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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Between, Again

GC Myers- Between

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A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

-Albert Camus

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These lines above are from an essay, Between Yes and No,  written by the late French Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus. It basically states, in sometimes grim detail, his belief that art “exalts and denies simultaneously.” In short, truth, and life in general, operates somewhere in the middle, never a binary choice, never absolutely in yes or no.

To put it in visual terms– that’s my job, after all– life is never fully black or white. We live in shades of gray.

Yes or no is generally an oversimplified view for existentialists like Camus. The enigma of this world, this life, comes from forever living with both the yes and the no.

Shades of gray.

While I may not fully understand all the subtleties of Camus’ essay, I do fully agree with the premise as I see it in my own simplified way. I think that art communicates best when it contains both the yes and the no— those polar oppositions that create a tension to which we react on an emotional level. For example, I think my best work has come when it contains opposing elements such as optimism tinged with with the darkness of fear or remorse.

Yes and no.

I guess it’s this thought that brought the title for the piece ( 4″ by 4″ on paper) at the top which I call Between. Simply put, I see it as the Red Tree being torn between the nebulous  desire of the Moon’s promise set against the security of its earthly home, represented by the patchwork quilt-like look of the surrounding landscape. Between the unknown and known.

Somewhere in between the yes and the no…

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The post above ran back in 2015. I’ve edited it a bit for a little more clarity, to make it a little less gray.

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Romare Bearden – Vampin’ ( Piney Brown Blues)

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The artist confronts chaos. The whole thing of art is, how do you organize chaos?

–Romare Bearden

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I think the beginning of this quote from the late artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) is an important statement and observation.

The artist confronts chaos.

That really speaks to me. It better defines a bit the purpose and necessity of art, both in a general and personal sense.

Maybe the purpose of art is to bring clarity and order to the world that confronts us, to illuminate the hidden or overlooked elements of our existence.

I don’t know for sure but these few words and my own experience make me believe it to be so.

For me, art is a way of distilling the torrent of information and sensations that flow through each of us every day down to a single manageable expression. An expression that helps me better understand and tolerate the chaos before me.

For me, it usually boils down to familiar forms and expressive colors. Found order and harmony above the chaotic rhythm of the texture below.

Like hearing a language you don’t really know but seem to somehow understand and trying to translate it to others.

It is different for every artist, no doubt. The idea of organizing chaos might seem totally foreign to some. I can’t say for sure what drives every artist or what purpose they derive from their art.

I can only speak for myself. That, in itself, might be a valid definition for art.

To that, I answer with my mantra: I don’t know.

And that is undoubtedly the driving force behind art.

Here’s  Big Joe Turner and his Piney Brown Blues, the song that Romare Bearden references in the monotype at the top of he page. Have a good day.

 

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Edible Sendak

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Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

–Maurice Sendak

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He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

I love this little episode from Maurice Sendak. Reinforces my own faith in the judgement of children when it comes to art. Their reactions are pure and unadulterated– with the emphasis on the adult portion of that word. Kids look at things without pretensions and preconceived notions of what art is or is not. I am happiest when a kid reacts strongly to my work.

If only I could paint something that some kid would love enough to eat…

 

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Got way too much stuff to get at it this morning to write. But I thought I’d share a post from back in 2010 that I like a lot. Take a look.

Southern Gardens- Paul Klee

I was asked yesterday if I talked to my paintings.

Interesting question.

I talk to animals. I talk to trees and plants. I talk to my car. I talk to my studio, which actually has a name. I talk to ghosts, present or not. Whether any of these things or beings listens is another matter.

But talk to my paintings?

It immediately brought to mind a section of a famous lecture that I had been reading recently and had really resonated with me. It was On Modern Art,  delivered in the 1920’s by Swiss artist and a personal favorite of mine Paul Klee:

May I use a simile, the simile of the tree? The artist has studied this world of variety and has, we may suppose, unobtrusively found his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the passing stream of image and experience. This sense of direction in nature and life, this branching and spreading array, I shall compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye. Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree. Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he guides the vision on into his work. As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its root. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection. It is obvious that different functions expanding in different elements must produce divergences. But it is just the artist who at times is denied those departures from nature which his art demands. He has even been charged with incompetence and deliberate distortion.

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules–he transmits. His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

This very much sums up how I’ve always felt about art, especially my place as an artist– a mere channel or transmitter.  And when I look at my paintings, the crown of my tree, it is not in the form of a conversation so much as listening to what the paintings have to tell me. I paint because I question and, at best, the paintings provide some answers and insight that I might not find or see otherwise.

So, do I talk to my paintings? Not so much. But do they talk to me? Yes. And I do my best to listen…

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Mad Rush

End of year blah.

Too much of some and not nearly enough of others.

Gray light and the clock races to an endpoint in a mad rush.

Then the new year. Tick tock.

Thought this might be a good point to play Mad Rush from Philip Glass as the last choice for this year’s Sunday morning music selection.  It has an ethereal, almost cosmic feel that seems appropriate for the frantic race to the end of one year and the transition to the subdued and tenuous beginning of the next.

It’s a gorgeous piece which was written for the Dalai Lama‘s first North American address back in 1979. Written originally for organ– it was written on the organ at the Saint John the Divine Cathedral in NY– it was meant to be a open-ended piece that could be shortened or extended without the audience noticing to accommodate the vague timetable of the Dalai Lama’s scheduled appearance. It has been recognized over the years as an iconic piece of modern music. Glass performs it here in Montreal from 2015.

The image at the top is a painting of Glass by Chuck Close who has painted the composer several times including one done solely with fingerprints that I featured in a favorite blog entry that I’ve run a couple times. If you look closely, you can see how this painting is a great example of  Close’s unique style of pixelation.

Enjoy the last Sunday of this mad year. Have a great day.

 

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I love color. It must submit to me. And I love art. I kneel before it, and it must become mine. Everything around me glows with passion. Every day reveals a new red flower, glowing, scarlet red. Everyone around me carries them. Some wear them quietly hidden in their hearts. And they are like poppies just opening, of which one can see only here and there a hint of red petal peeking out from the green bud.

–Paula Modersohn-Becker
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Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) is yet another artist that is unknown to most of us. I know she was not known to me and as I was going through the images of her paintings from her tragically short career, I feel selfishly saddened for the loss of what more she might have had in store for us.
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Born in Germany, her actual artistic career lasted less than a decade but her work had great influence in the European art world of the early 20th century. Perhaps a leading edge of the Modernist movement to come, she worked only in tempera with a limited palette of colors and worked with simplified forms, sometimes scratching the painted surface to create her distinct textures.
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She died at the age of 31 from a post partum embolism.
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I love her quote at the top, how we all carry colorful red flowers with us. Some of us hide our flowers and others wear them for all to see. The artist’s chore – or gift- is to discover and express that red flower.
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Take a look below at some of the paintings from Paula Modersohn-Becker.
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Art is the soul of a people.

Romare Bearden
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Getting ready for tomorrow’s 1 PM Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in Corning. There are a few new paintings that I am framing today to bring along  with me. I am also getting some other things together that will no doubt show up including the painting, Pipedream, that will be given away at the end of the talk.
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I’ve also been running things through my mind that I want to discuss. One thing I will try to touch on is the purpose of art. That’s where the quote above from the late American painter Romare Bearden comes in. In a very concise manner, it sums up the importance of art.
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Win This Painting! –“Pipedream”

Art, in all forms, is our soul, our collective spirit and memory. It is the expression of our values and beliefs. It completes our humanity.

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Without art, we are less human. We are without our soul.
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Okay, maybe that will be a subject. I never fully know until I am standing there, trying to look composed while my anxiety causes my mind to shoot off fireworks inside my skull. But I do know that we will talk about something and tell some stories. You know, it might very well be interesting, even fun. Plus, there are prizes! What’s not to like?
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So, if you’re in Corning tomorrow around 1 PM, stop in at the West End Gallery and join in the conversation. Maybe you’ll take something home you were not expecting.

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Tonight is the opening reception for The Rising, this year’s edition of my annual solo show at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. The reception begins at 5 PM and runs until 7:30 PM.

My history at the West End Gallery is well documented here. I would not be sitting here this morning, writing this blog about my work and this show, if not for a meeting back in January of 1995 where Tom and Linda Gardner saw something of value in the milk crate that served as my portfolio, with pieces of cardboard and paper jutting out from it. From that first glimpse, they gave me my first opportunity and followed it up with the encouragement that allowed me to grow as an artist.

You have to understand that this came at a time not too far removed from what I will describe without hesitation as being the lowest point in my life. Their acceptance and embrace of my work was a lifesaver thrown out to a drowning man.

So when I tell you that I try with all my heart to create work for these shows that is meaningful and at the highest level at which I am capable, those are not just words.

It describes an act of gratitude. a Thank You for a life saved and reshaped.  A Thank You for the opportunity to grow and evolve as an artist, to live a life I never could have imagined all those many years ago.

I hope that the work in The Rising displays that sense of gratitude as well as the growth that came with it.

Hope you can make it out to the gallery tonight. I’ll be there.

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The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives – the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself.

Norman Cousins

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This is a new 18″ by 18″ painting that I call A Rising Awareness which is included in my show, The Rising, that is now hanging and opens Friday at the West End Gallery.

I think the words above from the late journalist Norman Cousins capture what I feel the representative Red Roof house is rising above in this painting. It is a constant battle for us humans to hold on to those things– genuine feeling,inspired response and an empathy with the pain or glory of others– as we live our lives on this planet. We sometimes become self-centered and guarded in our response to many things and emotionally distant in our dealings with others. Instead of feeling their pain or glory, we sometimes experience envy at their successes and a pang of relief that their failures are not ours.

Our humanity dulls and much joy is lost to us.

But the idea that we can recognize this dulling in ourselves and somehow fight against and rise above it intrigues me. I have come to believe that we can make conscious decisions to raise our awareness, to feel and respond in more positive ways, that we are enriched by maintaining a spirit of generosity and empathy towards others.

I like to think that the Red Roof here represents one who has taken this higher road and has made the decision to listen to its better angels. There’s a feeling of a letting go of angry and mean-spirited thoughts and an acknowledgment of a unity of sorts with the universal human spirit.

Warmth and tranquility. Maybe that is what I am seeing. You judge for yourself.

 

 

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Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.

― Albert Szent-Györgyi 

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My annual show at the West End Gallery opens a week from today, on Friday, July 13. This show is called The Rising based very much on the number of rising moons and suns along with trees that rise boldly into the sky. It also refers to a rising awareness of the worlds in which we live and our relationship with these worlds.

I use the plural worlds because I believe there are layers in this world, some physical and some extending into the realm of the metaphysical, the psychological and the spiritual. I also believe we have the ability to live in multiple layers. I can’t say that many of us do or if I do myself. Most days I feel like I am barely existing in the surface layer we all know.

But I think the gateway for discovering comes as Albert Szent-Györgi, the Hungarian biochemist who discovered Vitamin C, states in the quote at the top. We all see the same things on a daily basis but it is only when we think of those common things in other terms that we make discoveries.

That willingness to see the commonplace in another light is the basis for science, for mythology and for art. I think the art that remains vital and continues to speak through time has the ability to illuminate the extraordinary that exists in the commonplace.

I know that this is what I hope occurs in my own work. My hopes and words mean nothing because only time will tell if it was a successful effort.

The painting at the top, a new 18″ by 24″ canvas from the show that is titled Gems Revealed, is an illustration of this thought. It is a simple scene, a group of fields under a night sky lit by a rising moon. But the light brings out colors and forms in the fields as well in the sky an don the clouds that have an otherworldly quality, one that seems to be teeming with life and color and motion. The path that winds through the field takes on the quality of a snake or a stream and the clouds appear to be swimming through the ether of the night sky.

Perhaps a new layer of being is revealed in this light?

I cannot say myself. Only time will tell.

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The work for this show has been delivered and will be hung today and tomorrow so you can get a preview if you’re in the Corning area. The opening reception for the show is next Friday, July 13, from 5-7:30 PM.

 

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