Posts Tagged ‘Dark Work’


My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the ‘light’ and never mentioned the other, then as an artist, I would be a liar.

–Charles Bukowski


This is a painting, Sleepwalk, from back in 2002. It is part of what I call my Dark Work which was when I first began working on a black painted surface. The idea was to make the blackness part of the painting, to give the painting the darkness against which I could set the contrast of the light.

Like the poet Charles Bukowski says above, I felt that in order to be honest as an artist I had to incorporate my own darkness in my work. Utilizing the darkness kept the perceived optimism of the work from wandering into the territory of cockeyed Pollyanna-ism. It provided contrast in the form of a sense of reality, a basis for validating the optimism of the light and the color.

Light needs dark, plain and simple.

The Dark Work was very important for me and I continue to paint using the same process and techniques I developed in that time. This particular piece has lived with me for many years now and I love pulling it out to study it from time to time. There always seems to be something new to focus on. A brushstroke. A section of the texture. The transition of one color into another.

It provides lessons that memory has long forgotten as I continue my own sleepwalk through this life.

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I was recently going through some old work and came across some paintings from 2002 that had slipped my mind. There were several done in the same style as the piece shown here, Night Blossom, with chunky, mosaic-like skies in deep blues and greens.  They had a dark, moody tone and a sense of weight in them that really drew me to them when I pulled them up on my screen.

It made me wonder why it was a path that I didn’t follow a bit further at that time. Maybe I felt it was too reminiscent of stained-glass. It does have that feel in the way it goes together.

Or maybe I just was headed in another direction that had a little more pull on me at the time. I was in the midst of my Dark Work in the aftermath of 9/11 which took me directly into my Red Roof series so perhaps that is the main reason for not doing more in this vein.

So, it may be as simple as it turning out to be that there is not enough time in the day to follow up on all the flares that are sent off in one’s head sometimes. Who knew?

But seeing this again and examining it closely re-ignites that flare and I see this as a new possibility in a larger scale done with skills that have evolved in the past 16 years.

And that is exciting for me.

Whether it turns outs to be what I see in my head is another thing. Sometimes those things I envision turn out much different in reality and not always in a positive manner.

We shall see…

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GC Myers Stranger (In a Strange Land) -

 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Exodus 2:22


I have been writing recently about some of the orphans, those paintings that make the rounds of the galleries and finally come back to me. The piece above is one of these orphans but it really isn’t. It’s mine alone, one of the rare pieces that I don’t think I would ever give up. Like many parents when looking at their children, I see much of myself in this painting.

Over the years I have periodically written about a group of paintings that were considered my Dark Work that were painted in the year or so after 9/11.   The piece shown above is one of these paintings. I very seldom consider a painting being for myself only but this one has always felt, from the very minute it was completed, as though it should stay with me.

It is titled  Stranger (In a Strange Land) which is derived from the title of Robert Heinlein’s famous sci-fi novel which in turn was derived from the words of Moses in Exodus 2:22, shown here at the top. The name Gershom is derived from the Hebrew words ger sham and means a stranger there. It is defined now as either exile or sojourner.

The landscape in this piece has an eerie, alien feel to it under that ominous sky. When I look at it I am instantly reminded of the feeling of that sense of not belonging that I have often felt throughout my life, as though I was that stranger in that strange land. The rolling field rows in the foreground remind me just a bit of the Levite cloth that adorned Moses when he was discovered in the Nile as an infant, a symbol of origin and heritage that acts as a comforting element here, almost like a swaddling blanket for the stranger as he views the landscape before him.

As I said, it is one of those rare pieces that I feel is for me alone, that has only personal meaning, even though I am sure there are others who will recognize that same feeling in this. For me  this painting symbolizes so much that feeling of alienation that I have experienced for much of my life, that same feeling from which my other more optimistic and hopeful work sprung as a reaction to it. Perhaps this is where I found myself and the more hopeful work was where I aspired to be.

Anyway, that’s enough for my five-cent psychology  lesson for today.  In short, this is a piece that I see as elemental to who I am and where I am going.  This one stays put .

Here’s a little of the great (and I think underappreciated) Leon Russell from way back in 1971 singing, appropriately,  Stranger in a Stranger Land

This is a repost of an entry from back in 2013 that has been heavily edited. 

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I wasn’t planning on featuring another older blog post.   But in recent days I have realized that some of the struggles I am going through in the studio are very similar to those I experienced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in late 2001 and through 2002.  My reaction to those attacks and the the current state of the country has been very similar.  

But there are differences between now and then.  How these will come out in the work is still to be seen.  It seemed in 2001 our angst was a matter of simple light and dark.  Right and wrong.  But the situation now is much different.  It is almost Kafkaesque in its absurdity.  Truth has become a matter of perception and belief rather than factual evidence.  We are no longer facing a darkness from some outside force.  

Instead we find ourselves in a tangle of lies, disinformation and misinformation.  Deeply divided visions for our future.  A giant Gordian knot of our own darkness.  And like the Gordian knot, the solution to undoing this tangle may come from an unlikely person or source.  A unique strategy that involves thinking outside of the box.  Or the stroke of a sword.

While I have yet to act on this impulse, I am seeing my coming work,  much like I did in 2001, in darker tones.  Deeper shadows.  And like that earlier “dark work” the focus and strength of the work will not be found in the oppressive nature of the darkness.  No, it’s strength will hopefully arise from the hope found in the light that will be there.

And there will be light.

This is from back in 2008:  


A Journey BeginsMy work had a dramatic change for a while in the months after 9/11.  Like everyone, my worldview shifted that day and this was reflected in my work.   It became darker in appearance and tone,  a bit more ominous in feel.   A lot of this had to do, technically, with the way the pieces were painted.  I was using a dark base and adding color in layers on top of this base, slowly building up my surface.  Much like painting on black velvet.  Normally I start with a white base and add layers of colors, taking away color as needed to achieve a desire effect.  As I pulled paint off the surface, the light base would come through and give the picture plane a glowing presence.  My normal technique is basically a “reductive” style whereas this new work in 2002 was “additive”.

Being untrained, these are terms I’ve adopted to sort of describe what I see as my technique.  They work for me.

Night TranceThis new work was not nearly so optimistic in feeling as my previous work.  People were a bit slower to embrace it and I wasn’t surprised at a time when our nation was still reeling.  But it was a true expression of how I felt at that time and I remember my time at the easel with these pieces as being very trance-like.  I would start a piece and have a hard time stopping. A virtual intoxication of color.  Or maybe more of a refuge in the scenes.  I don’t know.

Since the public was a bit more lukewarm to this group , which the galleries call “the dark work”, I have several of these pieces still and I am still both excited and calmed when I look at them.  They are rich and bold and very still in nature.  They may be dark but I still think there is hope in these paintings but it’s a wary type of hope.

And in the end, hope is hope…

In the Flow

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GC Myers- October SkyThis is a new painting that I have been working on recently.  It’s a 24″ by 24″ canvas that has a working title of October Sky.  It has nothing to do with the movie of that title — the one about how Homer Hickam, the son of a West Virginia coal miner. overcame long odds to become a rocket scientist.  I’m not fully sure of the reason for the title except that during the time I was painting  this the sky was gray and rainy.  The title just seemed to emotionally fall to this piece but that might change as I live with it.

And it’s a piece that I like living with right now.

It’s darker tones and clashing, interweaving lines satisfy something in me at this time.  There’s part of me that feels that I need to bring more light into it but  I find myself wondering if that is just a remnant of my past experience with my dark work from the aftermath of 9/11  that was not as well received as my lighter and more brightly colored work of that time.  It was my first experience working on a dark base and it took time for me to develop the style I use now where I create more color and light on the surface, far more than was on those earlier pieces.

So I have become accustomed to working past stages where the darkness is still strong in my work, sometimes when I am deeply drawn tot he darker aspects of the work.

And this is one such piece.  Looking at it now, I think it might be diminished by going too much further into the light.  But that is at just this moment and might change.  This is one of those pieces that require deliberation, time to ponder the painting’s real point of existence and feeling.  Some pieces announce themselves before the last strokes are even considered and others are more ambiguous.

And it is this ambiguity that I think gives this piece its strength.  It doesn’t announce itself as one thing.

And I like that.

I’m going to continue looking at this for a while, just taking it in for what it is in the moment.


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GC Myers  Destiny Bound framedThis coming Saturday, August 1, I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in support of my current show, Home+Land, that is hanging there.  It starts at 1 PM and, as many of you who regularly read this blog will know, ends with a drawing where one person in attendance will take home a painting of mine.

It’s something I’ve done for several years now at my Gallery Talks  and is something that really gives me great pleasure.  I’ve always felt so fortunate to have found my current life as a painter that this allows me to express my gratitude in a tangible way.  As a result, I try to carefully choose the works that I give away, not wanting to just go the far corner of the closet where I hide those early experiments that make me grimace to look at them now.

No, I want to give away paintings where I feel a pang of loss in giving them away, want them to have some sort of meaning for me so that this is not just an empty gesture. So, for this Saturday’s drawing, I have chosen the painting shown above.  It’s called Destiny Bound and is a 16″ by 20″ canvas so it has the size to give it a real presence.  It’s a painting that was only shown publicly once for a very short time before I brought it back to the studio.  It is sort of an anomaly in my body of work in the way it is framed, using a gold-leafed plein air frame rather than my signature frame.  I tried this frame style for a handful of pieces several years ago and decided that I wanted to stay solely with the continuity of my normal frames.  This is the one painting that remains in a gold frame and I chose to keep it as I’ve just become used to seeing it that way.

So, even though it has a unique overall appearance for my work, the painting itself is what I consider a great example of what has been called my Dark Work, work that first appeared in the months after 9/11 but has evolved over the years.  I am really attracted to overall presence of this painting and the deep colors and line work as well. And the expressiveness of the tree on the right.  That tree  has always felt like it pays tribute in some way to Thomas Hart Benton with its curves and lines.  While it reminds me of some his figures or trees, off the top of my head I can’t cite a particular painting of his that might feature such a tree or figure.

But that connection and the way the tree seems animated jumps out at me whenever I look at this piece. I just plain like this painting.  And I am giving it away on Saturday.  So, stop in at the West End Gallery on Saturday for what I hope will be an entertaining talk and maybe you can take  Destiny Bound home with you.  The talk starts at 1 PM and generally lasts about an hour.  Hope to see you there.

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GC Myers- Peaceful Tidings sm

Peaceful Tidings- GC Myers

My show, Layers, at the West End Gallery hangs for another two weeks, until August 29th.  It has been a very good show thus far with many of the paintings having found new homes, many of them in distant locales.  In fact, more than half of those sold have left the state, including two leaving yesterday for Utah. This has created a lot of gaps in the exhibit, enough so that Jesse Gardner, the assistant director there, asked if I had some larger pieces available to fill in the gaps. 

This struck me as a nice opportunity to show a few paintings that have not been seen in a while, pieces that have been biding their time with me in the studio. Included is the piece shown to the right, Peaceful Tidings, a piece measuring about 18″ by 36″ on paper.  It is a painting that inexplicably only showed in one gallery for a short time before coming to the studio.  Why I have kept it under wraps is a question that I can’t answer.  It has always seemed to be here, always drawing my attention when I am near it.  So this seems like a nice chance to let it out once more.

A few are from the group of work that I call the Dark Work, from around 2002.  Includes in this group are two pieces shown below, Night Karma and Night Vibrations, which is a larger piece, coming in at 30″ by 34″ on paper.  This series was a departure in style and tone from the much lighter and transparent work I was doing at the time and was very reflective of the tone of the time just after 9/11. Darker and with more weight, more ponderous.

But over the years as this work has become less associated with that time and people take it in with a different perspective, viewing it for what it is expressing in the now.  As a result, there are only a handful of these pieces from that time floating around, including this small group.  This work has great meaning for me and served a great purpose in my development, allowing me to better follow the inner voice that is most true to who I am as a person.  It’s good to show these pieces, even if only for a short time.

So, if you’ve already seen the show at the West End Gallery or if you have not, there is something new for you to see before it comes down in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully, you will find it interesting.

GC Myers- Night Vibrations sm

Night Vibrations- GC Myers

GC Myers- Night Karma sm

Night Karma- GC Myers

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