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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Painting has come to play a big part in my life. I’ve had a couple of different conversations with some folks over the past few weeks where I have tried to explain what painting has meant to me, tried to explain the void that it filled for me and the sense of purpose it brought to my life.  I talked about never feeling any sense of destiny or anything like that in becoming a painter. It just seemed to work for me in the ways I needed it to work. These conversations brought to mind the blog entry below that I wrote back in early 2009 called The Need to Paint that I thought I’d share today:

I wrote a few days ago about how I am often mystified by the meanings of my paintings and how I this makes me glad that I still have the need to paint.

The need to paint?

I thought about that after I hit the button to publish that post. I have often heard artists say they had to paint, as though it were some sort of exotic medical quandary.

Paint or die.

It always kind of bothered me when I heard this, as though these people were saying they had some sort of predestined calling. Like they were prophets or shamans that without their visionary paintings the world would spin out of control. I don’t think I ever felt afflicted with this and it always sounded just a little pompous to me. 

So when I wrote that I had the need to paint it made me twitch a bit. Maybe I’m the pompous ass here. That certainly is in the realm of possibility.

But I find myself kind of standing behind what I said– I do need to paint.

It’s not some call to destiny. It’s not to transmit some psychic message to the world. It’s more a case of me needing have a voice or form of expression that best suits my mind and abilities. Painting just happens to fill that need. If I could yodel–and thankfully for us all I cannot– I might be saying that I have the need to yodel.

But I need to paint.

I need to paint to try to express things I certainly can’t put in words, things that awe and mystify me. I need to paint to have a means to a voice to make the universe aware that I exist.

I need to paint just to remind myself that I am alive and still have the ability to feel the excitement and joy from something that I have created. I need to paint to feel the surprise of exceeding what I felt was within me, to go into that realm of personal mystery within and emerge with something new. I need to paint because it has given me the closest thing I know to answers to the questions I have.

I need to paint because it is one of the few things that I’ve done fairly well in my life.

Would I die?

Nah…

I’d adapt and find something new but it would be hard to find something that would suit me as well. So I guess I do need to paint after all. Call me a pompous ass. I don’t give a damn- I’ve got work to do.

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GC Myers- Deep Focus  Reading about Carmen Herrera, the artist I featured here yesterday who was “found” at age 89 and is still actively painting at 100, brought some thoughts about the idea of retiring to mind.  While it’s not something that I dwell on, I am at that age when one begins to think about such things.  In the last year or so,  at different times I have been asked by a couple of friends who are not artists, one who is my age and is retired, if I was thinking about retiring.

The question kind of surprised me each time I was asked.  I mean, I know that it’s a possibility and I do the things that one should do when planning for retirement in a financial sense.  But being asked about it caught me off guard.

But giving it some thought made me realize that retirement was not the end point I was shooting for in my life.  In fact, I can’t imagine ever retiring from what I do.  How could I put aside that thing that has given me purpose, that thing that connects me to this world and gives me expression?  Why would I stop searching for answers to  questions I haven’t even asked yet?

The whole idea of retiring seems like a foreign concept to me and my life as it has come to be.

In fact, as I’ve gotten older, I find myself looking for more and more time in which I can continue my work.  Time has become a more and more precious commodity.  Any time spent ill or in pain is time taken from this work so I have began actively working harder at being fit and healthy.  I hate giving up time for working out or walking.  I would much rather be working but knowing that it is required for continuing my work longer into this life makes this a valuable investment.

Seeing Carmen Herrera at work at  100 years old, even  in her wheelchair, and the many other artists who worked into their 80’s and 90’s gives me hope for this idea of never retiring.  Looking around the studio, I realize that there is so much more work to be done.  Work that I feel I must do.  Each day seems to uncover more and more facets to be probed, more questions to answer.  There is just not enough time in this life and I am not going to give up until that sun on the horizon leaves and fails to rise the next morning.

So hopefully, if I am lucky enough, you’ll see me several decades down the line, still at work.  And happy for it…

 

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Carmen HerreraThey say if you wait for the bus, the bus will come.  I say, yeah, I waited 98 years for the bus to come and nobody cared about what I did.

Carmen Herrera

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Carmen Herrera RondoThe words above are from a documentary called The 100 Years Show starring Carmen Herrera from filmmaker Alison Klayman.

It tells the amazing story of  artist Carmen Herrera‘s persevering belief in her art, a belief that kept her at work without acknowledgment for over 60 years before the art world finally took notice. She sold her first painting at the tender age of 89 and for the past decade she has enjoyed the accolades and attention so long overdue.  She continues to work to this day.  On May 31 she turns 101 years old.

Carmen Herrera was born in Havana in 1915.  Through the 1930’s and 40’s she split her time between Cuba , Paris and NYC, studying and immersing herself in the vibrant post-war art scene.  Her work just never seemed to be in the right place at the right time or was overlooked  because of her gender or ethnicity.  She tells of a conversation with the owner of a well-known NY gallery, Rose Fried, who acknowledged that Herrera was superior to the painters she had in her stable but she would not give her a show because she was a woman.  I can’t imagine how disheartening or confusing that must of been for her but , as she says, Rose Fried is dead now and she is enjoying the fruits of her long labor.

Besides she didn’t think the world was ready to receive her work.

So she continued to paint full-time without any acknowledgment and in 2004, an old friend recommended her for a show of female geometric painters at a NY gallery.  The show brought her work to light and revealed how she was among the pioneers of the genre, the dates of many of her works making them milestone pieces in the evolution of geometric minimalism.

So at age 89, she had her breakthrough.  Galleries and museums vie for her work  now and she still paints on a full-time basis.  It’s an amazing story and a great lesson in staying true to your belief in your own expression.

As they say, if you wait for the bus…

At the bottom is a teaser for the film:

Carmen Herrera 1 Carmen Herrera 2

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GC Myers-Foundling smArt is interested in life at the moment when the ray of power is passing through it.

Boris Pasternak

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I think Pasternak (author of Doctor Zhivago) is really spot on with with this terse definition of art.  Art at its core is, for me, an attempt to affirm our existence and the existence of that life force within us.

I really like that term that Pasternak uses here– ray of power.  That description of the force that drives all living things jibes well with that animating force that I try to find in my own work, that indeterminate quality that makes a static thing seem to take on a life of its own.

How and if it comes through in the work is the interesting thing for me.  Sometimes, despite my extreme efforts, I cannot find that life force.  Maybe I should say because of my extreme efforts instead of despite.  Sometimes it seems as though trying to consciously find that thing prevents it from being found. It often finally appears when I don’t focus on that aspect and lose myself in the process of actually painting– the colors, lines and forms before me.

It’s as though you don’t find it.  It finds you.

I chose the painting at the top, Foundling, to illustrate this post before I wrote that last line but it fits so well with the idea of that ray of power as well as the idea of it finding you.  This painting, a 24″ by 36″ canvas, is, of course, from my upcoming show, Home+Land, opening July 17 at the West End Gallery.

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GC Myers- Early LandscapeThis is a painting from about 17 or 18 years back.  I chose it for today’s post because last night I was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner for the Arts Center of Yates County and  used the transformational power of art as as a theme for my remarks.  I look at this painting and I can see how my work has changed over the years.  But more importantly, the transformation I see in this painting reminds me of the changes that have taken place in my life as a result of my involvement with the arts.

In addition to sharing the story of how I came  to painting, I spoke of  being empowered by discovering a voice in the images that speak for me of my deepest emotions where words fail me.  About how the purpose and responsibility that art has provided for me has enriched my life and connected me with the outer world.  About how art has allowed me to clearly see what I am and am not.

Art has provided so much for me and I urged those in attendance, all involved locally in some way with the arts, to take note of the gifts that art has given them and to encourage others to become involved in the arts so that they, too, might experience similar gifts.

I want to thank the members of Arts Center of Yates County for inviting me to speak and for being such a warm and receptive audience.  Your interest and friendly attitude made me made me feel very welcome and for that I am truly grateful.  All the best to you in the coming year.

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Jerome Bruner On Knowing CoverToday, October 1, is the 99th birthday of groundbreaking psychologist Jerome Bruner, who, by the way, still teaches at NYU.  To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Bruner or his work.  But on the BrainPickings site today, Maria Popova wrote a wonderful essay about one of Bruner’s articles, Art As a Mode of Knowing, from his 1962 book, On Knowing: Essays For the Left Hand.  In it she describes how : Bruner considers the unique language of art and how it complements that of science. He outlines the four psychological aspects of the art experience — connectedness, which deals with the reward of grasping the essential ideas a work of art communicates; effort, which we exert to draw meaning from the ambiguity of art; conversion of impulse, which makes an object of beauty move us; and generality, which deals with the universal aspects of what we find beautiful and moving.

It’s a great article, one that I highly recommend for anyone who has wondered about what defines the difference between art and decoration and why we are moved by some works and left emotionally unsatisfied before others.  I know that I am often perplexed by work that I see that is incredibly crafted and beautiful to look at yet doesn’t raise any response from within me.  What is it that makes this beautiful thing so cool and vacant?  Is it art or is it just a wonderful decorative piece?  Popova’s article sheds some light on Bruner’s insights into this matter and it rings true for me.

Happy birthday, Professor Bruner, and thank you for these wonderful observations.

Click here to see the article.

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Chet BakerMaybe it’s the morning here.  Dark and somber sky with an unyielding flatness in its gray.  Very quiet morning as though nothing really wants to stir and begin this sultry summer week.  A fans hums, trying to move a little cooler air through the studio and I am sitting with my coffee.  Chet Baker‘s Every Time We Say Goodbye is  playing above it all, accentuating the gray mood with its deeply spaced tones.  I’m not the biggest jazz guy but there I do like what I like and for certain moods, like this morning’s, nothing fills the bill like Chet Baker.

I think it’s one of those instances of pure expression, where the art and the individual meld.  It’s not put on, not contrived.  It’s real and felt deeply, his own truth– all that you can ask from any artist.  I think we all aspire to a true expression of ourselves, to create something that we can say genuinely represents who we really were during our time here.

I know that has been a driving force for me.  Sometimes, it seems close to telling my truth and sometimes it feels just a bit shaded or slanted away from reality.  Maybe it’s a case of hoping that the motivation, the goal,  becomes the reality.

I don’t know.  Maybe, that’s just a bit too much thinking for any Monday morning, especially a sleepy gray July one.  Here’s Chet.

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