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GC Myers-The Fulfillment sm

“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery



Take your hand
and place your hand
some place
upon your body.
And listen
to the community of madness
that
you are.

How To Be Alone, Pádraig Ó Tuama



I am up and alone in the studio at 4:30 this morning, eager to get a brush in my hand. It might sound crazy but that doesn’t matter to me right now. I am excited about the work for my Principle Gallery show in June that I am working on and feel a compulsion to keep at it out of the fear that this feeling will soon pass.

But for as excited as I am still about the new work, I am not ready to show a lot of it quite yet. Something makes me want to hold most of it back for a bit, as though showing too much of it will somehow diminish the impact of it as a whole. Actually, the gallery hasn’t even seen a lot of this work, probably for that same reason.

I’ve spent more time already from this early morning than I had wanted before I get to work so I will get to the point of this post. It’s the author’s reading and animation of a piece, How To Belong Be Alone, from Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama. It’s a wonderful short poem that speaks to the need to belong which is similar to that driving need to have my voice heard that brought me to painting.

Some days I find myself questioning whether that need to have my voice heard is a necessity or a product of ego. I mean, here I sit writing about my paintings. Isn’t that an act of ego?

Part of me says that it is. But part of me rejects that idea. After all, we all need to know that our voices are heard, that our existence matters, that we belong in this world. Maybe if I believed that my voice or my work deserved to be heard and appreciated above all others or that it mattered more than that of anyone else, maybe then it would be an act of ego.

But I don’t believe that. We all deserve to let the world hear the voice of our unique selves. Each is as valid and valuable as the next.

I think this poem speaks well to this point.

… listen to the community of madness that you are.

Okay, got to get to work. before I burst. Take a look please.



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Beeple- “Everydays: The First 5000 Days”



“I’ve crossed some kind of invisible line. I feel as if I’ve come to a place I never thought I’d have to come to. And I don’t know how I got here. It’s a strange place. It’s a place where a little harmless dreaming and then some sleepy, early-morning talk has led me into considerations of death and annihilation.”

― Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories



I don’t know about the death and annihilation part but somedays I wake up and feel as though I have stumbled into an alternate reality where there are things going on that baffle me completely, that don’t have any basis in the world from which I come.

Like I am a goat farmer from the late 1700’s who has suddenly been thrown through time and ends up in the middle of a Times Square with huge walls of lights flashing, cars whooshing by and jets thundering overhead. 

The place and everything associated with it  just doesn’t line up with anything I know or have ever seen. I am confused, to say the least. Maybe even a little scared because if I don’t know what the hell it is, I have no idea if it can hurt me.

That is exactly the feeling I had when I read that on Thursday a piece of digital art, an NFT— a non-fungible token— had sold in auction at Christie’s for $69 million. The artist’s is Mike Winkelman who goes by the name Beeple and he is a digital artist from Charleston, SC who until October of 2020 had never sold a print for more than $100.

Then came NFTs. Those cuddly non-fungible tokens.

Here’s where I fall through time and space.

I wish I could explain it to you but it feels like the translation of a language I’ve never heard of translated into a language that was just invented and is, yes, unknown to me.

The only thing I understand is the concept of attaching value to an object that is not contained in the value of the raw materials or labor that made it. That is the definition of art and most collectibles. For example, a painting is a token in that it has value attached to it.  But a painting that sells for $100 million dollars is not much different in real world terms from one that sells for $10,000.

The difference is that there is a higher value attached by the market– the potential buyers– that reflects its history, the artist’s reputation, its rarity and provenance and whatever the heck makes a painting worth $100 million. But even then, after the huge piles of cash have been exchanged, the buyer still has a tangible object in their hands.

Probably a closer analogy to NFTs is collectible cards like baseball cards. They are nothing more than a penny’s worth of cheap cardboard with an image printed on one side and some stats on the back. But value is somehow added to them to the point that some are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while most end up propping up off level tables.

I still don’t know if I am explaining this well. Remember, I just got into this century from the 1788 with goat dung on my boots. Which makes the next part even more difficult to explain.

These NFTs are attached and sold via blockchain technology. Like cryptocurrency. Bitcoin. Ethereum. You know what I’m talking about, right?

I think Yogi Berra would be better equipped to explain this.

I tried at one point a couple of years ago to better understand cryptocurrency but I just couldn’t fully grasp it. It seemed so much like a giant pyramid scheme. But what made it even harder to grasp was that there are actually bitcoin mines.

Yeah, bitcoin mines.

I am standing here with goat stink still on me and I am trying to grasp the idea that bitcoins are mined — created, actually– by people around the world trying to solve the same mathematical puzzle using very large and powerful computers. About every 10 minutes, someone solves a puzzle and is rewarded with some bitcoins. Then, a new puzzle is generated, and the whole process starts over again. As more people become involved around the globe trying to solve this puzzle, it is made more difficult so that it is estimated that it will take ten minutes to come up with the new solution.

Every ten minutes. So, in order to be the first to solve this puzzle and get the bitcoins, one has to have computers that use enormous amounts of electricity. We are talking something on the order of 72 terawatts expended to create a single bitcoin. That is 72 trillion watts of electricity. Every ten minutes.

This first came to my attention when I learned that there was a proposal for a bitcoin mine to be built on nearly Seneca Lake. If I am not mistaken, it would use the water from the lake to run a hydroelectric generator to produce the huge amount of power needed for its computers. 

I still am in the dark on this and can’t even begin to explain blockchain technology. Remember, I am from a time when the Snickers Bar was still a 150 years from being developed and marketed. That’s a technology I can understand and maybe even explain.

So, here I am wondering how a digital file that anyone can download and display is somehow valued by its owner, a person who shelled out $69 million bucks. I really am confused and have all sorts of questions. 

Can this affect my own work? Might my work be stolen– this has happened to other artists– via these NFTs? What does this mean for the future of art? With all due respect to his talent, Beeple is now one of the most valuable artists in the history of art. I think that’s a statement even he would find laughable. Granted, its a lot easier to laugh with $69 mil in the bank. Or is it in cryptocurrency?

Good for Beeple. But the real question is: How do I do this?

The price for goat feed is a lot higher than it was in 1788.

I think I will go outside and bang my head against a tree. Now that I understand.

 

 

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In Radiance

“In Radiance”- Now at the West End Gallery

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Change the focus of the eye. When you have done that, then the end of the world as you formerly knew it will have occurred, and you will experience the radiance of the divine presence everywhere, here and now.

–Joseph Campbell
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Change the focus of the eye.
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Is that the purpose of art? It makes sense. Through the years, many artists have talked about painting beyond what is there, painting the invisible, the intangible.
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To make the viewer see the ordinary in a new or extraordinary way.
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Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, it can be done but you don’t always find the divine radiance of all things. That can be frustrating and unfulfilling. But on those times when you do, you understand what Joseph Campbell was describing. And it drives you on.
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Change the focus of the eye. It most likely applies to life in general, as well. I will have to try that.

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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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