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Cloths of Heaven

GC Myers- Chaos & Light sm

Chaos & Light— Show Closes August 25 at the West End Gallery



Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats, Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven



I wanted some bit of writing to pair with the title painting, Chaos & Light, for my current West End Gallery show which ends next week, on Thursday, August 25. I thought of a poem from W.B. Yeats originally called Aedh Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven. Aedh was an Irish name derived from a god from Irish mythology, sometimes referred to as the god of death. It was also a character name used by Yeats in some of his works such as this poem. 

The title was later changed to He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven, dropping the Aedh from its title. I don’t know if this was done by Yeats or later editors who felt that the change might broaden the understanding and appeal of the poem. It probably cut down on people asking who or what this Aedh was, as well.

This poem, at eight lines, is Yeats’ shortest poem and covers territory, the love offering, that has been explored by countless poets through the ages. I read a short analysis of this poem and it was pointed out that the thing that made this poem stand out among the many other similar poems of this type is the repetition of key words, especially in piece with such a limited number of lines: cloths (three times), dreams (three times), light (three times), spread (twice), tread (twice), under your feet (twice). 

The writer of this analysis points out the effect of this repetition changes the rhythm of the lines as well which makes it unique among other such poems while at the same time giving the poem a sense of simplicity, even one of familiarity and banality, that belies its depth. This allows the reader to easily take in the whole of the work before they even recognize or understand the true depth of feeling contained.

I mention this because this idea the simplicity of form, of the repetition of forms giving a work a sense of familiarity and banality that masks its depth of feeling is how I often see my own work. Rearranging these familiar, oft-used forms in my paintings is like moving repeated words within a poem to create new rhythms and depths. 

I can certainly see that in Chaos & Light at the top. It has many forms that will be familiar to those of you who know my work. But the arrangement of these forms combined with variations of light and dark, colors and contrasts, surface textures, etc., make it into something unique, something with its own sense of feeling and depths. 

Or maybe it’s just me wishing for the cloths of heaven. Who knows? Below is a very short reading of the Yeats poem from Tom O’Bedlam. Might be worth 35 seconds of your time.



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Night's Desire sm

Night’s Desire— At the West End Gallery



I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me–
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire–
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

-Edgar Lee Masters, George Gray



I hear the plans of scientists and moguls and find myself wondering why we so want to return to the moon, more than fifty years after we first stepped on its surface. It doesn’t seem to be far away enough to serve as an outpost for further exploration of space nor does it seem to be the perfect new home. It would take a lot of work to make it amenable to humans which doesn’t make a lot of sense when we have a perfectly good fixer-upper right here on Earth just waiting for some TLC.

Maybe it’s because it’s just hanging there before us there in the sky on most nights, so near yet so far away.

Maybe because it is there and not here.

Maybe it has become a constant symbol of our desires. That would make sense then, that all our desires lie there somehow in the form of the unblinking eye of the moon.

Why wouldn’t we want to reach that place?

That might make some sort of sense but then again, obtaining the thing we so want does not always bring us the fulfillment we thought it might. Unless one’s wish is to be free of desire, it often only brings a new set of desires.

A new moon to gaze upon, and with it, more restlessness and vague desires.

For me, I am content to have the moon as a mere object that reflects light on all that we have at hand here on this eternal fixer-upper, this Earth.

Amen.

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Kandinsky Movement I 1935

Wassily Kandinsky- Movement I. 1935



The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.

–Wassily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual In Art



I had been feeling a little blah in recent weeks, especially as far as my work is concerned. Not motivated. Everything seemed like a slog or heavy toil. I couldn’t focus and couldn’t see anything on the canvas before me.

No motivation whatsoever.

But two things occurred yesterday that gave me a kick in the pants, in the creative sense.

First, I had a commissioned piece that I needed to start. I had the canvas prepped and ready to rock but I still felt like putting it off. And I might have, except for the fact that I had already burned through every excuse and roadblock I could come up with to prevent me from starting.

It had to be done.

So, I started, and a funny thing happened: It felt damn good, much better than I had imagined. Things came easy and I was soon pulled fully into the piece.

It was like an adrenaline injection, one that was desperately needed. It started my engine and I was mentally pulling things– color combinations and forms and angles– I was seeing in this piece to be employed in the next pieces.

It’s a form of self-generating momentum that I greatly depend on. It was good to feel that again after the past few weeks of dull listlessness.

Then, while taking a short break, I came across the image at the top online from Wassily Kandinsky, Movement I. I am a fan of Kandinsky’s works and words, especially his book, On the Spiritual in Art, which I keep close at hand here in the studio. I have seen much of his work but this one seemed to have evaded my eye before yesterday.

Seeing it was like a second shot of adrenaline. It set off all sorts of creative sparks within me and I was seeing things in it that would be employing in future works. I felt a giddiness to get to this new unrealized work as soon as possible.

I can’t fully describe how the things I see in this piece will translate into my own work. It will most likely be undiscernible to the casual viewer or even the most ardent follower of my work. That’s how inspiration works.

However, I have had similar bursts of energy and ideas before that I just couldn’t bring across the line in a way that fully satisfied me. Many of them are in stacks and boxes in a room here in the studio and will likely never be shown. So, while I can say that this burst of energy will create something new, I can’t guarantee that this surge will result in good work.

That is also how inspiration works.

Even so, I am grateful for it this morning. Now, I gladly get back to work.

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Integration of Influence

 

Sadly, last night was the final episode of the television series, Better Call Saul. I am not going to go into the wonderful characters and storytelling that made it great viewing. No spoilers here, either.

Instead, I wanted to comment on the beauty of the black and white filming employed in the final couple of episodes to portray the most recent section of the story’s timeline. The black and white was gorgeous, in deep contrasts of black, white, silver and gray. It really accentuated how well composed the images were that you were viewing.

Many were put together with the eye of a great photographer or painter. Many of the individual images from these episodes could be reproduced to make credible art prints. It reminded me of the beautiful use of similar black and white in the film Nebraska. I wondered if the fact that much of the last episodes took place in Nebraska had any influence. This in turn made me think of the work of Nebraska-born photographer Wright Morris who I wrote about here a number of years back.

I wonder if there is an actual line of influence that runs through the three: Morris -Nebraska- Saul? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t make much of a difference in how any of them are perceived. I just like to see how work integrates influences and how that integration is passed onward to influence the work of others.

Anyway, Below is that earlier entry on Wright Morris. You might see how I integrated his influence in my own work.



Wright Morris Straightback Chair- The Home Place

Writght Morris- Straightback Chair, The Home Place

One of the most common questions I am asked at gallery openings or talks is about the meaning behind the Red Chair in my paintings.  I always struggle to answer. Maybe because the answer is always changing for me.  I don’t really know. I do know that I use it in my work because the chair is such an identifiable image that is known to anyone in nearly any culture and has an inherent meaning in its form. A place to sit and rest. Or eat. Or converse. Or any number of things.

It is simply an icon of human existence.

But looking through some photo sites I came across the work of Nebraska-born photographer/writer Wright Morris (1910-1998). His stark and striking images of the Plains will seem very familiar to anyone who saw last year’s Alexander Payne film, Nebraska. I don’t know but would not be surprised if Morris’ imagery was a big influence on the visual look of the black and white film.

Wright Morris- Chair, The Home Place

Wright Morris- Chair, The Home Place

But while looking at some of these photos I came across a few images of chairs in a farmhouse. They were from a book of his titled The Home Place, a photo-novel telling the story of a man’s one-day visit to where he had spent his childhood in Nebraska, the home place. The images were very evocative and looking at them, it dawned on me that the meaning of the Red Chair was the same. It was so obvious– it was the Home Place. The place where you have a chair in which to sit, accepted as a part of that place.

It is simple yet powerful, like Wright Morris’ photos.

It’s good to have an answer to give now when someone asks…

Wright Morris Picture of Boy- The Home Place

In a Corner– At the West End Gallery

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GC Myers- Botanica Vitae

Botanica Vitae– At the West End Gallery

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

–Jack London, The Call of the Wild



I really like the excerpt above from Jack London and his 1903 classic, The Call of the Wild. The idea of being as alive as one can be, to be at the peak of one’s existence, to be so fully vital that the sensation of ecstasy achieved feels natural and inborn, is intriguing.

I think I may have experienced at one or two points in my life when my faculties, both physical and mental, were at higher operating levels but I can’t be sure. I think it must be so powerful and all-encompassing that one doesn’t realize that it is an extraordinary feeling they are experiencing.

I think I still have the capacity for this feeling. At least, I hope.

I guess to put it in a symbolic form, like the growth in the painting here, I wish I could grow and blossom once again, to exude some part of myself, a flower or a leaf, that tells the world that I am alive.

Maybe this painting is such a flower?

Maybe. I don’t know.

But it gives me something different to ponder on a day when there is much to consider in this world at this time.

Here’s song that expresses this sentiment pretty well. It’s a song from back in 1968 called I’m Alive from R&B/Pop singer Johnny Thunder. It was written by Tommy James, who later released this song in 1969 with his group, Tommy James & the Shondells.

You probably don’t know this version from Johnny Thunder which is unfortunate. Bob Dylan, in a 1969 Rolling Stone article, when asked if he was impressed by anything he was hearing in the world of rock music, mentioned the Thunder version of this song, saying: “Never heard it either, huh? Well, I can’t believe it. Everyone I’ve talked to, I’ve asked them if they’ve heard that record. It was one of the most powerful records I’ve ever heard. It’s called ‘I’m Alive.’ By Johnny Thunder. Well, it was that sentiment, truly expressed. That’s the most I can say … if you heard the record, you’d know what I mean.”

High praise. Johnny Thunder definitely feels alive here.



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Staying High



GC Myers- The Mountain Dance 2022

The Mountain Dance– At the West End Gallery

A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love.

-Madeleine L’Engle, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage 



For Sarah & Joe Azerof, as they are now known, I offer this triad this morning:

  • 1) A short excerpt from a Madeleine L’Engle book–she also wrote A Wrinkle in Time— on the transformation of a marriage over time
  • 2) A painting, The Mountain Dance, that is part of the Baucis & Philemon series about seeking the eternal in love
  • 3) And this week’s Sunday Morning Music, Stay High, from Brittany Howard, a song that meshes well with the painting and the moment.

To those who seek new adventures with shared eyes and hearts. Stay high…



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2022 WE Show GC Myers July



Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.

–Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)



Taking just a moment this morning to pass on a reminder that my current solo exhibit of new work at the West End Gallery, Chaos & Light, is in its last two weeks, ending on August 25. Hope you’ll try to get in soon if you wish to see it.

And to brighten up the morning, here’s a version of the Michael Jackson hit Billie Jean played in a most interesting and entertaining manner by the Barcelona Guitar Trio. Enjoy.



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20220812_064705 (599x800)



He seems to me to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence.

— Jack Kerouac, On the Road



I lately have the unframed painting above, Ship of Fools, on a small table in front of my desk here in the studio. I look at it quite often, more than I would have thought. Maybe because it disturbs me or that I am trying to understand it, to find some comprehension in it.

In recent days, I see it as a symbol of the cultish followers of the former president*. It’s a group that disturbs me because I can’t understand the basis or belief behind it. It makes no sense to me in any way.

I think of the guy in Ohio who tried to storm the FBI offices yesterday, believing he was kicking off a civil war with his attack. Wearing body armor, he tried to break through bulletproof glass at the entry by shooting it with a nailgun, I believe in order to enter the space without firing his AR15 rifle which would allow him to better surprise the agents he desired to kill.

It, of course, failed. He fled and ended up in a field, wounded and still somehow sending posts to fellow cult members via Truth Social. His last post ended abruptly, and he was dead from the FBI’s returned fire.

How does one comprehend this sort of stupid, senseless death?

Why would someone sacrifice their life for someone who I doubt even paused to give a moment’s thought that this person’s life was given in his name? Someone who no doubt sees this person and all the others only as tools to be employed on his behalf.

They are there for him and it is a one-way transaction. He has no interest in doing anything that does not ultimately benefit him personally. 

So, why the cult following? I have never heard an answer to this question that is rational in any way. Oh, you’ll hear people say that they liked his policies and when you ask which policies, they are often at a loss to name one. And even if they can, why would a few policy agreements allow them to overlook the gross corruption and criminality and potentially treasonous behavior of this creature?

It is not normal. I am not qualified to say, but it seems to be some sort of mass psychosis. It might be as psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote in his book The Second Sin in 1973:

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.

As someone with more than my fair share of neuroses, this makes sense to me. A neurotic has conflicts within, whereas the psychotic’s conflicts are manifested in the outer world. They are filled with total conviction and have solutions, as they see their actions to be.

And their conviction is so intense that they cannot see how those who they oppose do not possess similar convictions. They know by their own thoughts and actions that they are dangerous which their psychosis leads them to believe that everyone on the other side poses the same level of threat.

It creates an out-of-control spiral.

How this spiral psychosis came to end up as it is now and how its effects can be alleviated remain cloudy. If it will continue as the former guy’s crimes and misdeeds are further revealed is up in the air. For those deep in the throes of the cult, it probably won’t make a difference.

And therein lies the conflict.

I am sure some of you will dispute my amateur psychoanalysis and that’s okay. I am just venting on the needless tragedy of it all.

Maybe that tragedy and the people involved are those that I see in this painting. I am just hoping that nobody else will die with the name of that creature on their lips.

Hoping but who can really know what the days ahead will bring?

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GC Myers- In Rhapsody

In Rhapsody— At the West End Gallery



It must be this rhapsody or none,
The rhapsody of things as they are.

–Wallace Stevens, The Man with the Blue Guitar



I decided to pair the painting above with this couplet from a Wallace Stevens poem. It just seemed to fit this piece that, to me, deals with the rhythm and rhapsody of the universe.

Then I realized that the poem, The Man with the Blue Guitar, was written about the famed Picasso painting with that same title that was the featured image in yesterday’s blog post.

Just one of those interesting coincidences that pop up once in a while. Or maybe it’s some form of synchronicity, an alignment of consciousness of the kind referred to in this painting.

I can’t say for sure. But I do see a rhapsody of being in this painting. By that, I mean the recognition, acceptance, and exultation of both our significance and insignificance in this world.

The joy in simply being.

The rhapsody of things as they are.

Okay, since we’re using the term rhapsody today, how about filling out our dance card with a bit of music? Here’s the always entertaining Lang Lang and his performance of the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 from Franz Liszt.



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PabloPicasso-The-Old-Guitarist-1903Painting is a blind man’s profession.  He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

–Pablo Picasso



I love this quote from Picasso.

I think that is what all art really is– an expression of feeling. Emotion.

I know my best work, or at least the work that I feel is most directly connected to who I truly am as a human being, is always focused on expressing emotion rather than depicting any one place or person or thing. At its best, the piece as a whole becomes a vehicle for expression and the subject is merely a focal point in this expression. The subject matter becomes irrelevant beyond that. It could be a the most innocuous object, a chair or a tree in my case. It doesn’t really matter because the painting’s emotion is carried by the painting as a whole- the colors, the texture, the linework, the brushstrokes, etc.

In other words, it’s not what you see but what you feel.

I think many of Vincent Van Gogh‘s works are amazing example of this. They are so filled with emotion that you often don’t even realize how mundane the subject matter really is until you step back to analyze it for a moment.

I’ve described here before what an incredible feeling it was to see one of his paintings for the first time, at the Met in NYC.  It was his vase of irises. A few flowers in a pot. How many hundreds of thousands of such paintings just like this have been created through the years by artists all over the world?

That’s unknowable, of course. But Van Gogh’s pot of irises transcended the mundane, seeming to vibrate with feeling, the electricity of life on the wall. Van Gogh resonates not because of the subject matter, not because of precise depiction of the flowers or the vase. No, it was a deep expression of his emotion, his wonder at the world he inhabited, inside and out.

I also see this in a lot of music. It’s not the subject but the way the song is expressed. How many times have we heard overwrought, schmaltzy ballads that try to create overt emotion and never seem to pull it off? Then you hear someone interpret a simple song with deep and direct emotion and the song soars powerfully.

I often use Johnny Cash‘s last recordings, in the last years and months before his death, as evidence of this. Many were his interpretations of well-known songs and his voice had, by that time, lost much of the power of his earlier days. But the emotion, the wonder, in his delivery was palpable. Moving.

Likewise, here’s Chet Baker from just a few months before his death. He, too, had lost the power and grace of youth due to a life scarred by the hardship of drug abuse and violence. But the expression is raw and real.  It makes his interpretation below of Little Girl Blue stand out for me.



I came across this Picasso quote again early this morning and it reminded me of this post from back in 2012. Felt like a good time to replay it.



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