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Posts Tagged ‘Early Painting’

Woke up late this morning, at least by my standards. I bolted awake directly coming out one of those weird dreams that seem like something out of a dystopian novel like 1984 or Brave New World.

Or taken from any recent newspaper.

I wanted to go back to sleep just to try again, maybe come out this sleep with something better. Second times a charm, you know.

But I couldn’t so I headed over to the studio for my morning rituals. But that feeling from my dreams lingered, like a foreboding prophetic omen that is always at the edge of my thoughts and my vision.

I have a floater in my right eye that sometimes, when I am looking straight ahead, will dart across the far right periphery of my field of vision. It’s been there a while now but I often still finding myself jerking my head reflexively to see what is there. Of course, there is never anything there yet its continued presence gives me an unsettling feeling as though something could be there when I look the next time.

Uncomfortable dream or terrible omen? I’m rooting for uncomfortable dream but who knows what our subconscious is up to these days.  So much of the info, the indicators, the patterns it selects to process from the outside world enter without our knowledge.

It all reminds me of the image at the top, a painting from back in 1996 or thereabouts. I can’t locate a slide of this piece but came across an old photocopy yesterday and was really taken with it. It’s called Strange Victory II designed as a kind of companion to Strange Victory which was an early painting that I showed here and was based on a favorite poem of mine with that title from Sara Teasdale.

There is a lot that I like in this painting– the subtlety of the colors, the textures and the contrast of the figure and the tree against the backdrop. It is so simply constructed but has a fullness that is often elusive to me as an artist.

I think it’s a great companion piece for this week’s Sunday Morning Music. This week I chose Don’t Give Up, the Peter Gabriel song from back in the 1980’s. This version is from Willie Nelson accompanied by Sinead O’Connor, from his 1996 album, Across the Borderline. I think it’s a first rate cover of the song and I can envision the image of this painting when I listen to it.

Take a listen and have good day and better dreams.

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I thought I’d replay this post from back in 2011 about a little piece that is one of my personal favorites.

I came across this little piece that I had painted long ago, before I ever showed my work to anyone.  It’s a tiny little thing, barely 2″ by 3″ in size, but it’s a painting that I consider one of my favorites.  It’s not because of anything in the painting itself, although I do like the way it works visually with its simple forms and tones.  Actually, it’s because I see an entire narrative in this piece and it always comes back as soon as I see it, even after many years.

I call this Guenther Hears the Boogaloo Softly.  The story I see here is a German soldier on patrol in the second World War, in a wintry forest,  perhaps in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.  He is separated from his group and as he is alone in the forest he suddenly hears a sound from deep in the woods, echoing softly through the frozen trees.  It is a piano and it is like nothing he has heard before.  It has a loping bassline that churns and pops and over it is a tap dance of notes that bounce and roll on the rhythm.  It’s American boogie woogie.  Somewhere unseen in the forest a piano is rolling out that boogie woogie beat.

Guenther is transfixed and holds his breath to better hear the music that enchants him. A siren’s song.  He loses all thought of his mission and his duty.  He is engrossed by the music.

I don’t go any further with this scenario in my mind.  There are obvious directions the story could take.  Guenther might allow the music to transfix him to the point he doesn’t hear the American patrol coming upon him.  Or he might throw down his weapon and flee.  But most likely, he would return to his patrol and  if he were lucky enough to survive the war, the memory of that music would haunt him for years, sending him on a search to recapture the sound of that moment in the forest.

I see it simply as a being about the transformative power of music and art, about how they unify humans despite our differences.  When we hear or see something, we don’t do so as a German or an American, as a democrat or a republican, as a Christian or a Muslim.  We react as a human to our individual perceptions.  Sometimes we cannot shake these other labels we carry with us but there are moments when our reaction is pure.  Which is what I see in this little bit of paint and paper, in Guenther’s reaction to the piano.

Such a little bit of paint yet such a lot to say…

Afternote: There is a certain irony that the boogie woogie sound is largely kept alive by Europeans now with people such as Axel Zwingenberger and Silvan Zingg, a  pianist known as the Ambassador of Boogie Woogie  who hosts a boogie woogie festival in his native Switzerland each year. But here’s a little taste of boogie woogie from the late pianist Dorothy Donegan (1922-1998) as she performs Hallelujah Boogie Woogie. In her 70’s, she’s having a good time and putting on a real show.

 

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GC Myers- The Deacon's New Tie 1995I was thinking about what song to use for this week’s Sunday morning musical interlude and the song I chose brought to mind an old painting of mine, one that lives with me still. It from the early Exiles series from around 1995 and is called The Deacon’s New Tie.

Finished near the end of the series, it is a bit lighter and more whimsical than the other pieces in the earlier post. Outside of going out for an exhibit many years ago, the Deacon has been a constant companion here in the studio.

There’s really no back story to the Deacon. He sort of just emerged from the surface. I had no preconception of what he would be when I started. I remember clearly starting this piece on a blank sheet and making a nose. Slowly, the face formed and when his eyes with their hangdog look came around I knew he was different than my other Exiles characters.

The funny thing about the Deacon is that several months after the piece was done and include in the Exiles show, I came across an article in the newspaper about a 95 year-old man in central Florida who had won a case where he was trying to be forced from the land on which he had lived for nearly 70 years. There was a picture of a bald old man sitting on his veranda, a slight smile on his lips. There was something slightly familiar in that face, something that caused me take a second look. There it was: he was the spitting image of my deacon.

Then, reading the article, it stated that he was a longtime member of a local church and was known to friends and neighbors as the Deacon. Coincidence or maybe just a certain look reserved for those Deacon-like characters.

As you may have already surmised from the title, this week’s song is Deacon Blues from Steely Dan, a group that I often think people have let slip away in the collective memory.  I was a fan and know that I often forget them until I stumble across their music by chance.  Luckily, there’s a local restaurant where we’ve dined for many years and we can’t remember a single visit where a Steely Dan song hasn’t played on their sound system at some point during the meal. The owner must be a Steely Dan fan but I think many people would be surprised at the huge success, both critical and commercial, that this band achieved in the 1970’s.  Solid then and now.

Anyway, this is one of their hits from back in 1977, Deacon Blues. Give a listen and have great Sunday.

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Is It There?/ A Replay

GC Myers- First View 1994It’s that time of the year when I get to take a deep breath and begin to look forward into the next year, trying to determine where my path will lead next. It’s never an easy time doing this, trying to see change of some sort in the work  especially after so many years of being what I am and painting as I do. It always comes down to the same question:

What do I want to see in my paintings?

That seems like a simple question.  I think that any degree of success I may have achieved is due to my ability to do just that, to paint work that I want to see myself, work that excites me first. So I have been doing just that for most of my career, painting pictures in colors and forms that I want, or shall I say, need to see. But there is another layer to the question:

What am I am not seeing in my work that I would like to see?

That’s a harder question. How can you quantify that thing that you don’t know, might not even have imagined yet?

It might be a case of  knowing it when you see it. I know that my first real breakthrough was like that.

I was a beginning painter simply fumbling along.  Even then I knew I would never be a great craftsman following in the long tradition of fine art painters and I had little interest in showing the world or people in any sort of exactitude.  I saw it then and now as way of painting the unseen.  But I wasn’t able to visualize in any way what that unseen might be at that point.  I found myself looking for something that nagged at the edge of my mind, something that called out to me from just out of reach. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, had not a concrete idea of what it might be. It was just there in a gaseous form that I couldn’t quite grasp.

But when that thing finally stepped forward into view on my painting table and revealed itself in a tangible form– which is the painting at the top here, First View, from 1994– I instantly knew what it was that I had stumbled on and that it was something that  very important to me.

It might not look like much to the casual viewer now but in an instant I could see in this little painting the completeness of what I had been sensing in that gaseous, hazy form that hovered at the edges of my mind. I could see a full realization of all of the potential in it, in the present and shooting forward into the future like a strong beam of light. Even now, after years of evolving from it, I can see how it connects to everything in my work, even those things I had could not yet see when I painted it.

And that’s where I find myself at the moment.  There’s something out there ( or in there, I probably should say) that I want to see, might even need to see.  But I don’t know what it is yet. But I will know it when I see it.

And, trust me, I do plan on seeing it.

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GC Myers-The Writing's on the Wall smI chose the image above from the Exiles series for this post because it just seemed to fit so well.  They were painted in pure emotion so whenever I am dealing with hard emotional things, I tend to go to this group of paintings for some reflection.

There has been a lapse in the blog this past week, as regular readers may have noticed.  It’s been a very, very tough week.

Now I’ve had a number of really bad days in my life.  A few bad weeks.  One or two very bad months and I even think there was one entire year that was fairly rotten from start to finish.  All were basically the result of my own bad decisions or perceptions.  Self-inflicted, you could say.

This was not self-inflicted.  I wish it were.  It would be easier to find blame for it within myself.  That I can do.

No, there is nobody to blame as we’ve been dealing with our father’s declining condition due to his Alzheimer’s. It culminated this past week with my siblings and I heading to Florida to retrieve my father after his longtime partner and caregiver broke her hip, making it unlikely that she will ever be able to provide care for him again. Caring for him was already too much for an 82 year old with health problems of her own living in an area where neither of them had family to fall back on.

It had been a couple of years since I had seen him.  The weekly few minutes on the phone had been reduced to a simple script that he followed that was all about the weather, his physical health (which was always “okay”) and  asking if I had spoke with my sister or my aunt.  Most other subjects were avoided or made short work of when they were brought up.  It always ended abruptly with a “If you get any real news give me a call.”  Three, four minutes, at the very most.

So our first day with him there was a shock seeing him in a very reduced state and we struggled with just what direction this could go.  It was painfully evident he needed real care that we could not provide and that we needed to bring him home to a location near us.  The trick was convincing him that this was the best thing for him.  I say convinced but it amounted to tricking him, playing with his memory deficits to get him to agree to go with us, trying to avoid getting him upset and even more confused or angry.

That sounds awful, I know, but I think those who have dealt with this disease will understand.  Myself, I didn’t have any experience dealing with this and for a day or two it was terrible doing this deception, even though it was benevolent in nature. But it had to be done and this was the only way that would accomplish it.   Even so, I found myself crying every night as I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to sleep on his couch while he slept fitfully in the room next to me.

Every day posed a new mountain to climb and each new mountain seemed taller than the one before it.  When the time came to move him, it looked like there was a series of ever increasing peaks ahead of us.  It came down to a three day road trip with my brother and I escorting him north.  It felt like three months, every moment spent trying to remind him where we going and that, no, we weren’t taking him to his Florida home.  Everything was difficult and the constant emotional strain began to take a toll in the form of a bone-tiredness and mental fatigue.

Even as we turned into the parking lot of my sister’s apartment, where he will be staying for a short time, I had to calm his agitation.  The same thing happened when I left to come home a bit later.  I’m glad that I have a calming effect on him but it takes a toll every time I have to make him look at me and listen as I tell him that I am looking out for him and that everything will be okay.  Internally, I feel like a shit and a liar because I know that it won’t be okay, that he won’t ever see his Florida home again and most likely won’t see his longtime girlfriend again.

We have even bigger peaks to scale in the days ahead and I am filled with dread.  But they must be climbed.  That’s all there is to it.  There is no choice to be made here.  Regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of this man–and there are many– we know we have a responsibility to him that we can’t discard,  There is only path through those mountains.

I probably shouldn’t be sharing this on this blog that is primarily about my work. But I have come to view my life as my work and my work as my life. They seem interconnected and inseparable.  The emotions in my life feed the emotional part in my work so this will no doubt seep into my future work. That is the one thing in this whole thing of which I am sure.

So, I’ve got to put on my gear for the day and get climbing.  There’s a mountain out there waiting…

 

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GC Myers- Endless Time-webI was looking at some older paintings in the studios, my orphans as I call them.  But some are not orphans, not without a home.  Some are just here because they are my own and have some sort of special meaning for me.  Such is the case with the piece above, Endless Time.  It’s a piece that I consider a link to my earliest works, a reminder of the inner forces that drove me into the work I now do.

Back in 2009, I wrote in a blogpost here about this painting:

This is really a direct descendent from my earliest work that focused on open spaces and blocks of color, work that was meant to be spare and quiet.  The weight of the piece is carried by the abstract qualities of the landscape and the intensity of the colors.  

With this piece, I have chosen to forego the  kinship that the red tree often fosters with the viewer, acting as a greeter inviting them to enter and feel comfortable within the picture plane.   In Endless Time the viewer is left to their own devices when they enter the picture.  There is no place to hide, no cover.  They are exposed to the weight of the sky and the roll of the landscape.  They are alone with not a sound nor distraction.

It becomes, at this point, a meditation.  One is not merely looking at a landscape.  To go into this painting one must be willing to look inside themselves as well.

This painting, like much of my early work, was in large part influenced by a piece of music, Tabula Rasa,  from the great contemporary composer Arvo Pärt.  It’s a piece that speaks of empty spaces and the meditative quality of silences.  The purpose of my work as I saw it at that time was to find silence, to find a sanctuary from  the cacophony and discord of civilization.  That is still very much the case although the work has evolved in other ways.

I thought for this Sunday morning music I would share another composition from Arvo Pärt which I think also very much fits this piece.  It is titled Spiegel im Spiegel which translates from the German as Mirror in the Mirror.  Think of an Infinity Mirror where two mirrors facing one another produce an image that is endlessly reflected back upon itself in ever smaller variations until it finally disappears.  In some ways, some art serves as an infinity mirror of sorts,  I know that this piece does so for me.

So give a listen but be warned that this is a quiet and meditative piece performed with only a piano and cello.  If you’re looking for a toe-tapper or a sing-along, you might be disappointed.  But like sometimes looking at art, one’s openness and patience is rewarded.

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GC Myers- I Was Lost 1997Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Henry David Thoreau

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I used the painting above to illustrate a post several years back.  Titled I Was Lost, this is an experimental piece I did back in early 1997.  It remains one of my favorite pieces, one that I linger over when I come across it in my computer’s files or when I go through some older work stored in a bin here in the studio.

There’s nothing special about this piece.  It’s a simple thought that was quickly rendered.  It definitely didn’t end up  anywhere in the vicinity of perfection.  Some of the lines veer  and quiver uncertainly while the tree trunks sometimes bulge erratically. There’s not really much to grab onto in  this piece.

Yet for all it’s deficiencies there is something in this painting that simply speaks to me in a personal way.  There’s a flawed elegance in it that moves me– a grace that provides me with hope on those days when the world seems bleak and it is hard to see beyond the trees that obscure the path ahead.

Thoreau’s words mesh well with this piece.  To put it another way: Adversity builds character.  A-B-C.

When we are lost in the woods, look past the trees that block our view.  There’s a way forward. We may not like it at the time but every challenge provides us with the opportunity to discover more of who we really are.

Sorry for going off on a pep talk this morning.  Hopefully, you didn’t need it.  And if you did, I hope this helps a bit.

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