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GC Myers- Let the New Day Begin sm



Here’s a replay of an entry discussing an essay written by Robert Frost on creating poetry from several years back that is among my more popular blog posts. His words apply to any artistic endeavor and I thought it would be appropriate as I am in the midst of a pretty good groove at the moment. Much of what he lays out feels on the button at this time.

And that’s a good thing. That’s the goal.

Take a look.



The poet Robert Frost wrote a wonderful preface to the 1939 edition of his collected poems. It was titled The Figure a Poem Makes and it described how he viewed his process of unveiling the true nature of his work. Reading it, I was struck by the similarities between his work as a poet and how I view my work as painter.

For example, the following paragraph-I have highlighted individual lines that jumped out at me. I probably could have highlighted them all:

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life–not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood-and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad-the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

A painting often begin in delight. A certain tone of color, the way a line bends, the manner in which a brushstroke reveals the paint or in how the contrast of light and dark excites the eye.  The delights pull you in and keep you engaged and it is not until you have finished that you are able to understand the sum of these elements, to detect the wisdom, the meaning, behind it all. It is only then that you know what you have uncovered and how it should be named.

The work itself, if left to its own means, knows what it is and will tell you.

Then there is this gem of a paragraph:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick.

I have often spoke of the need to be have my emotions near the surface when I work, to always need to feel excited and surprised by what I am working on. To recognize things I never knew as being part of me. If I am not moved by the thing I am working on at any given time, how can I expect others to be moved by it? This paragraph speaks clearly to my experience as an artist.

Then there is the final sentences of the essay:

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

My translation of this, as a painter, is that the work must be free to move and grow of its own volition. It tells you where it wants to go and, if you don’t constrain it and try to push it to a place to which it was not intended, will reveal its truth to you. If you can do that, it remain always fresh, always in the present and always filled the excitement and surprise that it contained in that burst when it was created.

And that, to feel always fresh and in the present, is the goal of all art, be it painting, poetry, music, or dance.

I don’t want to bore you too much. It’s a great essay and is a valuable read for anyone who makes art in any form. You can see ( and download) the whole book, The Collected Poems of Robert Frost, with this essay in full by clicking here.

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GC Myers-  October Sky sm



I am currently in the midst of painting for my annual June show at the Principle Gallery and am in what I believe is a pretty good groove at the moment. I was thinking about how I view my work at these times, about how it is about how I am painting rather than what I am painting. It reminded me of this post from a few years ago that shows closeup details of the painting’s surface. These details are actually how I see my work most of the time, especially when in a groove. And probably as much as I see them as a whole. Made me think this post was worth revisiting.



I was looking for something to play this morning and put on this album, Blues Twilight, from jazz trumpet player Richard Boulger. I’ve played a couple of tracks from this album here over the years.

While the title track was playing I went over to over to a painting that hangs in my studio, the one shown above. It’s an experiment titled October Sky from a few years back that is a real favorite of mine. I showed it for only a short time before deciding that I wanted it hanging in the studio. I never really worked any further in the direction this piece was taking me. Part of that decision to not go further was purely selfish, wanting to keep something solely for myself, something that wasn’t subject to other people’s opinions.

A strictly personal piece. A part of the prism that doesn’t show.

I look at it every day but generally it is from a distance, taking it in as a whole. But his morning, while the album’s title track played I went and really looked hard at it, up close so that every bump and smear was obvious. And I liked what I was seeing, so much so that I grabbed my phone and began snapping little up close chunks of it.

It all very much felt like the music, like captured phrases or verses. Each had their own nuance, color and texture and they somehow blended into a harmonic coherence that made the piece feel complete.

It’s funny but sometimes when I am working hard and in a groove that takes over from conscious thought, I almost forget about those things that I myself like in my work because I don’t have to think about them in the process of creating the work. Looking at this painting this close made me appreciate the painting even more, made me think about it in a different way than the manner in which I now used to seeing it.

Guess it’s a good thing to stop every now and then and look at what you’ve done, up close and personal.

Here’s Blues Twilight from Richard Boulger. Enjoy the music and take a look at the snips, if you so wish. But definitely have a good day.





GC Myers- October Sky detailGC Myers- October Sky detail20180415_07492420180415_07490820180415_07485920180415_072615



 

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Hip Harp

hip-harp-in-a-minor-groove



I am in a bit of a rush this morning but wanted to play a bit of music. I came across this piece a number of years ago and it popped up again on my site yesterday. It was Pawky from the late jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby, who is considered one of the most unjustly under loved jazz greats of the 1950’s. Probably a little anti-harp bias. The harp just doesn’t have the built in cool factor of a sax or a trumpet.

I went to YouTube and began playing the 1959 album, Hip Harp,  that it was from and went to do some little chores around the studio this morning.

I really enjoyed having it on. There was something easy in it, something where it would one moment move into the background or hold your rapt attention without losing anything in the listening.

I am not sure I am explaining this  in the way I think I am but that’s going to have to suffice. The word pawky is a British word that means shrewd, tricky or slyly humorous and this piece fits the meaning. This song has a kind of 50’s jazzy, witchy feeling, like it should have been in the soundtrack of the movie Bell, Book and Candle, the 1958 film about modern day witches in Greenwich Village, starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon. But it was not in the film though I think the title theme poaches elements from this song a bit.

Give a listen. Great music to work to.



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matisse.la musique



I want to reach the state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. Perhaps I might be satisfied momentarily with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind…Nowadays, I try to infuse some calm into my pictures and I keep working at them until I have succeeded in doing so.

–-Henri Matisse, 1908



It seems like every artist has a different answer for the question of when a painting is done. Whistler and several others said it was when all traces of its creation have been concealed on the surface. Some say it is when the artist achieves their aim, what they envisioned in their mind’s eye. Edward Munch (The Scream) said that a piece is done after it has had time to mature, weathered a few showers and endured the elements, including nail scratches.

Others say they are never finished. 

I tend to go with the never finished group although Munch’s definition appeals to my love of weathering and patina and Matisse’s infusion of calm is something I also aspire to in my work. Ultimately, my goal is to have the paintings complete enough that they can exist on their own, to be alive in the outer world.

In that respect, because they are human creations, I view them very much as I view other humans– never quite complete and always imperfect. That’s just how we are and I am certainly no different.

I am a collage of imperfections that is still a work-in-progress. If I saw myself hanging on the wall I might want to take a brush and soften an edge here or there and add color in certain parts of my composition. But I probably would not do it because those imperfections actually become part of the composition, create the contrasts that give us, as a painting, life. And that , even with the flaws and weathering exposed, pleases me.

None of us is perfectly painted. Nor should we be.



Very busy this morning and wasn’t willing to distract from the attention needed. But here’s a post from several years ago that I like. Hope you do as well.

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Compromise/ 2021

I thought since I was running some old posts I would go back a little further, this one from early 2010. The painting in this post still excites my senses and makes me eager to be at work. It’s just what I need right now. Take a look .





I came across this painting from seven or eight years back, an 18″ by 26″ piece from 2003 titled Call of Freedom. It was quite a different look for my work at the time with its simple design of two two blocks of colors playing off one another. It may not visible in this photo of the piece, but there was a hint of purple through the bottom block of color that really enhanced the piece for me.

The tree was put in at the last moment. After I had completed the two blocks, I sat this aside for quite awhile, looking at it in the studio, trying to determine if it held together just as it was. Was there enough there — color, texture, contrast– to hold my interest, to make me want to continue looking?

This was a tough one for me. It met all my criteria. It held my eye. It had meaning for me. But I still wasn’t sure it would hold the attention and meaning of others. So, I hesitatingly put the blowing Red Tree in place, almost as a compromise.

The tree changed the dynamic, bringing the picture plane closer to the viewer, from vastness to intimacy. But it still allowed the blocks to dominate, to tell their part of story, so to speak. Adding the Red Tree worked without altering my first impression of what I saw in the piece and created an introduction into the painting for others.

This might be considered a compromise.

I don’t know.  

For me, it’s about coming across that space between the painting and the viewer and connecting in some way, communicating something I might not be able to define. So long as it doesn’t alter the feeling or the message I get from the painting, it’s not a compromise but an opportunity for more engagement.  

As a result, I often think of this piece as where I want my work to be in the long run.

Is it compromise? I don’t know. And so long as the work is transmitting my message, I don’t care.

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Trying to Calm



Today, I am posting an older image from several years back. It’s called Portrait of Calm and I am trying to pull some of that sense of calm from it for myself.

I wrote another post, long and profanity laced, that I don’t think I can post without a cooling off period. I am tired this morning, having only slept a few hours last night after a day of wrath. But I am also tired of the sheer evil awfulness of Donald Trump.

That is a given. But I am even more tired of those people who enable him, who try to rationalize away his awful deeds, who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to his lies, all 30,000+ of them, so long as they somehow benefit from his ill-considered actions. Those same people who act shocked when what took place yesterday comes to be when it was obvious for years that it would eventually come to this. I have been expecting this for years.  

These are same people who shrug off the 350,000+ deaths from a pandemic and a tragically bungled response. Nearly 4,000 died yesterday while the first coup attempt took place.

They are the same people who probably think that this is all over now, that the worst is past. 

It isn’t. Not even close to being over.

Yesterday’s insurrectionists aren’t going to fold up their tents and simply go back home. They are emboldened by the ease with which they broke through the lax defenses of the Capitol. No, they are just getting started. Four died yesterday and no doubt more will die in the coming days. Maybe in the Capitol, maybe in a statehouse or a local courthouse. 

But it won’t be over until these treasonous traitors face real consequences.

And for what? Ridiculous conspiracies perpetrated by political wolves who know the reality of it but are willing to spin webs of falsehoods and disinformation in order to further their own ambitions? To die for a man who loves nothing but himself? What do they really think they are gaining?

These brainwashed fools are in a death cult that has them thinking they are dying for America when in fact they are dying only for Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is not worth dying for. 

He is not in any way worthy of that.

He is only deserving of our scorn and our hatred.

He, along with his enablers and apologists, certainly has mine.

I am going to just look at the painting before I say something better left unsaid.

Be careful out there.

 

 

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Voice of America

 

Jasper Johns- “Flag”



America

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

–Walt Whitman



I am on the road for the first time in many months, taking some paintings out to my good friends at the Kada Gallery in Erie. It’s such a familiar thing, something I’ve done for close to 25 years, but it feels a bit strange and disjointed in this oddest of odd years. But yesterday provided a bit of balm in the form of the clarity and assuredness finally provided in our national election.

It will certainly make for a much better ride this morning knowing that the voices of America– closing in on 80 million– rose up against a president*** who aligned himself and his party with the uglier aspects of this country–white supremacy, the belittling of science and knowledge, an outright hatred towards the others of this world, a burning need for retribution, Machiavellian evangelism, and an unrivaled sense of selfishness. The party, as he led it, transformed itself into one of outright racism, voter suppression and an anti-democratic vision for the future.

There was never an attempt to appeal to the better qualities that we have always felt exemplified us– our openness, our generosity, our protective sense of others, our desire to do and be better, and so many other positive attributes. These are things that we have long sought as a nation and have often come up short. But, even so, they have always remained the goal. 

Until this administration. It only responded to our darker side and turned a deaf ear towards the voices of the many.

Yesterday confirmed the strength and number of those voices and it appears that his failed term will soon come to an end.  The words Uncle Walt wrote above so many years ago seem possible once more.

A dark chapter may finally close. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over so keep your ears and eyes open.

Gotta go. Have a good day and be careful out there– I’m on the road.

Here’s some Simon and Garfunkel just for the appropriate atmosphere.



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Wretched

 


Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.

-Pope Francis


I am not going to talk about the two competing town halls that took place last night. If you watched, you were able to clearly witness the contrast in tone and substance between the two candidates. One calmly discussed policy with facts and details while the other raged, whined, make incoherent statements and lied many, many times. As he always does. You don’t need my input beyond that.

But I have to mention the first news item I saw this morning upon coming into the studio. It concerned a request for federal disaster relief from the state of California for the record-setting wildfires taking place there, much of it on federal lands.

This administration of this president*** denied the request without comment or note. 

Now, this can only be interpreted as an act of vindictiveness aimed at hurting a state whose voters he knows will not choose him in November. It is as clear an act of dereliction of duty as one can witness. Rather than acting as the caretaker for all the citizens of this nation, he** picks winners and losers, punishing those who don’t show proper deference to his regal fat ass.

We saw this through the early days of the pandemic when he and his gang decided that the plan they had devised to combat the situation could be thrown aside because the virus was only really hurting the Blue Democratic states at that time. In their infinite wisdom, they somehow didn’t understand how a pandemic works, that it wouldn’t be contained in geographic blocks.

Especially with no plan of action. Especially without meaningful and comprehensive action.

This story about denying this request for disaster relief won’t get much air. In the chaos in which this creature** exists, a lot of atrocity goes by the wayside and gets completely overlooked. But make no mistake, this is an atrocity. A punishment for the citizens of California that will be repeated time and time again against those who he** feels aggrieved.

It’s California this time. Next time it could be your state, county or city. Or your business, school or organization. In his twisted mind, you are either with him or against him. 

I would like to say he rewards those loyal to him but there is little reward with him. Oh, there’s always a promise of a great payoff coming just a short time in the future, usually two weeks, kind of like that incredible, super duper healthcare plan that has been promised to the American public for the past four years. 

But there’s never a payoff, never a reward that is fulfilled. He treats his loyalists and the rest of us like the contractors that he would beat down on price or terms as a real estate developer.

He is always just trying to buy two more weeks. without having to do anything or spend any capital of his own.

So, if you’re with him, you get little to nothing. If you’re against him, you get less than that. 

Pope Francis was right: Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.

And this creature** is surely wretched.

On November 3, let’s put that poor wretched beast out of its misery. 

Or should I say, out of our misery.

Hey, now get out there and have a great day!

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It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .

–The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald


I came across the bit above and immediately knew that I was going to use it to illustrate the effect of the current president***, someone who has crashed every aspect of his  life with reckless abandon and carelessness. He always leaves behind a trail of destruction — and now, death– in his wake and like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, lets other people clean up the mess he has made.

This sense of hubris and selfishness was in clear focus yesterday as the covid-19 virus swept through their ranks, finally taking hold in the Oval Office.

He** and those around him have known the risks longer than any of us, even as they tried to downplay the danger of it as over 210,000 Americans died from it in a little over 6 months. They have been told by the highest authorities how to best combat the spread of this virus. They have incredible access to information and resources– medical equipment, testing, doctors and treatments– that would be unavailable to almost all of us. They have the ability to control their environment and reduce risk factors in a way most of us cannot.

Yet, with all of this, they practically thumbed their nose at it all. They refused to wear masks. Refused to stop gathering in groups or maintain any social distancing. Many refuse to quarantine properly. And with the virus running through their ranks, they continued to go out among the voters.

The sheer selfish disregard for others and the willingness with which they put others in peril is astonishing.

As one Secret Service agent who has put their lives on the line in protecting this person** stated, “He’s never cared about us.”

That’s a quote that should remain in the minds of the voters when they go to their polling places or mark their mail-in vote.

He’s never cared about us.”

Like Tom and Daisy and others like them, he** only sees people as resources to be used for his own benefit and pleasure.

Folks are seen as either as steps to climb up or obstacles to be kicked out of the way.

Kindling to be burnt to keep him warm.

So, as he** remains in Walter Reed getting better care than any of us could ever expect, excuse me if I don’t show a great deal of compassion for his plight. If our situations were reversed, he wouldn’t go out one inch out of his way to express concern.

If I were on fire on the side of the road, he** wouldn’t stop to piss on me to put it out. That is, unless there was something in it for him.

And you know why? 

He’s never cared about us.”

So, don’t ask me to care about his health now.


Maybe that sounds a little bitter this morning. Well, it probably is. My dad’s death and how our response to it has been tempered by the virus, the sheer folly of the covid outbreak at the white house, the recent surge of covid cases in my local area– these things and so many more have me a little on edge. Plus, the first thing I saw this morning was an announcement of the death of my greatest childhood hero, Bob Gibson, at age 84.

A legendary pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Gibby was it for me. He was always the toughest guy out there on any field, a smoldering force whose competitive fire bordered on sheer hostility toward any opponent. With Gibby, it wasn’t that you were trying to best him a game. It was more like you were trying to take something from him. Every inning was an existential exercise. And he most often prevailed. He was so dominating as a pitcher that baseball changed the mound height because they felt the hitters needed help since he was practically unhittable.  I read his early autobiography, From Ghetto to Glory, numerous times and that made him an even bigger hero to me. He was eloquent and college-educated, a rarity for ballplayers of that era, and his story was compelling. He spoke out about issues of the day with intelligence and passion, like two of my other great childhood heroes, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali.

And as the case with these three, Bob Gibson remains a hero.

Rest in Peace, Gibby. And say Hey! to my dad if you see him around. He’s new there, as well.

Have a good day.

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Dad

 

My dad passed away last night.

Please don’t send messages of sympathy. They are not required or expected. Instead, do something decent for someone you love and let them know you care. That will do much more for the world and yourself than sending me a message. I will be happier knowing you did that.

We are, of course, saddened. But more than that, we are relieved that his suffering here is at an end. These last several months have been a real ordeal for him. And for us in that we weren’t able to visit or truly witness his condition’s progress.

His skin cancer had metastasized and he was experiencing a horrible infection on the side of his head. I asked for photos of his head last week and the nursing facility hesitatingly forwarded them to me with a warning to brace myself.

They were right as I actually gasped and said Oh, my god! when I opened the photo. It was a horrifying sight made all the more awful by the fact that it was on someone I loved. It was like looking at an autopsy photo of a family member.

I only describe it now so that you can understand when I say that we are somewhat relieved. Nobody wants their loved ones to endure such agony, such indignity, especially as his dementia clouded his perception of what was happening to him. It was the best outcome in the minute.

We saw him one last time the other day, all masked up and trying to protect ourselves as best we could from the covid 19 virus that had recently been identified on his very floor, making it a de facto quarantine unit. That sense of contamination along with his deeply medicated condition made for a sad goodbye.

For now, that is the image of him I will carry. Hopefully only a short while. I would rather remember him in more vibrant times like the photo above.

Here’s a post that I have ran a few times about that photo followed by a song that he often sang when I was in the car with him as a kid. He would laugh at it now as he did then. He liked to laugh and could say some pretty funny things. I can still hear him interjecting a Hey! at the end of every line of the chorus of this song.

So, don’t be sad at my own sadness. Have a drink today, eat a nice meal, hug your kids, and do something good for someone else.

That’s so much better than being sad or worried or fearful. Rest in peace, Pops.

The photo above is a photo from back in 1963 or 64. We were living in an old farmhouse on Wilawanna Road, outside Elmira, just on the NY side of the border with Pennsylvania. You could walk over the hill behind our house and be in Pennsylvania. It’s a place that played a large part in my formative years.

We had a large chunk of yard to one side of the house that became a ballfield, a place where many of the kids on our road came to play baseball regularly and where Dad would often pitch to us or hit soaring fungoes that we would run under, pretending to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Dad is standing near home plate in this photo. That’s my brother, Charlie ( Chuckie back then), in the background.

I love this photo. When I think of images of my father this one is always first in line in my head. It was a Sunday morning, Easter if I am not mistaken but time has fuzzed that detail a bit.

It show my father at about 30 or so years of age, as strong and powerful as I would ever know him. I was four or five years old and he was larger than life to me then, could do no wrong. My protector, my boon companion, and still my hero at that point. This view of him sums that all up.

The pose has a bit of the pride and arrogance of youth in it, still brimming with the what-if’s and what-can-be’s of potential. It’s not something you’re used to seeing in your parents and witnessing it is like seeing a secret glimpse of them, a side you know must have been there but remains hidden from you in your day to day life with your parents. Maybe that’s why I like this picture so much. It seems like a marking point between his youth and ours, his kids.

I don’t know. Like many personal things, it’s hard to explain. All I know is that when I see my Dad in my mind now, the image of this photo is never far from my mind.

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