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Posts Tagged ‘Fenimore Art Museum’

GC Myers-  Inner Perception smallThis is a painting from a few years back that has toured around a bit and found its way back to me. Called Inner Perception, it has been one of my favorites right from the moment it came off my painting table.  Maybe the inclusion of the the paint brush (even though it is a house painter’s brush) with red paint in the bristles makes it feel more biographical, more directly connected to my own self.   Or maybe it was the self-referential Red Tree painting on the wall behind the Red Chair.

I don’t know for sure.  But whatever the case, it is a piece that immediately makes me reflective, as though it is a shortcut to some sort of inner thought.  Looking at it this morning, the question I was asked at the Principle Gallery talk a week or so ago re-emerged, the one that asked what advice I might give my fifth-grade self if I had the opportunity.  I had answered that I would tell myself to believe in my own unique voice, to believe in the validity of what I had to say to the world.

I do believe that but I think I might add a bit to that answer, saying that I would tell my younger self to be patient and not worry about how the world perceives you.  That if you believed that your work was reflecting something genuine from within, others would come to see it eventually.

I would also add to never put your work above the work of anyone else and, conversely, never put your work beneath that of anyone else.  I would tell myself to always ask , “Why not me?”

This realization came to me a couple of years ago at my exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum.  When it first went up it was in a gallery next to one that held the work of the great American Impressionists along with a Monet.  I was initially intimidated, worrying that my work would not stand the muster of being in such close proximity to those painters who I had so revered over the years.

But over the course of the exhibit, I began to ask myself that question: Why not me?

If my work was genuine, if it was true expression of my inner self and inner perceptions, was it any less valid than the work of these other painters?  Did they have some greater insight of which I was not aware, something that made their work deeper and more connected to some common human theme?  If, as I believe, everyone has something unique to share with the world, why would my expression of self not be able to stand along their own?

The answer to my question was in my own belief in the work and by the exhibit’s end I was no longer doubting my right to be there.  So to my fifth-grade self and to anyone who faces self-doubt about the path they have chosen, I say that if you know you have given it your all, shown your own unique self,  then you must ask that question: Why not me?

 

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Dorothea Lange - Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother

In a couple of days, on September 18th, there is a new exhibit of the photos of Dorothea Lange opening at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.  If you don’t know the name, you still probably are familiar with her images which include the iconic photo shown here on the right, taken in 1936 while she was working for the Farm Security Administration.  Migrant Mother is one of those images that seem to capture with a glimpse all of the sorrow and hardship of those affected in the Depression-era Dust Bowl,  in this case a mother forced to leave her home and wander in search of work that will provide for her children.

Her worry is etched on her face.  While John Steinbeck‘s book The Grapes of Wrath brought the plight of these displaced farmers of that time to the light, it was  Lange’s imagery that  gave them  a sense of humanity  and dignity that reached out and created an empathy with the viewer.  It was powerful, plain and simple.

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson  at Manzanar CA Camp

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson at Manzanar CA Camp

Some of her most powerful work came from an assignment she took with the War Relocation Authority during  WW II, when she was hired to document the interment of Japanese-American citizens.  Lange captured the humanity of these prisoners of race at a time when even the liberal and progressive elements in this country maintained silence over the shameful treatment of these citizens.  The photos were censored by the army during the war and were never seen until they were quietly moved to the National Archives, almost 50 years later.

Lange lived from 1895 until 1965, surviving the polio as a child which left her with a distinct limp for the rest of her life.  But neither the limp nor the chronic ulcers that plagued her for the last decades of her life could slow her down.   She sought to affect social change with her images, to give voice to the disenfranchised and down-trodden.

So, if you’re in the Cooperstown area, I highly recommend stopping in at the Fenimore Art Museum to see this work by this giant of American photography.  I know that I am looking forward to seeing it.

Dorothea Lange-  Flag  at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Flag at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange Dust Bowl Farm Dalhart Texas

Dorothea Lange- Dust Bowl Farm, Dalhart, Texas

 

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Winslow Homer- Watching the Breakers

Winslow Homer- Watching the Breakers

When you say homer in Cooperstown, you would normally think of the Baseball Hall of Fame located there.  But until August 24th, the Fenimore Art Museum has an exhibit of paintings from American master Winslow Homer from the Arkell Museum collection.

We took a quick jaunt out to Cooperstown yesterday to see this exhibit and were pleased with the scope of the show which showed fine examples from all the phases of his career.  It had some of his illustration paintings from the Civil War, seascapes in oil and watercolor and his  light filled tropical watercolors.  It really gave you an idea of how talented he was across mediums and how well he controlled the  light in his work.

My personal favorite was  On the Beach, featured below.  It was panned critically in its time, generally for all the things that make it feel vibrant in a contemporary sense– primarily its almost abstract composition of bands of color.

Japanese Prints at the Fenimore

Japanese Prints at the Fenimore

However, for as much as we liked the Homer show, it was group of Japanese woodblock prints that really caught our eyes.  It hung in the same space that held my 2012 show and it transformed the space completely.  Inspired by the local but widely renowned Glimmerglass Opera‘s production of Madame Butterfly, this group of prints,  some from Hiroshige and Hokusai, shows Japan as it made the transition into modernity at in the latter half of the 19th century.   It’s enlightening and elegant at once.

There is also a fine group of historically based paintings of New York state from painter L.F, Tantillo.  They are extraordinarily detailed and luminous in the way they are painted.  A really unexpected delight as you head down to see the Thaw Collection, the museum’s famous collection of American Indian art masterpieces.

So, if you are in central NY any time soon, I really urge you to take a side trip to Cooperstown.  There’s baseball and great art in one lovely lakeside village.  What more could you ask?

Winslow Homer- On the bEach

Winslow Homer- On the bEach

L.F. Tantillo- Manhattan Sunset

L.F. Tantillo- Manhattan Sunset

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Andrew Wyeth -Mother Archie's Church 1945

Andrew Wyeth -Mother Archie’s Church 1945

We went to Cooperstown this past Monday to catch the last day of the Wyeth Family exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum.  It was a great show featuring work from patriarch NC Wyeth,   son Andrew, grandson Jamie, daughter Henriette and daughter Carolyn as well as Henriette’s husband, Peter Hurd and NC’s primary influence Howard Pyle.  That’s a lot of talent to jam into a relatively intimate space.  You might think that it would be less than satisfying but the curating of this show was masterful, showing each artist in a truly representative manner that gave a real taste of their body of work.   Just a wonderful show.  I am glad I got to see it  if only to see a few of NC Wyeth’s gorgeous works and to discover more about his son-in-law, Peter Hurd, whose work is wonderful, bringing to mind the regionalist painters such as Grant Wood.

Thomas Cole- The Course of Empire- Destruction

Thomas Cole- The Course of Empire- Destruction

Of course, there was also the spectacular Thaw Collection of American Indian Art to see.  As always, it was a thrill to see the beautiful aesthetic of the native culture.  And as good as both the Wyeth show and the Thaw Collection were, I was truly bowled over by the current show, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, featuring works from the Hudson River painters of the 19th century,  Just beautiful and strong examples from the genre, highlighted for me by the works of Asher Durand and the spectacular Thomas Cole series of five paintings, The Course of Empire , which features the rise and fall of an empire in the landscape, a rocky peak with a precariously perched boulder standing as a constant witness.  You have probably seen some of the paintings from this series but to see them together  in their full scale is to really get a great appreciation for their power.  It hangs at the Fenimore until September 29, so if you can, take a trip and see some incredible work.

 

Cole, Course of Empire - Savage State 1834 Cole, Course of Empire - Arcadia, Pastoral State 1834 Cole, Course of Empire - Consummation of Empire 1835 Cole, Course of Empire - Desolation 1836

 

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gc-myers-internal-landscape-2012I am really pleased to have this painting, The Internal Landscape,  as part of my show, Observers, which opens at the the Principle Gallery this coming Friday.  If you have read this blog over the last year you may recognize it as it was featured  here as it was in the process of being painted and was the centerpiece of my exhibition last year at the Fenimore Art Museum.  It is a very large painting, my largest by far to date, that measures in at 54″ high by 84″ wide on canvas and can really dominate a space.

I mean that in a good way.

I can’t recall at the moment what I have written or said about this piece in the past so I am just going to write a few lines that are my impressions of it.  Hopefully, some of these line up with those words from the past.

I think of this as a very musical painting, filled with  rhythmic lines and notes of color.  Where some of my paintings are musical  and are songs, some simple, this piece is more symphonic, comprised of multiple elements and themes running through it and coming together in  harmony.  Even the gathering of houses on the right side of the lake remind me of a chorus of voices.  The whole piece sings for me.

Of course, that may just be me.  I am a bit embarrassed in writing about my work in glowing terms but I do like this painting a lot and think it is a culmination of sorts, a milestone on this journey, one that I am really pleased to be able to hang at this show at the Principle Gallery.  I have been showing there for over 16 years  and this is my 14th consecutive annual solo show there so it means a lot to me to be able include this if only to show that the work has been evolving and growing over the years there.

It will be interesting to see it hanging in that space.  Hopefully, it will live up to my words…

 

 

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Howard Pyle-  Marooned PirateLater this year, the Fenimore Art Museum will be presenting a big show featuring the works of the first family of American art, the Wyeths, in a show titled  The Wyeths: A Family Legacy.  I have written several times here about my admiration for the work of  family patriarch NC Wyeth and son, Andrew Wyeth.  Their work is woven into the cloth of American art and this should be a great exhibit highlighting their work as well as other talented members of the clan.  Also included in this show will be work  by the great American illustrator, Howard Pyle, who was the teacher and mentor to NC.

Howard PyleAlthough his name is not nearly as well known as many who followed in his footsteps, it’s hard to overstate the influence that Pyle (1853-1911)  had on future generations of American illustrators and artists.  He was huge in his time, a celebrity who mingled with the great writers and thinkers of the time.  His illustrations for many of the most popular magazines of that time, based on the great stories of literature, shaped how we saw those stories.  Cinematographers, costumers and set designers took their clues from Pyle’s visions of the stories they were staging.  For example, his vision of Robin Hood became the idealized version that we came to know in the old Errol Flynn classic movie.  His idea of the pirates of Treasure Island became ours.  His cowboys, knights  and explorers ingrained themselves into our collective psyche as we saw them on the page and on the movie screen.

Howard-Pyle-The-Wolf-and-Doctor-Wilkinson-Once-it-Chased-Doctor-Wilkinson-into-the-Very-Town-ItselfThere is an interesting sidebar to the extent of Pyle’s fame.  In a letter to his brother, Theo, Vincent Van Gogh wrote ” Do you know an American magazine Harpers Monthly?  There are wonderful sketches in it…which struck me dumb with admiration…by Howard Pyle”  His work may have been illustration but it was  pure art as well and the eye of Van Gogh could see that in the  line work and rhythm of his compositions.   I know that I am always inspired by his work and the that of his acolytes,  including NC Wyeth and Norman Rockwell.   I am  really looking forward to seeing his work alongside the Wyeths this year at the Fenimore.  It should be a memorable show.

 

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I was in Cooperstown yesterday, picking up my paintings after my show at the Fenimore Art Museum there had finally ended.  After packing up and heading home, Fenimore  Art Museum Exhibit- GC Myers2012 2I couldn’t shake a song from my head, it’s refrain running over and over again.  It was Is That All There is? by Peggy Lee.  It had been a hit for her in 1969 and was played regularly on the AM radio stations of the time.  If you were listening to an AM station back then , there was no telling what you might here next.  After Peggy Lee you might hear the Beatles or the Stones and then maybe something from Otis Redding followed by Roger Miller or the  Doors or Johnny Cash.  It was all over the place, stylistically, but that was the norm then before music on the radio became relegated to its stylistic niche.

But in 1969, there was Peggy Lee, the older Pop/Jazz chanteuse from a prior generation singing the existential lyrics of  Is That All There Is?  on my radio.  She spoke much of the song, recounting episodes in her  life and the disillusionment she felt after each occurred before singing the lines  …if that’s all there is , my friends/ Then let’s keep dancing/Let’s break out the booze and have a ball/ If that’s all/There is…

It turns out the song, written by the great songwriting team of Lieber and Stoller, was based on an 1896 short story, Disillusionment,  from German writer Thomas Mann and the song’s episodes were directly from the story.  I didn’t know that and it really didn’t matter because , though I was only ten years old at the time,  there was something in that song that stuck with me, something that I internally understood. We are always let down somehow by those things we seek and finally attain, even when they meet all of our expectations.  We never feel as changed as we had thought we might and we emerge pretty much the same person.

That’s pretty much the feeling I had yesterday as I headed home.  The show there had been a great, great experience.  It had exceeded my expectations and was by all accounts very successful.  But still… there was the inevitable moment of letdown accompanied by doubts and fears and questions.  What if this is as good as it gets?  Is this a peak and I have nowhere to go but down?  Where do I go from here?

I’ve tried to explain this feeling here before. It’s something that baffled me early on.   But after doing about 35 or so solo shows over the past decade and a half, I’ve come to expect this feeling and am somewhat prepared.  I always tell other artists when they get their first show to savor the feeling, take it all in, but to not be too discouraged by that letdown moment in the aftermath.  And they all do feel that moment, even after a triumphant show.  I’ve had so many tell me this that there must be some validity in it.

I’ve gotten to the point where I anticipate it and try to prepare for it.  There’s show preparation and post-show preparation.  The show prep is actually the easy part in that  it is all tangible.  There is work to complete. deadlines to meet.  The post-show is intangible, without goals or deadlines,  and therefore more difficult to take on.  I use it now  as a catalyst, a cattle prod of fear to spur me forward in my work.  Actually, I would be worried right now if I were without fears,  satisfied and content with my achievement.  I think that this feeling of contentment leads to complacency which is the end of growth and creativity for an artist.  And to not continue to grow would be even worse than the few pangs of disillusionment I experience in the aftermath of a show.

So today I am discontented and anxious in the studio.  Just as I want and need to be.

I think I’ll listen to a little Peggy Lee just to enhance that feeling. Maybe I’ll break out the booze and have a ball…

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GC Myers- The Internal Landscape 2012I’ve been hobbled a bit over the last couple of weeks by a pinched nerve in my neck that has made any work (or sleep) almost impossible to accomplish. Hopefully, it will soon fade and I will be working feverishly again.  But while it has kept me from work, it has not prevented me from thinking back on 2012 and what it meant for my work.  It was truly a great year for it, one that will be hard to replicate.

Four solo shows in galleries.

In June, there was A Place to Stand at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia.  It was my  thirteenth solo show at a gallery that has meant very much to my career.

July found my show, In Rhythm, opening at the West End Gallery in Corning, New York.   I started my career at the West End and this show, my eleventh there, may have been the best of the lot.

Inward Bound opened in October at the Kada Gallery in Erie Pennsylvania.  I have  been  showing with the Kada for what will be seventeen years  in early 2013 and had a show there every two years since 2004.  This was one of my favorites there or anywhere.  There was a wonderful review in the Erie paper that I featured here.

December found me on the west coast with an opening of my show, The Waking Moment, at the Just Looking Gallery in lovely San Luis Obispo.  It was my first show with this long established California gallery with whom I began a relationship earlier in the year.  They have done an absolutely terrific job in exposing my work to folks from LA to San Francisco.  It was a pleasure meeting the collectors and staff out there I look forward to a long term partnership with them.

Of course, the biggest event this year was my first ever museum exhibit, Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of GC Myers, at the prestigious Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York. It opened in August and just closed this past Sunday,  A fitting end to a great year.  The show featured a group of my work from the past several years including the new The Internal Landscape , shown above, which is the largest piece I have painted and one that I featured on this blog early in the year as it was being completed.  The response exceeded my expectations in all regards and remains the high water mark  in my career to date.  It has given me a new perspective on what my work is and what it might be.  A great experience, all in all.

In between shows, there were gallery talks as well as my work being featured on the cover of a new CD, Lowe Country.  Plus, several of my paintings found their way to Uganda to hang in the US Embassy there, accompanying the new ambassador.

Along the way, I met scores of great folks who shared their stories with me.  Many thanks to everyone I encountered as well as more thanks than I can ever fully express to all of the  staff at the galleries and at the Fenimore who gave me the gift of this year.

As I said, it was year that will be hard to match.  But as soon as I am able, I will be trying to do just that. Or more.

 

 

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William Miller's 1843 ChartWell, I got  up this morning and, outside of a light layer of snow on the ground, it looked pretty much the same as yesterday.  The world is still here and the Mayans have got some explaining to do for getting us all worked up.  Or were the Mayans just pulling our leg the whole time?

I’m not sure about that but I am pretty sure that this won’t be the last time someone predicts that the end of the world is upon us.  It’s happened on a regular basis throughout the history of civilization.  We seem to have some sort of predisposition for doomed thought that pops up in a big way every generation or so,  a doomsayer getting everybody’s panties in a knot with their what-seems-rational-at-the-moment reasoning  for the coming apocalypse.

One of my favorite apocalypses (how often do you get to say that?) was the End of the World of 1843 and 1844 as predicted by William Miller right here in the state of  New York, which was fertile ground at that time for new religion movements. Mormonism and Seventh-Day-Adventism, which sprang from Miller’s preaching, are the two best examples.

Miller was a preacher who came to the conclusion that the end was near through a complex system of mathematical calculations  based on his readings of the Old Testament.  He traveled throughout the northeast through the 1830’s and 40’s, preaching his prophecy of the coming end of the world.  It’s said that he spoke to over a million people during his promotion of the event and that over a hundred thousand actually chose to follow his instructions to sell their worldly possessions and gather on the hilltops with him, all dressed in white robes,  in March of 1843 to await the coming of the the lord and their rapture from this doomed place.   A great testament to the persuasive power of Miller’s preaching of his rationale for the prophecy.

It was a big deal at the time, with headlines carrying news of the prophecy and the hordes gathering for the end. But the day came with  a fizzle, not a boom.   When nothing happened at this event, an embarrassed Miller ran the numbers again.  I think he forgot to carry the seven as he added one column.  Whatever the case, he revised the date to a day in October of 1844.

I’m told that the world didn’t end on that particular day.  It was called The Great Disappointment and many of Miller’s followers abandoned him.  Some went on to form the Seventh Day Adventists.  Miller never gave up his belief in the ultimate truth of his prophecy, dying a few years later in 1849.

The chart at the top is one that Miller published to illustrate how he came to his conclusion.  Much of  the design and artwork was done by one of Miller’s followers,  William Matthew Prior, the famed American folk portrait painter who I featured in a post on his work recently.  You can see this amazing sheet at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown along with two portraits of Miller done by prior.  One is a spirit portrait, done afterMiller’s death.  It is Prior’s interpretation of Miller’s essential spirit, not the physical entity he inhabited while alive.

The Prior show, along with my own exhibit there, closes at the end of next  Sunday, December 30.  So time is short– for these shows, not this world.

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Yesterday, I pulled  a book off the shelf about the work of the great illustrator/painter Maxfield Parrish.  I’ve always been drawn to his work and feel that it’s been a definite influence on my own.  I had someone who had seen my show at the Fenimore Art Museum say that he was attracted to my work because they were the paintings he wanted to paint.  Looking at the work of Maxfield Parrish, I think I understand what he means.  Below is a reposting of a blog entry from January of 2009 that I think really summarizes what I see in his work and how I have incorporated some of these things into my own.

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parrish-christmas-morning-1949Today I want to just show the influence of Maxfield Parrish on my work. He is certainly well known for his fairy tale-like scenes of scantily-clad young women or children in fantastical settings but I have always loved his other, lesser known work, particularly his landscapes and homescapes. 

There’s an intensity and warmth of color that I find completely compelling, drawing you in immediately and immersing you in a luxurious blanket of warm tones. For instance, in the piece above, Christmas Morning 1949, even though it is a wintry, snowy scene there are warm tones in the snow fields. It changes how you look at and feel about the scene, differentiating it from the normal, obvious winter landscape. 

parrish-hunt-farm1I am also visually excited by the way Parrish used gradience in the colors of his skies, taking a deep rich color at top and drawing it down in lighter fragments of the colors that make up the original color. It creates a brilliant effect. 

The trees often took a central part in his compositions as well, something to which I was obviously attracted. Many were boldly colored and powerful. 

The houses were mainly long range and very idyllic, warm interpretations. More home than house. There was never a specific story conveyed in these homes, just an overall feeling that was formed by their part in the overall picture. parrish-hill-top-farm-winter

I have also been influenced by the way Parrish put his compositions together, how all the elements were placed to create mood. The way the trees fill the picture plane. The way the houses are shown, never in full view. More about feeling and inference rather than representation. 

I could go on and on about his work and all the little things comprising his magic that I’ve tried to incorporate into my own work but the images tell the story much better. Enjoy…

parrishevening-shadows1parrish-the-reservoir-at-villa-falconieri-frascati1

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