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Posts Tagged ‘Early Work’



“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

― Jim Jarmusch, MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 



GC Myers - Early Work 1994A friend of mine has picked up his brushes and is attempting to try his hand at painting. He sent a message saying that he was kind of copying my work and hoped that it was okay with me. I told him that it was perfectly fine. In fact, it was expected and maybe even necessary for someone to “borrow” from others.

That’s how I started painting, after all. For example, this watercolor from back in 1994 is my take at that time on the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. Some of you may see it immediately and some may not. I know that’s all I see when I look at it.

I liked this piece at the time but knew that it wasn’t enough of mine to really show. I hadn’t transformed it enough, hadn’t proclaimed it with my own voice.

To be honest, I didn’t fully have my own voice yet. But doing pieces like this and others that were derived ( a fancier way of saying stolen) from the work of others helped me get there.

Borrowing” is a big part of making art. Like filmmaker Jim Jarmusch states above: Nothing is original.

You first take, but then you add your experience, your perceptions, your own way of expression to make something that is something all its own even though it may have the DNA of others within it.

The idea is to get to a point where you have transformed all your stolen ideas into something that is singular and honestly your own.  Something beyond what you first recognized in the work of others.

That’s good thievery.

 

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Folk Blues- LeRon's Yellow Guitar -GC Myers 1994



This morning, I thought I would combine another old piece with this week’s Sunday morning musical selection. The painting above is one of my earliest pieces, completed in early 1994.

It was at a point before I had what I considered then and now to be a breakthrough with my work. I was still working with watercolors solely and using them in as close to a traditional manner as someone who is self-taught can. I still find the qualities of that medium really appealing and use many of them– in a manner that is adjusted to fit the way I think– in much of what I call my transparent work with inks.

This piece was titled which meant that I saw something in it that deserved a name. That’s one way I judge some of this earliest work. There are some pieces in my files that don’t have titles which means that while I may like the piece or see something of value in it, I don’t feel it is complete and whole.

I think I saw this piece as being whole even though at the time I didn’t feel it was good enough to exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t think it was good enough, maybe it was more that by the time I was showing my work a year after this my work had changed, moved away from this style.

It’s titled Folk Blues/ LeRon’s Yellow Guitar. It certainly has flaws but there is much in it that I like.

Anyway, thought this would pair up with an old blues tune written and first recorded in the 1920’s, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This version is from early blues artist Scrapper Blackwell who is an interesting case.

Blackwell was born in South Carolina in 1903 and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana as a child. He built a cigar box guitar and taught himself to play, becoming a performer in the Indy/ Chicago areas as a teenager. Around this time he met and partnered with pianist Leroy Carr. In the late 1920’s until around 1935, the two were very successful as songwriting and recording artists. One of their best known songs was Kokomo Blues which was later transformed into the song most of us know as Sweet Home Chicago.

The duo lived pretty large at that time with lots of drink and partying. However, Carr died from physical complications from this lifestyle in 1935. Blackwell floundered for a couple of years before dropping out of the musical scene altogether. He settled into an obscure life in Indianapolis as a manual laborer in an asphalt plant for the next 20 years. In the late 1950’s he reemerged as a musician, recording several albums of his early blues over the next few years. The song below was recorded during this period and is pretty poignant in that at that time he truly knew the highs of stardom and the lows of poverty and obscurity.

His renewed career was taking hold at a time when the blues were undergoing a revival in the early 1960’s when he was shot and killed while being mugged in an Indy alley in 1962. He was 59. As a result, his influence in the blues revival never really extended out to the wider audiences that other blues artists were able to tap into in the mid 1960’s. Most of you have most likely never heard of Scrapper Blackwell.

This is a really nice recording of an old blues song. The kind of song LeRon at the top would feel right at home with. Give a listen to Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.



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I was looking at some more old small paintings, stuff from before I ever showed my work in public. This piece from late 1994 always jumps out at me. It has a title written below the image (cropped out in the photo above) that says Lester’s Place. I don’t really know why I called it Lester’s or to who or what the name might refer. 

There’s something about this little piece that I really like. Maybe it’s as simple as its colors. Maybe it’s the sense of place it evokes for me. Or the mystery of its narrative.

I don’t know. 

And I don’t think I need to really know. I just like it for whatever reason. The funny thing is that I often think of this old John Lee Hooker song, Rock House Boogie, from the mid 1950’s when I look at this piece. This shack has the same sort of roughness and emotional coloration of this song. I can imagine someone in 1954 stumbling upon this after hearing years of music from groups like the Four Freshmen and the Modernaires on the radio. 

It’s hard driving beat and sharp snapping guitar riffs would most likely create a sense of revelation or one of bewilderment and maybe even terror.

For me, even twenty years later, it was revelation.

Now, that beat has me wanting to get to it for the day. Give a listen and get to your own day.



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Short on time this morning. Things are swinging along well in the studio and I feel like I need to be at it before that momentum says “see ya’ later” as it heads out the door. But I thought I’d share an old piece from around 1995 that I am pretty sure I haven’t shared here yet.

Not that it’s a great piece. It’s one of those pieces that never made it out of the studio, never even titled, so I obviously had determined at some point that I didn’t want to put it out there. I guess I am comfortable enough in what I am that I don’t figure it can hurt my reputation now by sharing it.

Actually, it’s a piece that I always stop on in order to take a better look. I always thought that it lacks something but there seems to be something in it, some intangible feeling to it, that I like. Maybe it’s just for me, in my own secret language that only I recognize.

I don’t know. But it felt good pondering it for a moment this morning.

Here’s Richard Thompson song, an acoustic take on his I Misunderstood. That might be what the guy standing in the doorway is thinking. 

Who knows?



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I came across this old piece the other day. I was sure I had shared it here before but after a couple of searches, discovered that I had not. This surprised me because this little piece never fails to make me smile. Just kind of goofy. Maybe not Dracula Hates Killer Icicles level goofiness but it’s on the scale.

This piece is titled “I Don’t Feel So Good”- Darwin’s First Mardi Gras and was painted on or about September 1, 1994. This is one of those pieces that started as just blocks of color, most likely with the intention of eventually becoming a landscape. I can’t remember what happened that set it off in a whole different direction but at some point I began to see an almost abstract figure. It looked to me like someone on their hands and knees, perhaps wearing a colorful cape, a pointy cap, and a mask, one of those half face things. 

With that info in mind all I could think was that someone in that getup on their hands and knees was either looking for a lost contact or was perhaps feeling the effects of a night that was a wee bit too wild for them. The background easily transformed from a sky to a city wall with cracks and stains. The perfect milieu for an epic knees-to-the-pavement hurl.

Thus, the title, “I Don’t Feel So Good”- Darwin’s First Mardi Gras, was born. 

I like this piece a lot, as I said, mainly for its goofiness. But I also like it for its semi-abstract qualities and look. There are forms and colors within it that really draw my eye and remind me of things I wish I was still using but have long neglected. 

As I have said before, there’s almost always a lesson in there somewhere.

Here’s a song that also a  forgotten throwback in time. It’s Nervous and Shaky from The Del Fuegos in 1984. I mentioned them in a post a few months back but most likely they are not a name many of you remember. That is a great commentary on potential and the difficulty of really making it. The Del Fuegos were a hot band from  Boston in 1984, a favorite of a wide swath of critics. Their first album was acclaimed, they had one of their songs used on  nationally distributed TV ad for beer, and they looked like a can’t-miss act. But the two brothers that were at the core of the band had an uneasy, contentious partnership which eventually blew up the group by the end of the decade. As one of the brothers said, “The ’80s were over, we were over.”

I was an early fan of their first album and this song comes and goes in my consciousness every so often, especially when I am little nervous and shaky myself. Give a listen, if you’re so inclined. I bet Darwin felt a little nervous and shaky back at his first Mardi Gras. Could have used some Del Fuegos to get him through the rough spots.



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“Greenie’s Barn”– GC Myers, circa 1994



And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.

― Meister Eckhart



The magic of beginnings

That is such an elegant phrase. Poetic. Leave it to Meister Eckhart, who last showed up here just a week or so back. 

The advantage of these using these short maxims is that they can often possess meanings apart from those that were intended by the original speaker. Meister Eckhart was most likely talking about some sort of religious awakening or changing one’s life in a positive manner.

I don’t really know.

But I am pretty sure that the meaning I attach to his adage might divert from his own.

For me, the message in it rings true in regards to going back to look at work from when I was first painting, when I was just gaining a toehold on whatever direction my painting might go or what form it might take. It was a time of finding voice, as I have said many times here.

It was also a time that possessed the magic of beginnings.

It’s that time when there is a blank slate before you and you are standing there with the few tools that you have brought with you– your own experiences, your observations of the world, some desire to create something of your own, an affinity for the visual, and maybe a little time spent doodling in the columns of newspapers and journals.

But beyond these things, you are a clueless, empty vessel. Everything is new. Every day is at least one new lesson learned. Each new piece has some sort of revelation, pointing out those things that resonate and those things that most definitely do not.

Every new stroke or color was an epiphany, like discovering the “open sesame” that unlocked the door that opened to new and wide horizons of possibility.

It truly felt like magic at the time.

Now, it still feels like magic– at times. Sometimes I find myself feeling like the wizened old magician who has pulled his rabbit out of his hat day after day for twenty five years. Yeah, it’s still a great trick for those who haven’t seen it before but it has lost the thrill for the magician, has lost that excitement that came with first learning that trick, on first wanting to display his newfound feats of magic to a crowd.

So, I sometimes go back and look at these old pieces from that time, those pieces that represent the magic of beginnings for me. And I almost always find something that I have lost over time, a small thing that somehow was set aside through a conscious choice or simply forgotten.

And finding these little things reignites that magic that came in the beginning. It changes my perspective, allows me to get out of the ruts of time that have been blocking my vision.

There is inevitably something from these forays into the past that I bring back with me to the present. A reminder to do something a bit different than the way I have fallen into the habit of doing it over a long period of time. Maybe even something as basic as how I start each new painting. These old pieces may not be gems in their own rights but they have raw material whose potential I can use.

But more importantly, they have the magic of beginnings within them.

And that is what I am seeking anew…

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Got to be honest, this wasn’t the blog entry I thought I’d be writing this morning. Had something completely different in mind.

I was going to talk about an old piece from my earliest painting days. Not the one above, which is a pretty early painting from around 1996 or 1997 that is called Faust’s Guitar. I did several versions of this painting in the first few years that I was showing my work publicly. I’ll save the other older painting for another day.

I came into the studio early this morning, about 5:30 AM. Still dark outside. And cold, only 10º. After flipping on the computer and hooking up to the interwebs, I went to the YouTube to look for a song that might accompany the other older painting. As I scanned down the list of various titles their algorithm had selected for my viewing pleasure, one title jumped out at me:

Dracula Hates Killer Icicles.

I couldn’t resist. had to click on it. I mean, come on– it’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. If it was Dracula Loves Banana Bread, I most likely don’t watch. But this has Killer Icicles, folks” Killer Icicles!

I watched and laughed at the sheer goofiness of it. I decided that something that had me laughing aloud at 5:50 AM deserved a post of its own.

This song, Dracula Hates Killer Icicles, is from a surf band  from St. Petersburg, Russia called Messer Chups. They play 1960’s style surf/ psychobilly instrumentals with a lineup that feature Igor Gitaracula (yeah, that rolls off the tongue)  on the guitar and Zombierella on the bass. The drums are provided by Rockin Eugene who is not seen in the video.

They also have featured the theremin, that electronic device that made that weird sustained woo-ooh sound was a staple of old 1950’s horror films, in several of their songs. I wrote about the theremin here many years back. It fits their profile well.

All in all, it’s just goofy, stupid fun. Nothing more. And on a cold Monday morning, is there anything wrong with listening to a Russian surf band playing a kitschy tune?

So, without any further ado, here’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. Who doesn’t? 

PS The video is from a video show Domino’s Batcave which is hosted by Domino Barbeau, a burlesque queen turned horror show host. That’s a career path every parent desires for their child, right?



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Whenever I go through my oldest work I always stop at this little piece. It’s a goofy small painting on paper that has the title Red Laser Hits the Big City written across the bottom of the small piece of paper on which it is painted, along with the date from November of 1994.

I usually don’t give it much thought beyond the fact that it makes me smile but this morning I stopped a little longer and tried to remember more about it or, at least, try to understand it a bit better. 

It was just an experiment at the time at a time when I was still trying to figure out what I was as a painter. Or if I was even a painter since I wasn’t an exhibiting artist at that point.  This was painted several months before I even began showing my work in public the following year, at the 1995 Little Gems show at the West End Gallery

I remember painting this piece and a similar one with that red line that I called the Red Laser. I believe I actually sold the other piece but wouldn’t swear to that in court. Time has faded that memory but I have a vague recollection of being surprised at it selling  plus I can’t find it so that might well be the case. 

Looking at it now, I find it interesting because it showcased the color blocks more than much of my other work at that time. It’s a technique that I still use extensively in my work to this day, a signature part of my wet work. I think this use of the block makes it feel somewhat more current, even more evolved, than some of the other work from that time.

I remember seeing the laser with its odd offshoot of a leg as a figure walking down a street. Hence, its title. It’s not a great piece but it still has the ability to make me smile. And even though I have always discounted it in my mind, it does have its own feel, its own life. Those are the things I always look for in my work so maybe I have been too harsh on the Red Laser.

My bad. That dude’s always getting a bad rap. Sorry, Red Laser.

Here’s a little song for the Red Laser. It’s the great Jimmy Reed and his Bright Lights, Big City. I think the Red Laser was singing this to itself while it strolled down those big city streets. It has the right kind of swagger.



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You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down
Oh, oh
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy

Harry Nilsson, Jump Into the Fire



First Sunday of the new year. This coming first week of 2021 may well be one of the ugliest and most dangerous and undemocratic in our history. There is a lot of treachery at hand from those who would abuse our system and rile deadly passions among the populace for purely selfish gains. While I don’t know what might happen in the coming days, I believe we will survive this stress test. We may take some dings and who knows what lasting damage might be done, but we’ll get through.

We’re at a point where words from anyone, let alone mine, won’t have much effect so lets play the first Sunday song of the 2021. Fittingly, it is Jump Into the Fire from the late great Harry Nilsson.

The complete lyrics are above in all their glory. Among his many talents as a songwriter, Nilsson had a genius for taking simple songs and making them memorably powerful. For example, his CoconutYou put de lime in de coconut, you drink ’em bot’ togedder/ Put de lime in de coconut and you feel better— is a one chord song.

One chord. Even a musical moron like me could play it.

Anyway, here’s the song. The little triptych at the top is from way back in 2002 and is called Waiting For the Fire, a not so subtle commentary on the coming weeks.

Have a good day.



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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

*********************

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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