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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Miller’

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.

Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing

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This is one of my favorite passages from an essay in the Henry Miller book, The Wisdom of the Heart. I think you can easily insert any creative endeavor in place of the word writer and still be correct. The idea that the path of art concerns itself with acquiring a total view of the universe rings like absolute truth to my ears.

It’s a good thing to keep in mind on those days when you question the path you’re on and can’t recognize your purpose. Knowing that you are your own path somehow eases that anxiety.

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If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

Henry Miller
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We often search and search, moving from place to place, trying to find that certain something that we can’t quite name. We have it in our minds that it is a physical place, a tangible object, that will satisfy our need to wander.

New people to meet.

New streets to explore.

New landscapes to surround us. New hills to climb.

But maybe what we seek is just a new way of seeing ourselves, of a new opportunity to unleash the person we desire ourselves to be. Or, more likely, a chance to see ourselves as we really are, something that becomes obscured in the familiar. Being anchored, as Miller infers above, in the repetition of  day to day life has us showing ourselves always in the same light. We lose touch with aspects of who we are that are never allowed to come to light.

The search allows us that new perspective. While we remain the same we see ourselves from new angles, new vantage points, allowing us to feel new. Different.

Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not, exposing perspectives on ourselves we would rather not see and may have hidden for a long time. But hopefully unveiling the truth of all that we are will somehow  make us feel comfortable in our wholeness.  Knowing our shortcomings as well as our strengths make us more real, more human.

What we seek is always with us.

You might not view it the same way but that’s what I am seeing in this new painting, an 8″ by 16″ canvas, that I call Destination Seen. It is headed to the West End Gallery for my upcoming show, Self Determination, which opens July 14.

 

 

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gc-myers-the-angst (1)Each man has his own way of being himself and of saying it so ultimately that he can’t be denied.

Henry Miller

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I ran the entry below back in 2009 and again back in 2013.  It is a favorite of mine and one of my more popular posts,  regularly drawing a number of readers who find it via web searches.  I like it because it describes the internal transition that took place over the years on my path to becoming and accepting my place as an artist.  I say path because it took a long time before I found the  confidence to call myself an artist.  For many years, even as I was working full time as a painter, I was hesitant to say those words, to say that I was an artist.

I periodically pull this entry up and read it just to remind myself to trust my inner voice and the work that comes from it.  I think it is worth running yet again.  Oh, and excuse Henry Miller for the sexist sounding nature of his words above– it would read better if it went Each person has their own way...

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When I used to enter a gallery or museum, even up until several years ago, I would be filled with a severe sense of dread and anxiety.  Angst. The knot in the stomach. The racing pulse. The whole thing. 

I would go from painting to painting and would feel lessened in some way because in each piece I would see something that I could not do, some technique that was not in my toolbag. There were colors and forms that I could not replicate and all I could think was that I was somehow inferior. 

I didn’t belong. 

The resulting feelings would leave me reeling and sometimes angry, making me even more determined to create something that would validate my work. 

While this was a motivating force for many years, helping me actually find my voice, it gradually subsided over the years as I became more and more aware that I had been focusing on things I could not control and on being something I was not. 

I began to see what I was. My perceptions and feelings were only mine.  To express these, I had an individual voice and vocabulary that was mine and no one else’s.  I began to see that other artists felt about my work as I had felt about their work. I saw that while they were doing things that I could not, the reverse was true as well. I recognized that my voice, my technique and style, was finally mine and mine alone. I saw that my form of expression was every bit as valid as any other artist hanging in any gallery or museum. 

This was a liberating feeling. It allowed me to go into galleries and museums and , instead of seeing what I was not, recognize the beauty of expression that was there and be excited and inspired by things other artists were doing.

Instead of coming out saying ” I’ll show them ” I was saying “I can use that”. 

Instead of asking “Why am I not good enough?” I was asking “Why not me?” 

It was merely a matter of trusting that what I saw in my own work was a true and real expression and would be visible to others. I think this a lesson from which any viewer of art can benefit. They must learn to trust their own instincts and reactions when looking at art. Like my self-expression, their reaction to a work is theirs and theirs alone. Their reaction is as valid as anyone else and no critic or gallery-owner can make a person like a piece that doesn’t move them. When the viewer realizes that there is no right or wrong, that their own opinion is truly valid, their viewing pleasure will increase dramatically. 

By the way, the piece at the top is an old experiment from around 1994. I always enjoy pulling it out even though it doesn’t fit neatly into my normal body of work. No more angst. 

Well, a different kind of angst…

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Brassai_1899_1984__ Paris 6I realized after publishing yesterday’s post that, while I had shown the work of many great phtographers,  I had never before shown any of the photos of Brassai here.  That was an oversight on my part.  Called the Eye of Paris by his friend Henry Miller, Brassai’s work is iconic and defines the perception that many people have of Paris in the first half of the last century.

Born in Hungary with the name Gyula Halasz  in 1899, he studied art and served with the Austro-Humgarian army in World War I.  After the war, he found his way to vibrant Paris, filled with the great artists, writers and musicians of the time.  He adopted the pseudonym Brassai  from the name of his hometown and soon was photographing the city that he so loved  and was his home for the rest of his life, until his death in 1984.  His photos of Paris captured its high life and its low life, with photos of the great artists and thinkers that made their way there alongside the photos of decadent parties and photos of the brothels and the prostitutes along the city’s avenues.  For me, when I think of Brassai I think of his night scenes that capture the shadows and mist of the city as well as the lovers who embrace on the darkened boulevards.

It’s powerful work, work that evokes both a time and a place as well as a feeling.  Brassai was indeed the Eye Of Paris and I’m pleased to have taken care of my oversight here.  Most of these photos are from the early 1930’s.

Brassai_1899_1984__ Paris 11 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 8 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 5 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 10 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 9 Brassai_1899_1984_Paris 2 brassai_Couple_d_amoureux_sous_un_r_verb_re_1933 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 7 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 3 Brassai_1899_1984__Paris 4Brassai Notre Damebrassai_theeiffeltowerattwilight

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Disparity

In expanding the field of knowledge we but increase the horizon of ignorance.
——Henry Miller

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       I have written here in the past about the growing imbalance in income and wealth between the haves and the have-nots of this country, about how unhealthy it is for us as a nation to have so many people living below the poverty line.  One in seven, a little over 14%,  of us lives below the poverty line and for children it’s an even worse one in five, 20%.  For a country so full of itself in proclaiming ourselves the best at everything  (even when the numbers don’t bear it out) these are atrocious figures.

But I thought of an equally alarming disparity in our country, and the world,  when I came across the quote above from author Henry Miller.  We have a definite gap in education and knowledge in this country that runs pretty much through the same groups as the poverty line.   We are quickly becoming a more ignorant society, placing less and less emphasis on knowledge and wisdom.  In fact, we have become a country that is suspicious of anyone displaying a modicum of either, labeling them as elitists.

 We are at a point in human existence when we have more knowledge at our fingertips than at any time in prior history yet we have all the same problems that we have had for millenia.

Ethnic wars.  Racial intolerance.  Religious intolerance.  Subjugation.  Ignorance and poverty.  Famine and disease.

For all our knowledge of how we might best survive this world, these things continue and at exponentially higher levels.  Yes, we live in a time of wonder on many levels, with breakthroughs in medicine and technology.  But until we can make our knowledge accessible to everyone, at every social strata, we are doomed to be mired in the problems that have haunted us forever.

Do I have an answer?  Of course not.  In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve addressed the real problem with these few words.   But I am worried about these gaps between us.  In an increasingly more densely populated world, it makes for a volatile and dangerous situation.

 And that is not in anyone’s best interest.

 

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The Test

The Test --- GC Myers

In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.

—Henry Miller

This quote reminds me of all the times where I have spent innumerable hours trying to make a task easier when if I had just accepted the difficulty of the task and just went at it, the job would have been done by the time I finally got around to starting it in my supposed easier way. 

It’s a curse and one I try to avoid but one I always seem to always slide back to.  I guess because I’m a human and we always want the easy way.  We might admire the person who grinds it out but we don’t want to be that person.  We want to believe we are more clever than that, that we have all the answers and are above the need to sweat and toil.  And this is so wrong, because the answers are in the sweat and toil.

We need to struggle.  We need to test our will.    We need the experience of the hard won victory. 

We would be better for it and, in the aftermath, feel less the pressures and fears that come from avoiding the difficult in the first place.

Enough said.  It’s still a long  holiday weekend for many so why am I pushing so this morning?  Leave it for another day…

The piece at the top is new, The Test,  a small piece measuring 4″ by 6″ that is part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery.

 

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The Challenge Ahead

 

      From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal.  I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because  I am digging deeper  and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future.  With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief.  I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as a writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as man.

      – Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing

 

This is a fragment from a book of essays, The Wisdom of the Heart, by Henry Miller, the great and controversial author.  When I was young his books such as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were still being characterized as “smut” and many libraries didn’t have them on their shelves for fear the moral police would swoop in and raise a fuss.  Probably many only know the existence and influence of his books from their use in a memorable Seinfeld episode, the one with Bookman the library cop whose hard-boiled dialogue still makes me hoot.  

For me, I wasn’t so much attracted to his books by the raciness of the stories but rather by his way of speaking through his words and expressing views that I found at once to be compatible with my own.  He observed and said the things that I  wished I could say with a voice and power I wished I possessed.  I can pick up one of his books and open to a page anywhere in the book and read and be fascinated without knowing the context of what I’m reading, just from the sheer strength of his writing’s voice.

I see a lot of things in this particular essay that translate as well for painting or any other form of creation.  It opens:

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.

Substituting artist for writer, I was immediately pulled in.  The path he refers to is the path I often refer to in my paintings, the path we all walk and struggle along on, trying to find the middle way between these upper and lower worlds.  

It’s a good essay and one I recommend for anyone who creates in any form and struggles with the meaning of their work beyond its surface.  For anyone seeking that path…

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Name This Painting!Contest Reminder!

I’m asking for your help in naming this painting and am offering a prize (it’s better than you think though it doesn’t involve air travel or posh resorts) for the title that I deem fitting for the piece.

So put on your thinking caps and let me know your title for this painting.  Even if it’s not chosen as the final name, your title will be included on the painting’s reverse side for all of eternity.  Well, for an extended period of time.  I’m just not so sure about eternity.

So, submit your title by simply commenting or email me at  info@gcmyers.com

I look forward to your titles.

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