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Ickle Me



Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

I have a lot on my plate this morning so let’s just listen to the late Shel Silverstein sing his song/poem, Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too, from his marvelous book of children’s verse, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Like most of Silverstein’s stuff for kids, it’s a blend of word rhythms and nonsense that just works. I have probably watched this short video a dozen or more times over the years and it always holds my interest

I love kids songs and literature. Don’t know what that says about my mental development but I am not going to worry about it. When I was putting this together I thought of another really simple kids song from Woody Guthrie that I am going to stick on here. It’s his Grassy Grass Grass. My thinking is that with our spring weather finally taking hold that anything that urges the grass to grow and things to green more is a good thing. Plus it has a nice drum rhythm to start the weekend.

So, give a listen to a couple of simple ditties for the kiddies this morning. What can it hurt? In the meantime, I’ll get to my day. Some new work coming in the next few days so check back in.





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The Country

GC Myers- 2018 FingerpaintingLiving in the country, especially on the edge of the forest, makes one aware of their proximity to critters. There are deer and raccoons and squirrels and skunks and coyotes and bobcats and birds of all shapes and sizes.

But mainly living in the country makes you aware of the presence of mice in this world, how they live so closely to us, hovering nearby almost like little brown and gray shadows. Sometimes you hardly see them at all but they leaves traces that speak of their existence, often a hole chewed in a box or a bag in a closet or in the basement. Or those little hard nuggets on a shelf or table. I once had a mouse that had walked through a tray of wet paint that I had inadvertently left out overnight and walked across the edge of a piece I had been working on.

Little blue paw prints meandering around the edge of the surface. Hope they liked what they saw.

All these things occur here in the studio. At such times, I look over at Hobie, my studio cat who was once a known hunter of great renown, and ask her if she has been doing her job patrolling the mice population. She just looks away without an ounce of care for my concern.

I wonder if she has a secret pact with the mice now. After all, the gifts she once laid at my feet– poor mice, chipmunks, birds, and snakes– have ceased altogether.

They slowed considerably after she made the transition from stray cat to part-time outdoor cat to fulltime studio cat. But they did continue. I would sometimes come into the studio and there would sometimes be a sad prize waiting for me in front of my desk chair or at the base of my easel. Hobie would saunter over as if to proudly say, “See what I did for you while you were gone?”

But that doesn’t happen now. Actually, there are fewer traces of my little rodent housemates lately. Maybe the several feral cats who have taken up recent residency around our place have effectively shut down their runways in and out of our place. Maybe. But I doubt that even a terrible trio of hungry cats could completely stop the smart and versatile mice that I know so well. Their little brains work better than some folks I know.

I am sure they are still there. I don’t mind to be honest. Not that I am thrilled by the evidence they leave behind. So long as they don’t bother me, I can coexist with them.

Not everyone can. I used to work with a lady who proclaimed that her home had no mice at all. She lived in an old house near the river so I knew the idea that that critters somehow weren’t taking advantage of a warm place to live and eat was foolishness. I would just laugh at her and tell her that she might not see them but they were there.

She would let out a shiver and say that no, they were not there. I guess she had to say that for her own peace of mind but I know that somewhere in that old house, in the attic or basement, there is a meeting going on right now where all the mice are discussing the best places to eat in that house.

The reason I bring this up this morning is that I came across an animation of a poem by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins that is abut this subject. It’s called The Country. I never worried about my boxes of matches before but this has me wondering. Take a look.



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GC Myers- From a Distance  2020

“From a Distance”- At the West End Gallery



Wanted to just share a poem and an animation of it that features it being read by the poet, Gregory Orr. I chose this one because of a line in it — No purpose but what we make— that made me think about the nature of purpose. We often speak of finding purpose in ourselves but is it something to be found? Or might it be something that we create for ourselves, something that we actually choose?

I have to think on that for a bit. In the meantime, please take a look at the short reading of the poem.



This is what was bequeathed us

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

–Gregory Orr (b. 1947)



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Hey, today is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was born on this day back in 1853. I thought it might be fitting to rerun a post from several years back about Van Gogh’s self portraits and the lessons they offer.



van gogh self-portraitI showed this short video here about six years back, in 2010. It’s a compilation of morphing self portraits from Vincent Van Gogh put together by video maker Phillip Scott Johnson that I found intriguing then and now.

It’s a short piece, less than a minute in length, and it’s interesting to see how the familiar views of Van Gogh relate to one another and how his appearance or, at least his perception of it, changed through the years. For me, Van Gogh’s self portraits are among the most revealing and compelling of any artist. His state of mind is evident in each piece, with some showing a vibrant, seemingly healthy man and others showing the more tortured Van Gogh that we tend to think of as the man.

Seeing them together as in this video allow you to see the changes in the man and in his art that take place over time. Interesting.

I also found it interesting now because I have been spending some time recently looking at my own older work in a different way. I am often not looking at the pictures as whole images. Instead, I have been looking at the individual marks I am using in each and seeing how it has changed through the years. Or how it has stayed the same in some cases.

I’ve always said that my painting for me was a continuum that, while changing all the time, always seemed the same to me– always in the present. But looking at it in this manner I am finding that my mark-making does change periodically which fundamentally changes the way a picture is painted and how it emerges in the end.

It’s not something I often think about– I just paint in whichever way the moment strikes me. Sometimes it is dependent on the condition of the brush or the weight and quality of the paint I am using. As a brush ages and wears, especially with the rough treatment given to them by me, it makes a more and more distinct mark that I find appealing. Looking back, I can often tell when I am using fresh or old brushes.

So, I watched this film in the same way and it is fascinating to just look at Van Gogh’s mark-making throughout without focusing on the faces. It is varied and each differing style serves the image in different ways. Some marks are wildly expressive and others small and quietly acting in service to the greater whole.

As I said, it’s less than minute and interesting even if you don’t give a damn about the mark-making part of it.



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singularity4



I had other things on my mind about what I would write here this morning. I was going to question how a law that makes giving a drink of water to someone in line at the polls a crime is supposed to prevent voter fraud. I was also going to question the motive for other such suppressive provisions in legislation being moved into law around much of this country.

But before I could start, I came across this short animation of a poem from poet Marie Howe and I decided that maybe this was the better way to go this morning.

Her poem is titled Singularity and refers to the theory Stephen Hawking (among others) set forth that the universe and all that it is was once a single thing before the Big Bang created all that we know the universe to be now.

We were all part of one thing.

No, we were that one thing.

That is as simple as I can put it and still understand it. I am not even sure that simple explanation is correct. Much as Howe explains to her audience, my own grasp of advanced physics and most other great scientific theoretical concepts is limited. But the idea that we were once one and that we may all at some point become one again is somehow appealing to something inside me.

I don’t know. My eternal refrain.

Take a look. The Marie Howe poem is below the video.

 





SINGULARITY
by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?

There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

***************

I am busy this morning but wanted to share a post from several years ago about painter Giorgio de Chirico. I thought I’d run it again today with the addition at the bottom of one of his more famous paintings and a short MoMA video about it. The idea that is presented about the metaphysics contained in dealing not with “perceived reality” but a “reality imagined” and of creating “a plausible representation of a believable and negotiable space” rang a bell for me as that is the space where I try to operate. Take a look.


 

de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data.

His work from this defining ten year period is very mystical.

De Chirico’s work after 1919 became much more based in reality and far more traditional. This later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that early work. It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark. The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them. The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives, all evoking a sense of mystery. It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence. I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  Plus, his ability to create a reality that seemed possible and recognizable but seemed filled with mystery  was something aspired for in my own pieces.

Working with this in mind, my work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

 

de-chirico




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kandinsky

 



Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?

Wassily Kandinsky



Still working on getting my creative engines revved up and ready to go. Normal for me at this point n the year. One thing that usually helps me in these times is turning to the words and works of Wassily Kandinsky.

Several years ago in a short post here, I shared the quote above and a great little film from Alfred Imageworks that features an animation of the elements from some of Kandinsky’s great paintings as well a film from 1926 of Kandinsky creating a drawing with these same elements.

These always seem to help me in some way that I can’t quantify. Maybe I should take Kandinsky’s advice and stop thinking on this.

Anyway, thought they’d be worth revisiting today before I get down to real work.

Take a look if you are so inclined and then have yourself a good day, again, if you are so inclined.

STEREOSCOPIC FOR EXHIBITION – KANDINSKY from Alfred Imageworks on Vimeo.



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Bloom


 

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King



I came across the video below first thing this morning, just before 6 AM. It’s titled Bloom and is written and directed by Emily Johnstone and Brian Kistler and animated by the students from San Jose State Animation Illustration. It’s a simple but lovely vignette that illustrates the effect that one person making one small effort to reach out to another can have on the life of the recipient of that effort.

The current time of the year coupled with the isolation of the pandemic and the uncertainty throughout this nation fostered by the unsteady handling from the current people in power make it a ripe time for those suffer from the darkness of depression. I thought about how terrible a time it is for those folks who haven’t developed methods and mechanisms for dealing with it. This, in turn, made me think about my own struggles through the years and how fortunate I have been to have survived long enough to develop my own personal system for dealing with it.

I don’t even know if I have openly mentioned them here. Such is the stigma of depression. We openly discuss the most intimate details of our lives but depression remains a difficult subject to broach because we still see it as a sign of weakness or a character flaw rather than an affliction. 

If you’re a regular reader you probably have deduced by now that I have had bouts of depression without me ever coming out and stating it plainly. I really wasn’t planning on talking about it this morning and don’t really want to go too far without a little more consideration on my part. But I will say that the simple message in this short animation is essential to dealing with depression. The thought that one person is concerned about your well being is often enough to get through a dark period. And the care and dedication required to foster a living thing such as a plant or a pet often gives us the validation that one is needed.

I know for myself, this blog is one of my primary mechanisms for dealing with my own darkness. It provides structure and a sense of dedicated obligation. Having that task in front of me every morning helps greatly and makes me seek things to discuss which goes to the blurb at the top from The Once and Future King, a favorite book from my youth from T.H. White, which speaks to the effect of learning something new on one’s sadness. It’s a beautiful paragraph.

Learning alters the path that the mind is traveling and for the depressed person sometimes that is enough to elevate their state, even if its only a small bit. And sometimes that small lift takes them to a point where they can see new horizons that remained hidden to them before.

The other obvious benefit of this blog for me is the human contact and feedback it provides. Just knowing there are people out there, even if only a small handful, that might read this and respond once in a great while is enough to fulfill the void.

Enough to reach across the darkness.

I really don’t want to go any further into the subject this morning. As I said, I had no intention in doing so this morning. But seeing this short film and knowing how many folks are struggling right now, feeling the hopelessness and isolation that comes with depression, I thought it was important to at least speak briefly to it.

I am often hesitant in speaking too much about it because there are no one-size-fits-all fixes here. One of the aspects of depression that make it so insidious is that each person’s experience is personally formed that it is sometimes difficult to find the mechanisms and methods that will get that person through their dark patches.

I can only speak to m own experience. For me, it is in having set routines, such as this blog or caring for my beloved studio cat, Hobie. In having methods of making contact that allow me to feel that my voice and concerns are being heard. In setting goals that force me to work and not fall into the idleness that often brings the darkness.

I could go on and maybe I will at some point. But for today, try to look outside yourself and recognize the indications of depression in others. Something as small as a quick note or text or call might be the difference that changes another person’s whole outlook for the day.

And that one day might make a crucial difference in their life.

So, have a good day. Learn something new. But mainly, reach out and try to bring a little bloom into someone else’s day. 

(The video is below. There’s a little gap so make sure to scroll just a little lower if you don’t see it immediately. I have to learn how to better embed videos. Ah, learning!)



https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js

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Scene from “A Matter of Life and Death”



Taking a small break this morning without mentioning the Supreme Court decision from yesterday, which speaks for itself. But I did want to mention that TCM is playing a favorite movie of mine, A Matter of Life and Death, tonight at 8 PM

Released in 1946 as Stairway to Heaven in the UK, it was created by the collaboration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger along with legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. I am a huge fan of this team which made extremely interesting and thought provoking films– The Red Shoes, Parallel 49, Black Narcissus and so many others– with storylines that were well outside the norms of traditional cinema storytelling of the time, featuring spectacular visuals often filled with gorgeous saturated color and groundbreaking effects. This film very much fills all those boxes. 

It is a fantasy about a WWII British flyer who inexplicably survives the plane crash that was supposed to end his life which basically causes a rift in heaven. He falls from the sky and is found on an English beach by a US Army nurse. They form an instant bond which is the basis for the rest of this film as the flyer attempts to fend off the efforts of the heavenly agent sent to retrieve the wayward soul. It is said to be a metaphor for the revival of the British nation as well as the PTSD that was affecting so many returning troops in the post-war era.

It’s a beautiful film with scenes that alternate between great examples of Technicolor, black and white and super saturated color, each designating a different phase of the flyer’s experience. Film is, as with all arts, a subjective experience and I imagine that many folks will not find this to their liking. But for me, it’s a masterpiece. If you’re interested in great filmmaking, take a look tonight.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on this film from the Criterion Collection as well as the trailer, below, which was made for it’s recent restoration and theatrical re-release.



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Rockwell Kent- Clover Fields



President-elect Joe Biden is on a path that will show him winning close to 51% of the votes with what will most likely be a margin of over 6 million votes. It is, objectively speaking, the largest electoral rebuke of a sitting president since FDR unseated Hoover in 1932.

It seems that the people have clearly spoken. Even so, with a sitting administration that seems more hellbent on undermining our democracy than even pretending to address the pandemic that is now fully out of control across the country, it seems like a lot of folks need reassurance that the will of the people will be carried out. To that end, I felt that this post from a few years back, written at the time of the damaging government shutdown of early 2018, still applies.

Plus, I was needing to see some Rockwell Kent paintings this morning. That always does me some good.

Believe in reason and have a good day.



 

Rockwell Kent- The Trapper

 



Force against reason: reason, because it has the power of enlisting forces to fight for it, will win. From the recognition of that truth has come democracy.

-Rockwell Kent



There are a lot of things that could be said this morning, especially with a governmental shutdown taking effect overnight. This shutdown is the symbolic culmination of the political attitudes of the past twenty years that have led us away from compromise and reason as a means of governance. I am not going to go into my own grievances here.

I’ve done that enough.

But I will say that for all the anxiety this government produces as it tries to force itself closer and closer to some form of autocratic authoritarianism, I am somewhat optimistic. And that may be because I agree with the premise of the quote above from one of my favorite artists, Rockwell Kent.

I do feel that we are in struggle right now between force and reason, that the direction in which we are being directed via deception and fear-mongering– the force here–goes against the ideals and virtues that we have long professed as the basis for our democracy– reason.  The idea that reason is enduring because it has the ability to enlist those who will fight for the truth of it is reassuring to me and seems to be backed by history.

What we are experiencing is reminiscent of the way other empires have ended, when the beliefs that grew these empires are set aside by rulers who see themselves as being above those ideals and virtues. But I believe we are still a nation with enough reasonable people to resist the forces of greed and nativism that have descended upon us.

And that gives me hope, even on these days that seem so dark.

So, thanks for reminding me of that, Mr. Kent. Here’s a video of some of Kent’s landscape work, primarily of some of my favorite landscapes from the Adirondacks, Vermont and Greenland. The format of the video is a little cutesy for my taste but it shows a lot of great work from Kent and features the music of Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

Have a good day and stay reasonable.



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