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Posts Tagged ‘Early Work’

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“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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When my solo show, From a Distance, opens next week at the West End Gallery, a couple of the included paintings will not be new work. There are a couple of pieces in this show that are older and have an interesting provenance.

One is the painting shown above that I call The Dance. It was painted sometime around late 1996 or 1997. When I painted it, I determined that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out at that time. It was too sloppy, too raw. It seemed to be moving in a different direction from the the path I was following. I decided to put it aside, unshown to the world.

But 23 or so years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

The interesting thing is that in the intervening years, this piece disappeared from my sight. When I moved from my old studio up in the woods which I had worked in from around 1996 to 2007 to my current studio, this painting, along with several other paintings, were carelessly overlooked in the move. They had been bundled together and this bundle had somehow been misplaced.

I wrote about this episode last year, when I was looking for a group of lost pieces from my Exiles series for an exhibition, heading up to the old studio to search for them. The old studio had suffered greatly in the decade since I had last worked there. A tree had fell on its roof, breaking through to the inside in one small area and the rain and snow had taken a great toll on it. The whole building was now racked and reeling and one side of the studio’s floor held piles of dark rotting debris from the roof and ceiling.

On a rack of old frames in that space, only several feet from the hole in the ceiling and the mound of dark debris on the floor, there were several sheets of old cardboard all pushed together among the frames. I had been looking for awhile at this point and was getting ready to call it a day when I decided to pull out that stack of cardboard.

Nothing.

Behind the cardboard, there was a piece of old plywood pushed up against the end of the shelf. Frustrated, I pulled out the plywood and, lo and behold, there was a bundle of sheets of watercolor paper pressed against the end of the shelving. I pulled them down and found a spot amo0ng the wreckage where I could examine them.

The paintings were all in oddly good condition, given that only several feet away there was gaping hole where all sorts of weather were free to fall. There was some foxing and a little grime but it wasn’t terrible and could be easily addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided a degree of protection.

Kind of like wearing a mask, people!

Each piece was thrill as I shuffled through them. Most were pieces that I remembered distinctly, some very good and one or two that were what I would consider failures that should have been destroyed long ago. This piece was wonderful to see when I came to it. I was giddy with being reunited with this work that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.

But the very last piece in the bundle made me tear up. It was a landscape and it had a title and a date at the bottom of the sheet. It was painted on November 9, 1995 and its title was The Sky Will Never Forget ( Hoping For Light). My mom from cancer died later that night, in the first few hours of November 10. The memory of working on that painting and the emotions of that time flooded back to me.

So, this piece lived in dark peril, lost and forgotten for more than decade. I think it was just waiting to be unleashed so that, in its raw exuberance much like the character in Yeats’ verse at the top, it could dance upon the mountains like a flame.

I am glad to see it dance once again.

 

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In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

–Carl Jung

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My annual show at the Principle Gallery each June is normally made up of solely new work. But I think we can all agree that this year is anything but normal. There’s been a little bit of everything thrown at us. I think that if a swarm of Bigfoots — or is it Bigfeet?— suddenly descended upon us from every mountaintop, we would just shrug it off as being just the next shoe to drop.

So, this being such an unusual year, I chose to change things up a bit and include a group of vintage pieces of my work in this year’s show. My only criteria was that they had some sort of link to the theme of the show which is, as the title states, Social Distancing.

Many of us are new to the concept of social distancing but for me it’s something I’ve been practicing for much of my life, even if I didn’t use that particular phrase. I have, especially for the last twenty five years, kept to myself, more or less. I have tried to simultaneously live in two worlds, the outer and the inner. Much like the view Jung takes in the words above, I have tried to straddle both of these worlds and have found that Jung’s observation is pretty close to the bone. The more and more time I spend in that inner world, the more real and expansive it becomes. I then find myself willing to sacrifice more and more of my connections to the outer world.

Reading that last paragraph just now, I realize that it doesn’t sound exactly healthy.  But even so, it seems to suit my temperament and disposition, to use Jung’s words again. Plus, in my inner world, it’s not considered unhealthy.

Two of the vintage paintings from this show that I think relate directly to this straddling of worlds are shown here today. The one at the top is a piece called Flower Shadow, that was painted back in June of 1995, twenty five years ago. It was never shown publicly but was always a favorite when I went through my older work, a piece that always made me stop for a few extra moments to consider it.

While part of me is attracted to it because of how it connects me to that early work, there’s something in it that speaks directly to me. Maybe it’s the idea of this rough flower, inside looking wistfully out a window. Living in two worlds, the inner and the outer, with an air of lightly wistful melancholy around it. It still speaks clearly to me, twenty five years later.

The other vintage piece is from ten years later, in 2005, and is from a limited series from that time that I called In the Window, which featured interior spaces with a window looking out on a landscape, which was the focal point of these pieces. This particular painting, In the Window: Dream Away, shown here on the right, was one of the first from that series.

Initially, this series was intended as a means to present my landscapes in a different way, like placing a gem in a different setting in order to highlight that gem. But as time passed, this concept of two worlds became more apparent to me in this work. I believe this particular piece, with its clarity and clean expression, exemplifies both of those concepts, the gem in a new setting and the being existing in two worlds.

I am really pleased to show these pieces now, though I do not being able to get some in person reactions like those normally received at a reception. But, as noted, these are not normal times so I will just put them out there and hope they speak clearly for themselves.

Hope you can make it to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for Social Distancing, my annual solo show that opens there this Friday, June 5.

 

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I started writing an angry screed here about the whiny, weak Karen occupying the white house and all the Karens who take their cues from his persistent behaviors of entitlement and victimization, about how it enables more and more racism and hate.

But I had to stop. It was making me too crazy. And most likely you didn’t come here to read my morning rant.

Let’s move on to something more in line with the premise of this blog: Art.

So, let me talk a little about my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens next Friday, June 5, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Normally, I would be adding the times for the opening reception on that day but due to the covid-19 restrictions, there won’t be a regular reception. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable in such a setting at this point and can imagine that most of you would equally uneasy in a crowd as well.

It’s a weird feeling, having such a show and not being there to interact with the people who come to see the work. This is my 21st solo show at the Principle Gallery and something like my 56th or 57th solo exhibit overall and I have attended the opening of all of them. It’s a chance to talk about the work with new and existing collectors, to catch up with folks who have been attending the shows for years and to spend a little time with my friends in the gallery. I get a lot of great feedback and enthusiasm from these receptions and often bring that back with me into the studio.

so not having that same experience this year certainly feels like a palpable loss.

In the beginning, thinking that this was a possibility ( and the pandemic itself) made it difficult to find focus for the show. But as I adapted to the new circumstances, I found a nice groove, seeing parallels between the current situation and the themes that are the mainstays of my work. Solitude and quietude set against an underlying uneasiness are regular themes in my work and they came to the forefront for the general population, even fr those not seeking solitude or isolation.

I think much of the new work for this show speaks to this situation well.

I also felt that this was a perfect time to include a group of what I call vintage work, a group of early paintings that date from before I was publicly showing my work in the mid-1990’s up to to about 2007. The thought was that they would serve as a before to the after of the current work since we are going through a time that will certainly leave us with memories of what thing were before this and how things will be after. The time just seemed right to offer this work.

Two of those pieces are shown here, both watercolors from the early part of 1995. The one at the top of this page is called View From the Lonely Steps. It is a good example of my early work and the cobalt blue watercolor in the sky does a neat and lovely job of settling in the depressions of the paper, an effect I very much like.The steps that make up the left side of the foreground forms a close mound that creates an illusion of depth and are some of the earliest use of that element in my work. It’s something I use on a regular basis in my compositions now. I also noted on the sheet of watercolor paper on which it is painted that I painted it on April 1 of that year. I don’t date things like that anymore but it was common for me to do so back then. I like having that date. It gives it greater context for me, as far as where it comes in the continuum of my work, which makes me think I should reinstate this practice.

The piece at the bottom is from January of 1995 and is called I Can’t Remember the Moment. This is another fine example of the style of work that marked my early days with two blocks of color set one above the other separated by a thin white unpainted strip. It is simply put and lets the two forms and the effects of and in their colors play off each other. At the point that this piece was painted I was still signing the pieces in pencil, albeit in the same style that I have used for my whole career.

Though I have gained experience and ability well beyond that which I possessed then, there was something pure and real in the simple expression of these pieces that I can’t replicate now. My joy and wonder is expressed in different terms now and find myself envying this work, recalling the excitement that came with the new discoveries revealed to me as they were painted. I still get those feelings now but they are more hard fought for now and more sporadic. Back then they felt as though they came on an almost daily basis, each giving me an almost giddy feeling as though I had uncovered some great secret treasure.

That feeling is so wonderful and so hard to get across, let alone find. But these pieces are filled with that feeling for me.

Hope you will get a chance to see these pieces at the Principle Gallery.

Finally, an apology to all the Karens I know. It is unfortunate that your name has became a social media buzzword for spoiled, ugly, hateful, entitled, and stupid behavior. I know several Karens and Karyns and they do not display these behaviors at all. I wouldn’t want to know them if they did.

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I am putting the finishing touches on the work for my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens June 5 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. In addition to the new works, I am putting together a small group of what I would call vintage work, early paintings from the 1990’s and a couple from the early 2000’s. Most of these haven’t been shown in over twenty years, if they have even been shown at all. I chose this time to share these pieces because I felt they fit well with the theme of this show, which is the isolation brought on by the covid-19 crisis.

The piece at the top is one that I am still trying to decide if it will be part of the show. It’s called Dance of Joy from 1996. It has been hanging in my studios for over twenty years now, from my first rustic studio that is in the process of being absorbed into the forest floor to my current more spacious and well appointed digs.

You wouldn’t think that you would include a piece called Dance of Joy in a show devoted to social distancing but I think you have to include the more hopeful and happy aspects, as well. After all, those moments still exist for most of us even in this state of suspended animation in which we now exist. The things that brought me joy before this still bring me joy now and almost all of them don’t depend on any changes in my form of isolation.

But beyond that aspect, I found an interpretation in the painting that I am sure wasn’t intended when it was first painted. I think at that time I saw the trees as dancers celebrating the rise of the red sun in a bacchanalian manner. But looking at this piece yesterday, I saw it an the dance of joy when we finally overcome the virus, that time when we find a way to safely control and manage, if not eradicate, it. I saw the red disc not as a sun or a moon on the rise but as the virus on the decline.

That will bring a time for dances of joy, a time to celebrate those times of shared communal enjoyment.

Until that time, we must be patient and careful in order to contain the damages and the deaths caused by this virus. But we can still do our dances of joy until we experience that real bacchanal that will hopefully come sooner than later.

For this Sunday morning’s musical selection, I am turning to the world of Klezmer music and the acclaimed clarinetist Giora Feidman.  Feidman is an Argentine born Israeli who is considered the King of Klezmer.  He was chosen by Steven Spielberg to perform the clarinet solos for his film Schindler’s List. The song I have chosen is titled, The Dance of Joy. But you knew that, right?

I love the infectious ( bad choice of word) energy of klezmer and this song has it at its highest level. I can see the trees in this painting moving wildly to this music. So, give a listen and try to find some moments of joy today, something that makes you do your own dance of joy. Have a good day.

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Since I have much to do this morning, I am running this post from back in 2013 that concerns a few early pieces. I came across one of these pieces, Doug’s First Day on the Job, early this morning and, while it made me chuckle, it reminded me of current events. Thought this post was worth looking at again.

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GC Myers Early Interior sm“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

Charles Bukowski, Post Office

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I have often shown early work here, stuff from when I was still trying to find a path forward. Most of it is from before I ever thought  that showing my work in public was a possibility. As I have pointed out, I still revisit this early work on a regular basis in an effort to stay connected with that time in which the need to create was the only motivation needed. There’s also an element of backtracking in this as well, trying to put together how this work somehow led to what I do now.

Sometimes it is hard to see the connections as the work is so singular and never followed up on, then or now. I think those are the pieces from that time that intrigue me the most, making me wonder how my journey forward from that time would have been different had I chosen and stayed on that path.

For example, here are three pieces from around the same time, all painted within a month or so of each other back in 1994. None really lead directly forward to the current time but I really always enjoy seeing these three pieces, wondering what my motivation was at the time. The first , shown above, is an interior scene that just formed on the paper. I had no idea what was going to be there, outside of the checkered tablecloth. I remember that the cross on the wall was a last minute addition, one that changed the whole feel of the piece. I can understand why I didn’t follow this path but it still makes me wonder.

GC Myers Still Life smThe next was this still life, here on the left. I remember this piece well, having ambivalent feelings about it as a whole. I liked the clear graphic look of it but it was almost too clean, too sharp. It had really good eye appeal but it seemed all surface to me. I see things from this piece that I did bring forward, such as some of the clearness of the colors which I like in some instances. The thing that always strikes me is that I see a face in profile, looking to the right. Faces subconsciously built into the composition are something I often look for in my work, feeling a curious satisfaction when I find them. I wish I knew why. Maybe that’s what draws me back to these early pieces.

GC Myers- Doug's First day on the Job smThe last was one that had a title, Doug’s First Day on the Job.  I remember this as a piece that I viewed as an exercise even as I started, experimenting with forms and color. The resulting scrum of arms and fists with the strange authoritarian figure in the foreground, hooded and  pointing ominously out of frame reminded me of the chaos and confusion of  a kid’s first day on a new job. A strange environment with new procedures to learn and strange new people who struggle with each other and boss the new guy around. I knew even as I painted this that this was not my path but I enjoyed this piece anyway. It had a cleansing effect and was a wonderful lesson in color and form .

Plus it made me chuckle.

I don’t know that there is any great connection between these pieces or to my future and current work. I always wonder though at how these disparate  pieces formed in such a short time, wondering if I have that same burst of energy within me still. Maybe that is the reason for this backtracking, looking for that energy source, that fount of inspiration.

I don’t know…

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Coming to the studio this morning and the song, It Ain’t Necessarily So, runs incessantly in my head for some unknown reason, reminding me of a post from a few years back that speaks directly to this. Here it is:

GC Myers- Moses (I Supposes)Sometimes when I am walking over to the studio in the morning I will have a song stuck in my head. Sometimes it is one that I recently heard, something from the radio. But sometimes it’s one that just springs deeply from the past, something I haven’t thought of in some time. That’s how it was this morning. And thinking of that song linked me to a small painting that I did many years ago.

They just fit together in my mind for some reason.

The song was It Ain’t Necessarily So, the song sung by the slick drug dealing Sporting Life in the great George and Ira Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess, set among the Gullah population living on the sea islands off of Charleston, South Carolina.

Just a fantastic mix of sound and wordplay.

For some unknown reason, when I hear this song this small painting from over 20 years ago always comes to mind. It’s a piece that I did very quickly, not really knowing what I was trying to paint.  It just sort of popped out and I immediately began calling it Moses (I Supposes). There was something about this piece that I have always liked. Maybe it’s the I-don’t-give-a-damn way way everything in it is painted, from the giant hands down to the giant feet.

It’s just a personal favorite that somehow always springs to mind when I think of this song. Maybe because Moses is mentioned in a verse in the song–

Lil’ Moses was found in a stream
Lil’ Moses was found in a stream
He floated on water
‘Til Ole’ Pharaoh’s daughter
She fished him, she says from dat stream.
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I don’t know for sure why the song and painting are connected in my mind but I enjoy the combination. Here is one of my favorite versions of the song, the one from the Simon Rattle directed version with the London Philharmonic from the Glyndbourne Festival with Damon Evans as Sporting Life.
Have a great day and remember– not everything is necessarily as it seems to be. It ain’t necessarily so…
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Light of Day

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I always have a curious sort of feeling about some of my things – I hate to show them – I am perfectly inconsistent about it – I am afraid people won’t understand – and I hope they won’t – and am afraid they will.

–Georgia O’Keeffe

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I came across this quote from Georgia O’Keeffe and it made me smile. I think I know exactly what she meant.

An artist is always in constant state of self-editing, constantly putting out to the world the work they believe best represents them. It is their public face. But this public face usually can’t fully represent the artist as a whole because in this self-editing there is always work that falls into the territory to which O’Keeffe referred.

I think every artist has work they may never show to the world. Some is flawed, some is just plain crap and some is just too personal, showing aspects of the artist that don’t necessarily coincide with the public face they have worked diligently to create. I know that I have a lot of this work, much of it in the flawed and plain crap categories. More than likely, most of it will never see the light of day.

But the longer I do this, I understand that it is all part of who I am as an artist. I become less wary of showing the good and the bad of what I do and have done. Take the piece at the top. It’s another found piece from my old studio, about 17″ square on paper.

At the time I painted it, I made the decision that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out then. It was too sloppy, too raw. But almost 20 years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

I can see plainly the urgency that was present when it was painted. It shows in the bellies that jut out from each side vertical edges, from the masses of spews that burst from its top. Even the surface of the tree shows me signs of this urgency.

It’s a flawed painting but it is fully alive and that’s all I am looking for in the work. Why wouldn’t I want to let it see the light of day?

 

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In the entry here last week where I wrote about old works I had discovered hidden away in my old studio, I mentioned that I had found that the old studio was deteriorating quickly in a visit to it last year. The roof had been breached and the pilings were beginning to fail at that time but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was after year of exposure to the elements.

In that post I failed to mention that when I was in the studio that time I had also uncovered some other old pieces. As I scanned the damage, I went to a tall counter in the corner that was covered in debris from the collapsing ceiling and roof. Under it was a large cardboard box filled with scrap matboard. I dragged it out and discovered that behind it was a group of plywood panels bundled together.

I pulled them out and turned them around to see their surfaces. I recognized the work immediately. They were from around 1998 up to perhaps early 2000. I had bought a bunch of scrap lauan plywood from a bin at my local hardware store. They were all about 16″ by 36″ and I had sealed them with a wood primer/sealant–Kilz I believe it was– and then a layer of gesso. I had done a bunch of work on this material and many had turned out very well, making their way out of the studio and into galleries. Almost all had found homes.

But this group of four for some reason never made it out of the studio. Don’t think I ever showed them publicly, actually. And looking at them now, I can’t figure out why. Even though they showed some damage from their time under that wet counter– for example, the piece at the top shows some dark spotting on its surface that I have yet to address– these seem like strong pieces from the time frame in which they were created.

I like these four pieces. Maybe its my own personal nostalgia more than an objective evaluation of the work that makes me feel this way. For myself, I can sense the excitement I felt at the time in which I was creating this work, that feeling of discovery in each new piece. Each individual block of color seemed to have its own feel, its own voice and each piece had its own lesson to teach me.

Each day then seemed filled with new discoveries. It was an exciting time for me and I felt like an open conduit, the work pouring easily through me.

It’s a bit different now. The work doesn’t flow endlessly through my conduit now. It comes in surges, fits and starts. But it still surges on a regular basis. Most likely, the experience of having done this for so many years and the knowledge I have absorbed has tempered my response but I still feel giddy excitement and still discover new things within the work and its processes on an almost daily basis. And that is a good thing.

Maybe that is the purpose of this work now– to remind me what it was that I desired and needed to pull from my work then.

And now.

 

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I have a large painting on the easel I want to get to this morning. It’s at a point of transformation which is always exciting and just looking at it now, I am eager to see where it goes. But I wanted to share a post from back in 2012 about a painting done in 1997 or 1998 that has occupied an important place in my heart and mind for a long time. I think it’s a good example of the how an artist’s work often lives with the artist after it has found a new home.

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I was going to write about something different but came across this older image and completely lost my train of thought, this piece replacing everything that I had been thinking. Some pieces have that effect. It’s a smaller painting, maybe 6″ square, that sold many years ago when I was first showing my work at the Principle Gallery in the mid-1990’s. Though not large, this painting has lived in a larger sense in my thoughts ever since.

It’s titled Beauty Scorned and is a relatively simple piece. But there’s something in the washed out quality of the colors and in the the bend of the twisting tree trunk that really speaks to me in a very poignant way, as though it is a pure physical expression of some deep emotion.

Beauty and sorrow.

For me, I see this as being about perceptions of beauty and acceptance. About how we often conform, like the other trees which are so much alike here, and step back from that which is different, seeing not the beauty in it but scorning it because it is unlike us.

The beauty is in its difference.

I remember when I did this piece, feeling that this was symbolic of my own work at that time. It was often quite different from the work of other painters with which I showed and I was still unsure of the validity of my own voice, often feeling that my work was somehow inferior because it wasn’t painted in the same manner, didn’t have the same look as these others. At the time, I felt like my work and my voice was truly tied to this twisting tree and those who dismissed it because it had a different look were missing the beauty and emotion that it may hold.

Just seeing it again summons all of these thoughts in a rush of feeling. It remains a potent piece for me for this reason. It also has a sad memory in it.  When I see this piece I am always reminded of the couple who purchased it and were avid and encouraging collectors that I always looked forward to seeing at shows. They had a knack for choosing work to which I was most keenly attached. This couple later divorced and the wife would still come to the shows, always so happy for and encouraging of my work. Tragically, she passed away in a plane crash this past year [2012] and now, instead of seeing the scorning of beauty in this piece as I once did, I now see the beauty of this young lady’s spirit.

It’s a different painting for me now but no less potent.

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While doing a short talk and demonstration for a local arts group last week I mentioned my early work and the fact that it was mainly watercolor based. This surprised some of those in attendance who were not familiar with my early work. I tried to describe my process but thought this blog from several years back might help, at least with the images. Not so much with the words. I still don’t describe this work well. I’ve added a few images from that time.

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GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork6I have been spending a lot of time here in the studio in the last few weeks painting in a more traditional manner, what I call an additive style meaning that layers of paint are continually added , normally building from dark to light. I’ve painted this way for many years but much of my work is painted in a much different manner where a lot of very wet paint is applied to a flat surface. I then take off much of this paint, revealing the lightness of the underlying surface. That’s a very simplified version of the process, one that has evolved and refined over the years, that I, of course, refer to as being reductive.

When you’re self-taught, you can call things whatever you please. I’m thinking of calling my brushes hairsticks from now on. Or maybe twizzlers.

This reductive process is what continually prodded me ahead early on when I was just learning to express myself visually. I went back recently and came across a very early group of these pieces, among the very first where I employed this process. I am still attracted to these pieces, partly because of the nostalgia of seeing those things once again that opened other doors for me. But there was also a unity and continuity in the work that I found very appealing. Each piece, while not very refined or tremendously strong alone, strengthened the group as a whole. I would have been hesitant to show most of these alone but together they feel so much more complete and unified.

This has made me look at these pieces in a different light, one where I found new respect for them. I think they are really symbolic of some of  what I consider strengths in my work, this sense of continuum and relativity from piece to piece. It also brings me back to that early path and makes me consider if I should backtrack and walk that path again, now armed with twenty years of experience. Something to consider.

GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 1 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 3 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 5 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 2 GC Myers 1994 Early ReductiveWork 4

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