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Song of Joy

GC Myers- Song of Joy  2021



The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

― Rabindranath Tagore



Titled Song of Joy, this 18″ by 24″ painting on masonite panel is included in my annual solo exhibit Between Here and There, opening Friday, June 4, at the Principle Gallery.

This piece really struck me in a powerful way while it was in the studio. There is something in the brightness and clarity of the colors that just feels joyful to me. And the orange sun rising adds a sense of forward-looking hope to this joy. Even the shapes of the rich green forms in the foreground had a happy, joyful feeling.

It might be one of the more optimistic paintings I have done in some time. There is a positivity that I think reflects the thought above from the great Nobel Prize winning poet/writer Rabindranath Tagore. There is real joy to be found in the recognition that we are all filled from the same stream of life, that the lifeforce of all living things and the atoms of which we are all comprised are from that stream.

This sense of unity, this joyfulness in simply being, also makes the natural sorrows of this world, the inescapable realities of our lifetimes, somewhat easier to absorb. It is, after all, simply part of the stream’s flow. And for all of the joy and brightness of this painting, it has an underlying darkness showing through.

By its very nature, it is brightness built on darkness. It’s something I always want and seek in my work, this sense of visible darkness which contrasts and heightens the light.

Joy in life despite the its hardships.

And in this painting, that is the source of the Red Tree’s Song of Joy.

Here’s a song that sort of expresses this type of joy. It’s Feelin’ Good Again from Robert Earl Keen. It’s a favorite song that I’ve played it here before. It always reminds me of my dad and his bar buddies, many who he had known most of his life. I remember stopping at the bar with him on a number of times on Saturday mornings, a quick pitstop on the way to the horse track, and how all these guys would be so happy in seeing one another, laughing and shouting. It might have been as close to real joy as I ever saw in my dad. This song always feels like it’s a song of joy he would understand.



9921063 Song of Joy Catalog page

In Rhapsody

GC Myers- In Rhapsody  2021



My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.

― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet



The idea of a union between music and painting has long been a theme in my work. I think my new solo show, Between Here and There, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria probably explores that idea more than most of my prior shows.

The painting above might be the best example of this. It is titled In Rhapsody and is 24″ by 30″ on canvas. I see all sorts of musical equivalencies or analogies in it. I see the Red Tree here as a conductor of sorts, standing in a sort of spotlight of brightness amidst an orchestra composed of the landscape and the skies and the mountains as he pushes them to a loud crescendo. Something very Beethoven-like or Wagnerian to that, probably due to the influence of Bugs Bunny cartoons in my childhood. I most likely know more about Warner Brothers’ cartoons than I do about classical music but that doesn’t dampen my appreciation for either.

Or I see whole painting as a musical score, the layers of the landscape moving back into the picture plane as movements in a musical piece, each with their own emotional content and inflection that leads to the next, with which it blends and meshes into a building harmony. It builds more and more as the layers move deeper culminating in the movement from land and water up into the red-violet of the sky. The sky here feels like the crescendo here for me.

Everything builds to the drama contained in the color and clouds of that sky.

For me, it has an ethereal, timeless quality that reminds me of a fine piece of music, one that moves people in any time in which it is played. Music and art are emotion-based and while everything in this world is forever changing and the circumstances might be completely different for generations of listeners or viewers, our emotional responses remain very much the same. We coo in love and rage in hate, we laugh in joy, we cry in despair, and so on.

Our emotions are fields of constancy and music and art work their magic in those fields. I hope this piece does that, as well. Of course, this is simply how I personally see and feel the piece and that doesn’t amount to much more than small hill of beans when you get right down to it. How this painting or any other piece of mine works it way into the future is well beyond my control. It has to prove itself.

Below, is an example of a piece of music that I think fits well with In Rhapsody. It is a section from Beethoven‘s famous 5th Symphony, one that builds to crescendo beautifully. The video is a composed of a graphical score with multiple colors and forms that is fascinating to watch as it scrolls along with the music. I thought it was also interesting how the colors of its beginning screen match so well with the painting as you can see in the image below the video.



My annual solo show, Between Here and There, opens this Friday, June 4, at the Principle Gallery at their King Street location in Alexandria, VA. Unfortunately, I will not be in attendance this year. We are hoping for some sort of event, a gallery talk, later in the year as circumstances allow. You can see the show catalog here. Thank you!



GC Myers- In Rhapsody Principle Gallery 2021 Catalog page



Civil War Soldier DageurrotypeAnother Memorial Day weekend. The day we remember our fallen soldiers, those who gave their lives to serve and protect this country, this democracy. I’m no historical anthropologist so I can’t be completely certain when I say that I don’t believe there is any one group of people on this planet who have not been touched by war in some significant way.

The history of this world has been written in the bloody ink of war.

A few years back, when I began doing genealogy for the families of my wife and myself, I was surprised at the many, many generations in each of our lines who had taken part in the wars of their times, putting their lives aside to give so much of themselves– in some cases, their very lives– for causes that often might have been mere abstractions to them. I was surprised at the number of our relatives who had died in combat on the soil of this land. In some cases, some were buried far from their homes near the battlefields of the American south.

Part of me is proud that these people have answered the call to be a small part in something bigger. But another part of me is simply sad to think that they were called on to give so much in order to satisfy or deny the baser motives of those in power. War has usually been about greed and acquisition, nationalistic pride or ethnic and religious hatred– in each instance proposed with the greatest conviction and certainty by the leaders of each side of the cause.

And on Memorial Day, we remember the people who actually fulfilled the pleas of these leaders, be they right or wrong. These citizens did what they were asked and what they felt was necessary in their time and place.  And I have nothing but respect for that.

For today’s image, I chose the daguerreotype of the Civil War soldier at the top because there was something in him that seemed to show the sacrifice of war. Maybe it’s the steely stare of his eyes. Or maybe it was his belt that is cinched in to what looks to be a ridiculously tiny diameter, showing how emaciated he appears to be. I’m not exactly sure but there is something in him that seems contemporary, less dated. He looks like he could be the guy behind you in line at the local convenience store.

And for today’s Sunday musical selection, I have chosen the song Ben McCulloch from Steve Earle. It tells the story of two brothers — the guy above was no doubt like them– who enlist in the Confederate Army in the Civil War and discover the hard realities of war as they serve under General McCulloch, who was a real person who died in battle in 1862. The chorus probably echoes the sentiments that many soldiers through time held for their commanding officers as they face overwhelming odds.

I hesitated when choosing this song because I didn’t want it to be seen as glorifying the Confederate dead. I read a couple of Frederick Douglass‘ speeches given in the 1870’s and in that time, there was a growing movement to create an equivalency between the two sides of the Civil War, an effort that continues, unfortunately, to this day.

Douglass pointed out that it was acceptable to honor the courage of the fallen Confederates but it should be forever remembered that they were trying to destroy everything this nation had stood for since its formation and that it should be clearly noted that there was no equivalence between the two sides. Morally, there was a right side and a wrong side.

As Douglass put it:

It was a war of ideas, a battle of principles and ideas which united one section and divided the other; a war between the old and new, slavery and freedom, barbarism and civilization; between a government based upon the broadest and grandest declaration of human rights the world ever heard or read, and another pretended government, based upon an open, bold and shocking denial of all rights, except the right of the strongest.

We should never become a country where the rights of the strongest outweigh those of the weakest among us. Hopefully, fewer folks will have to sacrifice their lives to ensure this. So have a good Memorial Day, hopefully one filled with some appreciation of what the day really encompasses.



 



This post was adapted and added to from one that ran several years ago.

Symphony Serene

GC Myers- Symphony Serene sm



O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

-Psalm 131, I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul



The painting at the top is titled Symphony Serene and is, of course, from my solo show, Between Here and There,  opening this coming Friday, June 4, at the Principle Gallery. The preview for the show is available by clicking here which takes you to the gallery site.

I have a lot of fondness for this piece and others like it that are spare and inward reaching landscapes with the broken sky, short-hand term that I use for the mosaic-like construction of the skies in these paintings. I believe its the peaceful nature of these pieces that does it for me. There is a serenity achieved in both the end result of the final work and in the process of painting it.

I believe I have spoke of this in the past but painting pieces such as this often have a meditative effect, one where the mind feels as though it is running on a parallel track, completely apart from the conscious. While working on these, everything but the surface in front of me feels blocked out and far away. My mind moves endlessly in and out of the composition, constantly balancing and weighing each individual block of color in a way that creates its own rhythm.

I barely notice but I am constantly sitting then standing then pacing back and forth before the piece. Without thinking, I often walk backwards across the room with my eyes fixed on the painting, sometimes stumbling over other paintings or lightstands in the process. I barely notice and my eyes seldom leave the painting when I stumble. 

Time slips away in the blink of an eye during the process and I will sometimes only stop when the phone rings, breaking the trance that I have been under for five or six hours. It’s only when I stop that I notice the fatigue in my eyes from being so locked in on the surface of the painting. But its a wonderful fatigue, one brought about by being totally in a serene place for hours, a place that I am creating in my mind and on the surface of the painting.

It’s as close to absolute calm and quiet as I ever get.

I wish I could explain it better. 

For this Sunday morning music, I am linking this painting with a choral piece from a favorite composer Arvo Pärt. This is from his work Da Pacem Domine, which translates as Give peace, Lord. This piece below is based on Psalm 131, I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul, which is shown above.

I am not a particularly religious person, as I have mentioned in the past. But there is something in certain sacred music of almost any religion that touches something in me, something more basal, more rawly attuned to the spirit than anything the liturgy and clerics of the churches have to offer. It reminds me of a book from the late 1970’s, The Dancing Wu Li Masters from Gary Zukav. He wrote about the similarities in the worlds of the spiritual and of physics. How theologians and religious scholars and theoretical physicists sometimes met and, stripped of the dogma of the theologians and the math of the physicists, spoke in very much the same terms about the same concepts. They found much common ground and agreement in concept and theory once they were far removed from the politics of their respective establishments.

I find that interesting. Anyway, here is Psalm 131 from Arvo Pärt as performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. For me, it matches up well with my Symphony Serene and is a fine way to start off what looks to be a gray cool day here.



9921029 Symphony Serene Catalog pg

GC Myers The Peaceful Silence 2021 PG Catalog page



Didn’t get around to writing my regular blog this morning but I did want to let folks know that the full catalog preview for my annual solo show is now available by contacting the Principle Gallery. Just send them an email at info@principlegallery.com and they will set you up. This year’s show, titled Between Here and There, opens next Friday, June 4 at the Principle Gallery located on historic King Street in lovely Alexandria, VA.

Blue Haven

GC Myers- Blue Haven sm



From my spirit’s gray defeat,
From my pulse’s flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault’s slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.

For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit’s sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

― Sara Teasdale, Refuge



Today, I am sharing the painting at the top, Blue Haven, which is another from my annual show, Between Here and There, that opens a week from today, June 4th, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Previews of the show become available today by contacting the gallery.

I thought I’d pair this painting with the short poem above, Refuge, from Sara Teasdale, the great and tragic American poet. Teasdale (1884-1933) wrote a poem, Strange Victory, that remains a favorite and was the inspiration for a group of my early paintings. Her poem and the painting both deal with creating a refuge or safe haven from the forces of the outer world that so often make us feel as though we have been pummeled without mercy. Finding a way or a place in which we can  hunker down and endure is sometimes all we are left.

Sometimes, just enduring is a form of triumph.

I believe that is what this painting says for me.

I hope it shows itself properly here, so that you can see it for what it is. It was a very difficult painting to photograph with its multiple contrasts and shades of blue, which has aspects and depths that are especially hard to properly capture. After a quite a few attempts I am still not sure that this image fully captures it. The difficult ones, those that are hard to capture and those that deal with complex emotions, are often my favorites. I think it’s because the viewer has to work a bit to fully understand the piece in their own way. It doesn’t offer its rewards easily.

I am also sharing a choral piece that is based on this Teasdale poem. It is surprising how much of her work has been the basis for musical works. I had no idea until I did a quick search this morning and found that there are several different compositions based on this poem alone. The one below spoke most clearly to me. It is  short piece for solo piano written by Edward Enman during the early days of the pandemic using Teasdale’s poem as inspiration. There is also a choral selection from composer Audrey Snyder that is lovely as well.

Give a listen to one or both, if you have a few moments.



GC Myers-  Invocation in Blue sm



A certain blue enters your soul. A certain red has an effect on your blood-pressure.

– Henri Matisse



Matisse certainly had it right.

For me, blue is the color of the soul and spirit and red the corporeal, the blood and body. Blue is the ethereal. Red is the carnal. I think that is why both colors play such a large part in my work. Actually, they play large parts in the work of most artists. They are two of the three primary colors for a good reason.

But in my work they often symbolize those two parts in us as individual humans– the body and the spirit, the carnal and the ethereal. Having the two come to terms within the picture and within myself is often part of my aim, something I usually don’t recognize until I am examining the painting after completion.

I think this new painting, a 16″ by 20″ canvas that is part of my new show at the Principle Gallery which opens next Friday, June 4. This piece is titled Invocation in Blue. I see it as dealing with that space between the spirit and the physical in each of us, about how we aspire to our higher aspects but are bound by our earthly desires.

Head in the stars, feet in the mud, figuratively speaking.

And that is sort of what I see here. The Red Tree aspires to the ethereal calm found in the endless blue of the night sky and the peaceful presence of the moon. But it is still rooted in the earth, still comforted and sustained by its earthly needs and desires. The patchwork of reds and purples seem almost like a quilt or comforter that mainly warms and protects but also restrains.

But even so, both of the worlds attached to each color have an appeal of their own. And in this piece, they dwell side by side, as they often do within some of us. It is a painting that has an acceptance of its place in the universe, that recognizes that we can and do exist in both the ethereal and the corporeal worlds. It is a painting of the peaceful balance that can exist between the two.

But, as always, that’s just my opinion. You might see it as something altogether different. And to that, I say, Good for you. That’s just as it should be.

Okay, here’s some music to accompany the painting. It’s also a great song to sip coffee by. It’s the great jazz piece Blue in Green. It is most often associated with Miles Davis. He is credited with writing it and his version is iconic. Brilliant. But I also like the version below from pianist Bill Evans who played on the Davis recording and was later revealed to be the true composer of the tune though he never received credit on the label or in royalties. It’s just a beautiful piece and I like to think it sums up the balance between the two worlds I discussed above.



Full Moon Fever

GC Myers- Full Moon Fever smHere is another new piece from my solo show at the Principle Gallery that opens next week, on June 4th. This is another of the interior scenes showing a room in the aftermath of some sort of to-do.

Myself, I don’t know exactly what took place and can only imagine.

I think that’s the point of these paintings, to give an endpoint where the viewer has to use their own imagination as to what has occurred. A final paragraph for a short story that gives you the results but not how it got to this point. It can be as vibrant and wild as your imagination allows.

This painting, a 10″ by 20″ canvas, is titled Full Moon Fever. My own story for what has happened is that this is a cabin where Larry Talbot tried to hide from the moon, to no avail. Larry Talbot was the name of Lon Chaney’s character in the original 1941 werewolf movie, The Wolf Man.

Now, that’s my take. Your own story may not line up with this at all and that’s means you’re using your imagination. That is usually a good thing so long as you realize it’s your imagination and not reality. Wild imaginings that folks perceive as reality are not a good thing as we have all seen in way too many instances in recent times.

I borrowed the title of this painting from a Tom Petty album that bore the same name, Full Moon Fever. Here’s Free Fallin’ from that album to honor the memory of Larry Talbot’s howling freefall that came under every full moon.



GC Myers- Between Here and There



If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.

― Anatole France



The new painting above is the title piece for my new show, Between Here and There, which opens next Friday, June 4 at the Principle Gallery. It is 22″ high by 28″wide in size and is painted on linen.

Like many of my paintings, its meaning lies in a moment captured in a symbolic journey. That moment when one stops to look both ahead and behind and to also savor the moment of pause.

I have sometimes this journey as being like a labyrinth whose twists and turns sometimes gives you glimpses of your far destination even though there is so much more of the pattern to be traveled before reaching it. Soon, you might be at a point where your desired objective seems a million miles away though it seemed so close not so long ago.

The way I see this piece is that the closer Red Tree is at such a moment and sees itself at a future time on that distant hilltop, with an even better view forward into the distance and back into the past. It sees itself there as being a fuller being, wiser and more attuned to the world, than it sees itself here.

That is its desired destination.

But between here and there are obstacles to overcome, hills and mountains to climb and rivers and seas to cross. Battles to be waged and wounds to be healed. People to be found and people to be lost.

Moments of elation and moments of utter despair. Sometimes, the despair so dark and hopeless that the journey seems at an end.

But then, like a twist in the maze, the objective you so desire comes back into view and you stop to take it in. And in this moment as you look forward then look back at all that you have endured, you savor once more this pause.

You are what you are and one day you may be what you desire to be. It may be dark now but tomorrow offers the possibility of light. You remember then that this is how the journey goes, that the trek between here and there is never easy.

Nothing worth having ever is.

That’s my take on it. Your own may and probably should be different. We are, after all, unique creatures.



 

In the next couple of weeks I will be focusing here on work from my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery. This year’s show is titled Between Here and There and opens next Friday, June 4 at the Alexandria gallery. But this morning, I have several tasks to see to and am rerunning the post below about the late artist Preston Dickinson. Great work. See you tomorrow!



Preston_Dickinson_-_Factory_(c__1920) Columbus Museum of ArtI’m a fan of the Precisionist movement in art which was formed in the early 20th century and often depicted the industrial structures that were fueling the growth spurt taking place in America. There are some big names in this movement, mainly Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, both of which I have featured here in the past.

But, like many of the movements in art, there are many lesser but equally brilliant stars in their universe. I recently came across one that really hit with me, mainly because of the energy and breadth of his work. I thought it was all really good, really strong and evocative. But it moved in many directions, pulling from many inspirations. There was some Futurist work, some elements of Cubism and others. It was as though this was an artist that was so talented that he was having trouble finding that single voice that fit his needs.

Preston_Dickinson Old Quarter Quebec 1927 - The Phillips CollectionHis name was Preston Dickinson who was born in NY in 1891.  He studied as a youth at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and soon after, with backing from a NY art dealer, headed off to Europe to study and exhibit there. Coming back to America, he moved around a bit but by the late 1920’s was considered among the stars of American Modernist painting.

In 1930, he moved to Spain to live and paint and several months after being there contracted pneumonia and died there. He was only 39. He produced only a few hundred pieces of work in the twenty years or so in which he was producing work.

So maybe there is something to this feeling that he was still in the midst of finding his true voice. It makes me sad to ponder what might have been and what sort of work was lost to the world when he passed away. He was obviously a huge talent with an active and inquiring mind.

I am glad to have just stumbled across him now and hope that the joy his work brings me somehow moves into my own.






Preston Dickinson Harlem River MOMApreston-dickinson-tower-of-goldPreston_Dickinson Old Quarter Quebec 1927 - The Phillips CollectionPreston_Dickinson_-_My_House_-_Google_Art_ProjectPreston_Dickinson - Industry 1923- The Whitney Collection

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