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Posts Tagged ‘Painting’

I do a one-man show every June at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA and have done so since the year 2000. This year’s show, my 21st such show, is slated to open June 5. I am keeping hope alive that the current situation will have subsided to some degree and that the show can go on by that time but the experts’ projections, based on what little data they can obtain from our inadequate testing, make it look a little shaky.

But I am continuing to work on this show on the premise that the show will go on.

It’s what I do. All I can do.

That being said, I have determined that this year’s show should reflect this time. At least, my take on it. To that end I am calling the show Social Distancing. It’s a term that, while it has really taken hold in this world in recent times, I don’t think I have encountered much before now.

I have practiced it and painted it in many ways but just didn’t know to call it that.

From my earliest days, much of my work has dealt with the duality that runs along that line between solitude and alienation. The yin and yang, the joy and the sorrow, that comes from being apart from others. Many of my series have focused on this separation, the Exiles and Outlaws series jumping to mind.

But even my most used archetype, the Red Tree, usually concerns itself with distancing.  It almost always is alone or at least apart from other trees. Most of the time, it is about finding strength in recognizing those things which makes us unique individuals but occasionally it is about feeling alienated from the rest of the world.

Some find empowerment in their solitude. I believe that’s been the case for myself as I have seldom felt loneliness, especially in my adult years. But for many, that line between simply being alone and lonely is a thin one.

Solitude and silence can be frightening to those unaccustomed to it.

This being the case, there will be a pretty substantial nod to my earlier work, such as the painting at the top. It’s a 14″ by 24″ piece on paper that I call Social Distancing: Approaching Storm. I guess it’s a timely title.

For me, this return to that earlier method which focuses on sparse landscapes and big blocks of transparent color is like comfort food to me. The more I immerse myself in this work the more I understand what its appeal was to myself and those folks who were drawn to it in the early days. Working on this group over the past week or so has been steadying in the face of the great uncertainty we face.

I could say more but I think I want to stop. Hopefully, the show will go on, at least in some form.

I am going back to the solitude of my work now.

It’s what I do. It’s all I can do.

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Social Distancing, this year’s edition of my annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria opens June 5.

Stay tuned for further details.

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Jean Arp- Torso of a Giant 1964

Jean Arp- Torso of a Giant 1964

 

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Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation… tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.

–Jean Arp

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GC Myers- Quiescence

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I had a quote on the last post with a quote from artist Jean Arp about man turning his back on silence. Rather than savoring the quiet, he runs from it, instead distracting himself with all manner of noise. Anything to keep him from facing the fears that the quiet represents to him.

It’s a theme that has been large in the background of my work. Early on, when I felt that I wanted to be a writer, I would find myself writing about large open spaces and the caverns of silence that rested in these places. I called it the Big Quiet. Of course, it’s a pretty limited subject and there is a certain redundancy in writing about silence and stillness. I mean, how can you use the noise of words to aptly describe the absence of noise?

So I gave up writing about it and went on with my life, always with an eye out for this Big Quiet. I don’t know that I was craving it or fearing it at most points. My life was pretty much filled with the noise of the world, all the snaps and pops of sound and distraction that creep into every living space. I was like so many others who needed the security blanket of sound to protect them from what they might discover if they were forced to face the silence.

But the sounds that I hoped would lessen my anxiety only seemed to feed it.

However, painting gave me a path to finding this Big Quiet. It was wordless and calm, creating an inner space absent of the sounds of the world that I was and am still occupying. It became a destination, an oasis to turn to when the din of world became too loud, too overbearing. It eased my fears of looking inward and allowed me to savor the quiescence of the brief moments I actually myself there in those scenes of stillness and calm. It became real and necessary to me.

I don’t know where this going, this wordy noise I’m creating about the stillness I find now. I just felt that I should add a bit of context to my work, to give a an understanding of what I hope to take from it for myself. This moment came about from running across the image above, a piece from several years ago that is called, fittingly, Quiescence. It’s a piece that brings me quiet immediately and seeing it at any time makes me again think of the main reason that I paint.

So, I am going to be quiet now…

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The post above is comprised of two posts that ran here on consecutive days back in 2013. They served a great purpose for me this morning when I read them again for the first time in many years which made me think they were worth sharing.

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I have a large painting, 36″ wide by 48″ high, here in the studio, one that was done a couple of years back and which has had limited exposure in being displayed. I was surprised to find that I haven’t written about it or even shared its image here in the past. I say surprised because it’s one of those pieces that feels immediately at home with me.

I would consider it prototypical of my work, a single Red Tree pushed forward in the picture, almost a portrait rather than a landscape. There is a burst of light that appears in the sky behind it, creating an aura-like appearance around the Red Tree’s crown. This led to its title– Corona.

Unfortunately, this word, corona, has taken on a new meaning as most of you know. That poor Mexican beer of the same name is being blamed by some folks — those with small and defective brains, I would suspect– as the cause of the outbreak. They probably believe there are junkyards filled with old Toyota Coronas that are radiating the virus outward 24/7.

Even though this is just gross ignorance, it makes me think I might have to rename this piece. Maybe something close in sound?

How about Corrina? You know, like the old song Corrina, Corrina?

Hmm. Have to give that some thought.

As for the song, it’s an old chestnut that was written in 1928 and has been recorded by scores of artists in a wide variety of styles. It seems to work in every genre mainyl because it’s just a very good tune. Here’s a version of the song with kind of a Latin swing from Lloyd Price, who is best known for his big hit from the 1950’s, Stagger Lee. This is not the best known version but I’ve liked it since I heard it many years ago on a Lloyd Price tape that I found in a bargain bin at a discount department store.

When I think of this song, this version always comes to mind. Have a good day and stay away from that beer.

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I showed a work in progress here a couple of weeks ago that featured a cityscape that I compared to a skeleton that spoke to me as I painted, telling me how to flesh it out. Above is a side by side comparison that shows where that skeleton led me.

It was one of those paintings where I find myself constantly trying to restrain myself from going too bright. As noted in recent posts, I am looking for more depth and darkness in the colors I employ right now. But I often still want to go the next higher and brighter tone. Holding back on that impulse is difficult but rewarding in the long run. Even though this is a painting with a lot of color, it is greatly restrained which allows the deeper colors hold court and show through clearly.

I was originally going to call this piece Light on Main Street. It works well but in the end I opted to adopt the title from the classic Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. The reason for this change was that I saw this piece as being the view of the Exile, an important character in my work, standing on the other side of the street.

The Exile sees the blank  and anonymous eyes of the lit buildings. It’s a feeling of alienation that I described in a post last week, Inner City Blue, about another cityscape, where each building seems like its own alien world filled with lives and occurrences about which you know little, if anything.

I think this feeling of being the Exile, a stranger in a strange land, is enhanced by the reddish tones of the sky and the deep gem tones of the distant mountains.

They seem familiar but different somehow.

And it’s that familiar but different feeling that appeals to me. I think it is may be something I actively seek in my work. It might be described as a desire to have you feel the comfort of the familiar while at the same time thinking that there is something different at play.

I really don’t know for sure.

I’ve looked at this piece for a couple of weeks now and I am still taking it in. The fact that it makes me want to continue to do so is a good indicator for my personal judgement of a work. I look forward to continue doing so with this piece.

Hey, since I snagged their title, how about a track from the Stones from Exile on Main Street? Hard to decide which to use with so many great tracks from which to choose. However, I am going with a personal fave, Sweet Virginia, in honor of Virginia’s presidential primary taking place today. Plus, there’s something in it that matches up well with this painting. Can’t put a finger on it but…

Hey, have yourself a good day.

 


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I don’t have much to say today. Oh, I have plenty to say but I am going to spare you having to hear it. I just want to get to work this morning seeing as it’s March 1 which translates to me as march forward as I prep for my annual shows. It’s total immersion time.

So, let’s keep it short today. I want to show a coupling of a song and a painting which I think works well together. The painting is above and is titled Blaze. It’s one of those pieces that have somehow found their way back to me and this one always confounds me. It felt so right and easy– graceful–off the hand. Even now, I always stop and look at this piece for the longest times, wondering why it is here. I guess it just hasn’t met its rightful partner yet.

The song that I matched up with Blaze is Wild Is the Wind from Nina Simone. It was originally recorded by Johnny Mathis for a movie of same title in the 1950’s. It’s a little overproduced for my taste but the song is undeniably strong. Nina Simone took it and made it into a spare and special song. It was used as the title track for her 1966 album which is considered one of the greatest albums of the 1960’s, remarkable in a decade filled with legendary albums. David Bowie also is noted for performing this song, which was done as a tribute to Simone.

Give a listen and have a good day.
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Édouard Vuillard – Landscape at Saint-Jacut

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To say that a thing is beautiful is simply an act of faith, not a measurement on some kind of scale.

–Édouard Vuillard

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If you asked me about my favorite painters, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) is not a name that would come to mind. In fact, I never even gave much thought to his work and didn’t have much of an opinion on it. I knew a little bit about the interior scenes for which he is well known but if you asked me to name or even describe his best known work, I would be at a loss.

But the more I look and the more I see of his work, the more of a fan I become of Édouard Vuillard. There is such a wide array of style in the body of his work that shows his exploration and growth.

The interior scenes I once shrugged over now seem to be wonderfully dense explorations into abstraction, pattern and color. There is so much to latch onto in each piece that a cursory glimpse doesn’t often suffice. I now see his work with a bit of a sense of awe and can honestly take that leap of faith and say that I see them as beautiful.

I even like a few of the things from him I have read, like the words at the top. Beauty is indeed subjective, not measurable with any set scale. My sense of beauty may well differ from yours. You may be moved by things that do nothing for me and vice versa. I don’t know that there is any one things, any one piece of art, that is absolutely beautiful to everyone.

Maybe there is. Who knows? Certainly not me.

He also wrote: I do not belong to any school, I simply want to do something that is personal to my self

These words depict that need to create something that is only mine, not something instantly attributable to a school or movement or any other artist, that has always been the driving force behind my own work. I don’t know that I have always been successful but I can say that Vuillard definitively did create a distinct body of art, beautiful work that is all his own.

Just good stuff. Here are a few examples from a sea of choices.

 

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The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.

–Flannery O’Connor

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I think you could probably substitute artist in for writer in the words above from author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) without changing the gist of the thought too much. All art, and literature certainly falls into that category, is about transforming the now of the creation– the time and place— into something beyond that moment, into something timeless–the eternity to which O’Connor refers.

Finding that intersection where those two things come together is, as she points out, not such as easy thing to accomplish. And almost every instance the artist will never know if they have come to those crossroads that moves their work into the realm of the eternal.

I guess the finding is immaterial without the seeking. And seeking without any assurance of finding something that will ever reveal itself to you is an act of faith, a belief that there something eternal worth seeking.

I don’t know what else to call it. You keep trying. You think it is near sometimes but when you finally come to it, you’re not sure enough of what you’re experiencing to stop seeking.

Does one ever know when they have come to that crossroads?

That being said, here’s this week’s Sunday morning music from a longtime favorite of mine, Tracy Chapman. I think her body of work sometimes get overlooked in the deluge of the new but every time I come back to her, I wonder how I have let her slip out of mind. Here’s a song that fits the subject here, Crossroads, to accompany the painting at the top, Beyond the Crossroads, from back in 2004.

Have a good Sunday, okay?

 

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