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Posts Tagged ‘Chet Baker’

This Sunday morning’s musical selection is tied somewhat to a group of new work that has been rekindling my fire here in the studio. I’ve shown a couple of images of new paintings here and on social media of what I might call my Mask pieces.

Each has been a group of faces that is done in quick strokes from a single brush, starting from one point and filling the canvas. It is unplanned in almost every way. No color plan. No theme. Just intuitively and roughly formed faces that stem from a lifelong collection of faces that have been stacked in my head, culled from looking intently at clouds, woodgrains and patterns of all sorts through the many decades. Seeing them spill out in this way has been energizing in a way that I know from experience will spill over into the rest of my work even if this particular work remains for me privately.

I haven’t been thrilled with how the camera is catching the images thus far. They have been quick photos that don’t fully capture much of the subtlety in the closer parts of the painting. So when the musical selection came up this morning, this section of one of the paintings jumped out at me. I thought showing it in detail would better show how I am seeing the work.

The song selection is the jazz standard Born to Be Blue, written by Mel Torme in 1946. It’s been performed by scores of singers over the years but it became a signature piece for the late Chet Baker.which is the version I am sharing below. In fact, a 2015 film biography of his life starring Ethan Hawke as Baker uses the song title as the film’s title. This version highlights his vocals rather than his horn work and features great piano playing from Bobby Scott.

Hearing it made me think of a blue face that I consider a central character in one of these pieces. At least my eye always lands on him first before roaming across the rest of the picture. The image at the top is a detail featuring him and shows better some of the surface and textures that compose the painting.

That being said, I am eager to get back to work on a new piece in this same style. Enjoy the song and have a great Sunday.

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Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

-William Shakespeare,  Macbeth

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I read an interesting article in The Atlantic  by Eliot Cohen this week that has stuck with me for the past few days. It parallels the possible fall of the current administration to that of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. How fitting that the Scottish play, as it is often called, might mirror the fall of a man with a Scottish ancestry.

The end may be brought about by those he has freely abused and those around him who serve him not from admiration or love but from fear and the self-serving nature of the position, things that will no doubt soon fall away as the downward spiral hastens and his true nature of this utterly selfish person becomes apparent to even those who still follow him with fervor.

As Cohen writes:

…his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well.

Who will be Macduff, the one who ends the reign of the tyrant, in this version of the play is yet to be determined. But the last words of Macduff before he is urged by Macbeth to Lay on, Macduff should be remembered:

Then yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
‘Here may you see the tyrant.’

In case you don’t know the play, it doesn’t end well for Macbeth.

The Cohen article is an interesting read. You can see it here.

For this week’s Sunday morning music I have chosen a nice collaboration of a song from the great American songbook from Elvis Costello and the late great Chet Baker. The title fits well with an article about a man who demands love and loyalty but offers none in return: You Don’t Know What Love Is.

Take a look and a listen. Have a good Sunday.

 

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Yesterday I wrote about how the truth, particularly as it applies to the news, has become a subjective item.  It seems to be more about how we feel about something rather than what the facts provide. This in turn allows falsehoods to become accepted as truth in the eyes of some despite all evidence to the contrary.  It’s an unfortunate scenario that may have already affected us  and may create awful consequences at some point in the all too near future.

But you can’t judge the facts like you’re judging a piece of art.  The facts should not be affected by how you feel about them or whether you like or dislike them.  They stand as they are.  Can you imagine being innocent and on trial?  All of the evidence and testimony proves your innocence but you are convicted because the jury felt that you were nonetheless found guilty.  The jury just didn’t like something about you.

Unfortunately, that’s not that far-fetched an analogy.  

I thought I’d run the post below from a few years back that talks about how the emotional subjectivity is appropriate in art, where your feeling is as important as the facts.

Painting is a blind man’s profession.  He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

–Pablo Picasso

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I love this quote from Picasso.  I think that is what all art really is– an expression of  feeling.  Emotion.  I know my best work, or at least the work that I feel is most directly connected to who I truly am as a human being, is always focused on expressing emotion rather than depicting any one place or person or thing.  At its best, the  piece as a whole becomes a vehicle for expression and the subject is merely a focal point in this expression.  The subject matter becomes irrelevant beyond that.  It could be a the most innocuous object,  a chair or a tree in my case.  It doesn’t  really matter because the painting’s emotion is carried by the painting as a whole-  the colors, the texture, the linework, the brushstrokes, etc.

In other words, it’s not what you see but what you feel.

I think many of  Vincent Van Gogh‘s works are amazing example of this.  They are so filled with emotion that you often don’t even realize how mundane the subject matter really is until you step back to analyze it for a moment.  I’ve described here before what an incredible feeling it was to see one of his paintings  for the first time, how it seemed to vibrate with feeling, seeming almost alive on the wall.

It was a vase of irises.

A few flowers in a pot. A floral arrangement.  How many hundreds of thousands of such paintings have been created just like that?  But this Van Gogh painting resonates not because of the subject matter, not because of precise depiction of the flowers or the vase.  No, it was a deep expression of his emotion, his wonder at the world he inhabited, inside and out.

I also see this in a lot of music.  It’s not the subject but the way the song is expressed.  How many times have we heard overwrought , schmaltzy ballads that try to create overt emotion but never seem to pull it off?  Then you hear someone interpret a simple song with deep and direct emotion  and the song soars powerfully.  I often use Johnny Cash‘s last recordings, in the last years  and months before his death, as evidence of this.  Many were his  interpretations of well known songs and his voice had, by that time, lost much of the power of his earlier days.  But the emotion, the wonder, in his delivery was palpable.  Moving.

Likewise, here’s Chet Baker from just a few months before his death.  He, too, had lost the power and grace of youth due to a life scarred by the hardship of drug abuse and violence.  But the expression is raw and real.  It makes this interpretation of  Little Girl Blue stand out for me.

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Blues Twilight Cover Richard BoulgerMost  mornings in the studio I will click on to the Pandora site for a little music while I write the blog.  Normally I will choose the  Chet Baker channel which is a blend of his music along with many others in a wide variety of jazz styles.  I find that it’s a great sound to drive my thoughts without overpowering them, energetic and moody at once.  Being able to step in and out of the music while I am thinking make it a great soundtrack to work by in the morning.

Listening to this has exposed me to a lot of artists and their music that were unknown to me beforehand.  Can’t say I know much about jazz or its history, primarily a few of the better known tracks from the legends.  But I try to keep an open mind and don’t turn myself off to it because of my own lack of knowledge, an attitude I hope a lot of folks who say they know nothing about art will maintain as well.  Try it on– maybe it will fit you better than you might think.

So, for this week’s Sunday music I chose a piece from a musician that was totally unknown to me not too long ago, Richard Boulger.  His horn work is beautiful and his compositions flow really well.  I heard this piece one morning and was totally taken by it and now find myself listening to it once or twice a day now while I paint.  It just fits me well.

Here’s Miss Sarah from Boulger’s 2008 album Blues Twilight.  Hope you’ll enjoy it and have a great Sunday.

 

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GC Myers  The Blue Cool This is another small painting that is part of  the Little Gems exhibit opening this coming Friday at the West End Gallery.  This is a little 3″ by 5″ piece on paper that I call The Blue Cool.  I guess that it arose from the current frigid temps that we are in here in the Northeast.  The sky here is in three blocks of an aqua blue color that has a transparency that makes them seem like thin slabs of ice.  I don’t know if this quality shows up on the computer screen  but when this piece was in the studio I always felt like holding it up to the light to see light shine through the ice that I felt like I was seeing.

It’s a simple meditative piece, what I like to typically see in these small works.  The small scale lends itself to simplicity.  Maybe this built-in restraint is one of the reasons why I enjoy painting these small pieces and why I feel they often work so well.

I don’t know for sure.  And I think that uncertainty or puzzlement  is sometimes a good thing.  It creates a sense of wonder and surprise and that is always a good thing.

I thought for this week’s Sunday music I would stick with the Blue theme and some blue cool jazz from one of my favorites, the late great Chet Baker.  The song is Born to be Blue which is also the title of a film currently in production about Baker’s life with Ethan Hawke portraying the gifted but tragic trumpeter.  His story reads like a screenplay– Golden Boy of jazz with movie-star looks loses everything to drug addiction and violence and tries to find redemption.  I’ve thought for years that it was meant to be a film and now it is, hopefully one that does the story justice.

When I listen to Baker’s music, I hear it with that same sense of uncertainty and puzzlement I alluded to above.  There’s just something natural and right in it that can’t be, or shouldn’t be, defined.  It just is.  Give a listen and have a great Sunday.

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GC Myers- Forever and EverI am heading out to Erie later this morning for tonight’s opening reception for my show, Alchemy, at the Kada Gallery.  While I am always a bit nervous beefore any of these solo shows, the ride out to Erie generally has a calming effect.  It is a simple and quiet  ride through rural western New York on a highway that sometimes feels deserted, with hardly another car appearing at certain points.  The landscape is a mix of rolling hills that skirt the Allegheny National Forest before leveling off into a plain that runs to the Great Lakes, Lake Erie in this case.  It is sparsely populated and airily wide open.  I think this is an image of New York that would surprise many people. I know that it’s a ride that always has a calming effect for me.

The painting, Forever and Ever,  above is a small piece, 6″ by 6″ on paper, that is include in this show.  It is another take on the Baucis and Philemon myth that I have described here several times in the past.  I really like the vivid tones of the sky and the landscape here.  They seem to give it the other-worldly feel that I think fits the story of the fated couple.

Here’s a little music that  has the calm that I anticipate on my drive westward.  It’s  You Don’t Know What Love Is from two of my favorites, Elvis Costello and the late great Chet Baker.  I hope to see you tonight if you’re in the Erie area and can come out to the Kada Gallery.  Kathy and Joe DeAngelo, the owners of the Kada, are wonderful hosts.  See you tonight!

 

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empathyAfter reading a recent Op-Ed piece in the NY Times from psychologist Daniel Goleman provocatively titled Rich People Just Care Less, which puts forward a theory that some of the problems caused by the growing inequality between the upper and lower classes may be the result of a lack of empathy by those in power, I was going to write once again about the the apparent empathy deficit in this world.  But this as far as I can go with it today.  It seems obvious to me that no amount of logic or evidence or words of shame can sway the actions of those lacking in empathy.  Need we  look any further for evidence than the current stalemate in Washington or the case now before the Supreme Court that will effectively take off all limits on campaign donations, further squelching the voice of the least powerful and most vulnerable?

No, I am not in the mood to go on with this today.  I throw up my hands and say “So what!”

Let’s listen to some music that fits the title.  Here’s one of my favorites, the great Chet Baker from 1964 with his version of the Miles Davis classic, So What.  Good music to chill to.

 

 

 

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