I finished this new painting a couple of weeks ago and it has been a piece that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at since its completion. It satisfies me on many different levels and simply raises a certain contentment within me. I guess that would be the textbook definition of what I am trying to do for myself with my work.
When I look at this piece, following the river upward where it converges with the sky with the sun at the center of it, I see a winged angel-like figure. This was not by design and it has become the focus of the painting for me. Perhaps this even adds to my engagement with this piece. That and the overall warmth of the colors and the pull towards the center created by the sky and sun.
There’s just a quality of attraction and completion in it for me that keeps me looking at it.
I was trying to name this piece while I was looking for a suitable bit of music for this Sunday morning selection. While I am not sure this will end up being the final title for this painting, I thought that the title from a somewhat obscure Bruce Springsteen song might fit.
The song is Lift Me Up and it was written in the late 90’s for a film, Limbo, from filmmaker John Sayles. The song is a quiet, almost pleading, song that features Bruce singing throughout in a falsetto that takes on a lovely and mesmerizing quality as the melody engulfs it.
I think it’s a nice fit for this painting, at least for this morning. I also threw in a companion song this morning. It’s a beautifully quiet version of If I Should Fall Behind that brings most of the other band members, including the late Clarence Clemons, forward to solo on the lyrics. Nice stuff. Have a good day…
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Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.
—Richard P. Feynman
We live always on the edge of certainty and uncertainty.
We know what we know and that sometimes seems like an unending body of knowledge. But we also know that there is much that we don’t know and perhaps will never know. And that seems even more vast and overwhelming.
There is so much we wish to know so that we can put our uncertainty to rest. So we strive, we seek, we explore, and we observe, always searching for the next answer, the one that will bring it all together.
But the next answer poses new questions and opens new frontiers of discovery. We gain knowledge but our certainty is shaken.
But the only thing we know to do is to continue onward, forever seeking certainty.
That’s what I see in this new painting, a 20″ by 44″ canvas that I am calling The Restless Edge. For me, the thought behind this piece is about living in a world that straddles that line between certainty and uncertainty. Between truth and untruth. Between belief and non-belief. Between wisdom and ignorance.
About living in and coming to terms that allow you to find moments of peace on that restless edge.
And that’s what I see here. You may not see it and that is as it should be.
One man’s uncertainty is another’s belief. Or something like that…
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I wrote the post below back in 2009. I’ve revisited the use of multiple images a few times since but only on a limited basis. Maybe once or twice a year. But it’s a concept that appeals to me and just seeing these images again always sparks something.
I was looking through some older images on my computer, searching for a painting that I had completed several years back. As I scanned through the paintings, I noticed several pieces through the years that were different from most of the work I’ve been doing recently. They were multiples, such as Peers, shown here. They were paintings with several windows with a new scene in each, although most of the scene were very similar to the others.
It was a format in which I really enjoyed working and one that I have not revisited in a couple of years. I really don’t know why. They have a very graphic appearance and really stand out on a wall, making them pretty well received as a rule. I guess in the past few years I’ve been focusing more on working on texture and heightening the color, as well as working in the Archaeology series, so that I haven’t even thought of revisiting this format.
I remember some of the early ones very well. One had 48 cells and had a great look, the result of overlaying the paint with layers of chalk and pastel. Another was the same number of cells with 48 individual small paintings, each window having a separate opening in the mat. It was a pretty difficult piece to mat and frame but it also popped off the wall. I will have to go through my slides from that time (pre-digital) and see if I can wrangle up a few shots. I would like to see them again to see how they really hold up against my memory.
Maybe I will revisit the multiples sometime soon. I often run across things that have slipped from the front of my painting mind when I go back looking for something else. It may be a format such as these multiples or may be a small compositional element. It’s always interesting for me to try to re-insert this older element into the new work, to see how the inevitable evolution of the work will change this older concept. We’ll have to see what this brings…
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“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude!- ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’- that is the motto of enlightenment.”
― Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment?
Sapere Aude! From the Latin for Dare to know.
I came across the passage above from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant and felt immediately that it was a great match for this new painting. In fact I am calling this piece, 11′ by 15″ on paper, Dare to Know (Sapere Aude!)
The Red Tree here is removed away from the influence and shading of the other trees and houses in the foreground, out of darkness and into the light. There is a light about the Red Tree and a sense of freedom in the openness of the space around it. It is free to examine the world, free to seek the knowledge it craves, and free to simply think for itself.
It’s a great idea, this concept of enlightenment and one that we definitely could use today. Too many of us form our own base of knowledge by relying on the thoughts and opinions of others, often without giving much consideration as to their truthfulness, motives, or origins. Or we shade our base of knowledge with our own desires for how reality should appear, holding onto false beliefs that suit us even when they obviously contradict reality.
In short, there is no enlightenment based on falsehoods, no way to spin darkness into light. Enlightenment comes in stepping away from the darkness of lies and deceptions to see the world as it is, with clarity. It means stripping away our own self defenses and admitting our own shortcomings, prejudices, and predispositions.
It may not always be what one hoped for but it is an honest reality. And maybe that is enlightenment, the willingness to face all truths with honesty.
To dare to know.
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Posted in Motivation, tagged GC Myers on March 11, 2017|
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I spoke with a group of about 60 third grade students on Thursday at the Big Flats Elementary school. Earlier this year, their art teacher, Joanna Martinec, had used my work in some of their lessons and they were excited to learn that I lived in the area. Ms. Martinec sent me an email with some images of their work and a list of questions that they had asked. I offered to come and speak directly to the kids to answer their questions.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I don’t deal with a lot of kids but I have to admit that it was a lot of fun. The kids were totally engaged, well behaved, and very responsive.
One of my favorite moments was when I was telling them about how I was about their age when I first thought about wanting to be an artist and that one of my main reasons was that I didn’t feel like people ever heard what I was saying. I asked if any of them ever felt that way, that nobody listened to them, and they answered with a hearty “yes“, almost every single one of them in unison. That brought back my own memories of being in their position so many years ago, about wanting to be heard and to be taken seriously.
I felt really connected to those kids at that point and wanted to really hear all of them.
I did a short demo of my wet method which was not as effective as I had hoped, mainly from a logistical standpoint. It’s just hard to show it well to a large group. We had a camera that sent the images to a large screen but it just didn’t show as well as I would have liked and I wasn’t adept at using it. But I was able to do a couple of things that got some ooh’s and aah’s and I think the kids ended up liking it anyway.
We finished up with a question and answer period. I’ve done many gallery talks over the years and understand how hesitant and self-conscious people– by that I mean adults– are in asking questions. There was none of that with this group. The kids’ hands filled the air and they followed up with great questions and fun comments about what they liked or what they were doing with their own art. We had to stop because of the time but about half of the kids still had their hands in the air to ask questions. If it had been possible, I would have stayed and answered every single one of their questions.
It was so much fun talking with these kids and hearing their views and their questions. They had awareness and understanding with an openness that was without cynicism. That’s a refreshing combination. It was very inspiring for me.
I think I may have found my target audience.
Thank you to the teachers and the staff at the Big Flats Elementary School for having me and to Joanna Martinec for doing such a great job with your kids. I had a great time and hope the kids did as well.
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We have to balance the lineality of the known universe with the nonlineality of the unknown universe.
I am calling this new painting Balance (Known/Unknown). It is a 14″ by 32″ canvas and will have a slightly different edge detail that I will shown at a later date.
The Carlos Castaneda quote above just reached out to me when I was looking at this piece. The Red Tree here seems to be standing at the edge of the known, the terrestrial world that is defined here with earthy color, solid forms, and dark lines– the lineal universe. Beyond it the non-lineal universe beckons, represented by a nebulous sky and a sun that acts as an unblinking eye.
It all is very much a metaphor for the purpose of art and that is to act as an intermediary between the known and the unknown, the go-between for that which is of our five senses and those things that go far beyond those senses.
Things that we feel in an emotional sense.
And that is what art often does, putting the deep feeling of that which we cannot see onto those things that we do see. It makes the intangible tangible.
That said, I like this new piece and have been enjoying my time with it. Every day I find a new angle within it that gives me pause, that excites me, and sets me thinking. And that is all I hope for in my work.
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I 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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