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Posts Tagged ‘Goethe’

I have been in a funk in the studio for the past couple of weeks. It feels as though any momentum or confidence about my work that I thought was permanently embedded in myself seems to have completely evaporated. I should have known better than to think that things had changed, that I had somehow gained some new kind of unwavering confidence that would inure me to my natural uncertainty. This happens quite often with me, as I have documented here before. Like the words from Goethe below, my own progression as an artist moves in a spiral, sometimes pulsing forward and some times retreating.

Evolution and dissolution.

I went back to a post that I have twice posted here that describes a time not much different than my current situation. I felt out of sorts and uncertain, definitely in need of a pep talk that could only come from my own experience of overcoming this inertia. Here’s that post:

Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***********

I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks. The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have admired Smithson’s work whenever I came across it.

The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy. Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world. There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly. Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.

I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations. I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.

I was being safe. It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above. I was in the spiral.

This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty. Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.

I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people. Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.

So I have to remember to think big.

To look past the horizon. Just freaking do it.

Then progress will come…

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Over the past couple of months, I have found my work  moving more and more small in its size.  It wasn’t a conscious thing. It wasn’t because I wanted to simply make smaller paintings.  I have simply found myself feeling smaller.  Less expansive.  Less confident in making bolder, larger statements.  Hoping to move away from this trend, I went back in the blog archives and came across the post below from almost eight years back that captured my mood when I was in a somewhat similar place.  I thought sharing it might remind me to begin thinking bigger again, to trust my vision.Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty

Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***********

I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks.  The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have admired Smithson’s work whenever I came across it.

The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy.  Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world.  There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly.  Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.

I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations.  I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.

I was being safe.  It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above.  I was in the spiral.

This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty.  Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.

I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people.  Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.

So I have to remember to think big.

To look past the horizon.  Just freaking do it.

Then progress will come…

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GC Myers The Singular Heart smAll the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.

–Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther  1774

**************************

One of the primary factors in my finding my way to art was the fact that whatever I created would be all my own, a reflection of what I felt was my own truth.  Art, painting in my particular case, was the one place in this world where I could have total control, the one place where I could set the rules and chose what criteria would satisfy my own needs.

I would be using materials and knowledge available to everyone else, just like the knowledge referenced in Goethe’s quote above.  But what made art so appealing was that there was the opportunity to take these materials and knowledge and transform them into something quite different than the person sitting next to you equipped with the same materials and knowledge.  For some, it is an academic exercise that uses the materials and knowledge by the book with little of their own self invested.  For others, it is a battleground in an existential struggle to be heard, to have their voice have meaning of some kind.

The real difference between these two comes from how much one is willing to totally reveal their self in this work, how they interpret the materials and knowledge they are given, and how much of their heart and soul they are willing to put on display.  For me, having my own heart evident in my art was always an existential effort– if I couldn’t make something that was uniquely my own then I would not be pursuing it for long.

You know, this is a pretty simple quote on the surface but it is one that makes me struggle in discussing my own relationship to it.  Perhaps I should just let Goethe’s few words stand as they are and let the new painting at the top of the page, a 24″ by 48″ canvas that I call The Singular Heart, speak for me.  After all, that is what the whole thing is about– a heart that is all one’s own.

 

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GC Myers- Of Infinite WorthEvery situation– nay, every moment– is of infinite worth, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.

— Goethe, 1823

********************

These words from Goethe give me pause.  I have often thought that each moment, even those multitudes of moments which we seem to throw away like so much trash, has some unique quality that we may not recognize or understand in that moment.

Filled with possibility of discovery and wonder.  Perhaps it is the revelation of a whole eternity captured and represented in that moment, as Goethe suggests.

I suppose the trick then is to give each moment, each situation, the proper reverence and joy it deserves.  A deeper understanding and sense of purpose is offered in return.

Of course, this is the goal.  There will be many moments thrown away, disposed in negative emotions and behaviors.  But if we just try to be aware of the weight of each moment at some point in each day, perhaps it will become habit.  Part of our make-up.

And that’s what I see in this painting, 7″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Of Infinite Worth, appropriating the title from Goethe’s quote.  We move on a path that winds forward, taking us  in and out of view of the horizon. Eventually, it brings us to a higher elevation, above distraction, that offers us a clear view of what is ahead.  Perhaps it is a moment filled with eternity or simply a moment to carry with us as we continue ahead.

I could blather on a little more here but I think I should stop and let the image speak for itself.  After all,  everyone might not be looking for eternity this morning.

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dreaming big

Before the Gates-- GC Myers

 

Whenever I speak to a group of people I inevitably find myself fretting afterwards over things I either said or, more likely, did not say.  Sometimes I wake up early in the morning with the thought of things I wish I had said pushing aside my dreams.   Such was the case from speaking yesterday to a group of college students.  I said many things but I’m not sure how much I truly communicated to these kids.  I wish I had simply stood up and uttered this short quote from Goethe:

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.

That pretty much sums up all I wanted to get across to these students, these budding artists. 

Dream big.  Think big.  Embrace big.

Be big.

What more could I say after that?  They probably would get more from a call to arms for an attitude than all the nuts and bolts advice I could ever offer.  If they take on the posture of being and dreaming big and truly take it to heart, they will find a way.  But they have to have that dream before my words will make any sense at all to them now.

I could go on and on and it would all amount to the same pile of meaningless words as I felt uttered yesterday, so I believe I’ll stand pat with my Goethe quote.

I am available for commencement addresses.

And children’s parties.

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Robert Smithson Spiral JettyProgress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks.  The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have always  admired Smithson’s work.  

The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy.  Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world.  There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly.  Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.  

I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations.  I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.

I was being safe.  It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above.  I was in the spiral.

This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty.  Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.

I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people.  Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.

So I have to remember to think big.

To look past the horizon.  Just freaking do it.

Then progress will come…

 

Read Full Post »

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