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Three Sheets

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Three Sheets– Now at the Principle Gallery

Now I’m aimin’ for heaven
But probably wind up down in hell
Where upon this altar I will hang my guilt ridden head
But it’s time I’ll take before I begin
Three sheets to the wind, three sheets to the wind
Yeah, it’s time, I’ll take before I begin
Three sheets to the wind, three sheets to the wind

Genuflect all you refugees who fled the land
Now on guilt you kneel
And say a prayer for those left behind
From beyond the pale to the northern sky
So you saved your shillins and your last six pence
‘Cause in god’s name they built a barbed wire fence
Be glad you sailed for a better day
But don’t forget there’ll be hell to pay

Rebels are we, though heavy our hearts shall always be
Ah, no ball or chain no prison shall keep
We’re the rebels of the sacred heart
I said no ball or chain no prison shall keep
We’re the rebels of the sacred heart

Rebels of the Sacred Heart, Flogging Molly

I call this new small piece, an 8″ by 8″ painting on wood panel, Three Sheets. It is included in the Small Works show currently up at the Principle Gallery

I have pointed out before that I am not a sailor nor do I have any knowledge of sailing terms, etc. So, when I was working on this piece that had three sails, I thought I’d title it Three Sheets, wanting to play off the term three sheets to the wind which is used to describe a state of roaring drunkenness. I am more familiar with that subject than with sailing.

But I was also thinking that sails were also called sheets. Made sense to me. Three sails, three sheets, right? 


A sheet, I found out, is the cord that controls the tension on the sail. When the sheet is loosened, it allows the sail to fill out and catch all the available wind. The term three sheets to the winds comes when a three sailed ship with sheets released is on a stormy sea. The ship pitches and rolls and anyone on the deck would stumble about, back and forth. The term came to be used to describe staggering drunkards– on land or sea– who tottered to and fro like they were on a rolling ship. 

I probably don’t have that completely right but I am okay with that. I like this painting the more I see it, particularly the colors and forms of the waves. There’s something in this piece about keeping one’s balance while still letting it fly that I find attractive. I guess that could apply to sailing or drinking or just living your life.You might call it derring-do or reckless abandon. Sometimes you have to let the sheets go and ride it out.

Here’s a song, Rebels of the Scared Heart, from Flogging Molly, an Irish-American Celtic punk band that has been around since the 90’s. The song – there are a few applicable verses at the top- has a sort of sea shanty feel combined with a sound that feels Clash-like to me. Energetic.

Good way to kick off the day– three sheets to the wind!

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Whose Planet?

Jupiter via James Webb Telescope

Jupiter – James Webb Telescope

As soon as somebody demonstrates the art of flying, settlers from our species of man will not be lacking on the moon and Jupiter… Given ships or sails adapted to the breezes of heaven, there will be those who will not shrink from even that vast expanse.

Johannes Kepler, Kepler’s Conversation with Galileo’s Sidereal messenger, 1610

The image above of the planet Jupiter was produced by the NASA‘s powerful James Webb Space Telescope earlier this year. I am not a space junkie and have no interest in being blasted into the vast expanses of space to attempt to settle on a planet with an environment that is totally hostile in all ways to our existence– the environment on our home planet is hostile enough, thank you!— but I could stare at this image for hours.

To me, it feels like someone took the totality of all Van Gogh’s paintings, beliefs, thoughts, and unfulfilled artistic desires and created a visual representation of those things as whole.

It is big and bold and both inner-worldly and other-worldly. Magnificent.

As an artist, it is an image that is both inspiring and humbling. It creates a far-flung goal that covers such an imposing range of new inspirations and aspirations that you know you will never reach it. 

And that’s probably how many would-be space explorers feel looking at this same image. It offers so much new to see, to examine and experience yet they know they will never reach that planet or anywhere like it in their lifetimes.

Yet that knowledge doesn’t stop either space explorer or artist from attempting the journey. 

Thinking of this image as a representation of Van Gogh and his work in totality also makes me wonder what our own planets might look like. Would it have anything approaching the beauty and power of Jupiter’s surface? Or the relative tranquility of Earth’s? Would it be comprised of rich blues and greens in spirals and clouds? Or would it be reds and purples in slashing storm fronts? 

I don’t know that I can say how my own planet might appear. Hopefully, it would be inviting, would feel like some form of home. But who knows? It is still being developed, still taking shape. 

In the meantime, Jupiter can stand in as an adequate substitute until mine is fully formed.


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Cowardly Lions

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It was as though, so long as the deceit ran along quiet and monotonous, all of us let ourselves be deceived, abetting it unawares or maybe through cowardice, since all people are cowards and naturally prefer any kind of treachery because it has a bland outside.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Just leaving this here this morning in tribute to the new, though temporary, bottom the GOP has created with their cowardice in standing up to the former president** when he demanded this past week that the Constitution be trashed and that he be inserted as sitting president.

It was the irresponsible and unhinged crazy talk of a desperate creature. 

And as was expected, hardly a word was raised by the GOP to put a sliver of distance between this dangerous demand and themselves.

Just sheer and absolute moral cowardice. Faulkner was probably right, that it is easier and more natural for us to be cowards. But is it even cowardice when you have no examples of courage from them with which to compare? 

You know, I can accept singular acts of cowardice. I know what it’s like to be cowardly. Been there, done that all too many times in my life. Sometimes it is an act of survival and sometimes it again goes back to the words of Faulkner, that is naturally easy and expedient. 

But at some point, as you sink towards the bottom of the abyss, you have to dig in your heels, muster whatever courage you can, and say, “Enough is enough.” 

It’s at that point that you know you’ve reached the bottom and can begin to climb out.

But these guys, natural cowards all of them, may not even know they’re in freefall so I have no doubt they soon find themselves at an even lower, more unfathomable level before this whole thing is over. The bottom is still not there.

Here’s a little tune for all these would-be kings of the forest. I hesitate a bit in doing so because I like the Cowardly Lion though maybe that is because he did finally find courage. I have grave doubts whether that is in these guys’ futures.

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All You Have Is Your Soul

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Color Rising – At the Principle Gallery

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.

–Charles Dudley Warner, The Relation of Literature to Life, 1896

After arriving early this morning and after feeding the trio of feral cats in the garage and Hobo here in the studio, I began listening to music. That’s usually what I do on Sunday mornings as I try to pick out a song for my weekly song selection. I went through a lot of songs on YouTube quickly and nothing hit just right for me. Then I noticed the name Tracy Chapman and instantly knew that she was what I had been seeking this morning.

I chose a favorite one of her songs, one that I had listened to regularly when it first was released in the late 1980’s, All That You Have Is Your Soul. For some reason, it had slipped off my regular playlist and hearing it again raised all sorts of feelings and thoughts, both from that time and now. It’s that kind of song.

Trying to come up with a piece of art to pair with it, I scanned through some new pieces that are at the Principle Gallery. Several would have worked adequately but when my eyes fell on the one at the top, Color Rising, while the song played, I knew I had a match. It was like two gears meshing for me.

There was something in the gray tones of the composition and the bits of color in the Red Tree and the rising sun/moon that spoke to me. The meaning that came across to me was that as we go through this journey of life, in the end all we have is our self and the character we developed during this life.

Not things or conquests or bank balances. No, it was how we acquitted ourselves during the journey. 

How we find ourselves standing in the light, symbolic or otherwise.

It’s a simple message, really. But it’s a simple painting. And sometimes, for meaningful concepts, simplicity works best.

Anyway, here is that Tracy Chapman song, All That You Have Is Your Soul. Good to remember.

Some Extra Info— The author of the short quip at the top, Charles Dudley Warner, was a neighbor and good friend of Mark Twain in Hartford, CT. I didn’t know that he co-wrote The Gilded Age with Twain. That was the book that gave us that term, Gilded Age, for the period of opulence and excess from 1870-1900 when the lords of industry amassed their immense fortunes as the new technology they employed revolutionized — and capitalized on– the lives of the common man. It has been said we have been in a new Gilded Age for the past thirty years, with staggering fortunes made on the new digital technology that again both revolutionizes and capitalizes on the average man. I. personally hope this new Gilded Age is near an end and some balance is restored.

But in the meantime, I still have my soul…

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One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.

–Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

Today is the last day to see my show of new work, Places of Peace, that is hanging at the Kada Gallery in Erie, PA. Just a short few hours to get in and see the show in its entirety. I offer up many thanks to Doug and Anne and the others at the gallery, as well as to those of you who have already made it in to see the show. 

As it is with the endings of so many things, exhibits included, one is left to wonder how quickly the time passes before the ending arrives. 

Sounds like a cue.

Maybe we should play a well known Sandy Denny song called Who Knows Where the Time Goes?  Sandy Denny, for those of you who don’t know the name, was a tremendously talented British singer/songwriter, who has long been hailed as being “the pre-eminent British folk rock singer.” She fronted Fairport Convention for a while, alongside pone of my favorites, Richard Thompson, and was the only guest singer to ever appear on a Led Zeppelin recording, The Battle of Evermore. 

But she had bouts of depression along with alcohol and drug issues that often caused her physical injury. In late March of 1978, she suffered a fall where she banged her head on concrete. Soon after, she began to experience severe headaches. On April 1, she made her last public appearance with Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, a song she wrote while still a teenager, being the last song she ever sang in public.

She died in June of 1978 at the age of 31. 

Her wistful song on the passing of time seems like a fitting one to mark the end of this show.

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The Knowing Light

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The Knowing Light– At Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA

The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.

–William Saroyan

Looking at the new painting shown here on the right, The Knowing Light that is now at the Principle Gallery, I was reminded of the quote above from the late dramatist William Saroyan. I thought a post from 2015 on that quote might fit with this painting as well.

From 2015:

This quote from William Saroyan caught me off guard when I came across it, mainly because it captured in a few words the lesson I had finally gleaned from years of seeking this elusive beast called happiness. And a beast it was, a creature out of mythology. I had made it into a thing that had special powers and was like the Abominable Snowman— rumored to exist but seldom seen.

I discovered over time that this was a mistake.

I was picturing happiness as a once in a life thing, some sort of peak moment, when it was, in fact, just a small part of our being human. The key in Saroyan’s short quote is the word knowing. Once we begin to know who and what we are and are not, the need for peak moments subsides as we understand that there is a sort of happiness in the smaller moments of simply being. It is not a gleeful, heart-pounding joy but a comfortable warm glow and an inner sense of satisfaction that often comes to you at what seems to be the most mundane of moments.

Stopping just now and looking out my studio window, for example. A light snow is falling almost in time to Paul Desmond’s sax that is mingling with Dave Brubeck’s piano, and I sip my coffee. It is gray and almost gloomy, but I feel this glow, this satisfaction in the moment. It is not happiness as most might define the word. It is just a moment of knowing that I exist in the world, that I am here to bear witness to the small wonders that take place around me in my small corner of the universe.

And that’s good enough.

I didn’t include the music in the original blog post and can’t remember exactly what song was playing. But here’s a bit of that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond magic, Brubeck’s Japan-inspired composition, Koto Song. It has a grace and elegance in its simplicity. Listening with my coffee in hand, I realize that it’s still good enough just being here now, happy in the knowledge that I don’t require happiness.

That’s saying something…

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GC Myers- Calidum Frigus

Calidum Frigus– At Kada Gallery

December is a month that is rife with nostalgia. If there’s anything deep in your heart that you want to keep buried, you can count on December to bring it to the surface.

–Lois Duncan, Don’t Look Behind You (1989)

Fittingly, there was a dusting of snow on the walkway as I left the house this morning. It’s December, after all. We’ve been spared the brunt of the early seasonal snowstorms that walloped our neighbors to the west and north of us with multiple feet of the white stuff. But we will inevitably get ours though hopefully in more manageable amounts.

I never predict those things dictated by Ma Nature. That’s pure folly. Just take what’s given and make the best of it. At least with snow, when it’s too much you get a spectacular vista in exchange.

Big snow, with the white clinging to the drooping branches of the white pines, is always awe-inspiring here in the woods–until the time it isn’t which is the time the shoveling and plowing begins.

But when the required work is finished, that awe comes back. The crisp and clean white blanket covers everything and all sound is muffled, leaving a sharp stillness that is heaven to behold. The occasional chirp or twitter of a bird rings out like a clarion call in this quiet.

The sheer beauty of it seems like a fair tradeoff for the harshness that we must suffer.

Aaah, it’s December.

Here’s a Norah Jones song about just that subject. And for your information, Lois Duncan, who wrote the excerpt seen at the top, was a writer of children’s books and suspenseful young adult literature. You might know her from I Know What You Did Last Summer from 1973.

Got to go, light is finally breaking and I can see the light dusting on the grounds around the studio. Lovely…

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Dreamchaser– At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria

Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.

–Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3

The words from Neil Gaiman above really strike close to home for me. As I age, I begin to wonder where truth and fantasy intersect in my memories. Are our memories recorded as-is on film, or are they malleable constructions, always shifting and changing due to our biases and needs?

Just something to think about this early morning.

Keeping it short and sweet today, so, to fill out today’s triad, here’s a great version of one of my favorite Roy Orbison songs, In Dreams.

Now, you’re on your own– I got some dreams to chase and memories to build.

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Places of Peace- Last Week

Promo Sheet 4

“All right,” said the [Cheshire] Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Out of the Hermit’s Cave

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Sacred Solitude— Headed to the Principle Gallery

Today the artist has, whether he likes it or not, inherited the combined functions of hermit, pilgrim, prophet, priest, shaman, sorcerer, soothsayer, alchemist, and bonze.

–Thomas Merton, Answers on Art and Freedom, 1985

I am out of the cave today, delivering new work to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for their upcoming annual Small Works show. The painting at the top, Sacred Solitude, an 8″ by 16″ canvas, is part of this group. 

I say cave because my natural affinity toward living and working as a hermit has become more and more pronounced in recent years and doing anything that requires me leaving my home or studio requires what feels like a Herculean effort. The pandemic and its isolating effects certainly accelerated my retreat into full blown hermithood. It gave me an acceptable excuse for not going anywhere.

But my dad’s death also pushed me in that direction in that I no longer made several visits a week to the nursing facility where he lived the last four years of his life. It meant I no longer came in contact the people there, the staff and residents, and no longer had to accompany him on his doctor visits. The past couple of years without that interaction– limited as it was to small talk, smiles, and greetings– took its toll and I find myself often feeling super awkward in the most basic of conversations, sometimes even with folks I know.

Even though hardly anyone around here wears a mask in public, I still wear mine on those rare occasions when I am dragged out of my cave. I think I do this more for the anonymity and the deterrence from folks engaging with me it provides than for its actual viral protective qualities.

I don’t know if this is good or bad. I am sure it appears unhealthy to some. For me, it is a preference, one that I have been slowly bending towards for much of my adult life. As an artist, it has some significant benefits. A life of semi-isolation leads to a natural sense of introspection which lends itself to creating uniquely personal work.

Now, Merton points out at the top that the artist today takes on the mantle of being a hermit, even if doing so unwittingly. I agree with that because good and meaningful work takes much time spent alone. As for the other functions he indicates for the artist, I am less certain. In my eyes, I am none of those things. I might be able to buy into the alchemist label because there are times when the transformation of paint on a surface into something much more than the sum of its parts is remarkable, indeed.

But those things aside, I totally accept the hermit label. And today, the hermit is out of the cave and on the move. I haven’t left yet and already I am wishing I were back in my hermit’s studio in the woods.

Soon enough…

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the bonze ending Merton’s passage is a Japanese or Chinese Buddhist monk. Again, not me.


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