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Posts Tagged ‘RedTree’

My annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, opens on Friday, June 7th. This year is my 20th solo show there, something that seemed out of the realm of possibility when this run began with the first Redtree show back in 2000.

Nothing seemed guaranteed at that time.

I was still a fairly new artist at that point, showing my work publicly for barely five years with the last two years as a full-time artist. Still had that new artist smell. I understood that the Principle Gallery was taking a chance on me and that this show was a great opportunity for me as an artist. Solo shows in great galleries don’t just come to artists on an everyday basis and the success or failure of such a show could dictate how my career moved on from that point. I knew that all too well.

I remember my trepidation in the months before that first show as I prepared for it. I was operating in abject fear of my own failure was having trouble visualizing what success this show would even resemble. My final goal for the show ended up being that I simply hoped to not be embarrassed.

Fortunately, it turned out to be very successful. That led to the next year and the next and so forth. There have been varying degrees of success with the shows along the way but one thing that seldom changes is the absolute fear of failure that comes with each show. So, here I am, twenty years in, and still feeling that same ball of anxiety in my gut. If anything, it might even be worse because I see this as a personal landmark of sorts. I want it to be a show worthy of twenty years invested by the gallery.

I’ve been looking at some of he work from those earliest Principle Gallery shows, trying to see similarities and differences between the work then and now. To see how it has changed, to see what has been gained and lost. One that struck me this morning was the piece above from 2001 called Symphony to Joy. It’s a piece with what I would term great organic appeal. I mean that it in the sense given by the linework within the piece and the way the colors and forms play off one another. It just seems very natural.

Maybe I shouldn’t try to explain such things.

But what I am looking at is how I can regain that natural feel, that organic sense present in the painting. Twenty years of painting have straightened some lines, taken some spontaneity out of some color choices, and softened some rough edges. Experience and knowledge has taken the place of the urgency of the pure emotion found in these early pieces.

I sit here this morning anxiously wondering how to find a way to merge the experience with that emotional urgency. Hope I can figure it out before June 7th.

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I wasn’t going to write anything today.  Getting ready for the new show at the West End Gallery has kept me exceedingly busy but I came across a clip from a Viktor Frankl lecture that I liked and wanted to share.  Frankl ‘s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, has been an important book in my life and his ability to find hope in the darkest of times always provides inspiration.  The clip, from 1972, shows this optimism and even though it is from 1972, it speaks for any time.  Honestly, the idea that this man who has experienced the worst side of mankind can find hope for mankind makes me slightly ashamed at the cynicism I sometime find in myself when I consider the future of this planet.

You can find Frankl’s book on YouTube as a free audiobook by clicking here.

To preface the clip I thought I would share a blogpost and painting from five years back:

GC Myers- LifebloodWe who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

———-Viktor Frankl

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I don’t know why this came to mind today but it did.  Viktor Franklwas an Auschwitz survivor who, after the war, createdlogotherapy, one of the important schools of psychotherapy alongside those of Freud, Adler and Jung.  It was a therapy based on finding meaning in one’s life, a reason to struggle onward.  In his best known book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he recounts his time in the concentration camp and how he and others who survived  seemed to have something in common– the discovery of a purpose and meaning in living.  It might be love. It might  be the will and drive to create.  Just something to set on their horizon to pull them ahead despite the horror around them.

Maybe it was this painting, Lifeblood,  that brought back Frankl for me.  I had come across his work a number of years ago and and his words and example have helped me through some desperate, foundering times of my own.  There is a certain power in knowing that we all are fated to suffering of some sort, just by the sheer nature of existence.  There will be pain, there will be death.  No one is exempt from the distresses of  life.  But these can be endured through the knowledge that we have the choice in how we react to such events, how we perceive the deprivations of our lives.  We can choose to wallow, to give in,  or we can forge ahead.

Maybe that’s how I see this painting, as a path through the pains of living, symbolized by the blood red of the ground.  All the leaves, everything it had,  have been stripped from the tree yet it still stands.  It reaches for the light above, seeks a meaning for its suffering.

I didn’t see it that way when I first painted this.  It was simply color and form.  Simplicity and harmony.  But sometimes there’s an associative power to a piece that gnaws at you, begs you to look deeper and find what it’s trying to say.  And maybe the ideas of Viktor Frankl hide in this piece for me…

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Majesty

GC Myers Majesty  smAfter a short break, I am finally finding a rhythm in the studio, the first of the new year.  It brought me this new piece, a 24″ by 24″ painting on linen that I am calling Majesty, settling on that because some form of that word came up whenever I would try to determine what the painting was saying to me.

At first I thought of Mountain King.  Then King’s Road.  Then Mountain Majesty, especially once the color of the mountains began to come about.  It reminded me of the verse from America the Beautiful—  O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!

It just seemed to fit.

For me, the strength of this piece is in its simplicity and lack of detail and in the purple bands of the mountains’ profiles and the manner in which they bisect  the warm colors of the sky and plains.  I see it as being almost abstract in the way it shows itself while still maintaining a representative feel, which is what I want for my work.

For the first step into the new year, it feels good.  Hopefully, a precursor of a good year ahead.

We shall see…

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Process/Redux

GC Myers Process jan-2011-pt-11Four years ago I posted a description of one of the process for one of my paintings, followed by a short video showing its evolution from start to finish.  I thought it might be a good time to revisit it as there are many new readers who may not be familiar with how my work comes together.   I paint in two distinctly different processes, one being a reductive process where I put paint on the surface then remove much of it and this process that is additive, with layer after layer of paint building up.  Here’s what I wrote in January of 2011:

I worked on a new piece the last couple of days, a large canvas that is  24″ by 48″.  I had already gessoed the canvas with a distinct texture and applied a layer of black paint.  I had vague ideas of where I thought the painting might go from a composition standpoint but knew that this was only a starting point in my mind.  Like most of my paintings, the finished product is often drastically different than what I imagined at the beginning.  As I paint, each bit of paint dictates the next move and if I don’t try to force in something that goes against these subtle directions given to me by the paint the piece usually has an organic feel, a natural rhythm in the way the different elements go together.  A cohesion of sorts.

Knowing I wanted to use a cityscape in this piece, I started in the bottom left, slowly building the city with geometric forms and rooflines in a red oxide paint that I use to block in my composition.  I like the red oxide because ti gives a warmth under the layers paint to come that comes through in small bits that are almost undetectable at a quick glance. 

At this point I still am unsure where the painting is going.  I have thoughts of filling the canvas completely with the cityscape with the smallest view of the sky through the buildings but am not married to this idea.  The paint isn’t telling me enough yet to know.  But it has told me that I want a path of some sort- a street or canal- through the composition.   I make room for one near the center before starting on the right side with the buildings there.  I go back and forth between the right and left sides as I build the city, constantly stepping back to give it a good look from a distance to assess its progress and direction. 

 At a point where the city is nearing the halfway point on filling the canvas, I decide I want this piece to be less about the cityscape and more about how it opens to the open sky beyond it.  I extend the road that started at the bottom and twist it upward, terminating it at a bend in what will be now a field beyond the city edge.  The sky, though still empty, is pushing me ahead, out of the city.  The piece has become about a sense of escape, taking the street from the cityscape and heading upward on it towards the open fields and sky.  Painting faster now, another field with a bit of the road appearing is finished beyond the first lower field.  I have created a cradle in the landscape for the sky to which I now turn my brush.

There’s a certain symmetry at work here and I decide I want the central focus of a sun in this composition.  I roughly block in a round form, letting it break beyond the upper edge of the canvas.  I pay little attention to the size of this sun except in its relationship to the composition below it.  My suns and moons are often out of proportion to reality but it doesn’t matter to me so long as it translates properly in the context of the painting.  If  it works well,  it isn’t even noticed.

I finish blocking in the sky with the red oxide, radiating the strokes away from the sun,  and step back.  The piece has become to come alive for me and I can start to see where it is going.  The color is starting to fill in in my mind and I can see a final version there.  This is usually a very exciting time in the process for me, especially if a piece has a certain vitality.  I sense it here and am propelled forward now, quickly attacking the sky with many, many brushstrokes of multiple colors. working from dark to light. 

There are layers of a violet color in different shades that are almost completely obscured by subsequent layers.  I could probably leave out these violet  layers but the tiny shards that do barely show add a great depth to the flavor of the painting for me and to leave them out would weaken the piece in a way. 

I have painted several hours on the sky now and still have a ways to go before it reaches where I see it in my mind.  There are no shortcuts now.  Just the process of getting to that final visualized point.  But it’s dinnertime and my day is now done.  I pick up and step back to give it one final look before I head out into the darkness.  This is where the painting is at this point, where I will start soon after I post this:

GC Myers Process jan-2011-pt-2 In the blog post with the final version I then wrote:

I will say that the final version is much different in many ways than I first envisioned with the first strokes of red oxide that went on the canvas.  Each subsequent bit of color, each line that appeared, altered the vision in my head just a bit, evolving the piece constantly until the very end of the process.  Even the last part, where I inserted the treeline that appears on the farthest ridge, was not seen in my mind until just before the decision to proceed with them was made.  I decided to go with this treeline to create a final barrier for the road to break past on its way upward toward the sky.  A final moment of escape.

991143 Escape Route 2011

And here’s the video, only about a minute long, that shows how the piece came about.

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GC Myers- Boundless  smWell, tomorrow’s the day of another show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, this one called Observers.  Opening tomorrow evening ( the opening reception begins at 6:30 PM ) and running through the first week of July, it is, as I’ve noted here a number of times, my fourteenth consecutive annual show at the gallery, dating back to 2000.  My first show was called, fittingly, Redtree  and featured the premiere of that tree that has long since populated my work.  At that point I couldn’t imagine that I’d be fortunate enough to still be having solo shows there all these years later.

But even though this show has become a part of my life and it seems as natural as breathing to be preparing for this show in the first half of every year, I still feel the same nerves as I did with that first show, a distinct mix of anxiety and fear that somehow never fails to show up in the days and hours before a show.  But it’s a fear that I expect and even relish at times, knowing that it is this fear that often spurs me on in trying to push the work in new directions.  Maybe it’s superstition but if I think that if I were too confident and without this fear the show might be a total disaster.

I can’t tell you how appreciative I am as an artist to have the inspiration that galleries like the Principle and the wonderful people  who come to these shows there provide.  Michele and her staff have always encouraged me in letting the work expand and grow through the years and the many people I have met over the years have provided me with a reassuring presence in the studio on those days when I am struggling and less than confident.  It is often like they are looking over my shoulder, wanting to see what is brewing.  I’ve said this before but I feel an obligation to really extend myself for these shows for these people.

I think  that this show meets that obligation and is a really strong group of work, one that I am proud of.  But I can’t judge it objectively.  Hopefully, others will let me know.  Hope you can make it to the show and  have a few minutes to talk.

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The painting at the top is part of this show and is titled Boundless.  It is a 20″ by 60″ canvas.

 

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