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Working to Potential


GC Myers- Early Work, 1994

He was justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater; for life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped to do.

–Jack London, White Fang

Much distracted lately, I needed a personal reminder that I had to apply myself a bit harder. This post from back in January of 2011might be just what I was looking for. It’s about reaching the furthest potentials of one’s talents and abilities but even if one wishes to attempt to do something for which they believe they have no real talent, it still applies. The hard work they put in will yield real progress and reward them with confidence and lessons that can be applied throughout the other aspects of their life.

From 2011:

I had a nice email from a gentleman who told me about a prize his 16 year old daughter had recently won for a painting she had submitted in a scholastic competition.

I took a look at the piece and responded to him, telling him it was a well done painting, nicely composed with strong lines and color. It was far ahead of anything I was doing at that age, especially by the virtue that it was complete. I could see this young person doing more with their talents in the future. I wrote him back and told him this but with my standard warning, one that I have written about here before: Potential must be actively pursued with constant efforts and a consistent pushing of one’s abilities.

I wrote him to tell him this, to let him know about some of the young talents I have seen come and go because they felt their talent was something that was innately within them and could be turned on and off with the flip of a switch.

I told him to tell her to look at the work required in the way a musician looks at rehearsals. Perhaps even look at their talents as being like those of a musician, talents that need constant exercise in order to stay sharp and strong. For instance, even if you have great innate talent, you can’t expect to play the violin like Itzhak Perlman if you don’t devote your talents in the same way as he does. A great part of his life is in nurturing his abilities.

I always feel like a sourpuss when I’m giving this advice. Nobody wants to hear that they need to work harder. Everyone wants to think that they have this great talent born within them and it will flow like a spigot whenever they so desire.

If only that were true.

I think you will find that those who succeed at the highest levels in any field are those who understand this need to constantly push and work their talents. I’m sure there are exceptions but none come immediately to mind. I wrote about this in a blog post when I first started this, over two years ago. I wrote about something author John Irving had said about his work habits. He saw himself competing as a writer in the same way as he did in his time competing as a wrestler.

To reach the potential as writer required  putting in the same levels of intense effort as those needed to compete as a wrestler or any other athlete on the Olympic level.

Hard work– it’s not glamorous especially in this world of instant gratification but it is a proven entity .

I’m showing the piece above to highlight this. It’s a small painting that I did before I was showing in any galleries, in 1994. At the time, it pleased me very much and I could have very easily kept painting in that style and been pretty happy, without much effort. But there was a little voice in me that kept saying to push ahead and work harder, to see what I could accomplish with greater effort. It became not an end but a stepping stone to move ahead.

That is how I hope this man’s daughter see her painting– as a stepping stone. She may think it is the best thing she has ever done but if she is willing to push ahead and put in the effort, she will look at it someday as a mere step in a journey to reach her true potential.

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Feeding the Dog

GC Myers- Third Stone From the Sun 1994

GC Myers- Third Stone From the Sun, 1994

A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.

― George Bernard Shaw

The piece above  was painted in my earliest days of painting back in 1994. It was strictly an experiment, an exploration of colors and shape.

My personal interpretation of it was shaped by the Jimi Hendrix song, Third Stone From the Sun, which I was most likely listening to around that time. I saw the Earth as a line-jumper trying to force its way ahead of Mercury and Venus to be nearer the Sun, as though by doing so the Sun might favor it somehow.

I was seeing the greedy human impulse, I guess.

But over time, this piece has come to represent the inner conflicts that we all experience.

Well, I think we all experience them. I am sure there are some who have a moral compass– for good or bad– that is unshakably set. I don’t whether to envy or pity those folks.

But for most of us, we struggle much like the Native American elder who Shaw referenced in the quip at the top. We all have a good and a bad dog within us fighting, trying to kill or gain dominance over the other.

Whichever we feed most will no doubt win.

Please feed your good dog today…

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A Marvelous Victory

GC Myers-  Viva Nox (The Vivid Night) sm

Viva Nox (The Vivid Night)– At the West End Gallery

We need hope. An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not being foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of competition and cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, it energizes us to act, and raises at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

— Howard Zinn, A Marvelous Victory

“The future is an infinite succession of presents” is quite a line from an essay, A Marvelous Victory, from the late Howard Zinn. It is one that we should hold in our minds at all times.,

The form and content of our future will most likely not result from some cataclysmic event in the far flung reaches of the time ahead.

No, our future world is being shaped each and every day in small steps. These small actions create tiny, almost imperceptible, shifts and changes that push our future world in one way or another. Some of these small actions force us towards a crueler and darker future while others based on those attributes highlighted by Zinn– compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness— push us towards one that is more inclusive and gentle.

More human. More livable.

This somewhat continues the thoughts from yesterday’s post. Like being a hero that looks out for others, to live each coming day in the succession of presents with compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness is a choice. It is the same choice, actually, because those are the attributes of real heroes.

It’s a pretty simple concept. Choosing to live each day with kindness and compassion moves the future of this world in a small but significant way.

Seems like a simple choice, right?

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Wanted: Heroes

GC Myers-  Climb Ever Higher

Climb Ever Higher– At the West End Gallery, Corning, NY

Student: Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.

Galileo: No, Andrea….unhappy is the land that needs a hero.

–Bertolt Brecht, Galileo

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live a land that had no need for heroes?

A land with no hatred and racism. No injustice. No inequality.

A land without corruption, dishonesty, and greed A land without violence and conspiracies perpetrated by those who seek absolute power by any means.

A land without fear.

A land of cooperation and the acceptance of our responsibility for one another.

Wouldn’t it be great?

Unhappily, we live in a land in need of heroes.

And I don’t mean heroes in the way that we often use the word when speaking of celebrities or sports stars.

They have their place but here I am talking about the average people who put it on themselves to do the right things, day in and day out, so that this land might move even the tiniest bit toward being a land that no longer finds itself in need of heroes.

People who seek to help others in need without any thought of benefit or glorification for themselves. Who are willing to call out and fight ceaselessly against injustice, corruption, and hatred.

The interesting thing here is that anyone can be a hero. Happily, it’s a choice we can actually make.

Unfortunately, one can also choose to not be a hero. They can look out for themselves alone and not give a damn how others fare.

I’m just saying that we need a lot more heroes.

We have more than enough of those who have chosen otherwise. Way too many.

Okay, sermon over. Get up and get out, okay?

As you head for egresses, here’s some exit music for this Sunday Morning Music. Yesterday, I played a piece of music from a symphony by Philip Glass based on David Bowie’s Heroes album. I was unaware at that time that yesterday would have been Bowie’s 75th birthday. So, let’s honor him with a rendition of his song Heroes which is high among my favorite songs. This semi-acoustic performance is from the 1996 concert to benefit the Bridge School.

We can be heroes just for one day…

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GC Myers- On the Fringe sm

On the Fringe– At the West End Gallery

Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Just doing another grouping of image, words, and music that are somewhat connected in theme or thought.

Well, at least, in how I view them.

The painting at the top is called On the Fringe, featuring three crows in a bare tree. Crows live in close proximity to us, always near and visible yet keeping their distance. There is something mysterious in their silent observation of us and when they do break that silence, one wonders if there is some bit of wisdom that they are attempting to pass on to us.

Crows, as I have indicated here in the past, are symbols of wisdom. In the book Kafka on the Shore from Haruki Murakami, uses crows in just this way, as symbolic  messengers of protection, advice, and warning to the stories young protagonist, who calls himself Kafka, after the famed Czech author. The name Kafka translates as crow in the Czech language.

For the third part of this grouping, I have selected a piece from Philip Glass’ Heroes Symphony, done in collaboration with Brian Eno and David Bowie, based on Bowie’s album, Heroes. The music here is based on the song Sons of the Silent Age.

It definitely has a crow feel, at least in the way I see crows. Silence , thought, and movement. I think it’s a pretty good trio to kick off a frigid Saturday morning here in this corner of the great big world.

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The Created Moment


Mark Rothko- Number 14

A painting is not a picture of an experience, but is the experience.

—Mark Rothko

This a reworking of a post from a few years back. I chose it because it’s something I have been thinking about lately, this idea of not “capturing a moment” but instead “creating a moment.

I believe that the words above from Mark Rothko express that idea perfectly.

You hear a lot of artists talk about “capturing a moment” with their work. I am pretty sure those words have come out of my mouth when I am just blathering on. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Capturing a moment that the artist has experienced which moved them is not a bad thing. There are many examples of such work that is beautiful and lasting.

But my belief is that a piece of art works best when it causes the viewer (for visual artists) to feel as though they are experiencing something new in that moment when they stand in front of it.

Not a representation of a moment but a moment in itself.

Not capturing but creating the moment.

And that moment takes place when the viewer engages with the work of art, as though an arc of energy jumps from the art to the eyes and mind of the viewer, uniting the two in a unique moment.

Work like that is always in the present.

And maybe even that description doesn’t fully express the created moment. Maybe this singular moment is of its own time and place. Perhaps its own present, the created moment, that only exists in the space between the work and the viewer.

But how does the artist achieve that? Is it even something you can create with forethought?

Like so many things, I can’t really say for sure.

Maybe it comes in being totally honest and emotionally engaged during the creation of the work. Perhaps that moment of emotion becomes part of the piece and it is that which the viewer senses and experiences in the work.

Maybe that is the arc that emanates from the work.

Again, I don’t know the what’s or how’s or why’s of actually creating a moment.

Or if I have it in myself to achieve it or if I would even recognize it if I did.

But I do know that it is always lingering at the fringes of my mind when I stand in front of the easel. That might be the biggest part of the impulse to paint for me, to create a moment that exists beyond myself.

Time will once again be the revelator…

Mark Rothko-Red and Black-1968

Mark Rothko- Red and Black, 1968

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This Masquerade

GC Myers -Saints and Sinners

Saints and Sinners

Are we really happy here
With this lonely game we play?
Looking for words to say
Searching but not finding understanding anywhere
We’re lost in this masquerade

–Leon Russell, This Masquerade

January 6, 2022. A year has passed.

No need for comment from me today. Let’s just let the day play out as it will and leave the commentary to others.

No, today’s a day to simply reflect on what has taken place and the challenges that face us going forward.

And to ponder what this country will be if we fail to face those challenges.

Here’s a song from the late great Leon Russell, released on his 1972 album, Carney. The song is This Masquerade.

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A Little Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn_Ocean Park 79_0

Richard Diebenkorn–Ocean Park #79

It is not a matter of painting life. It’s a matter of giving life to a painting.

-Richard Diebenkorn

Short on time this morning. I am heading out in a little while to drop off the two feral cats I trapped late yesterday for neutering and such at the SPCA. As I said in yesterday’s post, I thought I had little hope of capturing the Mom cat and her only female kitten, now about 8 months old. But I was wrong. Both were trapped at once and though I am sure they are super stressed out– I was and am a bit– seemed calm this morning. So, off to the vets. The Boys will go the next time.

Since time is short I am replaying a post from a few years back. It’s always pertinent for my work at this time of the year, even now as I feel a bit more positive than normal. Diebenkorn’s words about starting a dialogue with the canvas always helps me move ahead.

That interaction, that dialogue, is crucial to creating art. And doing just about anything worth doing.

I am going through a period where I am struggling to find focus. My ability to concentrate seems limited and everything, even small tasks, seem like huge distractions which I allow to take over much of my day. Even writing a short blog entry has become an epic struggle to complete, taking twice as long as normal to write a few lines that say little.

It’s frustrating and a little scary, with a nagging fear that this will become the new normal, that every task will become a struggle. I worry that the spark that has sustained me for the past two decades has somehow diminished.

I’ve been through these episodes before, as I’ve noted here in the past. I can’t say that this is any worse than any of those although it probably seems that way while I’m in the middle of it. I’ve always been able to muddle through it and have usually come out at the other end back in form, the spark in full blaze.

But part of me worries that this time might be a different thing. Maybe it’s watching my father living a shallow existence with his dementia in a local nursing home. I find myself worrying that my current lack of concentration might morph into the same short attention span that bedevils him.

I tell myself that this a baseless fear but when you’re running on a low spark, your confidence in your own beliefs and strengths becomes a bit strained. Fears, once unthinkable, become plausible.

So, trying to find inspiration, I spend some mornings looking at the work of other artists and reading a bit about how they perceived their work and how they coped with the struggles they faced. I’ve been a fan of Richard Diebenkorn’s work for some time, especially his Ocean Park series. Ocean Park #79 is shown at the top. I was looking at some of his work this morning and reading a few short quotes from him. The one at the top resonated because it reminds me of what I am trying to do.

Another, about the beginning of his process, also spoke to me: Of course, I don’t go into the studio with the idea of ‘saying’ something—that’s ludicrous. What I do is face the blank canvas, which is terrifying. Finally I put a few arbitrary marks on it that start me on some sort of dialogue. I need a dialogue to get going.

That is where I am right now. I am trying to start a dialogue, a conversation, with a blank surface. The problem is that on some recent mornings I feel as blank as the empty canvas. That doesn’t make for sparkling dialogue.

But I keep trying because it is what I do. And I have to believe that the spark is there, waiting to spring into a full blaze. Maybe it’s today…

Diebenkorn Ocean Park 67

Richard Diebenkorn- Ocean Park #67

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Sweet Babboo

Sweet Babboo

Sweet Babboo

A lot of feral cats have shown up at our place over the years. Some appear for only a short time and then move on. I fear that some have fallen prey to the several known predators in these woods.

Some seem to make the areas around our place their home and eventually fade away, probably passing away from illness. That was the case with The Boys, two unlikely chums that have featured here in the past.

But several of these feral cats have made their way into our home, including the two currently there, ZsaZsa and Lucy-Furr, and my studio cat, Hobie. They are all wonderful, loving cats but are not friendly to outsiders nor to each other. Probably comes from being on their own and relatively unsocialized at early ages.

Last winter two cats began showing up at our house. They were both gray tigers though one had a subtle bit of brown mixed in, which was the only way to distinguish them at first. We began feeding them and they were somewhat friendly though they never let us touch them at all. Any move, even putting out a hand, made them run or sometimes, in the case of the brown one, bring a swat and a hiss.

They stayed around most of the winter living in the crawl space under our house during the heavy snows that fell last year. They would go away for short periods of time  when the weather allowed. They ate well and all seemed fine. We began saying that if they were to stay around we would have to trap them and find them home or at the very least, get them spayed or neutered.

Unfortunately, that discussion did not come soon enough.

One day in late spring, I watched the brown cat come up through our yard from down around our pond. She was bopping right along when I noticed she had a small shadow that seemed out of place. As she neared, it became apparent that her shadow was a small black kitten.

Kittens. Oh, no…

Within the next week or so, several more began coming back and forth from wherever the brown cat, now called Mom, had them stashed. There were four. There was a yellow tiger, a gray tiger, and two black kittens that could only be distinguished by their differing eye colors, green and amber.

They were adorable and quickly became comfortable around our place, eating well and using every tree and step like a jungle gym. Two, the yellow and gray ones, were even friendly enough to let us pet them. Their purrs were loud and intense. And even though Mom still hissed and growled at us whenever we put down food for them, she was a very affectionate mother to the kittens.

And Dad, who still came to eat with the whole group.

We began trying to find a place where we could take these kittens so that they might find a real home. We searched for months all across our region and well beyond, calling animal sanctuaries, SPCA’s and other rescue organizations. The sad news was that this past year has been a record year for cat rescues and surrenders.

There was no space anywhere. Anywhere.

We decided at that point that our only recourse was to capture these kittens as they got older and spay or neuter them and let them live outside, in and around the sheds and garages here. We would continue to feed them and care for them as much as they would allow us.

However, Mom wasn’t agreeing to waiting for that time to come. Before the kittens were two months old, we could tell she was already again pregnant. Sometime in late September she disappeared for a period of time, leaving the kittens on their own. They stayed close to our house.

After a time, she reappeared with only one kitten. A gray tiger, very young and small. Most likely, if there were other kittens from this second litter, they had not survived. The two of them took up residence under our garden tractor, with the kitten laying on the dried grass atop the mower deck once it became strong enough to climb upon it. It was small and lonely and it seemed like it had something wrong with its left eye, not being able to open it. For a while we feared it was missing its eye.

They weren’t in the most secure of spots and one day, after a night where the bears had came through and knocked down our bird feeders, Mom and kitten disappeared. Mom came back within a day or so to eat but the baby was nowhere to be seen. We feared the worst.

Then one day as we returned home, there was Mom walking up our driveway. And once again, she had a shadow– the kitten was trailing her. It struggled to keep up, stumbling and falling time after time as we watched from the car. Finally, the kitten just dropped and laid still. Cheri jumped out of the car and went to it and picked it up as Mom ran away.

It was tiny and barely responsive. Mom had most likely marched her across a small creek  that was not too far away as the kitten was soaking wet and very cold. Taking it inside, Cheri dried it with towels and warmed it up. Later, we put it in a box with towels then mixed some wet cat food mixed with warm water and fed it which it lapped at. The left eye was barely open and seemed to be infected. We cleaned it as best we could.

We kept it inside overnight to warm it then attempted to reunite it with Mom the next day. Mom would have nothing to do with the kitten, hissing and swatting at it.

At that point, we knew we had another cat. At first, the thought was that I would try to get it integrated with Hobie in the studio, which made me anxious. Hobie is extremely territorial and at an age where she doesn’t take any crap. But after some time, as the kitten, a female, grew — she was only about 14 ounces at her first vet visit–and became more and more playful and loving, it was determined that we would keep her at the house, as crowded as they might be.

We also treated her eye infection which cleared up nicely.

We began calling her Sweet Babboo, which is what Sally would call Linus in the Peanuts comics. She is incredibly affectionate though she is sometimes a bit too playful for our other two cats. But they seem to be coming around, as well. It’s been fun and she is thriving, eating like a monster and using every inch of our home like her personal playground.

I called her a lucky lottery winner on the day we decided to keep her. I think she knows that she’s pretty lucky.

I only share this because today is the day I have to trap two of her siblings so that they can be spayed or neutered tomorrow. It is part of a catch-and-release program with our local SPCA that spays or neuters feral cat and gives them rabies and other needed vaccines. The ears of the cats are notched and their bellies are tattooed with an ID number so that they can be identified if captured again in the future. The cats are held here for day or two before being released.

The lists for this program were pretty full and this was the first available date. And there was only space for two cats. I was hoping to first catch Mom and Greenie, the green eyed black cat, as they are the females from this group. Unfortunately, both have not been around much in recent days and I fear the worst, that one or both might be pregnant.

But I have been feeding the other cats in the traps and am pretty sure I can catch two. Fortunately, Buttercup, the yellow one who was named before we noticed that he had testes, and Gary, the gray one who I named after tiring of calling him Gray Boy, are both extremely sweet and affectionate, allowing me to pet them at length. In fact, they demand to be petted, purring as loud as can be when rubbed. They will no doubt be the first to go.

I hope they understand. I am hoping to integrate them into the studio sometime in the near future. They should be as lucky as their sister, the Sweet Babboo. Their path might be longer but this is the first step.

Now, I am just putting off going out there to set the traps. But it must be done and it will be best for all concerned.

Wish me and them luck…

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Go to the Limits…

GC Myers-  Symphony of Silence  2021

 Symphony of Silence — At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA

Go to the Limits of Your Longing

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, I 59

The Book of Hours was a collection of poem written between 1899 and 1903 by Rainer Maria Rilke. Modern editions add a subtitle: Love Poems to God.

The title is derived from the name given to devotional books from the Middle Ages that lay out the year in a calendar that included both sacred and pastoral imagery, prayers and mass readings for feast days, among other devotion related items. I have written about some of these devotionals from the Middle Ages here in the past, including the beautifully illustrated edition from the Limbourg Brothers.

Though I don’t have any affiliation or leanings towards any organized religion, I find this period of Rilke’s work very compelling. It is beautifully expressed, as is most of Rilke’s work, and speaks to even those of us who don’t view the concept of god in the same way as those who adhere to the dogmas and customs of traditional religion.

And that’s saying a lot.

A few lines of this particular poem, Go to the Limits of Your Longing, were shown at the end of the Taika Waititi film, JoJo Rabbit:

Rilke Lines JojoRabbit

These lines worked well there and the rest of the poem speaks in a beautiful way of finding some inner power in the act of pushing yourself a bit further beyond your comfort zones.

Something we all need to do.

Here’s a favorite song that was used in JoJo Rabbit. It’s Everybody’s Gotta Live from Arthur Lee and Love. The rendition below is a bit different from the one used in the film. It is an outtake that was recorded but was not chosen to be the released version. I think it’s a really strong version of the song and it pairs fairly well with Rilke’s word.

Give a listen. Then head out to the limits of your own longing.

It might not be as far off as you think…

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