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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

— A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

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It seems like this current period of time, this year we call 2020, might be memorable. It definitely falls somewhere among those terms that Dickens set out in the opening paragraph of his A Tale of Two Cities.

I’m still waiting for the best of times part but maybe it will eventually show its shining face at some point this year. Got my fingers crossed on that one.

The painting at the top is part of my Social Distancing show that opens 4 weeks from tomorrow, June 5, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. As I was working on it, further into the process it felt like it was acting as a marker in some way of this year. It certainly reflected the social distancing in the show’s title.

But there was something more than that to it, something more like the Dickensian ( finally got to use that word!) words above. Perhaps best of times, worst of times sort of stuff.

Season of light and season of darkness, definitely.

I think it’s a fitting piece for this period with its fractured sky and darker, ominous tones set against the light from the sun/moon(?) and the sturdiness of the house.

It is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Not fearful either nor foolishly filled with hubris. The word I might use is enduring.

Kind of like the final speech from Ma Joad ( played brilliantly by Jane Darwell) that ends the film version of The Grapes of Wrath:

“I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was, though. For a while it looked like we was beat. Good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too, like we was lost and nobody cared…. Rich fellas come up and they die, and their kids ain’t no good and they die out too, but we keep on coming. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out, they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.”

That speech always moves me because it speaks so strongly to my own survival instincts. There have been times when I wanted to give up but this same drive that Ma Joad describes kicks in.

You take the beating today but you keep plodding forward, doing whatever is needed to see the next day.

Because maybe that’s where the answer will be.

That’s what I see in this painting. Enduring. Resilient. Good time, bad times, fight through the darkness and look for the light. Just keep going on and not giving up.

I am calling this painting, which is 20″ wide by 30″ tall on wood panel, In the Year 2020.

It was somewhat borrowed from the old Zager & Evans 1968 hit In the Year 2525. That time 50 some years back felt as apocalyptic as this moment seems now. I am sure there was a lot of use of the best of times, worst of times at that point. But we did somehow endure the turbulence of that time. There might be much more ahead of us now that we will have to struggle past but we will most likely endure and look back at this year with mixed feelings someday, remembering the awfulness along with the goodness we discovered alongside it.

Here’s a video of that Zager & Evans song set to visuals from the 1925 silent futuristic dystopian classic from director Fritz Lang, Metropolis.
Have a good day and stay strong.

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Fear’s a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

Bruce Springsteen, Devils & Dust

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Very late getting around so I don’t have time to say much. How much do I really ever say anyhow? But I had this song in my head that seemed to be setting the tone for my day and maybe my week. Maybe my month. I thought I’d share it.

The song is Devils & Dust from Bruce Springsteen‘s 2005 album with the same title. It’s a song that wasn’t really a hit but received some critical acclaim including several Grammy nominations. Even so, I believe it’s a song and album that I think is very much underrated in the Springsteen canon. It’s an adult album, as it should be, from a man forty years removed from the youthful exuberance and anthemic nature of his early work.

I always pay attention to this song when it comes on my playlist and it never fails to bring on a few moments of quiet rumination. A tone for this moment, as I said.

Give a listen. For you keen eyed readers, the image at the top is the dining room of Mrs. Haversham from the great David Lean adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book and film that is very much a favorite of mine.

Have a good day.

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“The sun –the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”

― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

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I guess it’s wishful thinking to be discussing a painting based on light and warmth on a day when we are just beginning to feel the brunt of the bitter cold that has swept down from the polar regions. It’s below 0° right now and it won’t get much above that for the next few days around here. Brrr! So the hope contained in a rising sun and the light and heat from it becomes something to really think about.

The painting above is a new one, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Reaching For The Light. The jumble of upward rising buildings has a new addition to go with the regular roofs and spires–chimneys. This new element gives the effect of an appendage reaching upward from each building to get to the sunlight.

I like that feeling that it gives.

I thought the descriptive snip above from Dickens’ Oliver Twist fit this painting. I often have images based on Dickens’ vivid descriptions of cityscapes from Victorian England in mind when I am working on these type of paintings that are cramped and crowded with buildings. His words created an imagery that stuck firmly in my mind from when I first read them so many years ago.

It was a place of darkness, soot, and shadows. The idea of the sun cutting through the grayness with its cleansing light and warmth is one of hope, one of moving to a better situation beyond the squalor and despair of the moment.

That’s how I am seeing this painting with the Red Tree serving as the symbolic central figure acting out this idea of grasping for the light.

So, on this coldly bitter day, I have to find hope in the same sun that we have come to fear as the ever increasing effects of global climate change become apparent.

Stay warm, folks.

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GC Myers- The Long Way Home smHome is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

  ~Charles Dickens

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This is a newer painting that went to the Principle Gallery recently.  It’s a 12″ by 16″ painting on paper that I call The Long Way Home.  Home, as a concept,  plays a large part in my work as it is the destination for the life journey that is the basis for much of what I do.  I don’t necessarily see home as a physical place but rather that interior space where we are comfortable with who and what we are.  For me, our real journey in life is always internal.

Everything leads inward.

We often set out on treks through the external world trying to find a place, a physical location where we  feel accepted and at home.  But it never happens until we find that inner peace and acceptance in that inner realm that is always with us.  Though we may have traveled a million miles, home is always within reach if we only stop and look inward.  And I think that is what this piece is communicating.  The title reflects on the search that always leads back to that internal place we often overlook in our zeal to find that place we call home.

Home is always with us.

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Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home.

—Charles Dickens

Wishing a very Merry Christmas to everyone everywhere.  May the season find us all at peace.

—-GC Myers, 2011

 

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The ancient Mayans may be saying that the world will soon end but it’s not a new concept.  Many people throughout time have foresaw the end of the world through the signs they read in the pattern of their society’s breakdown.  You can read it throughout history.  Men of the day, from ancient Greece onward, decrying the breakdown of their civilization and the imminent demise of the world.

I’ve written a bit about the items I’ve been reading in the old newspapers while doing some research on my grandfather.  At first I was charmed by the vivid nature of the time.  Explosive growth and innovation in so many fields.  Seemingly unlimited potential for those willing to go for it.

But as I scanned through the pages, it became a nightmare world.  Every day brought new horrors.  The local pages were filled with the deaths of so many, young and old, from things that have been tamed by modern science for so long that we no longer give them a second thought unless we’re in a third world nation.  Dysentery, cholera and malaria.  Tuberculosis.

Rabies.  Yes, rabies, for chrissakes.

There were several accounts in the papers from the short time at which I was looking, in which local citizens died from rabies.  In one case the man was placed in a padded cell and was near death, according to the account.

People were hit by trains on the city streets on a regular basis.  Multiple accounts of farming accidents, most in graphic details that you would never see in today’s papers.  Plenty of murders.  There were only a handful of cars on the roads around 1905 but there were plenty of reports of accidents, many fatal.

And fires.  Everyday another fire and often, another death.  In Forestport, a booming logging town in the southern part of the Adirondacks where my great-grandfather plied his trade, the downtown area suffered two devastating fires in the period of seven years.

There was a wealth of other chaotic activities going on to stoke the fires under those who saw the end of the world at that time.  Nationally, there were anarchists setting off bombs.  Local skirmishes the world over.  Here, we had Black Hand societies that stemmed from Italian immigrants and were a precursor to the later Mafia.  They were notorious for their Black Hand letters sent to those from which they wanted to extort money, letters that usually had a drawing of a black hand and a dagger alongside their threat and demands.  Most of the threats were against other Italian immigrants. I was surprised to see multiple accounts of such letters being made public in the papers.

After a time of reading these papers and seeing page after page of relative misery, I could see why the contemporaries of that time would see the end of the world hurtling at them.  Made me appreciate our own times a bit more and put reports of our demise in perspective.

I guess Dickens was accurate for all eras when he wrote those great first lines of A Tale of Two Cities:    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

So, the world may or may not end as the Mayans forecast.  If it does, it does.  I fit doesn’t, we’ll just feel like it is anyways…


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On Christmas Morning

Party Lights

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! 

                                                             ~Charles Dickens

 


                                                     

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