Posts Tagged ‘The Ferryman’


“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne


I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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GC Myers-The Ferryman smOne of the new paintings that is part of my solo show, Traveler,  at the Principle Gallery is a small piece titled The Ferryman.  It’s a depiction of a man poling a small boat across a body of water, simply constructed with the impact coming from its starkness and the intensity of its color.  It’s a theme that I have revisited several times over the years.  Perhaps it is the symbolic nature of the crossing or the essential nature of a single individual propelling themselves forward.

Probably both apply to my reasoning  for returning to this theme.

Whatever the case, it is a theme that has resonated with others over these years and recently struck a chord with author Thomas William Simpson, who was looking for appropriate artwork for his new book, The Ferryman: 8 Crossings to a Gentler Life.  He came across images of my prior ferrymen pieces and got in touch with me.  The result was this painting which graces the cover of his book which is a parable of sorts.

Here is the book description from Amazon:

Thomas William Simpson-The Ferryman Cover  / GC Myers art This short tale about a man’s desire to live a different kind of life unfolds during a single day. At the crack of dawn the ferryman opens his eyes to find an impatient businessman nudging him with his foot. The businessman demands they cross the river. Now. Right away. Not a minute to spare. The ferryman rises and offers tea and scones. The businessman says he has no time for tea and scones. He needs to reach the other side. Progress and profits depend on it. The ferryman understands. Before becoming a simple ferryman he had been a striver bristling with ambition, always angling to close the next deal. He had manipulated and deceived to accomplish his aims. He had believed material wealth the only true measure of success. But he cannot just yet haul the businessman across the river. He must wait for the old woman. The old woman is sick and needs to see the doctor on the other side. The Ferryman is an amusing and tender tale that attempts to shine a wide light on what might actually matter in life. Yes, we have our necessities: food and shelter, security and transportation. But what beyond these basics truly has relevance? The ferryman, who has been a humble ferryman for several years by the time we meet him, has identified eight (8) crossings that have changed his life, he thinks, for the better. By better the ferryman means richer, deeper, less stressful, more joyful. The crossings have civilized the ferryman. Benevolence in all things, the ferryman has come to believe, is the surest way to peace of mind. And really what greater gift can we bestow upon ourselves than a quiet and contented mind? Come ride the ferry with the ferryman. It’s a pleasant, scenic journey filled with small gifts, interesting characters, and boundless miracles. The Ferryman is a tale of self discovery you will read over and over as your own journey passes back and forth across the river of life. Thomas William Simpson is the author of such diverse novels as The Immortal, Full Moon Over America, The Fingerprints of Armless Mike, and This Way Madness Lies. His curiosity for the human condition, as evidenced in The Ferryman, knows no bounds.

Simpson is a very talented and well known author with an impressive resume with books, such as The Caretaker, The Hancock Boys, This Way Madness Lies  and The Editor, that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and have garnered widespread critical acclaim.  It has been a pleasure working with Mr. Simpson and an honor to have my artwork on the cover of his book.  Please check out his website, Simpson Books,  which is very informative on his writings and his career journey.

If you would like to purchase The Ferryman, click here or on the book cover above to be taken to its Amazon page.

If you would like to see the original painting for this cover, it is currently at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA as part of Traveler, my solo show opening this coming Friday.  It is a modest sized painting, only 5″ by 9″ on paper.  Stop in and see it.

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