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Posts Tagged ‘Exiles’

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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The other day I wrote about going up into the wood to my quickly deteriorating old studio where I found a cache of older works tucked behind a  stack of old frames.The reason I had decided to head up there was that I have an upcoming show in late August at a small public gallery, the Octagon Gallery, in the historic Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. It’s a village in Chautauqua County out near the shores of Lake Erie. 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. 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.

I wasn’t planning on doing the show at first but decided it would be a good venue to show some of my more private work, pieces that I would never sell. It’s called Exiles and Icons and has all of the pieces from these series that I have in my possession.

I began going through these pieces last week. Even though I have taken them out and looked at them a number of times over the years, this was the first time I was putting them together and really doing a type of inventory of them. As I looked them over, I realized that a vital piece from the Exiles series was missing. It was the piece shown at the top, Exiles: Quartet, a group of four of the Exiles characters assembled and matted together to make one piece.

I was positive it was somewhere here in the studio, having distinct memories of taking the unframed four pieces out of the mat and discarding the mat, folding it and shoving it in the garbage. This set off a search in the studio that had me going through every shelf, drawer, box, crack, and crevice in the place. I was frantic. I went through this studio several times over three days, examining folders and bins time and time again thinking I might have somehow overlooked these four paintings.

Nothing.

The next move was to go look through the old studio space. Maybe I had a failure of memory, maybe I had somehow overlooked these paintings from the very beginning and had believed they were always there with me in the new studio. After tearing apart my current studio, that was the only possibility outside of me having sold the paintings and then forgotten this. But I knew that was not the case after going through my records.

So, I went through the wreckage of the old studio and found the cache of older paintings including one that was finished on the day my mom died back in 1995. I found a few other things but the Exiles paintings were nowhere to be seen. I took my found pieces and headed down the hill, thrilled just to have rediscovered these paintings.

Later that evening, I began to think that if I had missed these pieces when I was clearing it out all those years ago in 2007, maybe it was possible that I had missed the Exiles pieces as well. Maybe they were still there. The next morning, I headed back up the hill and began another search in the rubble.

I spent about an hour looking, sifting through wet debris under pink insulation hanging from the gaping hole in the roof and moving anything that might hide these pieces.

Nothing.

Ready to give up, I went to a little storage space in the back of the studio. The floor beneath it was racked severely, dropping a foot or more in a short span so that the side wall separated from the floor, leaving a gaping hole of maybe six inches going to the outside. The questions of how much weather and how many vermin had ran through this spot jumped to my mind. I began sifting through a stack of old cardboard.

I went through once. Nothing. Okay, these pieces were either lost or tucked away somewhere I might never find.

But I decided that I would do this pile again. Most of the way through and still absolutely nothing. I decided that the search was futile and done. But near the final sheet, a piece of white cardboard  that laid flat on the floor next to the hole in the wall, I noticed that there was a white sheet attached to its surface that almost blended perfectly with it, camouflaging it from my first inspection. I reached done and pulled it up away from the white sheet of corrugated cardboard.

There they were, the whole quartet looking up at me from their original matting. They had been waiting there for more than 12 years for me to find them, to release them from their musty cardboard prison. I took them out into the light and was amazed at how well preserved they were after all this time in these conditions. The acid free matting had protected them in great part and there was a minimum of mildew and foxing on them.

Exiles: Quartet is safely with me now and getting ready to be shown publicly for the first time in almost 25 years. I am dumbfounded at having found it and, of course, greatly relieved. This series means a lot to me, having been done over the time my mom was suffering through the final months of her struggle with lung cancer. This particular piece was important to the series as well as a favorite of mine. Finding it felt like gaining some part of myself long lost.

It’s funny how your mind and memory sometimes plays tricks on you. I thought all this time that these pieces were here. I had even formed a memory associated with it. That was either a false recollection or one confused with a different piece where I took the pieces from their mat and discarded it. Don’t know if I will ever know the answer to that but I am happy enough just to have this bit of my past, this bit of living memory, back with me.

 

 

 

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Looking From Above Old Studio, Circa 2007

The studio I built over 20 years ago and worked in for over 10 years is deteriorating and slowly collapsing up in the woods.

I am not surprised by this fact. Out of necessity, it was built quickly with little money.  It was not built to last and I knew that eventually Mother Nature would more than likely reclaim that space as its own.

And she is doing just that.

I went up to see it the other day, taking the short hike up the hill that I had done thousands of times before in the years when I worked there 12 hours a day for 7 days a week. I had avoided it in recent times, mainly because I knew this collapse was imminent. A tree had fallen against it years ago and while it looked like it had only did a little damage to the overhang of the roof, a small branch had breached the roof. In the years that followed rain and snow had did their worst work and last year I found it with a gaping hole in the roof. That along with the rapid decay of a couple of the wood pilings I had employed as a foundation which caused the floor to heave and the doors and windows to rack made this building a total wreck.

It’s sad to see it in this condition, this place that had such a large effect on my life and my work. I know that I failed in many ways by not planning better in its initial construction and for not maintaining it in recent years.

But my failures are not the story I want to focus on here today. There’s actually a positive note here.

I went into this old studio a few days ago to see if I had left anything in here that should be removed. Going through a rack of old frames, some which I would take out later to see if the wood could be salvaged, I came across a piece of plywood pressed against the end of the top shelf. I don’t know why I looked behind it but I pulled it out, revealing a bundle of several large sheets of watercolor paper.

I pulled it out and found a spot where I could examine it. Flipping over the first sheet, I felt like I was slapped. It was a painting from the late 1990’s, one that I distinctly remember. I continued to the next and the next and they all were immediately recognizable pieces. Some were what I would consider good examples of my work at the time and one was a failed piece that I remember well. It was an oil on paper where the color never came together in the way I wanted.

It was 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 addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided some protection.

But it was the last piece in the bundle that 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.

We knew at the time it was coming and it occupied my mind much of that time, often showing itself in my work. My Exiles series is based on that time and her death. How I had lost track of this piece, my most personal document of that time, is beyond me. Another failure. But finding it safely in the wreckage felt like a triumph, a calling out to me from the past.

Like I said, I found myself with tears in my eyes while standing in a wasteland of rubble.

There’s more to this story that connects it further to the Exiles series. That story will have to wait to be told in the days ahead.

Here’s that piece. It needs a little cleaning and a better photo but this captures it.

The Sky Will Never Forget (Hoping For Light) 1995

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been going through some old work for a small exhibit late this summer–I will write more about this at a later date– and have been going through some of the Exiles paintings from the mid- 1990’s. This painting, The Creeper, always jumps off the screen at me and I am hoping to make it part of the exhibit. The post below is from all the way back in 2009. Thought I’d repost it today.

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GC Myers- The Creeper

The Creeper is another of the Exiles series although I would have to say he is an anomaly in the series. He does not mirror the sense of loss or suffering of the other pieces. He is not the mournful exile that so many of the pieces in that series depict.

No, he is the menace of dark dreams. He is always there, looming halfway in the bedroom window. While there is almost the hint of a smile on his face, it is not  pleasant or reassuring.

But, while he is a little scary, there is a bit of whimsy in his appearance. He is more cartoonish than the others. When I look at this face I am constantly reminded of the movie parodies from the beloved Mad magazine of my youth, with their Mad Magazine Godfather Parodyoversized, caricatured faces. This softens the whole feel of the piece for me and makes him less terrifying.

Now, whether someone without that same frame of reference will see him in the same way is another question. Without that reference, maybe he is as creepy as his name.

For me, The Creeper always brings back the memory of a young friend who loved this painting and truly identified with everything about it. He saw the humor but felt the darkness of it as well. He was a vibrant whirlwind of energy who knew well about the personal demons as depicted in this painting. He was a tortured personality and took his own life several years ago.

For him, The Creeper was all too real. When I look at this painting now, I see it as that creeping darkness that invades so many minds, keeping them from finding true peace.
GC Myers- The Creeper

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“This is the most immediate fruit of exile, of uprooting: the prevalence of the unreal over the real. Everyone dreamed past and future dreams, of slavery and redemption, of improbable paradises, of equally mythical and improbable enemies; cosmic enemies, perverse and subtle, who pervade everything like the air.”

Primo Levi, If This Is a Man / The Truce

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This small painting has been propped up on a bookshelf, unframed, here in the studio for over a decade. I have walked by it thousands of times, to the point that I barely even recognize that it is there. It was from the Outlaws series in 2008 and was one of the pieces that didn’t make it out of the studio. I just didn’t feel as strongly about it as the others in the series at the time, didn’t feel it carried the same emotional messaging.

But the other day I took it from the shelf and spent some time really looking at it and , all these years later, see much more in it now. It has its own story that I didn’t perceive before, maybe because it seems more like the characters from my Exiles series from 1995 than the Outlaws series of 2008. The Exiles were paintings that focused on loss and grief, of a looking back in time at what has been lost. The Outlaws, on the other hand, were about fear and vulnerability, the characters haunted by unseen pursuers.

The character in this painting seems like a hybrid of the two series, a person who has suffered loss and grief and is haunted by all that they have seen.

I originally saw this character as a male figure but looking at it now, I see it as being more female, one with close cropped dark hair, like it has been roughly shorn. I began seeing this as a survivor of atrocity, perhaps of a concentration camp. Someone who has seen horror and can never quite get far away from that memory.

The past for this person is like a ball that is thrown in the air, seemingly moving quickly away only to always coming rushing back down upon them.

The window here represents the past and the figure seems destined to always peer out at it.

It’s funny how the perception of a piece that I have basically ignored for a decade can change with one closer inspection. What seemed like a lesser piece at one point now seems much more powerful, more laden with meaning and emotion.

I think that when I painted this piece I was aiming for something other than what emerged and, as a result, I always viewed it from the perspective of my preconception. Now I am just viewing it as it is.

And my judgement of it is much different. I will never look at it with that indifference that existed for the past ten years. It now has meaning for me. I’ve even gave it a title: Window to the Past.

Glad I took the time to look again.

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GC Myers Exiles-Bang Your DrumThe switch to Daylight Saving Time really cuts into my prep time this morning. So I am going to share my musical selection for this Sunday along with a rerun of a post that originally ran ten years back. I reran it once four years back but I think it’s worth sharing again. Plus the painting fits the song. So here it is along with The Beat Is Rhythm from Club Des Belugas. As is the case with much of their music, it’s heavy on the beat which is as good a way as anything to give a kick to a dragging Sunday morning.

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

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