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Posts Tagged ‘George Gershwin’

George Bellows painted everything like it was raw meat. Even his more pastoral pieces have this feeling, one of freshly ripped fiber and blood. One of the earliest blogposts I wrote here focused on his boxing scenes from the early part of the last century. I have included it below along with several more of his paintings and a video I came across that couples  Rhapsody in Blue from George Gershwin with the paintings of Bellows. Take a look: 

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Bellows Stag at SharkeysThis is Stag at Sharkeys, painted by George Bellows in the early part of the 1900’s. Bellows was part of the Ashcan group of artists who depicted the reality of the time in their paintings, creating gritty scenes of city life and all that this entailed- street scenes, nightclubs, tenements, etc.Bellows Both Members of this Club

I’ve always been drawn to Bellows’ work, particularly his several scenes of club fights. There is such great movement and rawness in these pieces that you get the real sense of the fury of the violence taking place. This is enhanced even more by the high contrast between the brightness of the fighters’ skin and the great blackness of the open space above the ring. It all creates a great feeling of drama.

These paintings always bring to mind my grandfather, who was known as Shank. This was his time and this was his world. He had been a club wrestler which was the predecessor to professional wrestling except that it was real wrestling where one competitor might put a painful leg lock on the other and hold it for a long time until his opponent gave in. This ability to clamp on and not let go was how Shank came to his nickname.

The matches could last an several hours. I found an article in the local newspaper from that time, around 1907, documenting a match of his that went for four hours without either wrestler winning a fall. The match was suspended and they came back the next night to wrestle for another two and a half hours. Shank wrestled professionally for several years then later went on to be a stage manager at on of the many vaudeville theaters that once populated our city.

I remember as a kid, going to play bingo at the American Legion and this old city cop, Sailor Devlin, who was at the time the oldest active police officer in the country as recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Serving as security for the event in his late 80’s, Sailor would amble over to our table to talk with my dad.  He had known Shank, who was at this point dead for several years, and would always comment on him, calling him the toughest guy he ever met. That really resonated with me and I always valued toughness after that, putting high regard for those who could, as they say, take it.

Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to these images.  The guys in these paintings can take it.

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GC Myers- Moses ( I Supposes)Sometimes when I am walking over to the studio in the morning I will have a song stuck in my head.  Sometimes it is one that I recently heard, something from the radio.  But sometimes it’s one that just springs deeply from the past, something I haven’t thought of in some time.   That’s how it was this morning.  And thinking of that song linked me to a small painting that I did many years ago.

They just fit together in my mind for some reason.

The song was It Ain’t Necessarily So, the great song sung by the slick drug dealing Sporting Life in George and Ira Gershwin‘s Porgy and Bess.  Just a fantastic mix of sound and wordplay.

For some unknown reason, when I hear this song this old piece from over 20 years ago always comes to mind.  It’s a piece that I did very quickly, not really knowing what I was trying to paint.  It just sort of popped out and  I remember calling it Moses( I Supposes).  There was something about this piece that I have always liked. Maybe it’s the I-don’t-give-a-damn way way everything in it is painted, from the giant hands down to the giant feet.

It’s just a personal favorite that somehow always springs to mind when I think of this song.  Maybe because Moses is mentioned in a verse in the song–

Lil’ Moses was found in a stream
Lil’ Moses was found in a stream
He floated on water
‘Til Ole’ Pharaoh’s daughter
She fished him, she says from dat stream.
I don’t know for sure but I enjoy the combination.  I was going to play one of my favorite versions of the song, the one from the Simon Rattle directed version from the Glyndbourne Festival with Damon Evans as Sporting Life but I opted for the great Sammy Davis, Jr. version from 1959.  Have a great day and remember– not everything isn’t necessarily as it seems to be.

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Cabbage Row- Catfish Row Charleston SCFirst things first, a happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there, including my own living down in Florida.  I was going to say more about him today and some recent cognition troubles he’s been experiencing but I think I will keep it simple and just send out my wishes for a Happy Father’s Day.

Being Sunday, it’s time for some Sunday Morning Music.  I was going to play something with a father-y theme but this week’s tragic event down in Charleston has been on my mind.

In the late 1980’s, my parents lived  for a couple years on one of the sea islands outside of Charleston so we were able to visit a few times.  It was hard not to embrace the place with all its charms, its people and history always on display.  I’ve had a soft spot for that area ever since and when the Principle Gallery opened a new location there two years ago I was thrilled in that it might give me an excuse to visit that place once more.

So when a hate-filled , weak-minded coward given  power through a gun takes the lives of nine innocent people in that city, I am filled a multitude of emotions.  Sadness for the families and friends of those victims, for the city itself and for this nation that seems to accept this type of tragedy more and more as the norm.  Anger at the killer and at ridiculous hatred he possesses.  Anger at the societal mindset that incubates or tolerates this hatred, especially in a state where the Confederate flag brazenly flies about the state capital.  Anger at those people who believe that this is somehow “their”country and that it is their duty to somehow take it back.  Anger at politicians who give lip service but little else in the aftermath, only looking to put the event in a perspective that suits their own agenda.

How many more times will we tolerate this?  Many, many more I am sure because there is no easy answer here, no magic pill that wipes away racism, especially in a society where the constant thinly-veiled racism shown  in the contempt and disrespect for our president is accepted as the normal.  We can’t continue the way we have int he past, simply accepting this as the everyday event it is quickly becoming.  We must not tolerate intolerance. We must choose to change.

But Charleston will survive, will get past this time as it has so many other dark days.  This morning I am playing a song that has a foot in those earlier days of Charleston.  It’s a song from George and Ira Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess based on the Dubose Heyward novel, Porgy, set in the the real Cabbage Row area of Charleston.  This became Catfish Row in the story so that it could be relocated to the seafront.  The photo above with the Catfish Row sign is the actual site of Cabbage Row where families of freed slaves lived in the late 1800’s and ealry 1900’s, selling cabbage from the windowsills.

The song is I Loves You, Porgy from the late and oh so great Nina Simone.  She was one of the greatest and most distinct interpreters of song ever.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard her sing anything that didn’t become hers once it was sang.  This song is a tour de force among many version of it from a wide range of singers. Enjoy and have a great Sunday and a great Father’s Day.

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It’s summertime and the living is easy…

As I wrote earlier, I’d be more comfortable in a cold tundra wind than in the steamy temperatures that are moving through the east now,  a heat that brings to mind the hazy days of summertime on the islands near Charlestown, South Carolina that George Gershwin brought to life in his great opera, Porgy and Bess.  But while I’m not a fan, I f ind things in it that I can enjoy.  A cool drink.  The feel of coolness from a hardwood floor on a bare foot.  The quietness it brings as the animals in the forest around me hunker down, almost like they do in the coldest weather.

I’m in the final days of prepping for another show, this my tenth annual at the West End Gallery, and the heat mixed with the pressure to get my work done conspire to make me a bit listless as far as criticaland creative thinking is concerned.  So, I focus on the cool air of morning, trying to absorb as much as possible before the real heat descends and I put on some Gershwin to fit the mood.

Here’s a great folky version of Summertime from the great Doc Watson, the legendary blind folk guitarist.  He’s accompanied here by his late son, Merle.  It is one of the most evocative songs ever written and this version adds Doc’s own touch.  Enjoy and stay cool…

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