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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

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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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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theodore rousseau-underthebirches1842-43

Theodore Rousseau- Under The Birches 1842



It is better in art to be honest than clever.

–Theodore Rousseau



Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was part of the Barbizon school of painters, an art movement in 19th century France that was instrumental in moving away from from the traditional formalism that was prevalent in art up to that point and towards naturalism and artistic expression of emotion. It was very influential on many of the painters who later created the Impressionist movement.

Rousseau and Jean-Francois Millet, best known for his peasant scenes, were the two artists from this school whose work really spoke to me, seeming to have honest emotional content in them. Perhaps that is why his short quote resonated so strongly with me. That and the fact that I have found myself less impressed with cleverness than honest expression through the years. I have always believed that art comes from tapping into the subconscious, something other than the part of our brain that produces conscious thought.

I guess I just don’t think we are that smart. Or clever.

I know I am not.

My work is at its best when it comes from a place of honesty and real emotion, when it is made with more intuition than forethought. When it is too thought out and directed it begins to feel stilted and contrived, losing its naturalness and rhythm and becoming heavy-handed.

That is probably the reason I tell young or beginning painters to focus not so much on the actual idea or subject of a painting but more on things like paint handling and color quality, those things that make up the surface of a painting and convey the real meaning of the painting.

And I think that is what Rousseau was probably getting at in his terse quote.

But maybe not. Like I said, I am not that clever.



This post ran about six years ago and like they say, some things never change. I certainly haven’t gained any cleverness and I still believe that honest emotion is the basis of all impactful art. But what do I know?

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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

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

I am busy this morning but wanted to share a post from several years ago about painter Giorgio de Chirico. I thought I’d run it again today with the addition at the bottom of one of his more famous paintings and a short MoMA video about it. The idea that is presented about the metaphysics contained in dealing not with “perceived reality” but a “reality imagined” and of creating “a plausible representation of a believable and negotiable space” rang a bell for me as that is the space where I try to operate. Take a look.


 

de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data.

His work from this defining ten year period is very mystical.

De Chirico’s work after 1919 became much more based in reality and far more traditional. This later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that early work. It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark. The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them. The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives, all evoking a sense of mystery. It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence. I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  Plus, his ability to create a reality that seemed possible and recognizable but seemed filled with mystery  was something aspired for in my own pieces.

Working with this in mind, my work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

 

de-chirico




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And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Exodus 2:22



I was looking at the piece above early this morning. It’s been with me for a long time and I sometimes take it for granted and don’t take the time to engage with it. But this morning I looked at it longer than I had in some time, reconnecting with what it has meant to me. Maybe it was because it’s near that time of the year when I get to indulge a guilty pleasure with my annual viewing of The Ten Commandments, the campy biblical epic from Cecil B. DeMille that always runs on ABC during the week before Easter. Or maybe it’s that the pronunciation of the Hebrew word ger which means stranger sounds the same as the shortened version of my name that my family often used for me growing. I don’t really know but thought that it would be appropriate to share a post about it that has ran a couple of times during the many years this blog has been around.



I have been writing recently about some of the orphans, those paintings that make the rounds of the galleries and finally come back to me. The piece above is one of these orphans but it really isn’t. It’s mine alone, one of the rare pieces that I don’t think I would ever give up. Like many parents when looking at their children, I see much of myself in this painting.

Over the years I have periodically written about a group of paintings that were considered my Dark Work that were painted in the year or so after 9/11. The piece shown above is one of these paintings, painted sometime in early 2002. I very seldom consider a painting being for myself only but this one has always felt, from the very minute it was completed, as though it should stay with me.

It is titled  Stranger (In a Strange Land) which is derived from the title of Robert Heinlein’s famous sci-fi novel which in turn was derived from the words of Moses in Exodus 2:22, shown here at the top. The name Gershom is derived from the Hebrew words ger which means stranger or temporary resident and sham which means there. Together Gershom means a stranger there. It is defined now as either exile or sojourner.

The landscape in this piece has an eerie, alien feel to it under that ominous sky. When I look at it I am instantly reminded of the feeling of that sense of not belonging that I have often felt throughout my life, as though I was that stranger in that strange land. The rolling field rows in the foreground remind me just a bit of the Levite cloth that adorned Moses when he was discovered in the Nile as an infant, a symbol of origin and heritage that acts as a comforting element here, almost like a swaddling blanket for the stranger as he views the landscape before him.

As I said, it is one of those rare pieces that I feel is for me alone, that has only personal meaning, even though I am sure there are others who will recognize that same feeling in this. For me  this painting symbolizes so much that feeling of alienation that I have experienced for much of my life, that same feeling from which my other more optimistic and hopeful work sprung as a reaction to it. Perhaps this is where I saw myself as being and the more hopeful work was where I aspired to be.

Anyway, that’s enough for my five-cent psychology  lesson for today.  In short, this is a piece that I see as elemental to who I am and where I am going. This one stays put.

Here’s a little of the great (and I think underappreciated) Leon Russell from way back in 1971 singing, appropriately,  Stranger in a Stranger Land



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GC Myers- Rest Stop sm

“Rest Stop” – Currently at the West End Gallery



A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one’s time—the stuff of life

― Carl Sandburg



This painting, Rest Stop, which is at the West End Gallery in Corning, is a favorite of mine. It might be in the colors or textures, those elements that often reach out to me, but it’s more likely because it’s message speaks clearly to me.

We all need to periodically stop the busyness of our lives, if only for a few moments. A short spell to pause everything and appreciate where we are in the present, to ponder how we came to be there, and to imagine where the future will take us.

An interlude to see how the past, present and future exist within us.

That’s the message I get from this painting. Now, doing such a thing is another animal altogether. For many of us, just stopping everything seems an impossibility. Or many may think such a thing is simple foolishness with no real purpose. Or some might feel that the prospect of actually thinking about anything, especially anything to do with their own life, is too tall a task.

But for some of us, these moments of ponderance are a necessity. They simply make life bearable. They create reason and meaning in a world that often seems to lack both. Those are the moments that define purpose at times when we need to know there is indeed purpose.

I get all of this with a glance at this painting. And I think that’s why I place so much stock in this piece– it speaks volumes with a so little effort. That’s the opposite of my writing or any form of expression with words.

Even this short re-examination of this painting is a form of pausing, of reflecting on what is now, what was then and what will will be. And maybe that’s the purpose of this piece and of art, in general.

Got to think about that…

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“Home In Sight”– Now at the West End Gallery



Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.

— George Santayana



As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, which was also my mother’s birthday, I gave some thought to my parents this past weekend, thinking about how they influenced me early in my life. It reminded me of a post that ran many years back, in 2009.

It was a brief recollection of that time as a child when I had not idea what was or wasn’t possible in my life. Oh, I had an idea that I would never be roaming the outfield for the Yankees or taking one small step on the surface of the moon but for the most part, everything seemed in play.

To an 8 year old everything is still attainable, anything is possible. My parents never pushed me in any one direction or tell me what I should try to accomplish, mainly because they most likely because they themselves didn’t know what was possible. They simply didn’t have the knowledge needed to direct me in any way. At the time, it seemed frustrating because of the lack of direction given.

Kind of like being told that you should build a cabinet but you’re not given any materials or instructions. You had to figure it out for yourself. You had to design and build it on your own. Except it wasn’t a cabinet, it was your life.

But to their credit, my parents never discouraged me or imposed any limits on my imagination or aspirations. They gave me free rein to explore and a little help when the opportunity to do so arose. That was their form of encouragement. 

It worked out in the long run. It took a lot more trial and error but the independence gained in those early years got me through the difficult times. I overlook their flaws now and focus on the appreciation I have for the things they did try to do for me, knowing that they were grasping at straws in the dark. They didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what was possible. They just wanted to help. And I am forever grateful for that expression of their love.

Here is what I wrote back in 2009:

When I give gallery talks, generally there is a part at the beginning where I run through how I came to be a painter. I usually tell how I somehow came across the idea that I wanted to be a painter when I was a small child, maybe 7 or 8 years old. Don’t know what made me come to that idea.

My parents didn’t know how to foster this idea but they did react, buying me an oil painting set from the old Cardinal Paint store in Elmira, where they sold art supplies alongside their house paints. I remember standing on the street looking at the display of art supplies in the window of their store on Water Street. I think I was only there because it was next door to the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center, the place where you traded in your books filled with those green stamps for household items. I guess S&H Green Stamps may have had something to do with me becoming a painter.

Of course, I didn’t have the first idea how to use the paints and the canvas panel ended up covered with a smear of a color that could best be described as looking like gray and brown puke smeared on a board. Unfortunately, that was not what I was hoping to see. Discouraged, I put the paints aside and moved on to other things. Many other things through the years.

Now, that might seem, at first blush, like a sad little story but it always touches me. My parents didn’t know how to go about helping me but they did what they could and never discouraged me from whatever avenue I chose to follow. I was never told I couldn’t be this or that I should be that. They didn’t know what was possible and never tried to put limits on my hopes.

In high school, I harbored dreams of being a writer and for Christmas one year they gave me a Remington Rand office typewriter. It was a reconditioned monster of a machine, must have weighed 75 pounds. I had it for years, hefting that monster from place to place, and when I did finally get rid of it, it was with great sadness. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given and is forever a symbol of my parents’ desire to encourage me. 

The point of this is that my parents allowed me the freedom to discover what was possible for me in my life. Did they always go about it in the best way or guide me in any way? Probably not but that didn’t seem as important as the freedom they gave me to search for what was possible for me.

And being able to find what was possible, as the saying above says, is the beginning of happiness…

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Brilliant Determination



If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.       

– Samuel Johnson



Running this post below from back in 2009 because I am working on a new painting and am eager to get at it. It’s one of those piece where the first few forms painted set it off perfectly and it begins to come to life immediately. These kind of pieces are sometimes both the easiest to paint and the hardest because there is always a fear that I will somehow make it go bad and lose all that beautiful potential, all the life that is already coming through. But every day in the studio is not filled with enthusiasm like this. It is often hard and I am filled with doubts most days. It seems like I have been waiting for the last twenty years, long before the post below, for the next shoe to drop and my career to evaporate before my eyes. But I keep on keeping on despite that and that’s the theme here. – March 2021



I’ve been thinking about determination a lot lately. There are times when nothing seems to come easily and it seems like there are any number of things that would be more enjoyable than struggling forward with your chosen endeavor.

But in the end you force yourself ahead. There’s a greater satisfaction in struggling with that which you have chosen and feel is meaningful than in doing something that means little to your inner self even though it is easier and, in many cases, more entertaining.

This is something I keep in mind when I’m in the studio. There are many days when nothing comes easily, every stroke is like lifting a heavy weight and inspiration seems to have left the building long ago. In these moments self doubts begin to stir and I seriously wonder if I have reached an end to my creative life. It’s like a dull pain that seems like will be with me forever and there are points I want to stop.

But I remember that this is the path that I chose to follow.

With that recognition I am reminded of other times when I have been at this point before and I know, I just know, that if I steel my mind and force myself to move ahead, one small step in front of another, that I will come to a point where all this forced energy builds and builds and suddenly breaks free.

In this moment of release, everything suddenly seems effortless and inspiration is everywhere. It’s like going from the dark depths of a stifling mine to the top of a cool mountain. And the memory of the toil that it has taken to reach this point fades into the distance.

Until the next time.

And that’s where determination is needed once more.

 

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“Greenie’s Barn”– GC Myers, circa 1994



And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.

― Meister Eckhart



The magic of beginnings

That is such an elegant phrase. Poetic. Leave it to Meister Eckhart, who last showed up here just a week or so back. 

The advantage of these using these short maxims is that they can often possess meanings apart from those that were intended by the original speaker. Meister Eckhart was most likely talking about some sort of religious awakening or changing one’s life in a positive manner.

I don’t really know.

But I am pretty sure that the meaning I attach to his adage might divert from his own.

For me, the message in it rings true in regards to going back to look at work from when I was first painting, when I was just gaining a toehold on whatever direction my painting might go or what form it might take. It was a time of finding voice, as I have said many times here.

It was also a time that possessed the magic of beginnings.

It’s that time when there is a blank slate before you and you are standing there with the few tools that you have brought with you– your own experiences, your observations of the world, some desire to create something of your own, an affinity for the visual, and maybe a little time spent doodling in the columns of newspapers and journals.

But beyond these things, you are a clueless, empty vessel. Everything is new. Every day is at least one new lesson learned. Each new piece has some sort of revelation, pointing out those things that resonate and those things that most definitely do not.

Every new stroke or color was an epiphany, like discovering the “open sesame” that unlocked the door that opened to new and wide horizons of possibility.

It truly felt like magic at the time.

Now, it still feels like magic– at times. Sometimes I find myself feeling like the wizened old magician who has pulled his rabbit out of his hat day after day for twenty five years. Yeah, it’s still a great trick for those who haven’t seen it before but it has lost the thrill for the magician, has lost that excitement that came with first learning that trick, on first wanting to display his newfound feats of magic to a crowd.

So, I sometimes go back and look at these old pieces from that time, those pieces that represent the magic of beginnings for me. And I almost always find something that I have lost over time, a small thing that somehow was set aside through a conscious choice or simply forgotten.

And finding these little things reignites that magic that came in the beginning. It changes my perspective, allows me to get out of the ruts of time that have been blocking my vision.

There is inevitably something from these forays into the past that I bring back with me to the present. A reminder to do something a bit different than the way I have fallen into the habit of doing it over a long period of time. Maybe even something as basic as how I start each new painting. These old pieces may not be gems in their own rights but they have raw material whose potential I can use.

But more importantly, they have the magic of beginnings within them.

And that is what I am seeking anew…

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“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery



To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.

― Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books



Do you ever come across something, maybe a movie or book or song, that you haven’t thought of in a long, long time? So long that it has become almost new to you when you once again meet up with it. It makes you wonder how it has lost its place in your synapses, makes you marvel that while it has faded into almost nothingness it reignites itself anew with a bright blaze.

I had that feeling yesterday as we were driving in the car as the radio played. It was a little local station that plays an odd collection of oldies from many genres that I think I find appealing because it reminds me of the old AM stations I grew up that played a wide range of music, swinging from Johnny Cash to the Doors to Nat King Cole to Jesus Christ Superstar all within minutes of one another. Those stations represented a far wider swath of the population’s tastes that the niche stations of today. If you didn’t like what was on wait a minute and something more to your taste would surely be there soon.

Anyway, a song came on our little eclectic station and the intro caught my ear. I couldn’t recognize it at all. Usually, a song you know reveals itself within a second or two, those opening chords are so imprinted in your mind. But this lead in didn’t sound familiar at all even though I really liked it and wanted to hear more.

But as soon as the vocals entered I knew what it was. It was like a light went on and something in a closet that had been hidden for 40 years was suddenly rediscovered. Something you didn’t realize you were missing all this time.

It was just great to hear this song once more and it kept playing in my head until I went to sleep last night. I woke up and was humming it as I walked over here in the dark this morning. Maybe it was the song and the simple message attached to it.

And it is simple. Be what you are and celebrate that fact.

So simple that we sometimes forget and try to be people and things we are not. We sometimes desire to be something other than what we are when the fulfillment of this life comes in loving who and what you are.

That’s my lead in to this song. It’s I Shall Sing from Art Garfunkel in 1973. The song was written and recorded by Van Morrison in 1970 but it’s the Garfunkel version that resonates best with me. That happy, celebratory calypso beat just fills the song with an ebullience that adds depth to the meaning behind the song. Glad to have reencountered this song at this moment.

I needed it. Give a listen, if you’re so inclined.



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