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Posts Tagged ‘Helen Keller’

This painting is one of those pieces that somehow found its way back to the studio after making the rounds at several galleries.  I’m not always surprised when one does make its way back to me but this one kind of surprised me.  There’s just a lot that I like about this painting.  So I will enjoy it for a while longer for myself.  Here’s what I wrote about it a few years back.

GC Myers- Passing CloudOptimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
-Helen Keller

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Who can speak more about optimism than Helen Keller?

I still struggle to get my mind around how she persevered to overcome blindness and deafness.  Such a remarkable thing.  It makes me question my own strength of character, makes me wonder how I would respond if similar circumstances.  I wonder how well known her life’s story is to the younger generation, outside of the tale of her early years with the woman, Anne Sullivan,  who taught her how to join the world as portrayed in the play and movie, The Miracle Worker.  That drama, while marvelous in itself, doesn’t reveal the great influence that Helen Keller had through her life as an activist and inspirational speaker.  She is a pretty amazing case, to say the least.

That brings me to this  little piece, a new 12″ by 12″ canvas that I call Passing Clouds.  There’s a lot of joy, a lot of bright-eyed optimism in this painting, both in the process of painting it and in the final product.  It’s one of those pieces that I truly enjoyed every moment that I worked on it and never felt a twinge of doubt about the strength or validity of it.  It felt in rhythm with the first brushstroke and every subsequent move was made with complete confidence.  That’s a rare thing.  Usually there is a struggle at some point.  But occasionally things come together and a painting like this flows out with complete ease.

No, there are no clouds hanging over this one.  Just floating by…

I wanted to include a version of Irving Berlin‘s classic song  Blue Skies, one of my favorites.  But as I searched  I came across this different song  with the same title from Tom Waits.  I had forgotten this song that I hadn’t heard in many years but it immediately came back to me.  Just a lovely small song, perfect for a lovely small painting.

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GC Myers Comes the Light  sm

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

-Helen Keller

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This is a new painting that is headed with me to the Kada Gallery in Erie for the 1 PM Gallery Talk this coming Saturday, April 11.  This 20′ by 24″ canvas is titled Comes the Light and speaks to a recurring theme in my work, our capacity to endure darkness and find peace within even in those times when we find ourselves immersed in the darkness.

Reading the quote above from Helen Keller, who knew darkness and silence more than any of us can imagineafter finishing this piece made me think about my reactions to my own periods of darkness, how it was often a period filled with fear and panic — manic flailing  at things, most made greater in my imagination, that  I could not see in the momentary blackness.

But time can be a great teacher and one learns that there is nothing gained in striking out at unseen demons.  Patience and calm replace panic and fear when the realization comes that light usually follows the dark.  It becomes easier to accept and endure the inevitable darkness that we all find ourselves in occasionally.

And that is what I see in the Red Tree here– an enduring  figure who accepts the darkness calmly,  knowing the light soon comes.

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GC Myers- Passing Clouds

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
-Helen Keller

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

Who can speak more about optimism than Helen Keller?

I still struggle to get my mind around how she persevered to overcome blindness and deafness.  Such a remarkable thing.  It makes me question my own strength of character, makes me wonder how I would respond if similar circumstances.  I wonder how well known her life’s story is to the younger generation, outside of the tale of her early years with the woman, Anne Sullivan,  who taught her how to join the world as portrayed in the play and movie, The Miracle Worker?  That drama, while marvelous, doesn’t tell of the great influence that Helen Keller had through her life as an activist and inspirational speaker.  She is a pretty amazing case, to say the least.

That brings me to this  little piece, a new 12″ by 12″ canvas that I call Passing Clouds.  There’s a lot of joy, a lot of bright-eyed optimism in this painting, both in the process of painting it and in the final product.  It’s one of those pieces that I truly enjoyed every moment that I worked on it and never felt a twinge of doubt about the strength or validity of it.  It felt in rhythm with the first brushstroke and every subsequent move was made with complete confidence.  That’s a rare thing.  Usually there is a struggle at some point.  But occasionally things come together and a painting like this flows out with complete ease.

No, there are no clouds over this one.

I wanted to include a version of Irving Berlin‘s classic song  Blue Skies, one of my favorites.  But as I searched  I came across this different song  with the same title from Tom Waits.  I had forgotten this song that I hadn’t heard in many years but it immediately came back to me.  Just a lovely small song, perfect for a lovely small painting.

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I recently came across this piece of writing from Eugene V. Debs that struck a chord with me, reminding me of this particular painting from a few years back, The Heart’s Standard Bearer.  I think it captures what I would like much of my work to represent– the flag of high hope and high resolve, as he puts it.  I know that in these politically divided times invoking the name of Debs is probably a risky proposition.

He was, after all, a prominent Socialist, a term which raises the hackles of many, most who have no true idea of what it truly means or has  represented in the not so distant past.  Debs, who lived from 1885 until 1926, was absolutely committed to the fight for fairness and rights for the poor and the working class, spending several stints in prisons over the course of his life for the stands he took.  He ran for president from his cell in 1920, the last of the five campaigns he led for the high office as the candidate of the Socialist Party.  You may cringe at the current populist interpretation of socialism but you should realize that we have all benefited from the efforts of Debs and others like him who fought for living wages and decent working conditions for all citizens and against exploitation of all sorts.

I am often asked why I use the color red in many of paintings.  Red trees.  Red chairs. Red roofs.  Red fields. I always struggle to describe what meaning it has for me.  But reading this made me feel that the red in many of my paintings might somehow be,  as described in Debs’ words,  the pure red that symbolizes the common blood of the human family, the equality of mankind, the brotherhood of the race.

Debs’  The Crimson Standard was published in 1905 in Appeal to Reason, a  weekly  progressive/socialist publication of the era that featured the writings of Upton Sinclair, Jack London and Helen Keller.  It was an extremely popular magazine, with the fourth highest circulation of any weekly at the time.  As I said, socialism was not the anathema then as now.

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A vast amount of ignorant prejudice prevails against the red flag. It is easily accounted for. The ruling class the wide world over hates it, and its sycophants, therefore, must decry it.

Strange that the red flag should produce the same effect upon a tyrant that it does upon a bull.

The bull is enraged at the very sight of the red flag, his huge frame quivers, his eyes become balls of fire, and he paws the dirt and snorts with fury.

The reason for this peculiar effect of a bit of red coloring upon the bovine species we are not particularly interested in at this moment, but why does it happen to excite the same rage in the czar, the emperor and the king; the autocrat, the aristocrat and the plutocrat?

Ah, that is simple enough.

The red flag, since time immemorial, has symbolized the discontent of the downtrodden, the revolt of the rabble.

That is its sinister significance to the tyrant and the reason of his mingled fear and frenzy when the “red rag,” as he characterizes it, insults his vision.

It is not that he is opposed to red as a color, or even as an emblem, for he has it in his own flags and banners, and it never inflames his passion when it is blended with other colors; but red alone, unmixed and unadulterated, the pure red that symbolizes the common blood of the human family, the equality of mankind, the brotherhood of the race, is repulsive and abhorrent to him because it is at once an impeachment of his title, a denial of his superiority and a menace to his power.

Precisely for the reason that the plutocrat raves at the red flag the proletaire should revere it.

To the plutocrat it is a peril; to the proletaire a promise.

The red flag is an omen of ill, a sign of terror to every tyrant, every robber and every vampire that sucks the life of labor and mocks at its misery.

It is an emblem of hope, a bow of promise to all the oppressed and downtrodden of the earth.

The red flag is the only race flag; it is the flag of revolt against robbery; the flag of the working class, the flag of hope and high resolve – the flag of Universal Freedom.

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