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Posts Tagged ‘Henry David Thoreau’

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It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, if indeed you cannot get it above them, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

–Henry David Thoreau

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This is a new painting, titled Aurae, that is part of my upcoming June show at the Principle Gallery. It has a real presence in a space, mainly to its strong colors and its sheer size, 36″ by 36″. I know that it’s a piece that my eyes keep coming back to during the day as I am working in the studio and with each look comes a deep and satisfying pang.

Pang.

I don’t know what that even means except that it feels good.

I guess it also means that it feels right and true.

Core. Essential.

I just feel a pang inside, in that area between my head and my heart, when I look at it.

Aurae is the plural of aura and it refers to the pale blue aurae that runs around each cloud. These blue aurae were actually never meant to be so visible. They were meant to be a step to another upcoming layer (or layers) that would have undoubtedly altered the final painting from what you are seeing. But once they were in place, they suddenly made the piece jump to life. The whole piece seemed to speak at that point and I knew I couldn’t cover these aurae with more paint.

But aurae also refers to the general atmosphere that surrounds the central Red Tree here. It’s an atmosphere of completeness, of self-knowledge.  Or as Thoreau said in the words at the top, of knowing where you truly are as a human.

I am going to stop talking about it. The more I write, the less I seem to be saying.

Let’s just go with pang.

 

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Rules: Replay

I wrote the following post back in early 2009.  I am replaying it today just as a reminder to myself to not get too caught up in my own set of rules for my work.  I have to tell myself to remember that sometimes it’s the straying from the norm that creates the new norm.

GC Myers-  Solitary Crossing- 2009

 

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

     –Henry David Thoreau

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I have always had a problem with adhering to rules, in practically all aspects of my life.  It’s as though when a rule is presented, a part of me automatically starts figuring out an exception to the rule, a way to go around it.  In everyday life this is not always a desirable trait, often putting one at odds with the law and one’s own conscience.

But, as luck would have it, this trait is indispensable in art.

It’s always amazing to me how many artists are tied to their own set of rules and nothing can deter this adherence, even if straying a bit might actually cause their work to really blossom.

For example, I know a painter who will generally only paint what is before him, either in person or in photos, and will not add or subtract any detail from the scene.  He once showed me a painting that was really painted beautifully, rich and bold. Everything worked well and the piece was really eye-catching except for a telephone pole that bisected, in a very intrusive fashion, the very middle of the canvas. It was a real distraction that threw off the whole weight of the composition and stripped away a lot of the appeal that it might hold.

Why is this pole here?” I asked.

He gave me a quizzical look then said, “Because it’s there.

He explained that it was in the scene as he had photographed it. When I asked if it had any purpose in the painting he said that it didn’t but it was part of the original scene as he saw it.

There was a certain realization that came from this brief exchange.  I realized that there were truly talented artists who can sometimes be shackled by their own rules and that absolute adherence to any arbitrary rule can be the death of creative expression.

Now, I’m sure there will be those who would argue this point and would be able to point out any number of examples that might contradict this statement.  So what? They are mere exceptions to this loosely formed rule.

So, kids, here’s the moral of this story:  In art, keep the rules around as guidelines, but when you need to paint outside the lines or cut out that ugly pole that is breaking up a beautiful scene, just do it.

PS: I would probably amend the wording in Thoreau’s quote to damn fool. Those two words seemed forever linked in my mind. Besides, if you’re a fool there’s a pretty good chance you’re a damn fool.

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GC Myers- The Old Man smNone are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
Henry David Thoreau

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This is a new painting that measures 12″ by 6″ on panel and is part of my show at the West End Gallery that opens in about two weeks, on July 22.

I  call it The Old Man.

For me it symbolizes someone in their final years and days of life who has lost enthusiasm for this world, who sees it as a place that has changed beyond all recognition or comprehension.  It is no longer their world, which feels like an alien landscape in which they are stranded.

They feel detached from the lifeblood of the now and of the future, clinging to what remains of the past in their memories and connections, both which grow smaller and smaller with the passing of time.  After a time, even pulling from that field of memory brings no joy.

It becomes a painful waiting game beneath an unblinking sun.

That sounds sad, I know.  But there is something positive in it as well.  I see this as a cautionary piece, one that warns against disengaging from the world even as it changes from that which we have known and accepted.  The world keeps on moving and we must remain enthusiastic and find new joy in this ever changing world.

That’s my take on this painting, most likely formed from some personal observations. Perhaps you will see something other than this when you look at this image, something that jibes with your view of the world.

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GC Myers- Contact smThe morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears to hear it.

Henry David Thoreau

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This new painting is 24″ by 30″ on canvas and is titled Contact.  The words from Thoreau above speak pretty clearly to what I see in this piece,  that we often ignore the beauty and wonder of the natural world that exists all around us.  How many of us take the time to actually look at the sway of the trees in the breeze or the pattern of the stars in the night sky?  Sadly, we’re more likely now to see these things on our phones or laptops.

We’re too  busy, too distracted to have much interaction or contact with the wonder of the world that is often within our reach.

The buildings here seem closed in and eyeless, almost as though they are turned away from and oblivious to the world beyond their narrow line of sight.  They are symbolically in the shadow of the hillside, rising in a pyramid-ish form toward the open fields and woods that open to the radiating sky.  The sun has a warm and eye-like presence and the Red Tree seems to have reached a sort of tranquil communion with it.

Contact.

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GC Myers- I Was Lost 1997Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Henry David Thoreau

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I used the painting above to illustrate a post several years back.  Titled I Was Lost, this is an experimental piece I did back in early 1997.  It remains one of my favorite pieces, one that I linger over when I come across it in my computer’s files or when I go through some older work stored in a bin here in the studio.

There’s nothing special about this piece.  It’s a simple thought that was quickly rendered.  It definitely didn’t end up  anywhere in the vicinity of perfection.  Some of the lines veer  and quiver uncertainly while the tree trunks sometimes bulge erratically. There’s not really much to grab onto in  this piece.

Yet for all it’s deficiencies there is something in this painting that simply speaks to me in a personal way.  There’s a flawed elegance in it that moves me– a grace that provides me with hope on those days when the world seems bleak and it is hard to see beyond the trees that obscure the path ahead.

Thoreau’s words mesh well with this piece.  To put it another way: Adversity builds character.  A-B-C.

When we are lost in the woods, look past the trees that block our view.  There’s a way forward. We may not like it at the time but every challenge provides us with the opportunity to discover more of who we really are.

Sorry for going off on a pep talk this morning.  Hopefully, you didn’t need it.  And if you did, I hope this helps a bit.

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GC myers-Sanctuary A couple of days ago I wrote about the theme behind my upcoming Home+Land show at the West End Gallery, briefly describing that feeling of feeling at home in a place.  This homing instinct has been noted by others including a passage in the book Desert Solitaire from late author/environmentalist Edward Abbey.

Written in 1968, the book tells of his time as seasonal park ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park in the 1950’s and has been compared to Thoreau‘s Walden for the philosophical ruminations that run alongside his stories of working the park.  I read it probably well over thirty years ago and had forgotten this short passage until running across it on another site.  It fit so well into the other day’s post that I thought I would share it:

Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.  A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic  farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome—there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.

I know that this homing instinct, the need to be peacefully at ease in a place, has been a prime motivator in many parts of my life and it shows itself in my work on an a regular basis.  The example at the top very much reflects this sense of home and is called, fittingly, Sanctuary.  It is part of my show Native Voice which hangs now at the Principle Gallery and ends July 6.

 

 

 

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GC Myers-  Soft Dream of Night smIf one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

–Henry David Thoreau

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This has long been one of my favorite pieces in the studio, a  14″ by 24″ painting on paper from 2002 called Soft Dream of Night.  It was part of the work that I completed in early 2002 in the aftermath of  9/11 .  It is considered part of what has been  referred to as my Dark Work.  It was work that I feel was very reflective of the feeling of that time and, as a result, was not as deeply embraced as my  typical work that has a more optimistic and forward-looking tone.  As a result, I was able to hold on to several pieces from that group which pleased me because they just felt so emotionally wrought to me that I liked the idea that they stayed in place.

This piece has evolved in feeling over the years for me, from a feeling of regretful, mournful retrospection to one that offers  the promise of a road forward, one that climbs through rich fields with the brightness  of  the moon to light the way.  Though it has a darkness beneath its surface, it no longer feels dark in tone.  It has a confidence and positive feel that would not have come to mind eleven years ago.

Time often changes our perceptions on many things.  I like that this piece has evolved for me and was not forever mired in the memory and tragedy of that time.  Perhaps the darkness underneath this painting is that memory, always present.  But above, life moves forward and dreams are still lived out.

As it should be…

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