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Posts Tagged ‘Biographical’

So runs my dream: but what am I? 
         An infant crying in the night: 
         An infant crying for the light: 
And with no language but a cry.
                                                                                                          .
Alfred Tennyson, Canto 54, In Memoriam A.H.H.
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I came across an online article a few weeks back that captured my interest. Written by British designer Benjamin Earl Evans, it is titled 11 Brutal Truths About Creativity That No One Wants to Talk About. It’s a pretty short read.
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Many of the points Evans makes seem pretty evident to me– your ideas are not original, everybody is creative, creativity is hard, success depends on the assistance of others and so on. Art, like any business or real endeavor, is filled with difficulties and harsh realities and if someone has spent anytime trying to be a working artist, they recognize many of these as absolute truths.
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Perhaps the greatest difficulty for the visual artist is that you are faced with the prospect of competing with other artists, many with greater skills and training than yourself, for dwindling opportunities to show your work in the traditional gallery spaces that best gets your work in front of prospective collectors. Add to this that the artist then has to have their work somehow create an emotional bridge to the viewer, something that connects with them on the most visceral level.
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I find myself often wondering what might be the differentiating factor in why the work of some artists succeed at these difficult tasks while the work of other greatly skilled artists does not? It is surely something beyond technical prowess and a solid resume. Something almost indefinable.
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Evans provides one possible answer in this article, one that stopped me in my tracks with its simple obviousness– allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
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It made me think the many times I have seen artists with incredible technical and observational skills create work that just doesn’t seem to reveal itself emotionally. Perhaps their ability has overshadowed their need for expression? I don’t know that answer.
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But reading that, I immediately recognized the place of vulnerability and my willingness to share it in my work. I realize that my fears and shortcomings come through in my work.  My weaknesses, my uncertainties and my tears are readily on display as are my affections, hopes and aspirations. Even my lack of certain skills is a vulnerability that I am willing to expose and share, mainly because I cannot hide behind them.
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Maybe that kind of vulnerability is one of those differentiating factors. I don’t know for sure though I tend to lean that way in my belief. How does an artist gain vulnerability? Again, I don’t know. Not even sure they can outside of trying to work on those things that allow them to really feel deep emotion.
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No easy answers, unfortunately. But for me, I will continue with my transparency, my own vulnerability. It’s all I know.

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pablopicassoskeletonYour willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.

August Wilson

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As the post below from back in August of 2010 points out, most years I struggle with the month of August and this particular one is no different.  The doldrums set in and I am filled with an anxiety and a stifling restlessness that combine to create a sense of desperation within me.  If I hadn’t experienced this before, this feeling would seem unbearable.

But it’s not something new so I realize that it’s just a matter of hanging on and letting it pass, all the while trying to pull something from it that will show itself in my work.  I have found that such keen desperation is often the source of great work, much as playwright August Wilson a fitting first name!— points out so eloquently in the quote above.  So, while I find myself fighting through the cruel days and demons of August, I do so as I listen for the song of angels to begin.

And from experience, I know they will begin soon enough.  Sing, angels, sing!

From August 18, 2010:

This print from Picasso [ Above] very much sums up my feelings for the month of August. 

I have never been a fan of August.  Memories of the so-called dog days of summer spent as a child.  Hot from a relentless sun.  Bored.  Burnt grass crunching underfoot.  The coming school year hanging overhead like the sword of Damocles.

August has always had a faint aura of death around it for me.  I remember the death of my grandfather in ’68.  My beloved dog Maggie years later.  Several friends over the years, from a variety of causes. Elvis.   The bright glare of the August sun seeming to taunt the grief of the moment.

August.

We were watching something on television the other night, perhaps Mad Men– I can’t really remember.  Anyway, the character in the scene that was on said , “I hate August.” 

It made my ears prick up and I couldn’t help but mutter, “I’m with you there, brother.”

August.

Well, I’ve got a lot to do this August  morning.  It takes a lot of work to keep busy to ward off the cruelty of  August…

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“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel

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GC Myers Memory of  Night sm

I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now, staring at the quote above from Elie Wiesel.  I had planned on writing about how my work evolved as a response to the indifference of others but now, looking at those words and putting them into the context of  Wiesel’s experience, I feel a bit foolish.  Wiesel, who had survived the Holocaust, was eyewitness to indifference on a grand scale, from those who were complicit or those who did not raise their voices in protest even though they knew what was happening to the personal indifference shown by his Nazi guards, as they turned a blind eye to the suffering and inhumanity directly before them on a daily basis, treating them as though they were nothing at all.

The indifference of which he speaks is that which looks past you without  any regard for your humanity. Or your existence, for that matter.  It is this failure to engage, this failure to allow our empathy to take hold and guide us,  that grants permission for the great suffering that takes place throughout our world.

So you can see where writing about showing a picture as a symbolic battle against indifference might seem a bit trivial.  It certainly does to me.  But I do see in it a microcosm of the wider implications.  We all want our humanity, our existence, recognized and for me this was a small way of  raising my voice to be heard.

When I first started showing my work I was coming off of a period where I was at my lowest point for quite some time.  I felt absolutely voiceless and barely visible in the world, dispossessed in many ways.  In art I found a way to finally express an inner voice, my real humanity,  that others could see and react to.  So when my first opportunity to display my work came, at the West End Gallery in 1995, I went to the show with great trepidation.  For some, it was just a show of  some nice paintings by some nice folks.  For me, it was a test of my existence.

It was interesting as I stood off to the side, watching as people walked about the space.  It was elating when someone stopped and looked at my small pieces.  But that  feeling of momentary glee was overwhelmed by the indifference shown by those who walked by with hardly a glance.  That crushed me.  I would have rather they had stopped and spit at the wall than merely walk by dismissively.  That, at least, would have made me feel heard.

Don’t get me wrong here– some people who are not moved by a painting walking by it without a glance are not Nazis.  I held no ill will toward them, even at that moment.  I knew that I was the one who had placed so much importance on this moment, not them.  They had no idea that they were playing part to an existential  crisis.  Now, I am even a bit grateful for their indifference that night because it made me vow that I would paint bolder, that I would make my voice be heard.  Without that indifference I might have settled and not continued forward on my path.

But in this case, I knew that it was up to me to overcome their indifference.

Again, please excuse my use of Mr. Wiesel’s quote here.  We all want to be heard, to be recognized on the basic levels for our own existence, our own individual selves. But too often, we all show indifference that takes that away from others, including those that we love.  We all need to listen and hear, to look and see, to express our empathy with those we encounter.  Maybe in these small ways the greater effects of indifference of which Elie Wiesel spoke can be somehow avoided.

It’s a hope.

The painting at the top is a new piece that I call Memory of Night, inspired by Wiesel’s book, Night.

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GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork6I have been spending a lot of time here in the studio in the last few weeks painting in a more traditional manner, what I call an additive style meaning that layers of paint are continually added , normally building from dark to light.  I’ve painted this way for many years but much of my work is painted in a much different manner where a lot of very wet paint is applied to a flat surface.  I then take off much of this paint, revealing the lightness of he underlying surface.  That’s a very simplified version of the process, one that has evolved and refined over the years,  that I, of course, refer to as being reductive.

When you’re self-taught, you can call things whatever you please.  I’m thinking of calling my brushes hairsticks from now on.

This reductive process is what continually prodded me ahead early on when I was just learning to express myself visually.  I went back recently and came across a very early group of these pieces, among the very first where I employed this process.  I am still attracted to these pieces, partly because of the nostalgia of seeing those things once again  that opened other doors for me.  But there was also a unity and continuity in the work that I found very appealing.  Each piece, while not very refined or tremendously strong alone, strengthened the group  as a whole.  I would have been hesitant to show most of these alone but together they feel so much more complete and unified.

This has made me look at these pieces in a different light, one where I found new respect for them. I think they are really symbolic of some of  what I consider strengths in my work, this sense of continuum and relativity from piece to piece.  It also brings me back to that early path and makes me consider if I should backtrack and walk that path again, now armed with twenty years of experience.  Something to consider.

GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 1 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 3 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 5 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 2 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 4

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Steampunk Breathe Pendulum Clock- Erin Keck

Steampunk Breathe Pendulum Clock- Erin Keck

My solo show this year at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, for which I am in the midst of preparations,  is scheduled  for Friday, June 6th.  This show, which I am calling  Traveller,  will be my fifteenth solo show at the Principle, something which sets my mind reeling with all sorts of thoughts.  I  had no idea when that first show, Redtree,  took place back in 2000 that it would continue for so many years.  To be truthful, I had no expectations of any sort.

I just didn’t know then.  Just as I don’t know now.

Thinking of this show makes me wonder at the fact that I am now in my twentieth year as a professional artist.  While I had no real endpoint to which I was aspiring in the beginning, I was nonetheless impatient to get there. The intervening years have taught me a bit about respecting time and patience, about plodding ahead incrementally and setting aside certain anxieties.  Or at least, coming to terms with them so that they don’t paralyze me.

Time is also a great revelator of  who one really is.  You can’t fake who you are through twenty years.  No, you can’t endure twenty years of creating without revealing your own personal truths.

I think my body work over this time is ample display of that.  It is flawed and imperfect. It is rough around the edges at times yet delicate, almost fragile, at other times.   It is sometimes loud when it should be quiet and quiet when it should be loud.  It is confident and bold yet filled with uncertainties and apprehensions.  It tries to be plain-spoken and easily accessible yet not simple or frivolous.

Unapologetically, it is what it is.

I could easily describe myself with all of these.  I am my work and my work is me and together we travel in time.

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The cool timepiece at the top right is from artist Erin Keck of Mechanicsburg, PA.  She does some creative and wonderful steampunk pieces.  Check out her online store  by clicking here.

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Clarification– GC Myers

My solo show at the Principle Gallery opens Friday and I’m very busy in the interim.  Seems like there in not enough time in any one day.  I thought this might be a good day to run a combination of two posts that first ran here back in September of 2008.  They give a quick overview of how I started painting and I thought they might be of interest to new readers of the blog who might not know the background story. 

Part I:

I never expected to be an artist. I mean, I remember thinking at age 7 or 8 that it might be neat to live as an artist, drawing and painting the days away, but in reality it seemed like a pipe dream. We were what I would consider lower-middle class (maybe even upper-low class) and the idea of someone being an artist was as fantastic as someone being a fish. We didn’t know any artists and art didn’t seem to occupy a large place in our lives. But I thought I would like to be an artist and my parents did their best in meeting this wish, going out and buying me tubes of oil paint and canvas boards. They didn’t know that a 7 year old would not be able to teach himself to use the oils and would need training and besides, they had no idea how to find such help. So I plunged ahead and made gray glop on the boards and became frustrated, finally setting aside the paints forever. Or so I thought.

Over the next few decades I tried my hand at many things: drawing awful little sketches for the school paper, working with leather, writing sophomoric poetry, screen-printing t-shirts, wood carving and on and on. Nothing hit for me but I felt there was something in me that had to come out, something that had to be expressed in one form or another. For a long while I thought it was writing but after many years I came to the realization that what I wanted to write about was the quiet of large open space, the feeling of peering across lands to a far horizon. How much could one person write on that subject? I wasn’t interested in telling a tale. I wanted to make people feel. I wanted to touch people on an emotional level and my writing wasn’t doing the job.

During this time I held a number of jobs. I worked as a candy cook in the A&P factory for several years, worked as construction laborer, owned and operated a swimming pool business, sold cars and was a finance manager at a Honda dealership. Stumbling along, I ended up at a Perkins Restaurant in my mid-30’s as a waiter. I had no idea what the future held.

It was around this time that my wife, Cheri, and I started to build a home on a parcel of land we had bought several years before. I would work on the house during the day and wait tables at night. One September morning I was working at site alone, stapling Tyvek weather barrier to the peak of the house when my ladder slid on the Tyvek, toppling over and catching my feet, throwing me face-first to the ground, about 16 feet below. I still cringe a bit at the memory of that moss green ground rising up at me and the sudden blackness as it hit. I was up immediately, leaning against the house and muttering “Oh my god, oh my god…” as I surveyed the damage. My right wrist had two 90 degree angles in it. Blood poured down my face and I could feel that the inside of my mouth was all torn up from broken teeth smashing in and through it. I had no way of calling anyone (pre-cellphone days!) so I drove home, fading in and out during the short drive.

Cheri got me to the hospital and over the course of the next few months I began to mend. I had plenty of time to myself since I couldn’t work at the restaurant and couldn’t do much on the house. It was during this time that in my boredom I began to play around with some old air-brush paints from another earlier failed effort. I would put the brush in my cast and push it around on some bristol paper just to feel like I was doing something. At first, it seemed the same as always then suddenly, something clicked in my head. The shapes and colors seemed to come together and make sense. I don’t know how to exactly describe it. It was as though my perception had changed and with that came new found ability.

That was the beginning of my new life. I became obsessed with this new way of expressing myself. After returning to work, I would paint several hours each evening. With each session a new avenue would open before me. My mind raced with each discovery. I remember with great clarity the night I finished this piece:

The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my heart raced. It was a moment of epiphany. For the first time, I saw something that had the same feeling as the images in my head, something that was my own pure expression. The form was right. The color was right. It had its own quality and life. It was at that moment I knew that painting would be my life.

Part II:

So there I was painting away, assembling a mish-mosh of paper and board with smears of paint. Some pieces really hit and some didn’t but, as in any endeavor, there was a lot to be learned from the misses. The missteps defined strengths and weaknesses. A time pass and I felt that the work was growing and was becoming a true expression of myself but I wasn’t thinking I was any more than an avid hobbyist at this point.

I had bought a painting or two over the years from the West End Gallery in Corning, NY. One of the owners at that time was Tom Gardner, also a well-known painter and teacher. Tom has a knack for conversation and I would occasionally stop in and we’d end up pulling out chairs in the middle of the spacious gallery and just shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. It was during one such talk that Tom asked if I painted. I hemmed and hawed a bit then confessed that I had puttered around a little. Tom told me that I should bring some stufff in and he’d be glad to critique it but to be prepared to accept a harsh judgement if the work deserved it. I hesitatingly agreed.

A week or so later I showed up at the gallery and Tom, seeing me, started to laugh. I was hauling my pieces in an old blue milk crate with pieces of paper and cardboard sticking out all over the place. It was not the organized portfolio of a serious artist or student. Tom hunkered down and began shuffling through the pile of work and turned to me.

“I’ve got one question for you,” he said, pausing for a beat. “Where the hell have you been?”

I was shocked and thrilled. It was a validation of the work. He saw something original and strong in the work, saw real possibility. My head reeled. About this time, co-owner Linda Gardner walked in and looked over Tom’s shoulder for a few minutes. After a moment she turned to me.

“Can you have 10 or 12 of these ready by next week for our next opening”

I can still remember the giddiness I felt from this unexpected turn of events. A new possibility opened before me in that one moment, that one simple question. I said yes. of course I could have the work ready. I wanted to be confident even though I had no idea how to present the work properly. But I knew I would learn and learn quickly because there was new horizon in front of me now, an opportunity that I knew I could not squander. I would give it everything I had.

So, it was started. Here is one of the first pieces I exhibited and I believe the first piece I ever sold:

Anyway, that’s how I first came to show my work publicly. I’ll talk more about that in later posts.

And I have, for about 4 years now.  Thanks for stopping in here over that time.

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Abstracted

Yesterday was one of those odd days in the studio.  I have been extremely busy at work recently and, as a result, have found a nice deep groove, one of those creative rhythms where each new effort inspires the next and new ideas are shooting out all over the place.  Everything comes easily and is done without questioning, all with the confidence that the instinct driving this surge will carry me in the right direction.   It’s a great feeling and I find it hard to pull myself away when this happens, fearful that a break of any sort will disrupt this vibrant but sometimes fragile rhythm.

But sometimes the rhythm just goes a bit haywire for awhile.  Like a seemingly healthy heart that suddenly goes into fibrillation without warning.  That was how it felt yesterday .

I can’t explain why or when or  even what caused this episode.  It was as though everything suddenly became  abstract and I could find no semblance of direction or purpose in what I was doing.  The whole concept of pushing paint around sheets of heavy paper and canvas seemed absolutely ridiculous.  The work in front of me made no sense and when I turned away from it, hoping that I could simply pick up in something new, there was nothing.  I suddenly felt totally empty and the confidence that had been so ample in recent days was gone in a flash, replaced by old fears. 

It’s quite disconcerting  and even a little panic creeps in at first.  But this isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve been here before and know that it’s a matter of just pushing through this temporary fog and that it will soon subside. Sometimes it goes quickly and sometimes it lingers for days and weeks but eventually the fears will fade into the background and purpose returns. 

Luckily for me, yesterday was just a short episode and within a few hours I had regained equilibrium.  My world seemed less abstract and I once again believed in what I was doing and felt a vitality in my efforts.  The rhythm was regained. 

It made me realize how fortunate I was to only have to face what amount to relatively  minor demons when several friends are going through much more true hardships in their lives.  I hope they can endure through these periods of darkness and abstraction and soon find their own rhythm again.   It’s out there waiting for them if they can just struggle through.

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