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Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina


 


GC Myers- Tower of Lies
How long can you stand on a tower of lies?
How long can you endure on a tower built with  lies for posts and boasts for beams ?
How long before you see the folly in reinforcing one lie with another?
How long before the foundations come apart and fail?
How long before truth comes as gravity to pull this tower down?
How long can we tolerate you standing brazenly atop your tower of lies?
How long until the inevitable collapse comes?
How long until we begin to tally the casualties from the fall?
How long before we begin to build a straighter and stronger tower?
How long can you stand on this tower of lies?

The post above ran back in February of 2017. That seems like an eternity ago now. It asks how long you can stand on a tower of lies.

We may be coming to an answer, at last. The past 3 1/2 years has seen the most remarkable amount of lying and deceit ever to spew from an administration. It is without equal in our history.

Not even close.

The whole administration is a tower built from lies, deflections, spittle, tape and hairspray. It is as weak as the fool atop it.

And now the “Good Germans” who continue to shore up the foundations of this rickety horror show now make no pretense of honesty, openly and shamelessly lying for all the world to see. Their words, their ethics, their moral compasses are worthless trinkets now.

It is obvious they will and plan to do absolutely anything needed to maintain power. There are a number of scenarios floating out there that outline sheer power plays right out of the fascist/authoritarian playbook that might be in play soon. As hard as it is to imagine these things ever coming to be in this land, we have to at least look at them, be aware of them.

I know that four years ago, in September of 2016, I worried that the scenario we’re experiencing might be a possibility with the election of the orange creature. But I felt that my imagination was just running wild and that the institutions, our Constitution, the balance of power would surely  be strong enough to hold back the onslaught.

So now, I hope for the best outcome but pledge to be prepared for the worst.

Be aware and prepare.

Here’s another song from people who were in such a situation. It’s Bella Ciao, a resistance song from the Italian partisans, the anti-fascists who fought the underground battle against Mussolini and Hitler during World War II.

Bella Ciao was originally a rallying song for the women who labored in the rice paddies of northern Italy in the 19th century. Their jobs were backbreaking and they were treated poorly which resulted in strikes and riots and the violence that accompanies such things. This was their rallying song. Bellla Ciao translates as Goodbye Beautiful.

This version is from Marc Ribot‘s 2018 album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 and features the unmistakable vocals of the great Tom Waits. It is a powerful version of a powerful song that still stands as symbol of resistance to authoritarianism to this day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to adopt this song as our own. Be aware and prepare.

 

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“Center of Gravity” Now at the West End Gallery

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In the center of an irrational universe governed by an irrational Mind stands rational man.

― Philip K. Dick, Valis

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You could possibly substitute the word country for universe and it wouldn’t much change the meaning of this quote. At least, not here in a land that feels more and more Kafkaesque with each passing day.

For those of you not familiar with the writings of Franz Kafka, Kafkaesque is described in Wikipedia this way:

The term “Kafkaesque” is used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis.” Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

As suggested by the painting above, Center of Gravity, I am going to shelter in place for the day and simply let the world turn on ts own.

And that’s enough for today.

Stay centered, folks.

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“The Timeout” At West End Gallery

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

― Ryōkan Taigu (1758-1831)

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

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

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

Or is truth a form of delusion in itself?

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

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

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“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery

 

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“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

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I was organizing one of the rooms in my studio this weekend, shuffling around boxes and stacks of books and papers, trying to make it look less like  a tornado had touched down in that room. I came across an old journal with only a few pages that contained any writing. It was from about thirty years ago, from a time when I was going through a lot of things in my little world.

I read the few pages that were there and it was painful. It was like looking back at another person, one who was deeply flawed and recognized some of these flaws. A person who desired a future but was lost and couldn’t see a way of getting there. This person knew they were lacking something but didn’t even know what that was which was an agony for them.

It would have been painful reading the words of this person, even if I didn’t know that they were my own words, my own predicament.

Nearly thirty years have passed and that person seems like a distant memory on most days now. I don’t think I would ever want to go back to that time or to be that person, even with youth and the accompanying energy and health it would bring.

You grow. You learn. You gather bits of insight. You come to recognize your flaws and strengths.You realize that you have power over your reactions, that they are your decisions to make.

You change and hopefully move toward a state of fulfillment.

It takes time and real effort.

I suppose there are those who choose not to change, those who are always perfectly at ease with who they are or have been at any point in their life. Maybe they are the lucky ones.

Or maybe they are the unfortunate ones.

As always, I don’t know for sure. I know that I am grateful for the past thirty years and the changes that have come my way after the time and effort expended. I hope for thirty more and wish that the me at that time will look back on these words and say, “Oh, how much I have changed!

Wishing you all fulfillment. Have a good day.

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“Always having what we want
may not be the best good fortune
Health seems sweetest
after sickness, food
in hunger, goodness
in the wake of evil, and at the end
of daylong labor sleep.”

― Heraclitus, Fragments

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“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne

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I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

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This painting, Nestledown, 18″ by 26″ on paper, is part pf my current show at the West End Gallery, It has the feel of some of my older work with its simple design and spew lines at the edges where the paint has broke free of the picture plane. This gives it a feeling of finding a place of comfort in my eyes, one of security where you can let down your guard a bit.

This feeling is enhanced for me by the multicolored patches of color in the foreground. While they remind me of a patchwork quilt there is something else in the quality of the color that heightens the feeling, something I couldn’t put my finger on for quite some time after I painted this piece. It came to me the other day when I was looking at a book of work by the painter Egon Schiele.

This piece reminded me of one of his paintings, Agony, from 1912, shown here on the right. It shows a person wrapped in a patchwork quilt with a monk laying next to them, his own robe serving as blanket of comfort. As soon as I saw this piece I saw how the oranges, yellows, and reds of its quilt related to the colors in my painting. They provided much the same service in both paintings, creating warmth and security.

I wasn’t surprised by seeing this link. I have long admired the work of Schiele, especially the way he treated his colors, imbuing even the brightest colors with dark undertones. This creates a depth and gravity of feeling that transcends the color itself. This is something I attempted to adapt for my own process many years ago, something that I consider a major turning point in the evolution of my work.

This painting wasn’t consciously in mind when I painted Nestledown but it certainly echoed somehow in memory. And finding comfort in times of trial and agony is a thread that runs through this show. It’s something that hits close to home  both as a nation, as we suffer through the multitude of ills that plague us at present, and as an individual as my family deals with the last days of my father’s life.

We all just want to find a bit of comfort, a place where we can nestle down.

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“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I wasn’t going to use the Goethe quote above because I couldn’t locate the source for it. But it made me both chuckle and nod in agreement so I thought I would go with it as is. It would, after all, explain so much of what is taking place at the moment.

The idea that we are a mental asylum and that perhaps those crafts we call UFOs are merely flying rubber rooms on the way to deliver some new batch of lunatics to us answers so many questions. If you watched the Chris Wallace interview with the president*** over the weekend, you might well believe that Goethe was on to something, such was the level of insanity on display. How someone could watch that, especially in the context of what is currently taking place in this country, and not feel that we are on the brink of sheer madness is beyond my comprehension.

The inmates have taken over the madhouse.

And adding to the situation is the fact that the madhouse is on fire. There’s an overwhelming summer heat all over the country that feels even more intense when you add to it the fires of anger and passion that are lighting up the streets of this country.

It certainly sets the tone for the events that will likely take place in the coming months. I am not looking forward to it but it can’t be avoided or ignored. In fact, doing so will only make it worse, will empower the inmates who have taken over the now burning madhouse to act even crazier. Nothing worse than a lunatic being egged on to even greater lunacy.

Yeah, this madhouse is on fire and the inmates in charge have no plans or desire to put it out.

So, I am sitting in the heat dreaming of coolness and hoping that there’s not a fleet of UFOs on the way to drop off a new batch of  crazies on us. The painting shown at the top, Fire and Ice, helps somewhat. It’s from my current West End Gallery show and is a piece that really helps me cool the heat from my own fires.

I will definitely need it.

Now let’s go back to a calmer time, say 1968. Nothing much happening back then. Here’s a song from that time that year that made sense then and sure seems to fit in at this point. It’s Fire from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. If nothing else, this slice of vintage video from the British TV program the Top of the Pops will make you smile.

It’s on fire out there. Try to stay cool. In all ways.

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Like much of this country, I am bracing for the heat we’re expecting today. I don’t have much to say this morning. Just want to veg out a bit. Read some things I haven’t been able to get to. Listen to some music I haven;t heard in a long time. Look at some photos.

You know, just avoid the sun and stay cool.

So, I am going to get at it. Here’s a little music for this steamy Sunday. It’s a song from Dwight Yoakam, someone whose songwriting and performance seldom disappoints. He holds a unique niche in American music, country but outside the popular genre. He did an acoustic album of his greatest hits all the way back in 2000 that’s a wonderful piece of work. Hearing the songs sung with only a stark guitar accompaniment really emphasizes the structure and strength of the compositions. This song, Throughout All Time, is from that CD. I am throwing in A thousand Miles From Nowhere from the same CD just for good measure.

I am including an image above from my West End show that I think fits nicely with this song. It’s one of my Baucis and Philemon pieces called Island of Bliss.

Have a good Sunday.


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Well, the show at the West End Gallery opened yesterday.

Out of an abundance of caution, I was not there. I wasn’t going to be able to be there for the whole opening which was spaced over seven hours, allowing only ten attendees at any one point. I decided it would be better to free up the space so others could see the show in safety. It wasn’t an easy decision and I fretted over it all day, on a day– the opening of a show– when I normally fret at a pretty high level. It made for a hard day on an already difficult day.

It just seemed like one of those days where everything is out of rhythm, down to the smallest details. Several things in the household were out of whack as well. I am not going to bore you with my whining on all the details. I’ll just say that yesterday was like the emotional letdown I typically experience in the weeks after a show compressed into a few hours, all taking place before the show’s opening was even complete.

Then I heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s cancer had reemerged and she was undergoing treatment. This as unmarked forces in combat gear were deployed by the DHS on the streets of Portland, Oregon, and were forcibly abducting and removing protesters in unmarked vehicles. These were not raging riots in any form. This was just intimidation and use of undue force all under the guise that they were there to keep people from tagging federal buildings with graffiti. The head of the DHS later told NPR that planned on employing this strategy of putting troops on the streets of American streets all around the country soon. It’s a treacherous ploy that allows them to skirt the objections of mayor and governors with the excuse that they are protecting federal property.

Then I later discovered that Congressman John Lewis, an eloquent advocate and giant of the Civil Rights movement had died.

The day just kept giving its awful gifts.

I am hoping today is a better one indeed. It’s got to be, doesn’t it?

I am employing another painting from the West End Gallery show. It’s called Angels Reach. I am not going into what I see in it or what is has to offer me. I will  just come out and say that this is a favorite of mine and this morning I really need to see something that makes me feel good.

Well, if not good at least a bit better than yesterday.

Many thanks to those of you who came out to the West End Gallery yesterday. And special thanks to Jesse and Linda at the gallery who have put in many, many hard hours of work in making the gallery work in these difficult times. I can’t express the gratitude I feel for you all.

Even though there are three Red Trees in this painting, I attach this song, a longtime favorite, to this painting in my head. Maybe that’s why I call this painting a favorite, as well. Give a listen and try to make your day a good one.

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This year’s edition of my annual solo exhibit, From a Distance, opens today at the West End Gallery in Corning.

As I’ve noted here recently, this year marks 25 years that I have been showing my paintings at the West End. It’s been a long trek from that day in early 1995– I believe it was late January– when I came into the gallery with a milk crate that served as my portfolio, roughly stuffed with bits of painted paper and cardboard. I was hoping for a critique and had no expectations or hopes that that particular day would ever lead to a satisfying career that has spanned 25 years (thus far) and 50+ solo exhibitions that have sent my work around the country and the world, as well.

Funny how one day, one positive reaction, can change your life.

In all those years, this show certainly has the oddest feel for me. It is very bittersweet. There is that celebratory feel that comes with marking 25 years at the gallery, highlighted by what I feel is one of my strongest shows there.

But I am saddened that I won’t be able to fully witness how people see the paintings, to talk with them and describe, person to person, some of the stories and meanings behind them. That’s a big loss for me, personally. I usually pull enthusiasm for moving forward out of these shows and I can already feel the loss.

But that is just another thing to deal with in a year filled with challenges for us all. In big picture terms, it’s pretty small so I choose to focus on the celebratory parts of this show and the work itself. As I said, I believe it is a very strong show and there are so many pieces that I could easily call my favorites.

I hope you get a chance to stop in at the West End Gallery and take in the exhibit. Jesse and Lin have done their usual masterful job in putting the work together and are taking great care to make the experience as safe and comfortable as possible.

Here’s a slideshow of the show — set to a wonderful version of Work Song from Vince Guaraldi — just to give you some glimpses.  Thanks!

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