Posts Tagged ‘Dustin Hoffman’

GC Myers- Island of Souls  Called Island of Souls, this painting, 16″ by 26″ on paper, uses the isolation of an island as its central theme.  I am not sure if my photography on this particular piece accurately captures the true color and feel of this piece so I may have to re-shoot this.  But this image does get most of what is important so I will get on with it.

The idea of an island has always intrigued me.  I think it comes from the paradox of perception that comes with them.  The isolation offers escape and safe haven from the outer world on one hand but at the same time has a sense of captivity and limitation on the other.  As an artist my working life is spent on such an island, either safely ensconced in the quiet safety of my studio or trapped in a self-made prison, depending on your viewpoint.

A lot of artists have trouble with this isolation but for me it has always been preferable.  I always think of  the film Papillon where inmate Louis Dega, played by Dustin Hoffman, finally accepts and adapts to his fate on Devil’s Island, the penal colony off the coast of French Guiana.  He eventually lives in a little hut away from the others and lives a quiet and simple life until the end of his life there.  I have always thought that , outside it being forced upon him as punishment, it was an existence to which  many  people might aspire, living on a tropical island with little to worry about from the outside world.

Maybe that’s what I see here.  I suppose it could be seen as some sort of a prison with the cluster of huts on a rocky island with a dock and no visible boat.  I tend to see it in more aspirational terms, as a place of peace with a sense of tranquility in the colors of this piece that complements this reading of this picture for me.

One man’s penal colony is another man’s paradise.

Here’s a song of the same name from Sting.  It’s from his 1991 album The Soul Cages and uses the island as a dreamed of place of escape for the boat builders of Newcastle as they toil over the great ships that they will never sail on.

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I wrote yesterday, while descibing the initial stages of my painting process for a new piece, about stepping back from the canvas at a distance to take in the piece as a whole.  During these early stages, when I’m blocking in the painting with red oxide, I give it what I call my snake-eyed look. This entails squinting the eyes and sort of unfocusing, taking in the shapes as sort of abstract forms that play off one another.  Without taking in great detail with this snake-eyed look I am also imagining ahead in the process, seeing the shapes taking on color and how they’ll react within the composition.  It’s hard to explain except to say that it is a sort of intuitive visualization.

I got the term, snake-eyed look, from a scene from the movie Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, the son of westward bound settlers who are killed in an attack by the Pawnee tribe and is subsequently raised as a Cheyenne after being foundby them  in the wreckage of their family’s wagon.  The story tells of his misadventures in going back and forth between the worlds of the Native Americans and the white man , culminating in him being present at the Little Big Horn where Genral Custer (played brilliantly by Richard Mulligan) meets his death.  Great movie and a great tale based on Thomas Berger’s wonderful novel of the same name.

In one scene Jack is reunited with his sister who also survived the massacre but escaped from their rescuers, certain they would rape her.  The Cheyenne, however, thought she was a man.  She takes Jack out to teach him how to use a handgun.  She tells him to go snake-eyed and to visualize shooting a bottle before drawing his gun.  Kind of like the description I gave above.   It’s a scene that I always think of when I find myself standing back from a painting with my eyes in a snake-eyed squint and I often wonder if I adapted this because of the scene or if my squinting  just came naturally.  Whatever the case, it worked for Jack Crabb and it works for me.

I will show the progress of the piece I wrote of yesterday in tomorrow’s post.  For today, here’s that scene from Little Big Man with that snake-eyed look.  If you haven’t seen the whole film or read the book, I definitely recommend either.

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