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In Bloom

Taking it easy this morning in the studio. Well, it seems easy even though I’m working on a requested piece and trying to reorganize things in here before I start getting in the next painting groove, for whose arrival I am patiently waiting.

I can feel that the next groove is getting here soon and I want to be ready. Certain parts of my studio have slowly devolved in the last year or two into a slight state of chaos. Things get misplaced and can’t be readily found so I spend ten minutes searching for it and lose a bit of my creative momentum, which is already an ephemeral thing for me. It comes and goes in a flash and any time lost while it’s at hand is lost forever.

Plus, there’s a corrosive effect of having my studio in a state of chaos. I can tolerate and even thrive with clutter to a point. But beyond that point, it piles up quickly and spills over into my thought process and my attitude. I’ve realized over the twenty-plus years I’ve been doing this thing and see that the tipping point is near at hand.

So, I am painting and organizing today. Here’s a song from Sturgill Simpson. It’s his cover of In Bloom from Nirvana. There are a couple of levels of irony in this version. Kurt Cobain wrote this song about the irony of the new fans they gained as their fame grew, who sang along with the songs without understanding the lyrics and whose actions in life were sometimes direct contradictions to the meanings of the songs. Kurt Cobain described this song as being about the intolerance of “rednecks, macho men and abusive people.”

It’s ironic that Simpson covers this song because from outward appearance and sound, one might mistake the Kentucky country singer a for one of those rednecks. But Simpson himself deals with that same type of fan who sings along without knowing the meaning of his songs. While his sound is based deeply in traditional country his attitudes are not redneck at all.

In short, this is a really good interpretation of a good song. Also, a neat looking video. Give a look and a listen then have a good Sunday.

Ablaze

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In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

–Albert Schweitzer

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One final reminder here at the end of a week based on giving thanks. Don’t forget those folks who have inspired, encouraged, assisted, paved the way, opened the door, gently pushed, opened our eyes, morally supported and lifted us up.

They are the spark that sets the inner fire burning.

Hope your fire is ablaze.

Another Grateful Moment

Grateful Moment- GC Myers 2014

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

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I thought I would rerun the post below about gratitude that ran last year on the day before Thanksgiving.

I am a firm believer in the words of Cicero above, feeling that, if it is fully embraced, gratitude permeates everything we do in a positive way.

I also believe that nobody achieves anything solely on their own, that everyone owes someone something for getting them where they are. Someone along the way taught them something, pointed them in a direction or opened a door that greatly helped them move along. 

As much I would like to think I have done everything on my own, even the small amount of success I have achieved is the result of a lot of help and encouragement from hosts of people. Without them I am nothing.

A sense of gratitude makes everything it touches better. And as I wrote below, a lack of gratitude debases everything. Take a look:

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It’s Gratitude Week here on RedTreeTimes. It’s kind of like Shark Week without the carnage. Or sharks.

Well, there is a little carnage but I can guarantee there are no sharks.

For today’s installment, the great Roman orator Cicero certainly has it right. When you think of the great virtues– honor, courage, loyalty, honesty, compassion, respect, and grace along with so many others– you can easily place gratitude as a contributing factor to each. These virtues are often just gratitude set in motion.

If gratitude is not the parent of all virtues, it is at least a conjoined twin.

I am not harping on gratitude now just because it is the week of Thanksgiving. No, it has become painfully obvious that there is a lack of gratitude, and by extension, the absence of accompanying virtues, being shown by many of our public leaders. This includes one person in particular.

Simply put, this lack of gratitude trickles down ( much more so than any tax cuts!) from the top to the general population. As a result, we end up with ugly attitudes permeating our daily life.

Gratitude transforms into a sense of entitlement

Humility becomes boastful self-aggrandizement.

Respect is replaced by insult and denigration.

Courage becomes cowardice.

Loyalty becomes a temporary transaction where one’s loyalty is given only for as long as the other person remains useful.

Empathy devolves into a mocking of the shortcomings and weaknesses of others.

Responsibility is replaced by a need to place blame on others.

Honor becomes disgrace.

Trust turns to deep skepticism.

Grace transforms into insolence and coarseness.

And honesty?

Honesty has turned into a sort of mythological creature, like the Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster– seldom seen and so shocking that when it finally shows itself, we don’t believe what we are seeing with our own eyes. Dishonesty becomes the accepted norm and we lose the ability — or even the will–to recognize the lies from the truth.

We become a nation of liars, a land without virtue or honor that can no longer be trusted.

It doesn’t have to continue in this way. We are a nation based for centuries on its virtues, always moving towards doing what is right, no matter the cost. We can reclaim that. We can be a country of virtue.

It all starts with simple gratitude.

Be thankful for all that you have. Express it in your words and, more importantly, in your actions.

Giving Thanks, Again

pooh-and-piglet-original-eh-shepard-drawing

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Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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Remember that every tiny heart has an infinite amount of room for gratitude.

And love.

And compassion.

Wishing you all a peaceful and quiet Thanksgiving Day…

Fiona’s Candle

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There are two ways of spreading light… To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

–Edith Wharton

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This is a sort of new painting headed to the Principle Gallery for their upcoming Small Works show that opens next week. I say sort of new because it is a painting from a few years back that was changed in a way that made it a completely different piece.

Back then it was titled Candle and it was just as it is without the female figure and the boat. With its simplicity and color, it was a favorite of mine and it has been here in the studio for the last year or so, much to my delight. There has always been something in it that speaks to me.

But I have recently worked on a few paintings with small female figures in them and their presence has had a real impact in those compositions, adding a real layer of meaning and depth to those paintings. In the studio, I started to to look at this painting– without the figure– and began to see her there. I could see her adding a symbolism that would change and enrich the painting.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to change the original painting but day after day all I could see was a ghost of that figure in place. The original began to fade for me, began to seem lacking, as thought it had waited for me to add this figure and make it whole.

So, this what you have now.

I changed the title of this painting with another addition, becoming Fiona’s Candle. The Fiona comes, of course, from the British born US Diplomat Fiona Hill who testified in the recent Impeachment Hearings. Her strength, her intelligence, her straight forward approach, sense of purpose, and her unwillingness to suffer fools or alter her moral compass for them made a deep impression on me and many others.

We could use a few more Fiona Hills.

In this painting, I see the female figure as having those same characteristics. She is seeking, as Edith Wharton wrote above, to spread the light, to illuminate the truth– which I see here as the Sun, a set and constant thing– as either the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

I am usually averse to changing pieces that speak so strongly to me, that seem to already have a life force in them. But there are always exceptions and this painting, for me, seems to have been fortified, made stronger by one simple addition.

 

A Type of Gratitude

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Sometimes you give birth to something or you’re part of a team that gives birth to an idea, and it grows and has a whole life of its own, and you feel grateful. It’s just so humbling.

–Glen Hansard

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I understand the type of gratitude that singer/songwriter Glen Hansard is describing above. He was talking, I believe, about the life of Once, the movie that he, along with Markéta Irglová, starred in and wrote and performed the songs that made this little low budget film a hit in 2007. It then went on to be adapted for a stage production on Broadway in 2012. It was a hit there as well, winning 8 Tony awards.

Once— as an album, a movie and a play– definitely took on a life of its own and Hansard’s gratitude is understandable.

I know that feeling for myself, albeit on a much smaller scale. Every artist, I think, hopes their work will have meaning that reaches out to people in a way that it affects them deeply but that hope alone doesn’t make it happen. There is something beyond the intention and control of the artist.

That outcome is not predictable. It is a convergence of the work, time, tone, and the emotional perception of the person taking in the work.

In short, it is a small miracle.

To have a work go beyond my own understanding of it, to generate meaning that I never saw in it, and to become a real part of someone’s life is a certainly a wonder of sorts. And for me, there is nothing more gratifying than to be associated in any small way with such an occurrence.

I also feel humbled because, and I don’t know if this makes sense, it makes me feel my own smallness in the larger aspect of the work. I realize then that I only play a small part in whatever alchemy creates the miracle of art.

Hmm. Something to think about as we head into Thanksgiving.

Here’s Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová peforming the Academy Award winning song Falling Slowly from Once.

 

 

 

 

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As an artist you have to find something that deeply interests you. It’s not enough to make art that is about art, to look at Matisse and Picasso and say, how can I paint like them? You have to be obsessed by something that can’t come out in any other way, then the other things – the skill and technique – will follow.

–Anselm Kiefer

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Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945) is one contemporary artist that continually fascinate me. His work often deals with history and how we in the present time are connected to it. One of his projects is a long term exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art that features 30 very large paintings, all about 6′ by 11′, assembled in one space. The exhibit is titled Velimir Chlebnikov based on a theory from the Russian Futurist of that name ( who died in 1922 at the age of 36) who believed that major naval battles happened every 317 years and had some sort of cosmic importance for the human race.

This group of paintings from Kiefer deal with nautical warfare and are built up on heavily textured grounds comprised of a variety of materials one doesn’t often associate with painting–dirt, sand, straw, rust and lead. It’s gritty and rough yet striking and somehow beautiful at the same time.

Now, I can’t comment on the theory. Maybe there is something in Chlebnikov’s metaphysical numerology. Who knows?

But I can comment on the impact of the assemblage and display of this group of work, this obsession of Kiefer. As an artist, I find it awe inspiring. It makes me want to push beyond my own creative inhibitions, to work on my own obsession in a way that makes a large statement.

Big work.

Bold work.

Work that pushes past what I know and how I work now.

Work that forces me in a direction I can’t foresee.

Work that changes me in some fundamental way.

It’s something to think about.

I guess that is one way in which art influences art.

Anselm Kiefer’s Velimir Chlebnikov, a series of 30 paintings devoted to the Russian philosopher who posited that war is inevitable, is on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

 

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