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Posts Tagged ‘John Prine’

In the studio I have a big box that is overflowing with small flags that we have picked up at the local cemetery where we often walk. There are probably 300 to 400 of them jammed in this box.

Most are faded, dirty and ripped. Some have just come detached from their dowel from the wind and the rain. And some are shredded by the mowing crews who won’t take a moment to get off their machines to pick them up before running over them. I am sure these same guys are probably having a fit that some NFL players are silently protesting by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

I have been thinking over the years about incorporating them into a project but it hasn’t taken shape yet. But we continue to pick them up, often replacing them with new flags. I can’t fully explain why.

I don’t blindly worship the flag, don’t consider myself any more patriotic than the next person. I certainly don’t believe that we are in any way perfect as a nation.

Far from it. We are by definition a work in progress– so long as there is progress to made we are not done evolving as a nation.

There’s just something about seeing it being treated so badly that irks me a bit. But I don’t feel that same way at all when I see NFL players silently protesting in a dignified and respectful manner. In fact, their protests to me align perfectly with the symbol of the flag as I see it.

People have somehow come to believe, in the politicization of it, that it solely represents the troops and first responders. Well, while it does represent them it also flies as symbol for every citizen and their equal status in this nation.  Every single citizen is represented in those stars and bars. City folk, country folk, black, white, hispanic, Asian, etc– it doesn’t matter so far as that symbol is concerned. It represents us all under the defining concept of this country that we all are granted the same rights and opportunities and bear the same responsibilities.

It is not just a flag that reminds us of our past. It is our symbol of an aspiration to be ever better, to move far beyond the flaws of the past. That flag is a symbol that wants us to stand against injustices, to protest wrongs, to help the oppressed and to move us closer to what we hope is a perfect state of being.

It is in many ways a flag of protest. Almost all of the progress that has been made in this country– abolishment of slavery, workers rights, universal suffrage, civil rights and so many other things we take for granted on a day to day basis– came about as a result of citizens standing in protest to what they saw as a wrong. In fact, protest had a hand in saving the lives of troops by forcing the government to end the conflict in Viet Nam.

So, if the players’ protests bother you, ask yourself why you are so offended. Ask yourself what you have done to make this country a better place. Have you helped another American in in distress lately?

There are 3 and a half million American citizens living in Puerto Rico who are fighting for their survival and you are worried that these players in their silent protest are somehow ruining America?

Get over it.

If you love the flag and the country so much, make it better.  Recognize those things that wrong us all or help somebody. There are more US citizens in Puerto Rico than the the combined populations of Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota. Imagine if every citizen in those four states was on the edge of losing everything they held dear, including their lives.  Wouldn’t you want to reach out to them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the same kind of help you would want if such a thing ever came your way?

If you do think there is a difference helping those states than in extending all the assistance we can muster to Puerto Rico, you are most likely bothered by the NFL protests. In which case, maybe you should look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge what kind of person you really are.

You might wave the flag, you might even worship the goddamn thing, but you are no patriot.

I have said my piece so let’s move on to this week’s Sunday morning music, one that is made to order for this blog entry. It’s John Prine’s classic protest song about flag wavers and their empty patriotism, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore. It feels as relevant today as it did in 1972.

So have a good day and wrap yourself in the flag while you think about helping the American people of Puerto Rico in some way. It’s the American thing to do…

 

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I was going through my files, looking at some work from several years ago. It’s something I do on a pretty regular basis as a way to charge my batteries. I see things in these older pieces that reignite ideas that have been swept away to the folds of my brain. Sometimes an idea, like a new composition, comes in a flash that seems exciting, something that tells me that I need to followup on it. Then hours later it is gone or has turned hazy, replaced by the work at hand.  

Oh, sometimes I write them down, rough sketches on loose bits of paper but more often than not they go into that heap that resides somewhere deep inside me. Sometimes they come back on their own, happily for me. Other times, they need a little coaxing, a prod of my memory that sometimes takes place when I revisit older work. Seeing this earlier work in sequence, grouped together, kicks off memories and these older ideas sometimes jump forward. Old friends.

I had that feeling just this morning. I wasn’t going to write anything, was just going to get to work on some things that needed finishing and maybe start a new piece with the hope that the work would create its own inspiration. That is often the case. But I came across a piece from a group of work that I did back in 2011, sepia toned interiors with landscape seen distantly through windows. It excited me on many levels to see the whole group together and I had flashes of other ideas that had either been hiding or were newly forming. It energized me greatly.

Here’s one of those pieces from back in 2011 and what I wrote at the time:

This is a painting I recently finished, a small piece, only 4″ square on paper.  It’s a mix of landscape and very uncomplicated still life with stark but distinct elements throughout.  There’s a simplicity that runs through this scene that covers a depth of feeling, a pang from the heart.

I sat this aside for a day or two after finishing it and found myself coming back to it.  There was a familiar tone to it that reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite identify until this morning when I walked into the studio.  I looked at it as I sat down and instantly said to myself, “Far From Me.”

It was the old John Prine song from his first album which came out forty years back, in 1971. There was something in this piece that filled me the feeling of Prine’s lyrics of gradual loss:

And the sky is black and still now

On the hill where the angels sing

Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle

Looks just like a diamond ring

But it’s far, far from me

This piece will probably always be that song now for me, a personal avatar for a song buried deep inside and often forgotten.  Funny how things work…

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Sunday morning and I just want to hear some music, something that will make me think, maybe move me a bit. I didn’t know what I was really looking for when I came across this John Prine song from his 2005 album,  Fair and Square. Even though I say it’s his song it was actually written by songwriter R. B. Morris. John Prine just sang it in that way he has that can either make you laugh or cry depending on the song.

This is one that doesn’t make you laugh. It might not make you cry but it will make you think a little bit and no doubt recognize yourself or someone you know in the lyrics of the song. The first verse dragged me in. Here’s That’s How Every Empire Falls. The lyrics are below.

Have yourself a good Sunday.

 
Caught a train from Alexandria
Just a broken man in flight
Running scared with his devils
Saying prayers all through the night
Oh but mercy can’t find him
Not in the shadows where he calls
Forsaking all his better angels
That’s how every empire falls

The bells ring out on Sunday morning
Like echoes from another time
All our innocence and yearning
and sense of wonder left behind
Oh gentle hearts remember
What was that story? Is it lost?
For when religion loses vision
That’s how every empire falls.

He toasts his wife and all his family
The providence he brought to bear
They raise their glasses in his honor
Although this union they don’t share
A man who lives among them
Was still a stranger to them all
For when the heart is never open
That’s how every empire falls

Padlock the door and board the windows
Put the people in the street
“It’s just my job,” he says “I’m sorry.”
And draws a check, goes home to eat
But at night he tells his woman
“I know I hide behind the laws.”
She says, “You’re only taking orders.”
That’s how every empire falls.

A bitter wind blows through the country
A hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning
There must be something we don’t see
What fire begets this fire?
Like torches thrown into the straw
If no one asks, then no one answers
That’s how every empire falls.

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Even though this post only ran last August, I thought it was worth replaying, if only to remind us to maintain some semblance of civility and sanity in this bitter election season.  I was reminded of this post because the painting featured in it, Raised Up, went with me to the Principle Gallery for my talk there this past Saturday.  It’s a piece that I like very much as is the song at the end from John Prine.  Hope you’ll enjoy them as well…

GC Myers- Raised Up

Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.

Jack Kerouac

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

I am not sure what to do with these words from Jack Kerouac but I do like them and think they deserve to be passed along.  I am a firm believer of kindness in all forms and believe that it is a pathway to a better life here in this world.

When I was waiting tables I found that my own attitude and demeanor often dictated how others responded to me.  If I smiled and acted congenially, more often than not the person I was dealing with responded in the same manner.  We are reactionary creatures and we instinctively respond according to the tone we encounter– rudeness with rudeness and anger with anger.

And kindness with kindness.

It’s our choice.  If we can fight against our reactionary nature and choose to act and react with kindness, we can shape our world and then perhaps realize that a form of heaven might be within our grasp.

I have never had the faith or certainty of those who believe that there is an actual heaven waiting beyond this world.  I would like to but I just don’t have it within me.  So, for me, if there is to be a heaven it is something to be sought in the here and now.  By that, I mean creating an environment that is honest, kind and gentle.  A life that is peaceful and quiet–that would be heaven to me.

So, when you’re out there today and face rudeness and anger, make the choice to react in a gentler manner and be kind.  Your world might be one small step closer to heaven.

This quote reminded me of a song from one of my favorites, John Prine.  The title pretty much sums it up: He Was In Heaven Before He Died.

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GC Myers Early Work 1994I have a square cardboard box in one of the rooms of my studio.  It’s not much to look at it and it certainly doesn’t have any significance attached to its exterior appearance.  But for me it’s a treasure chest, my secret bounty.  You see, this rather plain box holds hundreds of small pieces from my earliest forays in paint from twenty some years ago.

They are not significant to anyone other than me. If you were to look in it you might not feel anything more than you would from looking at the old buttons, matchbooks and other tiny souvenirs of times past in someone else’s dresser drawers.

Many are clumsy attempts and most are deeply flawed in some way.  But for me, they hold so much more deep meaning than is apparent from a first look. They are my artifacts, my history, my ponderings, my inner thoughts and my memory.

They are me.

There’s always a special feeling when I delve into them, like that feeling of looking at old family photos and vividly remembering moments that seem to have happened eons ago.  I sometimes marvel at the brightness of my youth at that point and sometimes frown at the foolishness of it.  I see where I thought I was going and can compare it to where I finally landed.  There are ideas there that are dismal failures that make me smile now and make me wonder if I should have pursued them further.

And there are some that make me happier now than when they were done.  Time has added a completeness to them that was lacking then.

And there are pieces like the untitled one above from back in 1994 that make me just stop and wonder where they came from.  They seem like lost memories.  I know I made this piece up in my mind but can’t remember why.  I have skimmed over it a hundred times and never given it more than a shrug.  But today I find myself looking intently at it as though it holds something for me that I can’t just pull out of it.

There’s a frustration in that but since I know that it is mine, I don’t really mind.  I will have it for years to come and can question it again and again.  Maybe my mind will release the secret or at least form a substitute reality at some point, one that brings me closure of some kind.

Who knows?

Today’s Sunday Morning music deals a bit with some of the same feelings.  Well, I think it does.  It’s Hello In There from John Prine.  Visiting my father in the nursing home has been hard, not just for the visits with him which still leave me shaken a little after each visit, but for the sight of the other older folks in even deeper states of dementia as they sit in their chairs in the hallways and dining rooms.  There is a lonely blankness in their eyes that is heart-breaking.  You wish you could reach into them and pull their old self out in the open if only for a moment.  But all you can do is say hello and hope they hear the words and the feeling in it.

Anyway, this is a great old song from John Prine.  I hope you’ll give it a listen and have a great Sunday.

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GC Myers-Archaeology- Rooted in the Past smOne of the interesting aspects of doing what I do is seeing where the images eventually finds their way. They have ended up in American Embassies in several countries, in magazines and on book covers here and abroad as well as on several CD covers.  One was even included in a recent history text book.  They have found their way to most corners of the globe, making them much more well traveled than their maker.  And in 2016 a couple of images from my Archaeology and Strata series will be part of the annual calendar for the Spanish Society of Soil Science

GC Myers- On the Shoulders of Time smIt’s gratifying for me to see the work spread out as it has.  You hope, as an artist, that your work has a wider appeal, that there is some common denominator in it that speaks across geographic and cultural boundaries.  You never know when you are in front of the easel if your work will be anything more than a blob of pigment on a bit of canvas destined for the trash or will take on a life of its own and move on.  So to see it move around the globe in some small way is a form of validation for the work, making the next crisis of confidence easier to fight through.  And that is no small thing.

Being Sunday it’s time for a little music and I thought I would play a song that kind of jibes with the soil theme of the work here.  It’s one of my favorite songs to sing along with from one of my all-time favorites, John Prine.  It’s called Please Don’t Bury Me and it’s about as upbeat a song on the subject of dying as you’ll ever hear.  Give a listen (and sing along if you know the words!) and have a great Sunday!

 

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GC Myers- Raised Up Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.

Jack Kerouac

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

I am not sure what to do with these words from Jack Kerouac but I do like them and think they deserve to be passed along.  I am a firm believer of kindness in all forms and believe that it is a pathway to a better life here in this world.

When I was waiting tables I found that my own attitude and demeanor often dictated how others responded to me.  If I smiled and acted congenially, more often than not the person I was dealing with responded in the same manner.  We are reactionary creatures and we instinctively respond according to the tone we encounter– rudeness with rudeness and anger with anger.

And kindness with kindness.

It’s our choice.  If we can fight against our reactionary nature and choose to act and react with kindness, we can shape our world and then perhaps realize that a form of heaven might be within our grasp.

I have never had the faith or certainty of those who believe that there is an actual heaven waiting beyond this world.  I would like to but I just don’t have it within me.  So, for me, if there is to be a heaven it is something to be sought in the here and now.  By that, I mean creating an environment that is honest, kind and gentle.  A life that is peaceful and quiet–that would be heaven to me.

So, when you’re out there today and face rudeness and anger, make the choice to react in a gentler manner and be kind.  Your world might be one small step closer to heaven.

This quote reminded me of a song from one of my favorites, John Prine.  The title pretty much sums it up: He Was In Heaven Before He Died.

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Blow up your TV , throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own

–John Prine, Spanish Pipedream

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GC Myers- Pipedream smThis is a small new painting  that is about 6″ by 11″ on paper.  I call it Pipedream after the old John Prine song, Spanish Pipedream.   I say old but it ‘s one of those songs that never feels old to me despite the fact that it came out back in 1971, forty three years ago.  It is old.  One hint of its age is at the beginning of the song when he says he was a soldier on the way to Montreal, referring to fleeing north to avoid the war and the draft.   But it’s still such an infectious chorus with a message that so hits the point that I still find myself humming this song quite often.

I guess this painting’s simplicity and cheery feel made me think of this song.  There is something very idyllic  and charmingly essential  in this little guy.  It does look a bit like a pipedream, which is one of those words that we often use while not thinking about  its origin or meaning.  This word, pipedream, is from Victorian era Britain and refers to an improbable fantasy dreamt of while smoking opium.  Maybe this is an improbable fantasy?   It does have a fantasy feel about it but lets hope it is not so improbable.

This is, of course, one opf the pieces from my show, Traveler, opening next Friday at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.  Now here’s the song  from one of my favorites, John Prine.

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GC Myers- Dawn Serenade smIn the aftermath of this latest show at the West End Gallery, I have been taking a small break from painting, instead trying to get some things done around my home and studio that have been put off while I was working.  I have a real knack for putting off things that need to be done and there is a real backlog now of small projects waiting to be faced.  Nothing big and nothing too testing, just normal maintenance things like cleaning up fallen trees around the property and the such.

I thought, while I was finishing up the show work, that puttering around with this maintenance work would be a relaxing break but I forget how ingrained my painting routine has become in me.  Instead of relaxing, I find myself gathering anxiety about not having a brush in my hand, not working towards something.   I don’t know how to feel about this and find myself conflicted.

In one moment, I view this inability to find relaxation beyond my work as a flaw, a symptom of a shallow or hollow nature.  But in the next moment I am thankful for having found the ultimate soother in my work, to spend the greater part of my time doing that thing that gives me peace and brings me a sense of deep relaxation.  Not to mention the meaning and joy  it brings.  I guess it comes down to me working to relax where most folks must leave work behind to feel at ease.  This inversion of the norm is obviously the conflict, one that I am still struggling to reconcile even after fifteen years of doing this on a full-time basis.  Maybe I will have it straightened out in my head in fifteen more.

Okay, enough of that.  Here’s a little music, from around 1990, by one of my favorites, John Prine, singing his Speed of the Sound of Loneliness with Nanci Griffith.

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Souvenirs

I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving over the last couple of days, trying to think of things that I’m thankful for and I began to realize there are no actual things on the list.  There are people and moments but no things.  And I guess that’s the way it should be.  But it made me wonder about what particular things  do have meaning for me.   What would I take if I had to grab but a few things and flee, say like the recent storm victims or the people in the areas where the wildfires bear down on them?

The actual loss of my house and studio might be difficult but they too an be replaced.  Outside of these structures, the list is still pretty thin.  A few photos, a few notes and letters and perhaps a painting or two.   A handful of books but they can also be replaced.  But no other things that I feel would leave a void in my life if I suddenly were to be without them.  No jewelry or family heirlooms. No memory jugs like the one shown above.   No priceless artifacts that I sought for years to find.  Very little, actually.

I sit here in my studio and look around at a few of the paintings that I hold on to and think that I would hate to lose them but it comes to me that they also represent moments and emotions for me.  Inner things that I hold already.  They actually are souvenirs of past moments,  like   family photos.  I’ve said before that seeing a gallery full of my work is sometimes awkward at first because it feels like I’m looking at my family photos on the walls for all the world to see.  And that’s not always the best thing.

Interestingly, I find this lack of things very liberating.  And that is something for which I am thankful.

Here’s a fitting  song, Souvenirs,  that is sung by here by John Prine and Steve Goodman, who wrote it.  Goodman also wrote The City of New Orleans , recorded most famously by Arlo Guthrie.  Most people have little knowledge of Goodman’s songwriting since he died in 1984 at the age of 36 due to leukemia.   There is another song  here by Goodman after  Souvenirs that shows more of his talents.

And I’m thankful for that, as well.

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