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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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Folk Blues- LeRon's Yellow Guitar -GC Myers 1994



This morning, I thought I would combine another old piece with this week’s Sunday morning musical selection. The painting above is one of my earliest pieces, completed in early 1994.

It was at a point before I had what I considered then and now to be a breakthrough with my work. I was still working with watercolors solely and using them in as close to a traditional manner as someone who is self-taught can. I still find the qualities of that medium really appealing and use many of them– in a manner that is adjusted to fit the way I think– in much of what I call my transparent work with inks.

This piece was titled which meant that I saw something in it that deserved a name. That’s one way I judge some of this earliest work. There are some pieces in my files that don’t have titles which means that while I may like the piece or see something of value in it, I don’t feel it is complete and whole.

I think I saw this piece as being whole even though at the time I didn’t feel it was good enough to exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t think it was good enough, maybe it was more that by the time I was showing my work a year after this my work had changed, moved away from this style.

It’s titled Folk Blues/ LeRon’s Yellow Guitar. It certainly has flaws but there is much in it that I like.

Anyway, thought this would pair up with an old blues tune written and first recorded in the 1920’s, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This version is from early blues artist Scrapper Blackwell who is an interesting case.

Blackwell was born in South Carolina in 1903 and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana as a child. He built a cigar box guitar and taught himself to play, becoming a performer in the Indy/ Chicago areas as a teenager. Around this time he met and partnered with pianist Leroy Carr. In the late 1920’s until around 1935, the two were very successful as songwriting and recording artists. One of their best known songs was Kokomo Blues which was later transformed into the song most of us know as Sweet Home Chicago.

The duo lived pretty large at that time with lots of drink and partying. However, Carr died from physical complications from this lifestyle in 1935. Blackwell floundered for a couple of years before dropping out of the musical scene altogether. He settled into an obscure life in Indianapolis as a manual laborer in an asphalt plant for the next 20 years. In the late 1950’s he reemerged as a musician, recording several albums of his early blues over the next few years. The song below was recorded during this period and is pretty poignant in that at that time he truly knew the highs of stardom and the lows of poverty and obscurity.

His renewed career was taking hold at a time when the blues were undergoing a revival in the early 1960’s when he was shot and killed while being mugged in an Indy alley in 1962. He was 59. As a result, his influence in the blues revival never really extended out to the wider audiences that other blues artists were able to tap into in the mid 1960’s. Most of you have most likely never heard of Scrapper Blackwell.

This is a really nice recording of an old blues song. The kind of song LeRon at the top would feel right at home with. Give a listen to Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.



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GC Myers- The Sky Is Always the Sky 1995 sm



There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables



Thought I’d share another older piece, one that also never found its way out of the studio. Some times the reason they stay with me is obvious and other times not so much. This small piece falls in the not so much category.

It’s from mid 1995, not long after I first started showing my work publicly. Across the bottom of the piece of watercolor paper on which it is painted is the title The Sky Is Always the Sky along with the date it was painted in 1995.

Looking at it now, I can’t figure out why I felt it wasn’t worthy to show at that time. I am actually pretty pleased to be able to show it now. It has much in it that I wish would show up in my work now, twenty five years later.

For example, its utter simplicity and the gracefulness of its linework. Well, my definition of gracefulness, anyway. There’s also the way the layers of color go together so well with the grainy pigments of the cobalt blue settling into the shallow pits of the paper above a sepia underlayer.

Looking at it, I realize that many of the changes that took place in the following years in my work were material related. A few years after this I went from employing traditional watercolors in my work to acrylic inks. The difference is that the inks have a more and finer pigments which make their colors more explosive, more impactful. There is a difference in the more subtle aspects of the watercolors that is hard to replicate with the inks. This piece is an example, at least by my analysis.

Another difference was that I also began using a gessoed surface a few years later which also brought dramatic changes to the work. The positives of using gesso outweigh not using it for me but the beauty of cotton watercolor paper and its tactile appearance is undeniable.

The other difference was that the brushes I was using at the time were  wonderful Winsor & Newton round brushes that have long since been discontinued. These round brushes had a different brush profile than almost any other round brush I have been able to find since that time. I use a round brush almost all the time in my wet work even when a flat brush might sometimes be a more obvious choice. I like the organic quality it gives the work and the linework it produces. Brush choice has a big impact on how the work appears and I am still trying to find brushes that have the same qualities as those old W&N brushes.

Anyway, looking at this old piece again so closely gives me inspiration, makes me want to revisit those elements that make it work so well for me. We’ll see

Here’s an old Chris Isaak song, a favorite that is centered around a particular blue sky. It’s the tone I would like for this piece. Here’s Blue Spanish Sky.



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GC Myers- Far Away Eyes



Seems like a recurring theme lately with me starting most posts by saying that I am busy and eager to get to work. That’s actually a good thing for me. That eagerness to get to it is something that is not just there. It is cultivated, a result of previous actions. It usually means I am doing the right things (at least, for me) in my creative process.

So, while I wish I were willing to spend more time writing this morning’s post I am glad to want to get to my work.

But I wanted to share the painting above, Far Away Eyes, that is currently at the West End Gallery. I wrote about this piece last July and rereading that post reminded me of the struggle that I had with it. It was one of the first pieces I worked on during the early days of the pandemic. I had no momentum, no energy, little inspiration nor any eagerness to be at work. My mind was wholly distracted.

This piece though fought with me and made me work. Made me shut out the outer world for a time so that I could focus my mind on it, to become part of it.

To put it plainly, it didn’t come easy. That’s probably why this piece resonates so strongly with me. I think we all appreciate those things that make us struggle, that make us be at our best. We might be frustrated and demoralized during the battle but the result, the overcoming, makes us forget that. I know that the struggle in this piece had slipped my mind until I read the post that was written soon after this painting was completed, when the battle was still fresh in mind.

I now appreciate it for what it is, the force it possesses and not for what it provided in its creation.

As it should be.

The title for this song  was borrowed from an old Rolling Stones song from their 1978 Some Girls album. I didn’t mention it in the original post about the painting because I didn’t think the song itself fully lined up with the piece but its title did. But now, I’m not so sure.

Give a listen and you decide.



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Every time I start a picture… I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts… and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me.

–Federico Fellini



I know that Fellini was talking about starting a film production in the quote above but it translates pretty neatly to the beginning of almost every painting for me.

There is always some level of self-doubt involved. I find myself doubting my abilities, my imagination, my drive, my vision, and even the quality of my paint or the amount of light in my studio, among a hundred other things.

Anything that gives me some sort of reason me to not do what I know I need to do.

And like Fellini points out, the only answer to this doubt is within myself. I can look to other creators and see how they have overcome their own doubts but, like so many things in art, every artist has a truly unique set of circumstances. The only thing all have in common is the desire and need to create, to express their vision and voice.

So, you learn to trust that desire and need. Trust that you are good enough. Trust that what you will do next will move you closer to realizing that vision and voice. Trust that there is real emotion and feeling behind what you are attempting.

That last one is a big one for me.

I have found that when I put concept before feeling, my attempts most often fail miserably.  By that I mean if I start a painting with a strong visual idea in mind but one that is not formed in emotion or doesn’t have some real personal feeling attached to it, sometimes it fails to take on real life. It might carry out the concept but it just lies there like a dead fish.

I have some of those dead fish here in the studio. I look at them and remember the original idea that I had when I first embarked on them. I also remember the feeling of deflation when I realized that I had no emotional attachment to them, sometimes early in the process. Things just don;t come together in the way I thought they might. There is flatness and shallow where I saw richness and depth in my mind.

Dead fish.

However, there is a caveat. Sometimes, when starting on a concept piece, things fall into place and momentum and feeling build. Attributes that were not seen in the original thought process appear and those I hoped for emerge stronger and more vibrant than envisioned.

The excitement of creation transforms into real feeling and the fish that looked like it might be dead begins to come to life on the surface of the painting. 

The feeling of seeing your work come to life, or at least the prospect of it, might be enough to overcome that initial doubt for me.  The words and advice from other artists might offer comfort but my own need to do what I do and to experience that thrill of creation are what get me past the hesitancy and dreadful doubt I face each time I stand before my easel or painting table. 

Okay, got to go. There are dead fish waiting for me. I think I might be able to put a little life in them if I just can get started.

Have a good day.

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.

-W.C. Fields



I wanted to play another song, I Don’t Mind Failing, from the late folksinger Malvina Reynolds and thought a replay of this post from a decade ago would fit well with it. Not much has changed in these past ten years from the standpoint of failure. The post below, from 2011, was titled Failure, of course



 

In response to yesterday’s post concerning a very large blank canvas that is waiting patiently for me, I received several very interesting questions from my friend, Tom Seltz, concerning the role that failure and the fear of failure plays in my work. He posed a number of great questions, some pragmatic and some esoteric, that I’ll try to address.

On the pragmatic side, he asked if there is a financial risk when I take on large projects like the  4 1/2′ by 7′ canvas of which I wrote. Actually, it’s not something I think about much because every piece, even the smallest, has a certain cost in producing it that, after these many years, I don’t stop to consider. But a project such as this is costlier as a larger canvas is more expensive right from the beginning simply due to the sheer size of it. The canvas is heavier and more expensive and more of it is used. I use a lot more gesso and paint. The framing is much more expensive and the logistics of shipping and transporting become more involved and costly. It’s larger size and price means the audience of potential buyers is much more limited which means more time trucking it around or storing it.

And while these cost of materials and handling are the larger cost, the biggest financial risk comes in the time spent on such a project. It takes longer to prepare such a large canvas, longer to paint and, if it works out, longer to finish and frame. This is time not spent on other projects. Wasted time is by far the biggest risk in facing such a project and that is something I have to take into consideration before embarking on large projects.

He also asked whether I can reuse the materials if I don’t like what I’ve painted. Sure, for the most part.  Especially canvasses. Actually, the piece shown here on the right was once such a piece. There’s a failure lingering still beneath its present surface.

I had a concept in my head that floated around for months and I finally started putting it down on this 30″ square canvas. I spent probably a day and a half worth of time and got quite far into it before I realized that it was a flawed concept, that I was down a path that was way off the route I had envisioned. It was dull and lifeless, even at an early stage.

It was crap and I knew that there was no hope for it. I immediately painted it over, mainly to keep me from wasting even more time by trying to resuscitate it, and the piece shown here emerged, happily for me.

Tom also asked if I ever “crashed and burned” on a piece or if the worst sort of failure was that a piece was simply mediocre. Well, I guess the last few paragraphs say a bit about the “crashed and burned” aspect, although that is a rarer event than one might suspect. The beauty of painting is that it’s results are always subjective. There is almost never total failure.

It’s not like sky-diving and if your parachute doesn’t open you die. At least, that hasn’t been my experience thus far. I’m still here.

Mediocrity is a different story. That is the one thing I probably fear most for my work and would consider a piece a failure if I judged it to be mediocre. I have any  number of examples I could show you in the nooks and crannies of my studio but I won’t. Even flawed and mediocre, these pieces have a purpose for me and some have remaining promise. The purpose is in the lessons learned from painting them. I usually glean some information from  each painting, even something tiny but useful for the future. Each is a rehearsal in a way. But most times, the mediocre pieces teach me what I don’t want to repeat in the future. A wrong line or form here. A flatness of color there. Just simple dullness everywhere.

But, being art, there are few total failures, and many of these somewhat mediocre pieces sit unfinished because there are still stirs of promise in them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to what I felt was a dead end for a painting, feeling that it was dull and lifeless, and set it aside. Months and months might pass and one day I might pick it up and suddenly see something new in it. A new way to move in it that brings it new life. These paintings often bring the greatest satisfaction when they leave the gallery with a new owner.

Sometimes failure is simply a momentary perception that requires a new perspective.

Sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed later.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’m sure I have more to say about failure but it will have to wait until a later date. I’ve got work waiting for me that doesn’t know the meaning of the word failure and I don’t want to take the risk that it might learn it.

Tom, thanks again for the great questions.  I’m always eager for good questions so keep it up!



Now here’s I Don’t Mind Failing from Malvina Reynolds. It’s from around 1965 and was written after hearing a sermon called The Fine Art of Failing. Lot of great lines in this one:

I don’t mind failing in this world,
I don’t mind failing in this world,
Somebody else’s definition
Isn’t going to measure my soul’s condition,
I don’t mind failing in this world.

Give a listen and if you fail today, don’t worry about it. You’re in good company.



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GC Myers- Canyon of Doubts



Creativity requires introspection, self-examination, and a willingness to take risks. Because of this, artists are perhaps more susceptible to self-doubt and despair than those who do not court the creative muses.

Eric Maisel



This painting below sits on a shelf directly in front of my desk. I was looking at it early this morning and wondered if I had put anything about it here on the blog. I came across the entry below from about four years ago which really spoke to the doubts I endure every year at this time as I begin to gear up for my annual shows.

This year is no different. Maybe even more pronounced, given the stress from the events of this past year. But I take some comfort in knowing that I have navigated through these canyons before and that takes off the edge. The doubts are still there but can’t box me in.

There is always a way through. 

Here’s what I put down about this four years back:

This new painting, 8″ by 10″ on panel, is called Canyon of Doubts. For me, it represents the navigation that takes place in the creative process as the artist tries to get past the formidable obstacles of self doubt. Doubt often throws up barriers that has the artist asking if they are good enough, if they have the talent, training, and drive to create true art that speaks for them to the world. Doubt makes them fear that they are out of place, that they don’t belong, that every other artist has more right to create than them.

Doubt keeps the artist seemingly boxed in with no apparent way forward.



Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Kahlil Gibran



I’ve been trapped in that canyon many times. I’ve thought many times that there was no way out, that the fears posed by my doubts were the realities of who and what I was.

I have always felt alone with my doubts. Words of encouragement from others often felt hollow when I was lost in those canyons. They didn’t know how steep the walls of doubts seemed to me or how inadequate, how ill-prepared I felt in that moment.

The only option that seemed available to me was to trust that I could somehow fight my way out of those daunting canyons. It would mean mustering every bit of talent, every ounce of energy, and a sustained belief that I deserved to have my voice rise from out of  those canyons. It was matter of  either having the faith in my own value as human to find my way free or withering away in a canyon of doubts.



Your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism.

Rainer Maria Rilke



I still find myself in those canyons. I still find myself periodically looking up at the walls that surround me and wonder if I am talented enough, strong enough, or even entitled to escape them.

But I now know that there is a path through them, one that is well worn with my own footprints from my past journeys in that shadowed place. I know that, even though it is lonely and seemingly unbearable in that moment, I don’t have to be trapped in that place of doubt.

I’ve traveled this path and there is indeed a way out.

It takes time and effort and devotion. It takes the belief in yourself, forged from past experience, that you will make the right decisions and not be trapped in those walls. It’s in having the faith that when take a wrong turn, when you make a mistake, that you will recognize it and get quickly back to the path that sets you free.

At the moment, I may well be in that canyon still but I have the moon guiding me and its light shows me where the canyon ends.

And then I will be free once more.



Have a good day.

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“Exile on Main Street”- At the Principle Gallery



When you’re drunk in the alley, baby with your clothes all torn
When your late night friends leave you in the cold gray dawn
Whoa I just seen so many flies on you
I just can’t brush ’em off

The angels beating all their wings in time
Smiles on their faces and a gleam right in their eyes
Whoa, thought I heard one sigh for you
Come on up now
Come on up now
Come on up now

May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, make every song you sing your favorite tune
May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, warm like the evening sun, ah-nah-nah yeah

— Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Shine a Light



I am in the beginning phases of my preparation for my annual shows at the galleries that represent my work. This is always a difficult period, trying to find a thread to grasp and follow. You never know where it will lead and what sort of work it will produce. That uncertainty is agonizing for me. Because so much of my livelihood depends on how these shows shake out, deciding what form the work will take is a big move.

I don’t gamble anymore but in some ways, it’s like placing a large bet. I am betting that my choice in moving ahead and the work it will produce will provide the income I need to live and will allow me to maintain my status as an artist deserving of future shows in the galleries that represent me. This decision puts a knot in my gut every year at this time. That awful feeling is the reason I don’t gamble anymore. This is the only bet I am willing to make now.

Getting to that point where I have decided what direction the work will follow is not really a process at all. It’s more like panicked examination of past work and new influences, trying to find something that grabs me, holds my limited focus and can perhaps inspire me. It can be maddening at times but it’s sometimes fun to roll back through the work from the past, to see what clicks as strongly now as it did then. There seems to always be something in doing this that reminds me of things, traits in my work, that I have put aside and no longer employ in my current work. That sometimes leads to revisiting those traits. Sometimes the results are enlightening, making me want to make it part of my process again, and sometimes I discover that the things I was doing then just don’t translate to the current moment.

That’s where I am. Seeking. Looking for a light that shines.

That brings me to today’s title.

While going through some past work, I noticed that one of my favorite pieces from the past year, Exile on Main Street, was still at the Principle Gallery. It was one of the cityscapes that were part of my annual show there, last year’s show being titled Social Distancing. I loved doing this work as well as the resulting pieces. This, as I said, was a favorite from that group. There is warmth and distance, Quiet and tension. Things I tend to see and look for  in my better works.

Naming it, I borrowed the title from the classic 1972 Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. I thought a favorite song of mine from that album would fit my current process– Shine a Light. It’s credits list Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from 1972 as the songwriters but it was actually a collaboration with the late Leon Russell that came from 1968.

The song’s title was then (Can’t Seem) To Get a Line on You and dealt with the problems caused by the drug addiction of Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. It was recorded as such for inclusion in a 1970 Leon Russell album but not released until the 1990’s. The Russell version (which included the Rolling Stones) is very similar and strong but the version from Exile on Main Street is more formed, more powerful.

I thought the song fit my process and also added a little more to the painting this morning. Give a listen and have a good day.



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“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but
for the heart to conquer it.”

― Rabindranath Tagore

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This is another new painting headed to the Principle Gallery for my Social Distancing show there, opening June 5. It is 22″ by 28″ on canvas and is titled She Glides Through the Fractured Night.

Though the theme for this show concerns itself with the social distancing and isolation that we have experienced in recent months, it is also about perseverance and the will to endure. And that is what I see in this piece.

I hadn’t intended to do this type of piece for the show, with the single figure paddling a longboat under a broken sky. But I really felt a compulsion, a need for this painting, and once I set out on it, it fell into place easily, almost without effort. At every step in the process, it felt complete and ready to send out its message. It didn’t have the highs and lows that normally come in painting a piece. By that, I mean in most paintings there are phases where the piece dulls and flattens out, muddying up the destination that I had began to see in it.

No, this was an incredibly satisfying piece to paint. It just had to be done.

I think the history of what we are going through will tell two different stories: those who did what they must to endure and those felt they shouldn’t have to do anything differently in a world that has presented us with a new way of existence, at least for the short term.

Those that adapt easily to change will glide through this to the other side of this fractured night. They will endure.

I can’t say what will happen to those whose minds remain inflexible and unwilling to adapt to a new of being. Only their actions and time will write that history.

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I came across an article this morning that had been forwarded to me by a friend several years ago in response to a blog post.  Appearing in the online magazine Psyche, it was written by three researchers ( Julia Christensen, Guido Giglioni, and Manos Tsakiris) and was largely about how creativity and wellness were often boosted by allowing the mind to wander. It’s an interesting article that discusses the neuroscience behind their research into the wandering mind.

While those that daydream have often been chided through history as being lazy and counterproductive, there has also been a school of thought that encourages random thought and rumination. The Germans had a phrase for this, ‘die Seele baumeln lassen,’– ‘let the soul dangle.

One part of the article that struck a chord with me discusses how art causes biological responses and often serves as a prop for emotional catharsis. As they put it:

“…art can help us adapt to the immediate source of pain by acting as a prop for emotional catharsis. We all know the strange, pleasurable, consoling feeling that comes after having a good cry. This experience appears to be precipitated by the release of the hormone prolactin, which has also been associated with a boosted immune system, as well as bonding with other people. The arts are a relatively safe space in which to have such an emotional episode, compared with the real-life emotional situations that make us cry. Even sad or otherwise distressing art can be used to trigger a kind of positive, psychobiological cleansing via mind-wandering.”

I immediately responded to this point as this is something that I experience on a regular basis. I often am moved to tears by artistic stimulus while in the studio, most often in the form of music, film or the written word. It is such a common occurrence that I have come to use this response as a barometer for how emotionally invested I am in the work I am doing at that time. I have found that the work that I feel is my best comes at times when I am on this edge of induced emotional catharsis. I feel most immersed in the work at that time, both open and receptive, even vulnerable. And that is normally when I produce my best work.

It’s something that has taken place with me for decades now and it’s interesting to see that there might be a neurological component behind my response. I think I am going to go now and see if I can produce some more prolactin this morning.

Click here to go to this article. It’s a relatively short read plus there is a an audible version available on the page if you would rather listen.

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The painting accompanying this post is a small piece that I call The Daydream. It is part of my solo show, Social Distancing, that opens June 5 at the Principle Gallery.

 

 

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