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Posts Tagged ‘GC Myers’

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“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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When my solo show, From a Distance, opens next week at the West End Gallery, a couple of the included paintings will not be new work. There are a couple of pieces in this show that are older and have an interesting provenance.

One is the painting shown above that I call The Dance. It was painted sometime around late 1996 or 1997. When I painted it, I determined that it didn’t fit in with the face of the work I was putting out at that time. It was too sloppy, too raw. It seemed to be moving in a different direction from the the path I was following. I decided to put it aside, unshown to the world.

But 23 or so years later, it is this very rawness that makes me want to show it.

The interesting thing is that in the intervening years, this piece disappeared from my sight. When I moved from my old studio up in the woods which I had worked in from around 1996 to 2007 to my current studio, this painting, along with several other paintings, were carelessly overlooked in the move. They had been bundled together and this bundle had somehow been misplaced.

I wrote about this episode last year, when I was looking for a group of lost pieces from my Exiles series for an exhibition, heading up to the old studio to search for them. The old studio had suffered greatly in the decade since I had last worked there. A tree had fell on its roof, breaking through to the inside in one small area and the rain and snow had taken a great toll on it. The whole building was now racked and reeling and one side of the studio’s floor held piles of dark rotting debris from the roof and ceiling.

On a rack of old frames in that space, only several feet from the hole in the ceiling and the mound of dark debris on the floor, there were several sheets of old cardboard all pushed together among the frames. I had been looking for awhile at this point and was getting ready to call it a day when I decided to pull out that stack of cardboard.

Nothing.

Behind the cardboard, there was a piece of old plywood pushed up against the end of the shelf. Frustrated, I pulled out the plywood and, lo and behold, there was a bundle of sheets of watercolor paper pressed against the end of the shelving. I pulled them down and found a spot amo0ng the wreckage where I could examine them.

The paintings were all in oddly good condition, given that only several feet away there was gaping hole where all sorts of weather were free to fall. There was some foxing and a little grime but it wasn’t terrible and could be easily addressed. Obviously, using the acid free cotton watercolor paper and having them bundled together had provided a degree of protection.

Kind of like wearing a mask, people!

Each piece was thrill as I shuffled through them. Most were pieces that I remembered distinctly, some very good and one or two that were what I would consider failures that should have been destroyed long ago. This piece was wonderful to see when I came to it. I was giddy with being reunited with this work that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.

But the very last piece in the bundle made me tear up. It was a landscape and it had a title and a date at the bottom of the sheet. It was painted on November 9, 1995 and its title was The Sky Will Never Forget ( Hoping For Light). My mom from cancer died later that night, in the first few hours of November 10. The memory of working on that painting and the emotions of that time flooded back to me.

So, this piece lived in dark peril, lost and forgotten for more than decade. I think it was just waiting to be unleashed so that, in its raw exuberance much like the character in Yeats’ verse at the top, it could dance upon the mountains like a flame.

I am glad to see it dance once again.

 

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“Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”

― Honoré de Balzac

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This quote from Balzac has been paraphrased and changed over the years by others to the more tidy phrase: Our worst fears lie in anticipation.

I usually don’t agree when writer’s words are changed or used to express something decidedly different from their original intention. But maybe speakers over the years have decided that our worst misfortunes sometimes do happen.

Balzac died in 1850, years before the horrors of the American Civil War, World War I and WW II, which carries its own separate list of atrocities that easily live up to the expectations of being our worst misfortunes. We have witnessed concentration camps, the slaughter of innocents in attempted genocides on several continents, extreme racial and ethnic hatred and so many other black blotches on our collective history.

And I am most likely skimming over a multitude of other examples, such as the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Yeah, in the 170 years since Balzac’s death, we have seen ample evidence that our worst misfortunes do indeed happen.

But even so, there is truth in saying that most miseries lie in anticipation. Because for all the evidence we have of our ability to inflict the worst on each other, most times we come out on the other side without seeing the worst come to fruition.

That brings me to the new painting at the top of the page, an 18″ by 24″ canvas that is part of my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens next week at the West End Gallery. The title of this piece is The Anticipation.

A lot of the work from this show is a result of my reaction to these times but this painting might best sum that feeling of queasiness and dull fear that comes in waiting for the next shoe to drop. It seems to be its own separate symptom of the pandemic, one that even those who are not yet infected experience.

It’s that feeling that you know there is a beginning and an end and, that even while we are in the midst of this thing, it will someday be over and in the past. That is the light at the end of tunnel. But you know you have to go through the rest of that tunnel, have to absorb all the worst it has to offer, in order to get to that endpoint.

So, you trudge and trudge, each step filled with a dark foreboding anticipation. In every dark shadow along your way you see a new imagined demon, one that threatens you with some awful painful fate. The light barely seems to get closer with each day’s journey and your fears grow with your uncertainty as to when– or if– you will finally emerge from the darkness.

The fear of what might happen eclipses your imaginings of hope.

That sounds dire. But remember, even with our rampant thoughts of the worst that could happen, we are still moving forward toward the light in the future and our actions as we move along can diminish or even eradicate those imagined worst outcomes.

In the waiting, our imagination may only see the worst but perhaps it is so we can act to avoid it ever coming to be.

That’s what I am seeing in this painting. There is foreboding but there is the possibility of hope in our own reaction.

So, while our worst misfortunes do sometimes happen, we do not have to willingly accept them as our fate. We have the opportunity to stand against them, to infuse light into the darkness that comes in our anticipation.

Here’s to that light…

 

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And if your friends think that you should do it different
And if they think that you should do it the same
You’ve got it, just keep on pushing and, keep on pushing and
Push the sky away

—Nick Cave, Push the Sky Away

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I don’t have the energy or will to say much this morning. I just want to get back to work, prepping my show, From a Distance, for the West End Gallery that I will deliver later this week in advance of the show’s opening on Friday, July 17. The show is coming together well and I find myself more and more pleased as each piece is completed with its framing.

Much like my recent Principle Gallery show, this wasn’t an easy show for me. There was a lot of frustration and high levels of anxiety, both from my reaction to these times and to some other things taking place in my world. Lots of distractions and aggravations pulled at my attention and disrupted any semblance of rhythm I could find.

Just getting to work was work in itself.

But you just keep at it. Keep pushing. Turn it around and use the frustration as fuel.

Push the sky away, as the song says.

One of the new pieces from this show is at the top, one called Far Away Eyes. This was one of the pieces that helped me fight through the barriers that were there for this show. It was a struggle in itself to complete and there were times when I wanted to trash it. But I kept at it, kept believing that it held something for me.

And it did. As I worked, it began to fall into a rhythm that spoke to me and when it felt done, it felt right. The effort seemed insignificant at that point, a small price to get to where it was.

Just keep pushing the sky away, much as it appears the sun is doing to the sky in the painting.

Here’s a performance from this past December from Nick Cave at the Sydney Opera House. He’s singing his song, Push the Sky Away. It’s worth a listen.

Have a good Sunday.

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“Hunkered Down”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I worked — and behold,
duty was joy.

–Rabindranath Tagore

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When I first read the short poem above from the great poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore some time ago, it struck a chord with me. It so simply, in just a few lines, put across an observation that takes most of us a lifetime to realize. That is, if we ever do realize it.

Duty was joy.

But what is duty? Is it in being a good parent? A faithful spouse and a loyal friend? Is it in what we do to make a living? Or is it in being decent and caring human being?

Perhaps, it is how our lives touch the lives of others? Could that be a duty?

I don’t know for sure. Most likely joy is not a one size fits all proposition.

My own feeling is that duty is much like having a purpose, a reason for living. I remember reading Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl‘s transcendent book, Man’s Search For Meaning, which described his time in the Auschwitz death camp. He observed that those who were able to survive the horror were those who somehow had a purpose for their life, who saw a future that they needed to reach ahead for. This purpose, even a modest one, often gave them the drive needed for survival, creating a path forward for them.

In the year after being liberated from Auschwitz, Frankl gave a series of lectures that were the basis for his book. In one he spoke of Tagore’s poem and that final line: Duty was joy:

So, life is somehow duty, a single, huge obligation. And there is certainly joy in life too, but it cannot be pursued, cannot be “willed into being” as joy; rather, it must arise spontaneously, and in fact, it does arise spontaneously, just as an outcome may arise: Happiness should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome; the outcome of the fulfillment of that which in Tagore’s poem is called duty… All human striving for happiness, in this sense, is doomed to failure as luck can only fall into one’s lap but can never be hunted down.

In short, lasting joy and happiness cannot be pursued as a goal on their own, without a responsibility to some higher purpose.

I am writing this because sometimes I need to be reminded of this. I have been struggling at times recently in the studio, seemingly fighting with myself to find something that just doesn’t seem to be there. The harder I tried to find it, the further away it seemed. It was like I was looking for something to quell my anxieties and bring me some form of easy happiness. To bring me effortless joy.

I should have known better. Yesterday, I just put down my head and worked without thinking about the end result. I focused solely on my purpose in each moment, the task at hand. Concentrating on doing small and simple things with thought and care was my duty, as it were. As the day went on, my burden felt lessened and I began to feel joy in the work, joy in small aspects that I had been overlooking in prior days.

It was a satisfying day, one that left me feeling that I had moved in some way toward fulfilling a purpose. It may not be a grand, earth-shaking one but it doesn’t need to be. It is mine. My purpose. My duty.

And that is enough to bring me a bit of joy.

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“Elbow Room” – Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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“The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

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I am a bit distracted this morning so I will make this short. Lots of moving parts this morning with much to do and lots of thoughts running through my mind. Some are small and trivial and some more momentous. Kind of like the difference between a road and a path. The path is the smaller, more familiar one, the comfortable one we walk each day as part of our everyday world. The road, on the other hand, denotes greater distance and further destinations.

My thoughts are of both paths and roads this morning. But none of it is really anything I wish to share now.

Maybe some other time. Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, I am just going to share a song. It’s one of Johnny Cash‘s late recordings, this one made in the final months of his life. I have commented here before that I believe the work from late in his life was as raw and powerfully deep as anything in his long and illustrious career. This is his cover of a Bruce Springsteen song, Further On Up the Road.

Fits the morning.

Have a good day.

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GC Myers- Shelter in Place 2020

My annual solo show of new works opens today at the Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria. This year’s show, my 21st there, is titled Social Distancing which very well describes the distance between me sitting in my studio this morning and the show hanging in the gallery down in Virginia. Now, that’s real social distancing.

It feels disconnected and strange to not be at an opening tonight and still be writing about it from the studio. But we are in the strangest days of recent times so I guess it’s only fitting that any event, particularly one titled Social Distancing, is not spared.

I think the duality of this idea– work about separation that seeks connection– is right in line with the message of much of my work throughout the years. The work has always focused on the distances of our world while still seeking to find closeness and connection.

Home, as it might be called.

Though I still haven’t yet seen the work on the walls of the gallery, I feel that this is a strong group. Strange times often bring out certain strengths and aspects of people. And art, at its best, reflects humanity. I believe this group is reflective of that.

I think it is authentic and human. Joyfully imperfect.

I hope you get a chance to get into the Principle Gallery to see Social Distancing. For those of you who can’t make it there, below is the catalog for the show. Thanks!

Be safe and have a great day.

 

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“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

Herman Melville

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Social Distancing, this year’s edition of my annual show of new work, along with some vintage pieces this year, opens tomorrow at the Principle Gallery. It’s in the gallery now and I am enclosing a video slideshow below that previews the show.

As I wrote here recently, this was a tough show to put together, much more difficult than in past years, with plenty of distractions and setbacks. And I think the fact that this was such a hard fought show makes it even more gratifying to see the work in it together as a show.

I think it is the diversity of this show, with its many elements and styles along with the thread of continuity that runs from the early work up to the most recent, that best reflects the multitude of emotional bursts that have marked us a nation in the recent past. Mirroring the highs and lows we are experiencing, there is work that seems darker and foreboding alongside work that is placidly strong and forward looking with hope.

The title, Social Distancing, is definitely a product of this time, an admonition to keep ourselves safe by keeping people away at arms length. Well, maybe not just arms length but six feet, at least. The power of that phrase though is striking because it has pointed out in real terms how much we actually need real human connection to navigate through this world. I would like to think that much of the work in this show displays both the effect of the distance that we are enduring along with the sense of connection we struggle to find in this world. Hopefully, many of us have come to realize that, like the words of Melville at the top, we have a thousand fibers connecting us and that our actions fan out from us, having effects that touch many.

I guess it could be said that even though we might be socially distanced, we can remain spiritually connected. We can still affect others, hopefully in positive ways. Maybe that’s the message I want someone to take from this exhibit.

Maybe not. Hopefully, you will see it in your own way. Those unique interpretations only deepen my gratification.

Here’s the preview. Have a good day.

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In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

–Carl Jung

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My annual show at the Principle Gallery each June is normally made up of solely new work. But I think we can all agree that this year is anything but normal. There’s been a little bit of everything thrown at us. I think that if a swarm of Bigfoots — or is it Bigfeet?— suddenly descended upon us from every mountaintop, we would just shrug it off as being just the next shoe to drop.

So, this being such an unusual year, I chose to change things up a bit and include a group of vintage pieces of my work in this year’s show. My only criteria was that they had some sort of link to the theme of the show which is, as the title states, Social Distancing.

Many of us are new to the concept of social distancing but for me it’s something I’ve been practicing for much of my life, even if I didn’t use that particular phrase. I have, especially for the last twenty five years, kept to myself, more or less. I have tried to simultaneously live in two worlds, the outer and the inner. Much like the view Jung takes in the words above, I have tried to straddle both of these worlds and have found that Jung’s observation is pretty close to the bone. The more and more time I spend in that inner world, the more real and expansive it becomes. I then find myself willing to sacrifice more and more of my connections to the outer world.

Reading that last paragraph just now, I realize that it doesn’t sound exactly healthy.  But even so, it seems to suit my temperament and disposition, to use Jung’s words again. Plus, in my inner world, it’s not considered unhealthy.

Two of the vintage paintings from this show that I think relate directly to this straddling of worlds are shown here today. The one at the top is a piece called Flower Shadow, that was painted back in June of 1995, twenty five years ago. It was never shown publicly but was always a favorite when I went through my older work, a piece that always made me stop for a few extra moments to consider it.

While part of me is attracted to it because of how it connects me to that early work, there’s something in it that speaks directly to me. Maybe it’s the idea of this rough flower, inside looking wistfully out a window. Living in two worlds, the inner and the outer, with an air of lightly wistful melancholy around it. It still speaks clearly to me, twenty five years later.

The other vintage piece is from ten years later, in 2005, and is from a limited series from that time that I called In the Window, which featured interior spaces with a window looking out on a landscape, which was the focal point of these pieces. This particular painting, In the Window: Dream Away, shown here on the right, was one of the first from that series.

Initially, this series was intended as a means to present my landscapes in a different way, like placing a gem in a different setting in order to highlight that gem. But as time passed, this concept of two worlds became more apparent to me in this work. I believe this particular piece, with its clarity and clean expression, exemplifies both of those concepts, the gem in a new setting and the being existing in two worlds.

I am really pleased to show these pieces now, though I do not being able to get some in person reactions like those normally received at a reception. But, as noted, these are not normal times so I will just put them out there and hope they speak clearly for themselves.

Hope you can make it to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria for Social Distancing, my annual solo show that opens there this Friday, June 5.

 

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I am a child of America.

I was raised believing in the promise of America.

Land of opportunity. Land of second chances.

Rags to riches. Log cabin to the White House.

The land of the free and the home of the brave.

Equal rights for all and all are welcome.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

The Melting Pot, where our great diversity of cultures, beliefs and ideas are a source of strength.

Shining city on the hill. The beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

The Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…

One for all, all for one.

I was this child for many years. I held on to these ideals, these beliefs, with the hope that the promise of America would someday be fulfilled. That hope has sometimes felt within our reach as a nation.

But this morning, I am a child no more.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Yesterday, we witnessed things we never thought we would see in this country. People who were expressing their freedom of speech in a most peaceful and lawful way outside the white house were set upon by mounted police and pelted with rubber bullets and tear gas. The Secretary of Defense spoke in terms of the need for the military to dominate the battlespace when speaking about our citizens and the president*** later authorized use of that military force against our own people.

I have written here about the dangers many people saw in this presidency from long before the election of 2016. I have often worried it was all too hyperbolic, that I was misinterpreting the signs I was seeing and was simply wrong. I can admit to having been wrong in the past so I always have a bit of uncertainty even when what I am seeing seems clear in my mind.

But, yesterday was the culmination, the proof that the warnings that so many of us had been issuing over the past four plus years were not mere hand-wringing.

The threat to our democracy and freedom is real.

We are nearing that point where we will not be able to ever fulfill the promise of America. That point where we are only America in name only.

If you think this is a time to just be quiet, to try to ignore what is happening not pick a side, you are making the wrong choice. And make no mistake, silence is a choice here, one that puts you firmly on the side of those who are trying to steer this country into some sort of military dictatorship.

At this moment, silence is the ally of brutality and oppression.

Silence authorizes atrocity. It has been this way throughout history and we are at a critical crossroads in history.

Will you remain silent?

Believe me when I say that I do not relish writing this post this morning. I know that I am a simple artist, a person who smears paint on surfaces for the enjoyment of others. You most likely come here– especially if you have read this far– for a diversion from the world, a break from the sheer hardness of it.

This week I am normally trying to stir interest in my work for my show that opens this Friday at the Principle Gallery. So writing this is a bit of a tight rope act for me, trying to balance my own self interests with the need to speak up about what is happening in this land right now.

I guess I could at least talk about the painting at the top, The Durable Will, from the show. There is, after all, a certain relevance between what I see in it and the current situation. This is certainly a painting that, for me, speaks to ideals. It is about strength and endurance, about weathering all that comes while still maintaining an air of grace and beauty.

It might well serve as a symbol of what I desire for this country. That we stand up, speak the needed truth, take the blows and endure. That we grow into a better future based in grace and beauty.

Part of that child still resides in me.

And I am glad for that this morning, on a day when I am filled with darkness.

So, for those of you who believe I should just be quiet or that you just want to ignore the situation and remain silent, I leave you with the words of the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, a man who definitely refused to turn a blind eye to injustice or remain silent:

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

 

 

 

 

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Aah, the work was delivered to the Principle Gallery yesterday for the show, Social Distancing, that opens this coming Friday, June 5, at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.

I say aah because there is always a sense of relief once the work has left my hands and is in the gallery. I’ve done what I can and it’s out of my hands.

But the aah this year might be even larger than in any other year. Completing this year’s show was hard fought struggle within myself. The number of distractions was huge as you all know. It has been a trying time for all of us between an impeachment, a pandemic that has delivered over 100 thousand deaths thus far not to mention vast job losses and an economic uncertainty that most certainly see us in a recession, if a depression, for the coming years along with the violent eruption of a long simmering volcano of unequal justice and economic opportunity for people of color. Factor into that a money grab by the wealthiest among us from the pandemic relief funds and you have a hot and messy stew cooking.

This might well be a year without parallel in the memories of most of us and maybe in the history of this country. We are a nation at great stress right now.

So to get my little bit of business out of the way, to be able to push all this aside and do work that was strong and meaningful in my own eyes was a different sort of task than in any of the previous 21 years of doing this show. Maybe the show of 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, would be the closest parallel but that at that time we didn’t have a deadly virus or the same sort of raw internal rips in our society that we are experiencing now as a nation. In retrospect, that time seemed like a light appetizer for the heavy meal, that hot and messy stew, on our table at this moment.

But, as far the show, it is there now and I think it’s a damn fine show. I can’t think of a piece in it that that I would want to omit or change. I think every painting in it has its own strength that shows. I hope you will get a chance to get into the gallery to see it or at least take a look at the exhibit document from the Principle Gallery when it’s released in a few days.

I have to say that another bit of relief was the great ease I experienced in the delivery yesterday. In the many, many trips down to Alexandria I have made over the past 23 years, yesterday was by far the easiest ride I have ever made. The traffic was exceedingly light and the weather absolutely perfect. The delivery itself went smoothly and quickly. Every aspect of the day was easy.

I came home, as usual through central Pennsylvania. If you don’t know the area, the route runs above Harrisburg along the Susquehanna River, and is a lovely area with a rural feel marked by the farms and horse-drawn buggies of the many Amish and Mennonite farmers along the way. But it is also a deeply conservative area, a hotbed of far right ideology. Lots of guns, pickups and camo clothing. Lots of evangelical billboards and, strangely,quite a few weird little, windowless porn shops that always seem to have more than a few cars in front of them.

It’s a big Trump area. Yeah, I wrote that name– can taste the ashes in my mouth. Some businesses have it scrawled across the face of their buildings and you see quite a few of his campaign signs . There was even one guy, with a big gut and a tight white tee shirt, selling Trump merchandise by the side of the busy road. No buyers when I passed him, thankfully. But one thing I noticed in a few places were signs in the neighboring yards of those the yards that had Trump signs. The signs simply said “Be Kind” as though these neighbors wanted to somehow counter the meaning that was implicit in the signs of their neighbors.

That small gesture gave me the slightest glimpse of hope.

Coming home, I came through Lewisburg, a town that is best known as the home of Bucknell University. Coming into town after passing Bucknell, I came to traffic light at the intersection of the two main roads running through the area.  At each of the four corners there were quite a few people gathered holding signs and gesturing to the traffic. Coming to a stop at the red light, I realized that it was a Black Lives Matter protest, much like the other protests taking place around the nation.

It was a diverse group with many white faces– this is central PA, after all– but a large number of people of color as well. They were peaceful and wore their masks and kept distance as well as they could. I gave them the thumbs up and many returned the gesture. As I drove away I gave a young black woman the thumbs up and she gave me a clenched fist held high above her head in response.

I can’t tell you how much those small gestures made my day. That group of peaceful protesters in such a conservative part of that state gave me the hope that there might be real change ahead for us as a nation, that we will push past this moment and vanquish the forces of division and inequality that are at work right now.

Maybe that’s what the painting at the top reflects. Part of the show, it’s a 10″ by 20″ canvas that is called And the Clouds Will Pass…

That’s how I want to see it.

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