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Posts Tagged ‘Exiles’

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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There is an exhibit currently hanging at the Rockwell Museum in Corning of photos from photographer Yousuf Karsh, who had an incredible ability to capture the essence of his subjects. Many of his shots of the celebrated figures of the 20th century are the best known images of those folks. I saw an exhibit of his work years ago and was really inspired by it. It played directly into a piece from my Exiles series at the time that I wrote about here back in 2008 that I am sharing again below.

The Karsh exhibit at the Rockwell Museum in Corning hangs until May 5.

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Blue GuitarThis is another of the paintings from the Exiles series, a piece titled Exiles: Blue Guitar. This was larger than the other paintings in the series and was the most intricate in design. It was the only piece to show a full body, more or less. The crimson sheets beneath the figure are certainly not typical of my work. Even the blue guitar was an anomaly. I think these things, in themselves, make this a distinctive painting and one that is perhaps the one piece I most regret letting go.

I remember painting this piece back in ’96 with great clarity. The face was based on a portrait of the Finnish composer Sibelius taken by Karshthe famed photographer. I had seen the photo at a wonderful and powerful exhibit of Karsh portraits at the MFA in Boston that knocked me out. Karsh had a knack for revealing the essence of his subjects in a single image.

I was immediately taken with the image of Sibelius’ face. It expressed bliss, but not joy. A painful bliss, perhaps an ecstasy tempered by the knowledge that the world is an imperfect one and that this moment of grace is a fleeting one, soon to be gone. It was exactly the expression I saw for my guitarist and one that I wanted the whole piece to convey.

This painting was the centerpiece of my first exhibit many years ago and remains vividly in my memory. Eventually, I went back in and darkened the background which made the guitarist pop even more. But the images of that change have been lost over the years which I greatly regret. This piece sold years ago and I now have no idea of where this painting ended up. I hope that whoever possesses this piece appreciates all that it represents and gives this sad, blissful guitarist a bit of attention now and then.

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Note: The opening for the for the 25th Anniversary exhibit at the Principle Gallery is next Friday, February 22. I mistakenly wrote here the other day that it was tonight because, well, I get confused and make mistakes sometimes. My apologies for any confusion. Hope you can make it to the show next week!

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I have been going through my files lately, trying to find some misplaced or lost images and somewhat organize twenty plus years of chaos. I came across this video which I thought I had shared at some point but couldn’t find any evidence anywhere of having done that. So I guess today is a good time to do so.

This slideshow is a group of the images from my Exiles series set to one of my favorite pieces of music, Gymnopédie #1 from composer Erik Satie. I believe this was put together back in 2006.

I’ve written about the Exiles series a number of times here. It was created around the time of my mom’s death back in November of 1995 and focused on how I saw her suffering in the last several months of her life as lung cancer ravaged her body. It’s a personal series, one that was important to me in many ways.

This film is flawed and doesn’t contain all the series images but it captures the series perfectly, at least in how I saw it then and see it now.

 

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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 Adderly and was originally performed by him 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 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. Give a listen.

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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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