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Posts Tagged ‘Exiles’

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Exiles--QuartetWe all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.

Albert Camus

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I have written about and showed a number of the pieces from my early Exiles series here on this blog. It was a very important group of work for me in that it was the first real break towards forming my own voice, creating and displaying work that was emotional for myself. It was also the work that spawned my first solo show in early 1997.

The inspiration for this work was mainly drawn from the experience of watching my mother suffer and die from lung cancer over a short five or six month period in 1995. Her short and awful struggle was hard to witness, leaving me with a deep sense of helplessness as I could only wish that there was a way in which I could somehow alleviate her pain. Most of the work deals with figures who are in some form of retrospection or prayer, wishing for an end to their own suffering.

But another part of this work was drawn from my own feelings of emotional exile, a feeling of estrangement in almost every situation. I had spent the better part of my life to that point  as though I didn’t belong anywhere, always on the outside viewing the world around me as stranger in a strange land, to borrow the words of that most famous biblical exile, Moses. These figures were manifestations of that sense of inner exile that I carried with me.

Little did I know that these very figures would help me find a way out of this exile. With their creation came a sense of confidence and trust in the power of my self-revelation. I could now see that the path from the hinterlands of my exile was not in drawing my emotions more and more inward, allowing no one to see. No, the path to a reunion with the world was through pouring this emotion onto the surface of paper or canvas for all to see.

This is hard to write and I am struggling with it as I sit here this morning. I started writing this because I had been reconsidering revisiting this series, creating a new generation of Exiles. But in pondering this idea I realized that the biggest obstacle was in the fact that I no longer felt so much a stranger in a strange land. I no longer felt like the Exile, no longer lived every moment with these figures. It turned out that they were guides for me, leading me back to the world to which I now feel somewhat connected, thanks to my work.

If there is to be a new series, they will most likely not be Exiles.

The piece shown here, Quartet,  is one of my favorites, a grouping of four figures.  You may not see it in these figures but the visual influence for this work were the carvings found on Mayan ruins of Mexico and Central America.  I myself see this mainly in the figure at the bottom right.

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Let Us Now Praise...

 

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

      – Thomas Edison

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I was going through old blog posts recently and I noticed that I had used the painting above a number of times in my earliest posts. It’s part of my Exiles series from back in 1995 and is titled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, borrowed from the title of a group of Depression-era photos of sharecroppers in the American dust bowl shot by photographer Walker Evans.

I never really wrote about this painting except in what I saw as it’s similarity to what I saw in those photos of Depression era workers. I always felt a connection to this piece but thought it was an outer connection, one that simply had to do with my reaction to form and color and not with anything I might see of it in myself.

Maybe that was my hope.

But it is a painting that I find has more meaning for me than I might want to let on. It’s a piece to which I always return, again and again, to study closely. While I sometimes see it as apart from me, more and more as I live with it, part of me feels like I am that man, standing alone in his landscape.

A sometimes self portrait.

It’s not a flattering self portrait. I used to see this figure as sad or regretful, world weary. But that has changed over time.  There is some sadness, some regret but more than anything, I now see him as resigned, neither happy or sad. He is in his place with work behind him and much more work to do. It still has a weariness in it, but not from a physical standpoint. It is more a sense of tiredness from working to stay ahead of the world’s constant encroachment, the world’s constant erosion. But while it appears tired there is also a sense of implied strength and determination to stay on task.

The hand here is important to me, a symbol of the bond of a working mind and working hands. Ideas set in motion and realized.

It’s a painting that means more and more to me as times passes and the world works its erosive qualities on my self and my world, my landscape. Maybe I am that dirt farmer, looking back with pride in his work along with an apprehension that it will someday be carried away like dry soil in the wind.

I am not going to be around Sunday so here’s a little music for the morning, a day early. It fits pretty well in tone and substance to the painting above. It’s the immortal Otis Redding with I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.

Have a good weekend.

 

 

 

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Rouault

Georges Rouault -Christ in the Suburbs 1920-24I am a believer and a conformist. Anyone can revolt; it is much more difficult to obey our inner promptings.

Georges Rouault

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I’ve been a big fan of French painter/printmaker Georges Rouault  (1871-1958) from the moment many years ago when I stumbled across Miserere, a book of of his deeply expressionistic etchings.  The title translates as Mercy and it contained raw and expressive work that dealt with deeply  personal and religious themes along with those inner promptingsas he calls them in the quote above. It was  a work that was very influential on my early Exiles series.

His entrance into the world of art was serving, at the age of fourteen, as an apprentice glass painter and restorer which shows itself in his mature work which resembles leaded glass windows with its dark dividing lines and glowing colors that feel sometimes as though they are lit from behind with the light shining through. Both are qualities that excited me and made me want to emulate in my own work. Not to mention the purity a of the emotional feeling throughout.

Now, if only I can obey my own inner promptings…

This is kind of a replay of a blog entry from a couple of years back. I changed some of the wording and added a video that better shows the work of Rouault. Here is that video with more of his work:

Georges Rouault Sunset 1937georges-rouault-christ-and-the-fishermen-1939-Georges Rouault The Old King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GC Myers- Exile-MartyrI’ve been looking at my Exiles series quite a bit  lately.  From the mid 1990’s, it’s a highly personal series of faces and figures that kind of act as a landing spot for me to place my rawest emotions during trying times.  The piece shown here is titled Martyr and remains an enigma to me, mainly because I have never had thoughts of martyrdom for myself.  But I have been looking at this quite a bit because of a recent request that I revisit this painting at some point in the future.

The person who requested this sees the body and musculature of this figure as an extension of the landscape and when I look at it with that thought I very much see what he means by that.  I had never thought of it in those terms and it strikes a real chord with me so I am excited to get to his request at some point soon.

Plus he would love to see it in tones of blue.  How great would that be?

Anyway, here’s a bit more that I wrote about this piece here many years back:

This is another painting from the Exiles series of the mid 90’s, titled Martyr.  

As I sit here right now, I am at a loss for words to describe this piece.  While there is overt religious symbolism, for me it is not about that.  It is about self-sacrifice, giving everything for the benefit of others.  

But there is also an element that has to do with fear.

When I look at the torso of this character I see it almost as though he has had his skin removed, baring the muscles beneath.  For me, this translates as one being afraid of the consequences of exposing what lies inside.  In my mind, this martyr has been punished for showing who he truly is.

Maybe I’m describing paranoia.  Maybe it’s a form of agoraphobia or just introversion.

I don’t really know.  

It’s funny that this piece that has hung above my desk for many years still perplexes me and eludes definition.  I’m sure that one would expect to know exactly what was meant when I painted this but quite honestly, when I started this piece I had no idea where it was going.  Even when the figure neared completion I was still scrambling for the true meaning.  The elements that seem to from a crucifix were not present and weren’t even contemplated at first.

So the piece remains an enigma.  Personally, I like that.  It gives me a sense that the piece is beyond the obvious which is what I hope for all my work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Gc Myers -Exile Series 1995 smNovember sneaks in on a gray and damp Sunday morning this year.  It’s one of those months that bring about mixed memories.  Some, like those from Thanksgivings from the past , are warm and fuzzy while others bring much different emotions.  For instance, next week marks twenty years since my mother died.  Hard to believe that it’s been so long, a thought that comes to mind every year at the beginning of November.

I try to not remember Mom in terms of those last pain-filled months leading up to her death, instead focusing on better days and moments that I hold in my mind.  Despite that,  November reminds me of those last days and I find myself digging through the files to look at some of the images from my Exiles series that were painted back when she was going through her final days in 1995.  Looking at them now brings back a rush of emotions and memories, some that I try to avoid most days.

But ultimately, you can’t avoid those things we all must experience.  Life has its own way and we have to accept what it gives us as a gift.  Perhaps those painful moments and the tears we shed are proof of the preciousness of that gift.

I don’t fight back the tears in November.  Like any gift, I accept them now with what I hope is gratitude.

That brings us to this Sunday’s musical interlude.  I have chosen Johnny Cash‘s cover of the Loudon Wainwright song, The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.  I really like this version of this song about a man who finally learns to cry,  becoming a real human.

Have a great Sunday.  And if you feel like crying, go ahead…

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