’t mistake it for something else, like a psychotic episode.

There might even be something to be gained from this struggle. Maybe it keeps down that form of blind confidence that ultimately stifles the work’s growth.

Conversely, maybe the doubt prohibits growth?

I don’t know and don’t know that I ever will. But I continue the struggle, day in and day out. And cherish the highs and persist through agony of the lows.

It’s all I know how to do.

Time to get on the rollercoaster.

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Esperanza Spalding Lest We Forget



Don’t have much to say this morning. To be honest, I am itching to get at a panel on my easel that is at that crucial point where it begins to fully take on life. The most exciting part of the process.

I was thinking about this the other day while working on another new painting. The initial phase of compositional layout was great but from there on it was kind of a slog. The more I painted, the more dissatisfied I was with how it looked. I thought at the time that in earlier points in my career I would have hung it up, just let it go and move on to something easier.

But I had experience now and knew that this awkward part was just how this sometimes proceeded. You had to persist and use your know-how to push it forward, trusting that the grace contained within it would at some point emerge.

That little bit of knowledge comforts me in those rough moments during the creative process. And the painting I was working on turned out beautifully, at least in my eyes. Full of grace and color and a life all its own now. 

All that I can ask of my work.

For this Sunday Morning Music, I am going with a song from the great Jazz singer/songwriter/bassist Esperanza Spalding off her album, 12 Little Spells, from 2019. On it, each song is devoted to a part of the human body. This song, Lest We Forget, is devoted to blood, how we are all united to one another and the earth and the stars.

Everything is written within us.

Anyway, it makes for a lovely way to kick off a Sunday morning, with a reminder we are related to everything and that have the ability to bring that grace to life if we simply persist.

Lest we forget.



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GC Myers-  October Sky sm



I am currently in the midst of painting for my annual June show at the Principle Gallery and am in what I believe is a pretty good groove at the moment. I was thinking about how I view my work at these times, about how it is about how I am painting rather than what I am painting. It reminded me of this post from a few years ago that shows closeup details of the painting’s surface. These details are actually how I see my work most of the time, especially when in a groove. And probably as much as I see them as a whole. Made me think this post was worth revisiting.



I was looking for something to play this morning and put on this album, Blues Twilight, from jazz trumpet player Richard Boulger. I’ve played a couple of tracks from this album here over the years.

While the title track was playing I went over to over to a painting that hangs in my studio, the one shown above. It’s an experiment titled October Sky from a few years back that is a real favorite of mine. I showed it for only a short time before deciding that I wanted it hanging in the studio. I never really worked any further in the direction this piece was taking me. Part of that decision to not go further was purely selfish, wanting to keep something solely for myself, something that wasn’t subject to other people’s opinions.

A strictly personal piece. A part of the prism that doesn’t show.

I look at it every day but generally it is from a distance, taking it in as a whole. But his morning, while the album’s title track played I went and really looked hard at it, up close so that every bump and smear was obvious. And I liked what I was seeing, so much so that I grabbed my phone and began snapping little up close chunks of it.

It all very much felt like the music, like captured phrases or verses. Each had their own nuance, color and texture and they somehow blended into a harmonic coherence that made the piece feel complete.

It’s funny but sometimes when I am working hard and in a groove that takes over from conscious thought, I almost forget about those things that I myself like in my work because I don’t have to think about them in the process of creating the work. Looking at this painting this close made me appreciate the painting even more, made me think about it in a different way than the manner in which I now used to seeing it.

Guess it’s a good thing to stop every now and then and look at what you’ve done, up close and personal.

Here’s Blues Twilight from Richard Boulger. Enjoy the music and take a look at the snips, if you so wish. But definitely have a good day.





GC Myers- October Sky detailGC Myers- October Sky detail20180415_07492420180415_07490820180415_07485920180415_072615



 

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