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GC Myers- Viva Nox (The Vivid Night) sm

Viva Nox (The Vivid Night) — At the Principle Gallery

If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

If You Come Softly, Audre Lorde, 1968

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) carried a lot of labels throughout her relatively short life– American writer, poet, womanist, radical feminist, professor, and civil rights activist. She even described herself with a list–“black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, poet.

She had a lot of facets in her prism. Like most of us

And no doubt that prism was also filled with contradictions. Like most of us.

She even admitted her contradictions in an interview, along with why one must cope with them: Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.

It’s this sense of multiple identities, meanings, and contradiction that attract me to much of my favorite art, literature and music. It certainly attracted me to one of Audre Lorde’s poems, If You Come Softly, whose opening verse is shown above. It is one her better-known poems and inspired a popular novel of the same title for young adults from celebrated author Jacqueline Woodson.

The most obvious reading of the poem, which is shown fully below, is of one lover speaking to another. But it also could be about communication between friends, generations, one’s past and present self or many other scenarios. For me, I read it as an artist speaking to a viewer about the conversation that takes place between art and those who take it in.

You might not see it that way and might have your take that diverges wildly from mine. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a short poem, so take a moment and see how it reads to you. There is also a  song, Night Comes On, below from Leonard Cohen, another artist with many facets and contradictions. Probably why I like his work as much as I do.

If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

If you come as lightly
As threading dew
I will take you gladly
Nor ask more of you.

You may sit beside me
Silent as a breath
Only those who stay dead
Shall remember death.

And if you come I will be silent
Nor speak harsh words to you.
I will not ask you why now.
Or how, or what you do.

We shall sit here, softly
Beneath two different years
And the rich between us
Shall drink our tears.

–Audre Lorde

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Blood Memory

GC Myers- Blood Memory, 2023

Blood Memory, 2023

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man’s lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?

–Cicero, 46 BCE

I call this new smaller painting Blood Memory. It started as an experiment with the crimson color that makes up the foreground of this piece. I wasn’t sure where it would go or what it might bring to mind. I just wanted to see how dense I could make the color at first.

But once it was in place it took on its own narrative, ending us as the base for what appears to be a simple composition.

Simply composed but not with a simple meaning or simply explained.

That red spoke to me of memory. No, not the easily recalled memories of our childhood or youth. Something deeper than that. The memory written in our blood. Those memories that that have been passed down through time to us in forms we might not even recognize.

I used the term Blood Memory for this piece but knew nothing of the meaning or usage of this term. I decided I had better research it so that I wasn’t unknowingly linking this piece to some repugnant ideology.

Turns out that the term came into use after it appeared in the Pulitzer Prize winning 1968 novel, House Made of Dawn, from N. Scott Momaday. Considered a breakthrough in Native American literature, the book describes in fictional form events from Momaday’s time growing up on the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico. There is a part in it where the Priest of the Sun delivers a sermon speaking of his Kiowa grandmother, who is said to have “lived out her long life in the shadow of Rainy Mountain, the immense landscape of the continental interior,” and “all of its seasons and its sounds—lay like memory in her blood. She could tell of the Crows, whom she had never seen, and of the Black Hills, where she had never been.”

It is memory written in our DNA, handed down generationally, rather those memories we experience firsthand.

There’s a lot more to say about the concept of blood memory especially as it pertains to the Native American people. It has become a symbol for their struggle to maintain their cultural identity in the face of a historic systemic effort to erase it.  I can’t speak with any real knowledge as it is still a fresh concept to me but I urge you to do your own research.

After my short bit of research, I felt that the term still worked well for this painting, still evoked that sense of a deep memory that we somehow recognize even though we know we haven’t experienced it for ourselves. The feeling of memory that connects us to our distant past, one that shows that we are woven into the fabric of our family history–our personal family and our extended human family.

Okay, here’s a favorite song from Nirvana, Come As You Are. I am not sure why but, for me, it seems to fit for this morning’s post.

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GC Myers- Still, The Earth Moves

Still, The Earth Moves— At Kada Gallery, Erie, PA

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

–Delmore Schwartz, Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day, 1938

Nothing to say this Sunday morning. Certainly nothing that hasn’t been said a million times before by a million different people in a million different places on a million different mornings just like this one.

And that’s okay. If it was good stuff then, it’s probably good stuff now.

Maybe we need to keep saying those same things over and over until they no longer need to be said. To the point where they become enmeshed in of our genetic makeup and no longer appear as a new revelation each time they are heard.

But until that happens, we’ll keep saying things over and over and the world will continue going around.

For the record, poet Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966) had great influence on Lou Reed among many other poets and musicians, including writer Saul Bellow, who based his award-winning novel Humboldt’s Gift on his relationship with Schwartz, who had been his mentor..

Guess I better get to this week’s Sunday Morning Music before the world spins past this moment. This is Bill Withers and his World Keeps Going Around, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in October of 1972. Over fifty years of the world turning around since that performance.

Good stuff then, good stuff now.

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Georges Braque- Still Life with Pitchers, 1932

There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain.

Georges Braque

The quote above from artist Georges Braque (1882-1963) has been a sort of mantra of mine for most of my career. It was used as the header for the first artist statement that I ever wrote about my work and has hung tight with me since that time. It concisely expressed everything I felt about my work or any work by others that moved me, that there was something beyond explanation, analysis, or rationalization that gave the work life, that gave it meaning.

A truth or reality beneath the surface.

I recently came across a more complete version of the quote, taken from an interview that Braque gave in 1957:

The only valid thing in art is that which cannot be explained. To explain away the mystery of a great painting – if such a feat were possible – would be irreparable harm… If there is no mystery than there is no ‘poetry’, the quality I value above all else in art. What do I mean by ‘poetry’? It is to a painting what life is to man… For me it is a matter of harmony, of rapports, of rhythm and – most important for my own work – of ‘metamorphosis’

I got to say, the longer version is just as compelling to me as the more concise version I’ve known for the past few decades. In fact, one line can stand alone on its own: If there is no mystery than there is no ‘poetry’, the quality I value above all else in art.

It is often easy to list the things we like or dislike in a piece of art, but that never really gives a full accounting of how we react to the work. Or how the work interacts with us.

I have often felt an immediate attraction to a piece of work and can’t fully explain why I feel that way. And I find that I prefer it that way. I don’t need to know why anymore. I could spend a lot of time analyzing the parts of the work– the subject matter, the materials, and the techniques employed.

But it never fully comes down to one thing. There is always something beyond what I think I see that attracts me. It is the mystery, the poetry of the work. The true reality of what is being shown to me.

Or as Braque also stated: Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry.


 One of the founders and stars of the Cubist movement, Braque also made his mark in other areas of painting– Impressionism, Fauvism and Expressionism. Yet, even in whatever era he painted, his work was unmistakably his own. A remarkable career. 

Let’s look at some of Braque’s work starting with a slideshow set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, better known as the Elvira Madigan concerto.


George Braque The Large TreesBraque Still Life with MetronomeGeorges Braque - The Black FishGeorges_Braque,_1906,_L'Olivier_près_de_l'Estaque_(The_Olive_tree_near_l'Estaque)Georges Braque man-with-guitar-1912Braque landscape CubismBraque Fruit and Pitcher 1927Georges-Braque-Still-life-with-clarinet-Georges Braquegeorges_braque_pejzaz_z_estaque

Artist Georges Braques in Paris studio 1948

Artist Georges Braques in Paris studio 1948

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Paul Henry- The Fairy Thorn, 1936

When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.

― Edna O’Brien

I thought since this was St. Patrick’s Day that I would feature an Irish painter. There are a couple of obvious choices– Francis Bacon and Jack Butler Yeats, for example– but I chose Paul Henry, who spent his life painting his native Ireland from 1877 until 1958. He was perhaps the best-known painter in Ireland through the first half of the 20th century though many of us here in the States may not recognize the name.

You will however recognize the familiarity of his landscapes, most set in the west of Ireland in the Connemara district, an area described by Oscar Wilde as “a savage beauty.”  For many, Henry’s landscapes represent the idealized image of the Irish countryside with simple white cottages set among stark, barren hills and rolling green fields. But his greens are not that bright Kelly green so often used in depicting Ireland. No, Henry often chose blue and brown tints in his work.  He used a very distinct and deceptively cool palette in his painting which enhances the earthy coolness and solitary nature of the landscapes.

So, even if you haven’t even a wee bit of Irish blood, I hope you will enjoy these images of Eire. Here’s a song I like very much from Ireland’s own Lisa Hannigan recorded in a pub on the Dingle peninsula of Ireland. Might not be one of those songs you normally hear on this day but it’s as Irish as any of them.

{This post is from several years ago but has been embellished with the Edna O’Brien quote and the Lisa Hannigan song.}

Paul HenryPaul Henry The Fishing Fleet Galway

(c) Queen's University, Belfast; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Paul Henry Killary BayPaul Henry A Farm in County DownPaul Henry A Connemara Village 1933-34Paul Henry - Connemara Landscape

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Dorothea Lange On the Road to Los Angeles, California. March 1937

Dorothea Lange- On the Road to Los Angeles, California – March 1937

To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

I am a fan of the photos of Dorothea Lange. Her work very much captured the spirit and suffering of the Great Depression, giving identity to the disenfranchised masses. People on the brink. When I think of that era, it is her photos along with the imagery of John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath that come to mind. I am not sure but would bet that the look and feel of Ford’s film was influenced by Lange’s work.

I was very open to her take on what an artist–  in her case, a photographer– might be seeking with their work. I’ve written a lot here over the years about searching for something in my work but what that thing is, quite honestly, I don’t exactly know.  I know that it is not something I can find without releasing a lot of myself including my fears and preconceptions.

Lange’s idea of preconceptions being limiting is one that rings very true to me, coinciding with my constant chorus that painting is best done without thought, without having an idea of where it might end up. Preconceptions create expectations and these too are limiting. The best work often comes when there are no expectations and no idea of what I am trying to accomplish.

Well, it holds true for my painting, at least. Whenever I attempt a concept that seems fully fleshed out in my mind, it seldom, if ever, comes close to what I saw in my mind. These pieces are devoid of life, non-reactive with a feeling of being fully contrived. They feel worked and fake.

This comes from basing it on what I think I want to see rather than letting things just flow and go.

Flow and go.

That’s when new things appear in the work that my feeble mind could never preconceive.

It is, as Lange said, because our preconceptions are limiting and often false.  

Her idea (and mine, I suppose) of searching is so devoid of planning or purpose that it somewhat reminds me of Picasso‘s thoughts on searching: 

 I have never had time for the idea of searching. Whenever I wanted to express something, I did so without thinking of the past or the future.

They both sort of say the same thing but in differing ways– flow and go.

And I concur. 

This post ran back in 2015. I updated it a bit along with adding more of Lange’s photos and the song below from Talking Heads. The song is Road to Nowhere which pairs up with the Lange photo at the top. Plus it’s just a good song and the video is a fine example of 1980’s music videos. An artform in itself.

Dorothea Lange Dust Bowl Farm Dalhart Texas

Dorothea Lange- Dust Bowl Farm, Dalhart, Texas

Dorothea Lange  Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange-  Flag  at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Flag at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- 1936 Daughter of a Migrant Coal Miner

Dorothea Lange- Daughter of a Migrant Coal Miner, 1936

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson  Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson at Manzanar CA Camp


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GC Myers- Faraway Near sm

Faraway Near– At West End Gallery

A habit of finding pleasure in thought rather than action is a safeguard against unwisdom and excessive love of power, a means of preserving serenity in misfortune and peace of mind among worries. A life confined to what is personal is likely, sooner or later, to become unbearably painful; it is only by windows into a larger and less fretful cosmos that the more tragic parts of life become endurable.

Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays, 1935

Been thinking about the importance of idle time in my work, about how taking time to read, look, and listen allows for a wider scope and range in the work. It serves as both a form of research into and a connection to, as Bertrand Russell puts it above, a larger and less fretful cosmos.

Maybe I am just looking for an excuse for the time I spend not painting here in the studio or the time spent writing this blog. I don’t know. I am sometimes disappointed in how little writing often appears in this blog in comparison to the amount of time spent researching the subject of those blog entries. For example, I’ve already spent about an hour and a half this morning on this post with little to show. But during that time I read up on several other subjects and read much more of Russell’s essay than the brief excerpt at the top.

Ultimately, I chose not to focus on those other subjects but each pushed me toward this particular subject. And the research done, while not showing up here, is not lost effort. I learned new things that might show up here later in another form. I am sure it will somehow manifest itself in my work in some way.

It is in this way that idleness — reading, looking and listening– has real value.

Like I said, I read this now and it seems so little for what was behind it. I am a little disappointed but it has actually been a fruitful effort.

So. let’s wrap it up with a bow in the form of a song, Idle Wind, from the Tedeschi Trucks Band. After all, it was part of today’s research.

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Picasso/ Making Do

Pablo Picasso harlequin-with-glass 1905

Pablo Picasso- Harlequin with Glass, 1905

How often have I found that wanting to use blue, I didn’t have it so I used a red instead of the blue.

–Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is probably the most quoted of artists, though many things are mistakenly attributed to him. It’s a case that if it sounds interesting and you’re not sure who might have said it, you credit him or Shakespeare or Lincoln or some other iconic and highly quotable figure.

But I have a feeling that the quote I chose here today is actually his. I can’t see Lincoln saying it.

I certainly know the circumstance to which he refers.

Been there, done that.

In a pinch, you just make do with what you have because you can’t always wait until you have perfect conditions, all the materials you desire and a moment of inspiration are in complete alignment. Sometimes inspiration is there and you don’t have what you would ideally want to use but you still want to make that mark.

A number of years back, I was having some real back problems. I had to that point always painted in a standing position but the pain forced me to sit. I found that there were points where I would reach for a color that I would normally use in certain instances and find it out of reach, often on the other side of the studio. Instead of straining out of my seat and limping to get it, I would take whatever was within my reach and try to either attempt to replicate the color or completely substitute another color.

In many ways, it was a good experience. Certainly a learning one. Where I had used reds before, there were sometimes blues or greens. Turquoise tended to turn to purples and maroons.

Because my work doesn’t depend on accuracy in depicting natural color, it actually stretched the work a bit more. It also reinforced that idea that one must make do with what one has at hand. It’s something I have often tried to impress on young artists, that they should never use not having everything they think they need to start as an excuse to not start.

If they have a real creative urge, then they will make do, they will find a way.

The results may exceed what their mind had imagined.

The above is a post from about 5 years back. I was reminded of it at a recent opening when I was asked about my process. The person asked how many brushes I employed on a particular painting. They were surprised when I told them it was one or two larger brushes for most of the painting and a smaller brush for the details that finished off the piece. This idea of making do with what is at hand has influenced my process in many ways, including my brush selection. Sometimes, I just don’t have the exact brush I might want at hand so being able to work with what is at hand become important.

I usually start a period of painting with a couple of new fresh brushes and stick with them until they are beyond use. Usually only a couple of weeks because I am pretty hard on my brushes. But in the time that they are in the rotation, I become accustomed to each brush as it wears down. I notice how each takes on a unique quality in its way of making marks which allows wider use of the brush. That’s important to me because it means I can do things on the surface of the painting without having to stop to move to another brush. Plus, the marks made by using the brush in different ways is often more interesting to me. It often feels a bit rougher and more organic, adding a dimension to the depth of the surface.

It’s a small thing but it keeps the work constantly flowing which is what making do is really about. Well, that and the surprises and changes that occur when having to use colors and brushes in different ways. A lot of the evolution of my work over the years has come about from making do, of having to figure out how to do things in with different tools and materials.

Life or art seldom occurs under perfect conditions. We have to make do. And that is where beauty often shows itself.

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GC Myers- Light and Wisdom sm 2023

Light and Wisdom– GC Myers

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order… it is the continuous thread of revelation.

–Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings, 1984

Things are going pretty well in the studio in recent days, at least as I see it at the moment. I am feverishly following a thread– or maybe it would be better to say riding a wave– and I am finding the work very much satisfying. It is doing what I hoped it might, at least in my eyes. For me, it serves, like the Eudora Welty phrasing above, as a continuous thread of revelation.

If it does the same for anyone else is still up in the air. Only time will tell.

And even then, time is relative. What seems like a long time for the impatient artist might be a tiny blip in the lifespan of the work. It often takes more time than expected for the true meaning or emotional value of a piece of art to reveal itself to others.

Time is always the revelator.

Okay, if you have read this blog with any sort of regularity over the years, you probably recognize that I am just treading water so that I can share one of my favorite songs, Time (The Revelator), from Gillian Welch. It’s a song that feels to me as though it meshes effortlessly with my work. It’s been a few years since I last played it here and I wanted to hear it this morning, so without further ado, here it is.

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Time Miser

GC Myers- Struggle and Will

Struggle and Will– At the West End Gallery

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

–Carl Sandburg, On his 85th Birthday, Jan 6 1963

Time to spring ahead an hour on the clock. This is always a frantic day in this little world of mine that is dictated by my own sense of order. Anything that unduly intrudes or alters my schedule is cause for panic.

Well, maybe not panic. But I do see it as a pain in the butt, shifting my whole schedule forward. Actually, it’s not really shifting anything. I will simply get up an hour later and stay awake an hour later on the clock than I do now.

So, maybe it’s not as big a pain in the butt as I inferred.

It’s really just an adjustment. An hour later of sleep means I will get less done before breakfast, get to my blog a bit later, etc. On the flip side, it will be nice to stay wake past 9 PM.

I pretty much adhere to the advice at the top from poet Carl Sandburg, seeing time as the most valuable asset we have since, unlike other tangible assets like money or gold, it cannot be recovered once it is spent.

As a result, I am somewhat of a time miser. That doesn’t mean I don’t waste time though what might seem like wasting time to you is often vital to what I do. Idling around is a big part of the artistic life. It might even be an artform in itself.

That’s where today leaves me, as a master idler and time miser. And proud of it.

Now get out of here– I’ve spent all the time I have this morning on this foolishness!

For this Sunday Morning Music, here’s an on topic semi-classic from 1996, Time Won’t Let Me, by the Cleveland-based band, The Outsiders.

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