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Posts Tagged ‘Exiles’


I usually go on and on about the real meaning of Labor Day but I am tired today. Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about a favorite song concerning work, fittingly titled Work Song, of all things. Great tune. Have a good Labor Day and just try to at least give a little thought to what the holiday represents.


I call this painting Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a title I used for a few paintings from my early Exiles series, in which this piece is included. I seldom show this piece and am not sure if it has ever appeared here. While I like this piece for a variety of reasons– for instance, I love the sky and hill colors– I never felt it was up to the same level as the other work in the Exiles series. I felt that it was more flawed than the others and too forced, not as organically formed as much of the other Exiles.

But every time I pull this piece out I feel a small sense of satisfaction in it and maybe that it needed to be aired out. I want to play a song today and thought this would be a good opportunity to let this little guy get out a bit. We’ll see.

The song is Work Song. It was written by the brother of jazz great Cannonball Adderley, who originally performed the song as an upbeat  jazz piece. But it has been interpreted by a number of artists over the years, some to great effect. Others, not so much to my taste. But one of my favorites is from one of my  guilty pleasures, Tennessee Ernie Ford.

He certainly doesn’t seem like a “cool” choice if you remember his public persona in the 50’s and 60’s as the goofily naive but affable hick from Bristol, Tennessee. I enjoyed that caricature as kid but it was his music that hooked me. He had a deep and mellow voice and a knack for choosing songs and arrangements that fit him perfectly. His series of country boogies were great and his 16 Tons is a classic. His version of this song is a great interpretation, spare and deep felt.

I couldn’t find a decent video of this song so here is the track alone:

Here’s another version that is a different interpretation from a band called The Big Beats with vocalist Arlin Harmon. I don’t have a lot of info on either though from what I can glean Harmon was a highly esteemed singer out in the Northwest. It’s a solid rocking performance with a different flavor than Tennessee Ernie’s. Give a listen.

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I do a one-man show every June at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA and have done so since the year 2000. This year’s show, my 21st such show, is slated to open June 5. I am keeping hope alive that the current situation will have subsided to some degree and that the show can go on by that time but the experts’ projections, based on what little data they can obtain from our inadequate testing, make it look a little shaky.

But I am continuing to work on this show on the premise that the show will go on.

It’s what I do. All I can do.

That being said, I have determined that this year’s show should reflect this time. At least, my take on it. To that end I am calling the show Social Distancing. It’s a term that, while it has really taken hold in this world in recent times, I don’t think I have encountered much before now.

I have practiced it and painted it in many ways but just didn’t know to call it that.

From my earliest days, much of my work has dealt with the duality that runs along that line between solitude and alienation. The yin and yang, the joy and the sorrow, that comes from being apart from others. Many of my series have focused on this separation, the Exiles and Outlaws series jumping to mind.

But even my most used archetype, the Red Tree, usually concerns itself with distancing.  It almost always is alone or at least apart from other trees. Most of the time, it is about finding strength in recognizing those things which makes us unique individuals but occasionally it is about feeling alienated from the rest of the world.

Some find empowerment in their solitude. I believe that’s been the case for myself as I have seldom felt loneliness, especially in my adult years. But for many, that line between simply being alone and lonely is a thin one.

Solitude and silence can be frightening to those unaccustomed to it.

This being the case, there will be a pretty substantial nod to my earlier work, such as the painting at the top. It’s a 14″ by 24″ piece on paper that I call Social Distancing: Approaching Storm. I guess it’s a timely title.

For me, this return to that earlier method which focuses on sparse landscapes and big blocks of transparent color is like comfort food to me. The more I immerse myself in this work the more I understand what its appeal was to myself and those folks who were drawn to it in the early days. Working on this group over the past week or so has been steadying in the face of the great uncertainty we face.

I could say more but I think I want to stop. Hopefully, the show will go on, at least in some form.

I am going back to the solitude of my work now.

It’s what I do. It’s all I can do.

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Social Distancing, this year’s edition of my annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria opens June 5.

Stay tuned for further details.

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“For the first time in years, he felt the deep sadness of exile, knowing that he was alone here, an outsider, and too alert to the ironies, the niceties, the manners, and indeed, the morals to be able to participate.”

― Colm Tóibín, The Master

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Another new cityscape, this one a 36″ high by 24″ wide canvas that I am calling The Exile’s Wilderness.

I’ve written a couple of times here about these new pieces and the anonymity provided by the looming buildings, shadowy streets and empty windows. It’s the perfect environment for the Exile, one that allows a person to slip by unheeded, almost as if invisible.

Like a ghost.

There but not really there. Constantly observing but never engaging or participating. Just as the words above from Colm Tóibín point out– the outsider who is so aware of the manners and niceties of this place that they are never comfortable enough to participate.

The odd thing about this form of exile is that the exile becomes comfortable in their isolation, their separateness. It becomes their comfort. And I think that level of comfort is what I see in this piece. It represents a feeling of estrangement yet it also feels warm and familiar with little menace. The mountains looming in the background represent the Exile’s desire for solitude and distance. They are hope.

The moon looking down on it all, for me, represents a spirit companion of some sort for the Exile, a distant presence that observes and enlightens without passing judgement. It, too, is a comfort for the Exile.

It’s a striking piece here in the studio, with the dark warmth of its colors and the Morse code-like feel, dots and dashes, of the windows’ lights. I have it in a central spot where I can see it most of the time I am at work at the easel or at my computer.

I find it comforting.

But, then again, maybe I am the Exile here.

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The Deacon’s New Tie- 1995

I have plenty of things to do this morning but somehow ended up spending an hour watching old videos on YouTube trying to find something to share here. However, it didn’t feel like wasted time. I generally find something new for my own edification or something that changes the course of my day in some way. Maybe makes me smile or think.

This morning, I felt like something bluesy/gospelly so I went to one of my favorites Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the godmother of rock and roll whose career spanned big bands to gospel to the blues that shaped rock and roll. Big onstage personality and a unique style with her electric guitar stylings. I thought you can’t go wrong with Sister Rosetta, especially in a live performance from a British rail station in 1964 where she’s rocking her guitar in a heavy coat and high heels belting out Didn’t It Rain on a wet platform.

But then some Louis Jordan, another favorite of mine, popped up on the sidebar. Another huge influence on early rock and roll and, like Sister Rosetta, possessing a big, charismatic personality onstage. I decided on his song Deacon Jones simply because it reminded me of the older piece above, The Deacon’s New Tie,  from my Exiles series from the mid 90’s. Thought they would pair together well.

Then on the side, up comes the Soul Stirrers, the gospel group that started the career of the immortal Sam Cooke, doing a knock’em dead version of I’m a Soldier. Just plain old great stuff.

I couldn’t pick just one so here are all three. Listen to one or two or all of them. Or none. Hey, you got free will working here, folks. But it wouldn’t be the worst way to spend a few minutes so you decide then go have a good day.



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Truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels.

Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time

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I am forcing myself to write about something removed from the news, lest my anger . There are things happening, both here and in our foreign policy decisions, that are deeply disturbing with ramifications that will echo for years to come around the globe. I will just let the words above from Lillian Hellman‘s autobiographical memoir, Scoundrel Time, sum up my view of the whole thing.

We are definitely in a time of scoundrels.

So, instead, I am making an unusual request.

The painting at the top, Exiles: Blue Guitar, is one that I painted back in 1995 as part of my Exiles series. This is one of the paintings I most regret letting go. It was the largest painting and the true centerpiece of the Exiles series besides having a lot of personal meaning for me.

Regrettably, this painting went to the Kada Gallery in Erie in 1997 or 98 where it was sold to an unnamed collector.

I am not trying to get it back, though I would gladly repurchase it. My desire is to get an image of it as it is now. You see, in 1997 I believe it was, I darkened the background in the painting. Any documentation of that change is lost and I have no idea or image of its final appearance. I would love to get an image and perhaps reframe the painting for its current owner. It was framed at a time before that in which I started using my signature frame. It is in an unusual frame, one that I think is probably inappropriate for it, along with a plexiglass covering that only used once or twice early on in my career. It deserves to be seen in a better setting.

My request is to any of my readers in the Erie area. Or any of my readers anywhere, for that matter. If you know of this painting or know anyone who might have my work but you’re not sure, ask them to get in touch with me here. I would like to hear from them.

I know it’s a long shot but I thought it was worth putting out there. This has been on my mind for many years now and I would like to take care of this.

Thanks!

 

 

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GC Myers Exiles-Bang Your DrumI am getting ready to head out to Westfield later today for an Art Talk that I will be giving this evening, Thursday beginning at 6 PM, at the Octagon Gallery at the historic Patterson Library. The talk is in support of my Icons & Exiles exhibit that hangs there until next Friday, September 20. It’s a very eclectic exhibit that showcases work from several different series from the past 20+ years that normally hasn’t had much public exposure. Much of this work is more narrative driven than my typical work which is more about emitting emotion. So there are plenty of stories to be told from this show.

I thought I’d share a blog entry that ran here back in 2009 about one of the paintings in the exhibit and how it relates to the act of promoting your work, something I’ve talked about here in recent weeks. Here it is:

This is another piece from my early Exiles series, titled Bang Your Drum. This is a later piece, finished in early 1996.  

Initially, I was a bit more ambivalent about this painting compared to the feeling I had for the other pieces of the Exiles series. It exuded a different vibe. For me, the fact that the drummer is marching signifies a move away from the pain and loss of the other Exiles pieces. There is still solemnity but he is moving ahead to the future, away from the past.

Over the years, this piece has grown on me and I relate very strongly to the symbolism of the act of beating one’s own drum, something that is a very large part of promoting your work as an artist.  

For me and most artists, it is a very difficult aspect of the job, one that is the polar opposite to the traits that led many of us to art. Many are introverted observers of the world, passively taking in the world as it races by as they quietly watch from a distance. To have to suddenly be the the motor to propel your work outward is an awkward step for many, myself included. Even this blog, which is a vehicle for informing the public about my ongoing work and remains very useful to me as a therapeutic tool for organizing  my thoughts, is often a tortuous chore, one that I sometimes agonize and fret over. Even though my work is a public display of my personal feelings, this is different. More obvious and out in the open.

There’s always the fear that I will expose myself to be less than my work. The fear that people will suddenly discover the myriad weaknesses in my character that may not show in my paintings, forever altering their view of it. The fear that I will be  revealed to be, as they say, a mile wide and an inch deep.  

But here I stand with my drumstick in hand, hoping to overcome these fears and trusting that people will look beyond my obvious flaws when they view my work. Maybe they too have the same fears and that is the commonality they see and connect with in the work. Whatever the case, there is something in the work that makes me believe that I must fight past these fears and move it forward, out into the world.

What that is, as I’ve said before, I just don’t know. Can’t think about it now– I’ve got a drum to pound…

Hope you can make it to the talk tonight. I’ll be there, banging my drum. Here’s a little music to get you in the mood. Todd Rundgren from 1983 even though it seems about a million years ago. He knows what I’m talking about.

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Couldn’t let the day go by without mentioning that today Otis Redding would be celebrating 78th birthday if he were still alive. Unfortunately, he tragically died 52 years ago in a plane crash. Only 26 years old and filled with a world of talent and a quality in his voice that so many singers try to emulate but seem to always come up short.

I still get chills sometimes listening to his music.

The painting here, The Lost One, is included in my Icons & Exiles show now hanging at the Octagon Library at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. I will be giving an Art Talk there this Thursday, beginning at 6 PM.

The Lost One was painted several years ago and was an effort to revisit the Exiles series that was painted back in 1995. While I feel that this painting fits into the series, it doesn’t have the same base of emotion as the others in the series which were painted at time of personal grief. It tries but comes out on a different emotional level.

It seems you can’t simply replicate deep emotion.

But even so, I like and appreciate this piece. It has its own forlorn sadness.

That being said, let’s listen to some Otis. Here’s Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) from Mr. Pitiful himself.

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Sorrow and solitude
These are the precious things
And the only words
That are worth rememberin’

Townes Van Zandt, Nothin’

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A kind of gray and glum Sunday morning, wet and cool. It has the feel of the season turning, of the green of the leaves to be soon fleeing. The deer outside my window are taking on their new dark winter coats, the beautiful rich reddish coats of summer gone leaving them to look like they have rolled in coal dust, grimy and gray.

But they carry it well.

Myself, I feel as gray and glum and grimy as the scene and I fear I don’t carry it as well as my dear deer.

But that’s okay.

These gray days aren’t pleasant but there is something of value in them. They make you feel something and that is an important thing. It sometimes feels like we live without feeling the moment. And even if the moment isn’t a glorious moment of elation, to feel anything– even sorrow and solitude– at any given time may be the the only gift we have in the precious time we spend in this world.

Like Townes says in the lyrics at the top. Or maybe Warren Zevon said it correctly in Ain’t That Pretty At All:

Going to hurl myself against the wall
‘Cause I’d rather feel bad than feel nothing at all 

On that note, let’s get to this Sunday morning music which is, of course, the song Nothin’ from the late great singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. His voice is a bit of an acquired taste but on songs like this, its flat simplicity and plaintive tone are absolute perfection. One of my favorites from many that he wrote. I have also included a bit of a different version from the Grammy winning collaboration of Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. Plant’s falsetto set against the heavy crunch of Krauss’ electrified fiddle make it a powerful version.

Have a good Sunday.

PS: The painting at the top Exiles: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a reminder that I will be giving an Art Talk this coming Thursday, September 12 beginning at 6 PM, at the Patterson Library Octagon Library in support of my Icons & Exiles exhibit that hangs there until September 20.


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I am busy this week prepping for my Gallery Talk this coming Saturday at the West End Gallery and in getting work ready for my Icons & Exiles exhibit. That will open at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY next Friday, August 23, with an opening that begin at 7 PM.

The Icons & Exiles show will mainly feature paintings from my early Exiles series from 1995, my ancestral Icons series from 2016, and the Outlaws series from 2006. There will also be a small group of my more typical work as well as some oddities that don’t really fall into any of those categories.

One of these is the small painting at the top, Struwwelpeter. It was painted around the same time as the Outlaws series in 2006 but I wouldn’t consider him an outlaw in the truest sense of the word. He is more of an outcast, a young man who refused to bathe or cut his hair or trim his nails. His hair is described as standing up on his head and his nails as being long and pointy. As a result, this unkempt young man is forever unloved.

Struwwelpeter was the title character in a small book of strange and sometimes grisly cautionary children’s tales designed to warn children not to misbehave. It was put together in Germany in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffman, a doctor who assembled these stories for his three year old son. He printed a small edition and it became popular immediately. It has became a classic, remaining in print around the world since that time.

One of the more recognizable stories from the book concerns the Scissorman. This short episode warns that if young children sucked their thumbs, the Scissorman will find them and cut off their thumbs.

Do not suck your thumb!

Struwwelpeter hasn’t been seen in well over a decade so I am pleased to have him out and in public, even as slovenly as he might be. There are more oddities like him in this show, some that have shared here in the past and some never seen. It should be a fun show.

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UPCOMING EVENTS:

GALLERY TALK-This Saturday, August 10, beginning at 1 PM at the WEST END GALLERY–Good talk, some fun and prizes!

ICONS & EXILES OPENING- Friday, August 23, from 7-9 PM at the OCTAGON GALLERY at the PATTERSON LIBRARY in Westfield, NY

ART TALK- Thursday, September 12, beginning at 6 PM at Octagon Gallery, Patterson Library, Westfield, NY

GALLERY TALK- Saturday, September 21, beginning at 1 PM at PRINCIPLE GALLERY, ALEXANDRIA, VA– Details coming

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I briefly mentioned a few weeks back, in a post about the discovery of some lost work in my crumbling old studio, that I was preparing some work for a small solo show at a public space in western New York, out near the shores of Lake Erie. Well, here’s a little more on that show.

Patterson Library, Westfield, NY

The show takes place at the Octagon Art Gallery located in the historic and beautiful Patterson Library in Westfield, NY, which is a village in Chautauqua County, not far from the well known lake with the same name and its famous Chautauqua Institution. It’s an area known for its vineyards filled with the Concord grapes that have been made into Welch’s Grape Juice at a plant there since 1897.

Exiles: Cain 1995

The library is a gorgeous Beaux Arts structure from the early 20th century and the gallery is, as its name implies, a large octagon shaped space. When I first agreed to this show last year, I wasn’t overly thrilled about doing a small show in a distant library. But visiting the space changed my mind. It’s a great space and environment with a history of some very fine exhibitions. I began to see it as an opportunity to display the work from some earlier series that have seldom, if ever, been displayed. There is a large group of pieces from my very early Exiles series, several from my later Outlaws series, and all my ancestral Icons from 2016 along with a number of other anomalies that I feel fit into place with these guys. There will also be a few examples of my trademark work as anchors.

The show is called Icons & Exiles and it opens Friday, August 23 and is on display there until September 20. There is an opening reception on the evening of Friday, August 23,that runs from 7-9 PM. There will be an Art Talk in support of the show on Thursday, September 12 beginning at 6 PM.

I’m actually kind of excited for this show now. It will be great to see these pieces fully presented together for the first time. So, if you find yourself out in Western NY near the shores of Lake Erie, stop in and take a look. I think it will be an interesting show.

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