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O’Sullivan’s March

I’m out the door this morning but wanted to at least acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day with a little traditional Celtic music from the Chieftains.

This video features O’Sullivan’s March and has some stunning shots of the Irish scenery, especially that rugged coast.

Enjoy and if you’re of the mind, raise a Guinness in honor of St. Pat today.

I might do just that.

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Edward Hopper: Inside

Another busy day. First thing this morning I am speaking to about 65 third-graders who have been exposed to my work through their art teacher who contacted me with a wonderful list of questions the kids had asked.  I wrote about them a week or two back and showed some of their paintings. I am looking forward to talking with them and answering their questions as well as doing a brief demonstration.

But even though I am real busy I wanted to share another video of Edward Hopper paintings, this time focusing on the isolation of his interiors.  The soundtrack for this video uses the lovely Moonlight in Vermont from the Nat King Cole Trio.

So take a look and try to have a great day.

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Valentine’s Day

GC Myers- Baucis and Philemon 2010There’s a lot to be said about love, romance and Valentine’s Day.  But I have a busy day so it will have to wait until another day.

If that ain’t romantic, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, have a great day. evening, whatever with the one you love.  Here’s Valentine’s Day from Bruce Springsteen from all the way back in 1987. Wow, do I feel old today!

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Pattern/A Replay

The painting below, from a few years back, came back to me a while ago and has been living with me in the studio. In the time it has been here it has become one of my favorites.  I find myself scouring it with my eyes on a regular basis, going up and down, letting my eyes follow the path and the lines of the landscape.  Trying to look into the mirror-like pools or the moon, half expecting to see myself looking back from the surface.  I have really fixated on this piece and thought I would put it back into a gallery again, to see if it had anything on someone else that it had on me. So it is at the West End Gallery for a bit. Here’s what I wrote about it a few years back:

GC Myers- Part of the Pattern

There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns.  Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns.  If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself. What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.  What we can’t understand we call nonsense. What we can’t read we call gibberish.

–Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

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I tend to agree with the snippet above from the Chuck Palahniuk book, Survivor.

Everything is built upon pattern. Who we are and how we behave.  History.  Science.  Music and art.  It is all dictated by patterns.

Most of us don’t dwell too long on identifying patterns in the world around us and some of us will even refuse to acknowledge the predominance of pattern in the world, believing everything is random and chaotic.  I suppose that in itself is part of a pattern, a larger one that is so encompassing that we can’t see it from our vantage point within it.

Just speculating there, of course.

Maybe even trying to break away from the pattern is actually part of the pattern.

All I know is that I am always looking for pattern, even when I’m not really looking.  I call it pattern, rhythm, flow, sense of rightness and other terms,  without knowing why I am drawn to this concept.  It just attracts me in that it is so much part of everything that there must surely be significance.

All of this flowed forward with this new painting, a 4″ by 17″ piece on paper that I’m calling Part of the Pattern.  It’s based on a theme I’ve used several times recently of pools rising through a tall vertical picture plane like ladder rungs. This particular piece was so much more stylized in its forms that it really became more about pattern than subject. I see it both as a landscape and as some sort of underlying pattern that makes up the landscape.  A sort of DNA-like structure on which the world is built. Whatever it is, it holds my eye and makes me keep searching for something in it.

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The Boys / A Replay

Between feeling ill over the past week or so and the ongoing dumpster fire known as the Trump transition, I felt like I needed to do something different, maybe share one of my favorite stories about a couple of feral cats who made their way to us a number of years back.

 We get a lot of strays here.  Our two housecats, Zsa Zsa and Lucy-Furr, and, Hobie, my studio assistant, all just showed up. Actually, every cat who has been with us came to us this way. In fact, there is a stray under our garden shed at this moment who has been our guest for the past couple of months but is still very skittish.  Perhaps someday he/she (we’re still not sure) will be a studio companion for Hobie.

I came across a group of photos from a few years back that brought back very bittersweet memories. The photos were of a pair of feral cats that took up residence around our place along with a three legged raccoon that was in the vicinity for a short time. The cats tolerated the raccoon’s presence and they never seemed too upset when he helped himself to the food we put out for them.

The cats were an interesting pair. We called the tiger one Partner and the other Ben although we always called him simply Black & White. Partner and Ben were the Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin characters from the movie Paint Your Wagon. The two cats had started coming to our place in the woods a few years before and always came separately. Ben was super skittish and would never let you get close enough to touch him but hung around and came to recognize that there were times when food was available. Partner was more affable and approachable but he only came once in a great while, at which point Ben would often attack him and chase him away, off into the woods.

This went on for a year or so and for the longest time we seldom saw Partner. Then one year, as a very bitter winter began to close in, Partner came back and made a stand. Instead of running away he held his ground against Ben. It was a horrible thing. For a day or so, they were in what seemed to be non-stop combat outside our house. Under our house. Maybe on our house, I don’t know. There was thumping and screeching and all sorts of awful noise. We would try to intervene but they would run out of sight and pause for the time we out there then resume immediately after we went back inside.

The next morning when I put out some food for them, they both emerged together. They were a mess with bloody cuts and scrapes on both but still wouldn’t let us get too near.  Yet they were together now with not a hint of malice between them. From that time on they were inseparable. They spent that very,very cold winter sleeping together in a crude catbed I had built for them, one on top of the other. When they would walk through the yard or up our walkway, they would walk in step with their shoulders shoved  together as though they were joined at the shoulder. As spring and summer came, they would lazily sleep on our walkway, often spooning as they laid together with their legs wrapped around each other or would sleep facing one another, their paws lightly touching. When our female cat, Tinker, was outside, Partner would make attempts to be friendly but Ben wanted no part of her and, in an obviously jealous act, would aggressively push himself between the two. It was an amazing transformation from their previous animosity to this sweet friendship.

It was a short lived life together however.  They both became obviously ill that next winter and they passed away that season, both disappearing with days of one another. We’ve always regretted not being able to do more for them but through this time they never let us get too close to them, always being extremely wary of any attempts to corral them. So when I see these photos I am torn between the sheer sadness of their hard fought existence and the absolute joy and comfort they had found in their love for one another. A rare thing indeed…

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Still down with this cold or whatever the hell it is.  Hope to be back at work soon but for today thought I’d replay a post from a several years back that I like:

GC Myers- Abundant Life All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

Rumi

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The other day, while going over some very early posts from this blog, I came across this short poem from the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi. It had been passed on to me by my friend Scott Allen from the Cleveland area after my 2008 show at the Kada Gallery.  It was what he himself had felt in my work. The poem had, I’m sorry to confess, slipped my mind over the years and coming across it again immediately rekindled my  original reaction to it. Then and now,  I felt as though this little wisp of a poem captured the motivation or secret behind what I was doing.

Like Rumi’s voice in this poem, I have spent most of my life in an existential quandary, filled with doubts about who I am and what I should be doing. I often felt like a stranger in a strange land, ill at ease in my surroundings and feeling, like Rumi, that my soul is from elsewhere. Initially, I felt as though my uncertainties and doubts could be allayed externally. I was simply not in the right physical location. But it was soon apparent that it was not an external problem. Regardless of the location, I would not be at ease on the outside until I sought and found where I needed to be internally.

That’s where the painting came in and filled the void in my life.  If life were an ocean, painting gave me a hope, an endpoint for which to navigate. Without it, I would still be rudderless in an ocean of doubt. With it and through it, I feel that my soul is headed in the right direction. I don’t know exactly why I feel the need to share this intimacy with you this morning. Perhaps that openness is part of the journey or even the destination. But for me, seeing this poem again reconnected me to the journey at a point when it felt as though I was going slightly off course. Sometimes in the process of seeking one forgets why they set out on the journey in the beginning. Ant that why, that motivation, sometimes needs to be revisited during the journey. It gives the destination definition and immediately puts you back on course.

This morning, I feel like I am sailing on smooth seas again, knowing why I am going forward.

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Failure/ A Replay

Yesterday, I wrote about a painting that I considered a failure and said that I would replay an earlier post in which I addressed the subject of failing in my painting.  This post from about 6 years back came from a friend’s question.  If you ever have a question that you would like me to address in a post, definitely get in touch with me. I am always open to answer any questions you might pose to me.

simpson-failure2In 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 there is more used.  I use a lot more gesso and paint.  And while the cost of materials is a 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 was such a piece.  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’s 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 paragraph says 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.

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.  They have a purpose 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.  But most times,  the mediocre pieces teach me what I don’t want to repeat in the future.  A wrong line 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.

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 risk that it might learn it.

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

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