Posts Tagged ‘Shaw Festival’

A few weeks back, we had the pleasure of seeing a series of three one-man shows at the Shaw Festival in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They were written and performed by writer/actor/comedian Stephen Fry who you may better recognize from his longtime partnership with Hugh Laurie (House) in the comedy team Fry and Laurie.

The performances were based on Fry’s recent book Mythos which contains his droll retelling of the classical Greek myths. The shows were divided into different segments: God, Heroes, and Men. God dealt with the stories of Zeus and the other surrounding gods. Heroes dealt with the epic tales of Odysseus, Heracles and Theseus. The final show, Men, told the stories of men and their interactions with the gods. All were highly entertaining.

I was pleasantly surprised that during Men, Fry chose to tell the tale of Baucis and Philemon, a story that I have retold here a number of times and one which I also have used as the basis of a series of paintings over the last several years, including not too long ago with a favorite of mine, Nuptiae. It is the story of an old couple in a poor town who share their hospitality with Zeus and Hermes who have been treated poorly by all the other townspeople.

Fry’s retelling had a bit of a different ending than the version I knew, one that I believe is based more on that from Ovid and his Metamorphoses. In the version I know, the ending is a bit happier with the couple living out their lives together as priests in the temple of Zeus and together in death as two separate trees– a linden and an oak– growing from a single trunk.

Fry’s is a bit harsher, related in many ways to the biblical story of Lot and his wife. In Fry’s retelling, Zeus tells Baucis and Philemon that they shall be spared from the terrible wrath he is setting loose upon the other townsfolk. He instructs them to walk up the hill and not turn back. But hearing the great storm and the horrible sounds coming from the village, they agree to turn back to look together, whereupon they are transformed into linden and oak trees, much as Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

I still prefer the version I first knew but it was great to hear a variation on this story. That is the beauty of storytelling and art– it takes what we believe we know and reflects it back at us in a different and sometimes revelatory manner.

The painting at the top is a new painting from my West End Gallery show that opens tomorrow, Friday, July 13. Titled The Belonging, it is a 36″ by 24″ painting on canvas that is my most recent interpretation of the Baucis and Philemon myth– the version I knew before the Mythos shows.

These pieces may be my favorite to paint. The intent to paint them, that beginning point in their creation, has a certain feeling that pleases me and sets the tone for the whole piece. The paintings that spring from this starting point seldom disappoint me or fall short of what I hope to see. This piece very much lived up to the story for me and is one that never failed to stop and make me look when it was with me in the studio. The combination of the story and the colors, shapes and textures of the painting come together, for me at least.

Hope you can come out and see for yourself at the West End.

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GC Myers Dominion smI have been away for a few days, taking in a couple of plays at the Shaw Festival in Canada.  I will write more about that later.  For this morning, I wanted to rerun a post that I first ran back in 2009 and again 2012.  It’s a post that always helps me find personal clarity.

Sometimes, usually at certain points of my year, there are times when I begin to question what I do and who I am as an artist.  It’s a time when my normal self-confidence falls aside and I fret about the future of my work.  It’s an internal struggle that usually resolves itself in the paint itself.  I paint and the doubts fade away, replaced by new revelations found in the spaces of my work.  Here’s what I wrote a few years back: 

There was an episode of Mystery! on PBS starring Kenneth Branagh as Swedish detective Wallander.  It was okay, a nice production but certainly nothing remarkable in the story.  But there was a part at the end that struck home with me and related very much to my life as a painter.  Wallander’s father, played by the great character actor David Warner, was, like me, a landscape painter.  Now aged and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, his son comes to him and intimates that he can’t go on as a detective, that he can’t take the stress.  The painter then recalls how  when Wallander  was a boy he would ask his father about his painting, asking, “Why are they always the same, Dad?  Why don’t you do something different”

He said he could never explain.  Each morning when he began to paint, he would tell himself that maybe today he would do a seascape or a still life or maybe an abstract, just splash on the paint and see where it takes him.  But then he would start and each day he would paint the same thing- a landscape.  Whatever he did,  that was what came out.  He then said to his son, ” What you have is your painting- I may not like it, you may not like it but it’s yours.”

That may not translate as well on paper without the atmospheric camera shots and the underscored music but for me  it said a lot in how I think about my body of work.  Like the father, I used to worry that I would have to do other things- still lifes, portraits, etc.- to prove my worth as a painter but at the end of each day I found myself  looking at a landscape, most often with a red tree.  As time has passed, I have shed away those worries.  I don’t paint portraits.  Don’t paint still life.  I paint what comes out and most often it is the landscape.  And that red tree that I once damned when I first realized it had became a part of who I am.

I realized you have to stop damning who you are…

Here is that clip:

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