Posts Tagged ‘France’

GC Myers-The Patient Heart smOnly a burning patience will lead to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

–Pablo Neruda


We are living in a crazy time.  Every week, every day, brings us news of some new atrocity around the world– Nice, France is just the latest of all too many– and we find ourselves gripped with feelings of anger, fear and confusion.  We want answers and solutions yet we don’t really know what are the real questions being posed before us.  We just want action, or should I say reaction.

We seem to react, raging and flailing, to every situation without thought.  We take little time to consider our words or actions and their consequences.  It is all now, now, now.  And this unsettled impatience makes us willing to look to those people who offer us quick and easy answers with little substance to back their claims of what they can do.  This path ultimately comes at a much greater expense than we could ever foresee in our haste to react.

There are no quick and easy answers to the questions and problems that lay before us.  The immediate future requires, as Neruda puts it above, a burning patience.  Our first reaction is not always our best and taking a long moment to contemplate our actions is generally a wise move.

That being said, I have to say that the last few weeks have proved to me that my work has a real purpose, at least for myself.  This has been a time of real stress in the world and with every day’s dose of awful news I found myself looking closer and closer at my work as I was getting ready for the upcoming show.  At certain stressful moments, I found myself really going into the work, being absorbed by the harmonies and rhythms.

These moments were like little meditative breaks where I felt the chaos of the outside world was blocked off, only a dark mass well beyond the boundaries of the world I was now in.  It brought on an energizing calm, one that allowed me to not react with anger or despair.  It reinforced my burning patience.

And that was just what I needed from it.

The painting above is titled The Patient Heart and is 4″ by 16″ on paper.  It is included in my show, Contact, at the West End Gallery in Corning, which opens next Friday, July 22.  The show has been delivered and is now in the gallery for previews.

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GC Myers-  Icon: FrancoisMy current Icon series has been a real pleasure for myself in that it’s refreshing to work on pieces that I realize are only for myself, not worrying if they strike a chord with anyone else.  For me, it’s fulfilling to flesh out some of my ancestors and their stories, to give them an image that I an hold on to.  As I’ve said these are meant as symbols– I’m not trying to recreate their actual appearance.  In most cases, there is nothing to work with, nothing that would give me a clue as to how they might really look.  So, this is how I see them in my mind.

The painting at the top is a 12″ by 12″ canvas that is titled Icon: François.  He is my 9th gr-grandfather, born in 1640 in the area around Boulogne, France.  It is on the English Channel not to far from Calais.  He was a soldier in the Grandfontaine Company of the Carignan Regiment,  which was sent in 1665 to Quebec in what was then called New France.  The troops came in several ships, François arriving in August aboard the ship L’Aigle d’Or— the Golden Eagle.

These 1200 troops were sent to protect the new settlements  that France had established and to aide in fort construction along the Richelieu River.  They were also sent in order to help populate New France.  Some were offered money or land to stay in the new country and build a life there.  François, I believe, fell into that category as he showed up soon after in census listings as a master woodworker living in Quebec.  While I am not positive that he received any

incentives to stay in New France, such is not the case with his wife and my 9th gr-grandmother, Marguerite Paquet,  She was one of the Filles du Roi, or the King’s Daughters.  Between 1663 and 1673, King Louis XIV sponsored this program which offered young French women, all single and many orphaned,  free transportation and settlement to New France along with a dowry of money or land in the new land if they agreed to marry one of the men living there.  You see, the first settlers were overwhelmingly male.  I have at least two or three Filles du Roi in my line as do most French Canadians.

François died as relatively young man in 1675 but not before he and Marguerite had three children which set off a long line that runs through Canadian history to today, spawning hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of decendents.

I see François is this painting as an Adam-like character, naked and in a new world that he will help populate,  The brushstrokes radiating from the halo represent the generations that descend from the choice he and his wife made to seek a new life in the new world.  It’s a simple painting and a relatively simple story– at least as simple as you can make one’s entire life into a short tale.

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chapel-oak-allouvilleMaybe it comes from painting so many trees but I find myself with a number of books about trees.  One of my favorites is a set from Thomas Pankenham containing Remarkable Trees of the World and Meetings with Remarkable Trees, containing  pictures and descriptions of some truly beautiful and astounding  ancient trees from around the globe.  There are some magnificent specimens that choosing a favorite would be impossible.  But one that always makes me stop as I leaf through is the Chapel Oak in Normandy, France.

Legend has its age as being 1000 or 1200 years although scientists estimate it at about 800 years.  It began its career of note in the the 17th century when lightning struck the already old and grand oak, sending a bolt down through its center that smoldered and burned until it had hollowed out a large cavity within the tree.  The village priest determined that there was some divine intent in the lightning strike to this tree and built a chapel in the hollow of the tree along with a small room above it suited  for a hermit.

chapel-oak-allouville-bellefossePerhaps the priest’s belief in the tree was deserved because, though badly wounded by the lightning and inner fire, the tree still leafed and maintained year after year until the present day.  Of course, it has been lovingly nursed and reinforced through the ages.  It has cables and straps and two steel supports that give it the look of a creature on two crutches.  The large section of the trunk damaged by the lightning lost its bark ages ago and the tree’s caretakers covered the exposed wood with shingles and a spire roof, giving the look of a fairy tale castle.  The inner chapel and the room above it have been renovated in recent years, refitted with paneling and mirrors to create more  light with the dark hollow.

Chapel oak interiorOf course, it is a place of great interest to tourists and pilgrims alike.  I am always torn when I look at the pictures of this tree.  Part of me is simply fascinated with the image and the way its caretakers have prolonged its existence.  There seems to be a grand reverence in this.  But another part of me wonders if the tree should be allowed to simply succumb in dignity to its natural ending without the assistance from humans.  I suppose it comes down to how one views all trees and this particular tree.  Perhaps, it’s continued life is proof that it desires to endure.

Whatever the case, it remains after enduring the many pages of history that have turned around it.  Interesting…

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Embarkation_of_Henry_VIII at Dover- Basire PrintI saw this painting on a PBS program about Henry VIII and Hampton Court.  It’s a massive painting, nearly 5 1/2 feet tall by 11 feet  long, titled The Embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover, commissioned by the king to commemorate a 1520 meeting at Calais with him and French king Francis I.  It was a goodwill mission of sorts, trying to increase the bonds of friendship between the countries after a recent treaty.  Of course, only a couple of years later they were at war.  But while diplomacy may have failed at least an epic piece of art came from the whole thing.

The painting has been attributed to a number of painters over the ages, most notably Han Holbein, though nowadays its maker is listed as unknown.  But what a dynamic and energetic painting!  The color is bold and bright and the composition filled with movement throughout.  I love the exaggeration of size and scale, which gives the epic scene have a more personal, human feel.

I woke up thinking about this painting.  It makes me want to get out the stretcher bars and canvas and start another big piece. I know that they are not practical in many ways but there is something in the sheer size and space that just excites me and starts the creative fountain.

We’ll see…

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