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Ickle Me



Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

I have a lot on my plate this morning so let’s just listen to the late Shel Silverstein sing his song/poem, Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too, from his marvelous book of children’s verse, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Like most of Silverstein’s stuff for kids, it’s a blend of word rhythms and nonsense that just works. I have probably watched this short video a dozen or more times over the years and it always holds my interest

I love kids songs and literature. Don’t know what that says about my mental development but I am not going to worry about it. When I was putting this together I thought of another really simple kids song from Woody Guthrie that I am going to stick on here. It’s his Grassy Grass Grass. My thinking is that with our spring weather finally taking hold that anything that urges the grass to grow and things to green more is a good thing. Plus it has a nice drum rhythm to start the weekend.

So, give a listen to a couple of simple ditties for the kiddies this morning. What can it hurt? In the meantime, I’ll get to my day. Some new work coming in the next few days so check back in.





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The Country

GC Myers- 2018 FingerpaintingLiving in the country, especially on the edge of the forest, makes one aware of their proximity to critters. There are deer and raccoons and squirrels and skunks and coyotes and bobcats and birds of all shapes and sizes.

But mainly living in the country makes you aware of the presence of mice in this world, how they live so closely to us, hovering nearby almost like little brown and gray shadows. Sometimes you hardly see them at all but they leaves traces that speak of their existence, often a hole chewed in a box or a bag in a closet or in the basement. Or those little hard nuggets on a shelf or table. I once had a mouse that had walked through a tray of wet paint that I had inadvertently left out overnight and walked across the edge of a piece I had been working on.

Little blue paw prints meandering around the edge of the surface. Hope they liked what they saw.

All these things occur here in the studio. At such times, I look over at Hobie, my studio cat who was once a known hunter of great renown, and ask her if she has been doing her job patrolling the mice population. She just looks away without an ounce of care for my concern.

I wonder if she has a secret pact with the mice now. After all, the gifts she once laid at my feet– poor mice, chipmunks, birds, and snakes– have ceased altogether.

They slowed considerably after she made the transition from stray cat to part-time outdoor cat to fulltime studio cat. But they did continue. I would sometimes come into the studio and there would sometimes be a sad prize waiting for me in front of my desk chair or at the base of my easel. Hobie would saunter over as if to proudly say, “See what I did for you while you were gone?”

But that doesn’t happen now. Actually, there are fewer traces of my little rodent housemates lately. Maybe the several feral cats who have taken up recent residency around our place have effectively shut down their runways in and out of our place. Maybe. But I doubt that even a terrible trio of hungry cats could completely stop the smart and versatile mice that I know so well. Their little brains work better than some folks I know.

I am sure they are still there. I don’t mind to be honest. Not that I am thrilled by the evidence they leave behind. So long as they don’t bother me, I can coexist with them.

Not everyone can. I used to work with a lady who proclaimed that her home had no mice at all. She lived in an old house near the river so I knew the idea that that critters somehow weren’t taking advantage of a warm place to live and eat was foolishness. I would just laugh at her and tell her that she might not see them but they were there.

She would let out a shiver and say that no, they were not there. I guess she had to say that for her own peace of mind but I know that somewhere in that old house, in the attic or basement, there is a meeting going on right now where all the mice are discussing the best places to eat in that house.

The reason I bring this up this morning is that I came across an animation of a poem by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins that is abut this subject. It’s called The Country. I never worried about my boxes of matches before but this has me wondering. Take a look.



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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

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I am busy this morning but wanted to share a post from several years ago about painter Giorgio de Chirico. I thought I’d run it again today with the addition at the bottom of one of his more famous paintings and a short MoMA video about it. The idea that is presented about the metaphysics contained in dealing not with “perceived reality” but a “reality imagined” and of creating “a plausible representation of a believable and negotiable space” rang a bell for me as that is the space where I try to operate. Take a look.


 

de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data.

His work from this defining ten year period is very mystical.

De Chirico’s work after 1919 became much more based in reality and far more traditional. This later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that early work. It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark. The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them. The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives, all evoking a sense of mystery. It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence. I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  Plus, his ability to create a reality that seemed possible and recognizable but seemed filled with mystery  was something aspired for in my own pieces.

Working with this in mind, my work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

 

de-chirico




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Got to be honest, this wasn’t the blog entry I thought I’d be writing this morning. Had something completely different in mind.

I was going to talk about an old piece from my earliest painting days. Not the one above, which is a pretty early painting from around 1996 or 1997 that is called Faust’s Guitar. I did several versions of this painting in the first few years that I was showing my work publicly. I’ll save the other older painting for another day.

I came into the studio early this morning, about 5:30 AM. Still dark outside. And cold, only 10º. After flipping on the computer and hooking up to the interwebs, I went to the YouTube to look for a song that might accompany the other older painting. As I scanned down the list of various titles their algorithm had selected for my viewing pleasure, one title jumped out at me:

Dracula Hates Killer Icicles.

I couldn’t resist. had to click on it. I mean, come on– it’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. If it was Dracula Loves Banana Bread, I most likely don’t watch. But this has Killer Icicles, folks” Killer Icicles!

I watched and laughed at the sheer goofiness of it. I decided that something that had me laughing aloud at 5:50 AM deserved a post of its own.

This song, Dracula Hates Killer Icicles, is from a surf band  from St. Petersburg, Russia called Messer Chups. They play 1960’s style surf/ psychobilly instrumentals with a lineup that feature Igor Gitaracula (yeah, that rolls off the tongue)  on the guitar and Zombierella on the bass. The drums are provided by Rockin Eugene who is not seen in the video.

They also have featured the theremin, that electronic device that made that weird sustained woo-ooh sound was a staple of old 1950’s horror films, in several of their songs. I wrote about the theremin here many years back. It fits their profile well.

All in all, it’s just goofy, stupid fun. Nothing more. And on a cold Monday morning, is there anything wrong with listening to a Russian surf band playing a kitschy tune?

So, without any further ado, here’s Dracula Hates Killer Icicles. Who doesn’t? 

PS The video is from a video show Domino’s Batcave which is hosted by Domino Barbeau, a burlesque queen turned horror show host. That’s a career path every parent desires for their child, right?



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kandinsky

 



Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?

Wassily Kandinsky



Still working on getting my creative engines revved up and ready to go. Normal for me at this point n the year. One thing that usually helps me in these times is turning to the words and works of Wassily Kandinsky.

Several years ago in a short post here, I shared the quote above and a great little film from Alfred Imageworks that features an animation of the elements from some of Kandinsky’s great paintings as well a film from 1926 of Kandinsky creating a drawing with these same elements.

These always seem to help me in some way that I can’t quantify. Maybe I should take Kandinsky’s advice and stop thinking on this.

Anyway, thought they’d be worth revisiting today before I get down to real work.

Take a look if you are so inclined and then have yourself a good day, again, if you are so inclined.

STEREOSCOPIC FOR EXHIBITION – KANDINSKY from Alfred Imageworks on Vimeo.



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Rockwell Kent- Clover Fields



President-elect Joe Biden is on a path that will show him winning close to 51% of the votes with what will most likely be a margin of over 6 million votes. It is, objectively speaking, the largest electoral rebuke of a sitting president since FDR unseated Hoover in 1932.

It seems that the people have clearly spoken. Even so, with a sitting administration that seems more hellbent on undermining our democracy than even pretending to address the pandemic that is now fully out of control across the country, it seems like a lot of folks need reassurance that the will of the people will be carried out. To that end, I felt that this post from a few years back, written at the time of the damaging government shutdown of early 2018, still applies.

Plus, I was needing to see some Rockwell Kent paintings this morning. That always does me some good.

Believe in reason and have a good day.



 

Rockwell Kent- The Trapper

 



Force against reason: reason, because it has the power of enlisting forces to fight for it, will win. From the recognition of that truth has come democracy.

-Rockwell Kent



There are a lot of things that could be said this morning, especially with a governmental shutdown taking effect overnight. This shutdown is the symbolic culmination of the political attitudes of the past twenty years that have led us away from compromise and reason as a means of governance. I am not going to go into my own grievances here.

I’ve done that enough.

But I will say that for all the anxiety this government produces as it tries to force itself closer and closer to some form of autocratic authoritarianism, I am somewhat optimistic. And that may be because I agree with the premise of the quote above from one of my favorite artists, Rockwell Kent.

I do feel that we are in struggle right now between force and reason, that the direction in which we are being directed via deception and fear-mongering– the force here–goes against the ideals and virtues that we have long professed as the basis for our democracy– reason.  The idea that reason is enduring because it has the ability to enlist those who will fight for the truth of it is reassuring to me and seems to be backed by history.

What we are experiencing is reminiscent of the way other empires have ended, when the beliefs that grew these empires are set aside by rulers who see themselves as being above those ideals and virtues. But I believe we are still a nation with enough reasonable people to resist the forces of greed and nativism that have descended upon us.

And that gives me hope, even on these days that seem so dark.

So, thanks for reminding me of that, Mr. Kent. Here’s a video of some of Kent’s landscape work, primarily of some of my favorite landscapes from the Adirondacks, Vermont and Greenland. The format of the video is a little cutesy for my taste but it shows a lot of great work from Kent and features the music of Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

Have a good day and stay reasonable.



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“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra


I wasn’t planning on writing about angst this morning. I think most of us are all worn to nubs from the anxiety of this time so unless I have come up with some sort of therapy or special salve that will take it away, my words will have little effect.

Might even make it worse.

But an item popped up on my alerts that piqued my interest and it had to do with angst. Well, angst in the form of one of my paintings. I clicked on the link and there was YouTube music video with a painting that was very recognizable to me as the image illustrating it.

It was from Lithuanian-born musician/composer Žilvinas Smalys for a short composition of his called Growing Angst For 2 Bassoons. It was written and recorded on October 11, 2020 so it is most likely his take on the anxiety of this time in his part of the world.

Angst knows no boundaries.

I am not surprised that he chose this particular painting, The Angst, to accompany his composition. It is one of my personal pieces, a keeper, that has been with me for the past 25 years or so. Whenever I show it, it gets a lot of attention. It was even used in a college level textbook a few years back. It even shows up on the Google search for “angst paintings” right under Munch’s The Scream.

And it works well with this compsotion.

Žilvinas Smalys is a performer, teacher and composer who was, as I wrote, born and raised in Lithuania. His training as a classical musician throughout Europe has been extensive and he has played with orchestras around the globe. He currently resides in Santiago, Chile, serving since 2008 as the principal bassoonist at Teatro Municipal de Santiago as well as being a professor of bassoon and chamber music at Universidad Mayor de Santiago

Smalys has a nice YouTube page that features many of his compositions. I urge you to take a look. His music is lovely. Below is Growing Angst and another short piece, Lament For 2 Bassoons.

Hopefully this will help free up your own angst and you can move on to have a good day.


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A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

–Maya Angelou


I needed something with hope this morning, something not wrought of despair. I need something on a higher plane today, being as I am, so tired of hearing from the hate-filled people, as the late poet Maya Angelou put so well in a certain poem: whose mouths abide cankerous words/ Which challenge our very existence.

That is from the poem above, A Brave and Startling Truth. Maya Angelou wrote this piece in 1995 in specifically for the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. The video below is her reading of the poem at that event.

Hope it lifts you a little higher today.


 

 

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“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson


In my Gallery Talk I spoke about the struggle to go inside myself to create in these crazy days. The outer world and its many problems seems to be keeping me from the inner. It’s a frustration that more or less paralyzes me, requiring me to go put in a lot of extra effort just to get down to work.

I am trying to reconcile this, to somehow get past this feeling.

I came across this snippet above from Emerson and it reminded me that I am the one letting the outer world in. Oh, I know you can’t keep it completely out but I was the one opening the door and inviting it in. I was the one who listened to it as it went on about its problems and thought I could somehow help it out, foolish as that idea seems when I write it out. I went, as Emerson writes, into their confusion.

It also reminds me that I get to choose how I respond to the outer world. And being paralyzed is not a choice. It’s a refusal to choose.

So, I choose to shed the paralysis, to get back to work, to explore those inner paths once more. It’s my choice and what I do.

We all have that power to choose how we react to our own forms of paralysis, fear, anger, frustration and so many other negative aspects of our world. Most likely you don’t need to hear this. You probably know this as well as I. But I know I sometimes fall out of rhythm and have to be reminded once in a while.

The painting at the top is from a few years back and lives now with me in the studio. It’s one of those pieces that really hit high notes personally for me right from the moment it took form on the easel. It’s one of those pieces that surprises me in that it hasn’t yet found a home but also please me because I get to live with it for a bit longer. I thought it echoed with the words of Emerson today. It originally echoed with the words from the Rudyard Kipling poem after which it is named, If.

I was going to include the poem here in print but here’s a fine reading of it by actor John Hurt complete with the words shown. And some powerful black and white images.

Have a good day and choose well.


 

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I was checking YouTube yesterday to see if the videos from last week’s Virtual Gallery Talk from the West End Gallery were being viewed. As I came to my page I saw a strange looking entry among my suggested videos. It was my name as a title appearing to overlay what I could see was my work underneath.

There was lettering above my name that appeared to me to be Korean. Clicking on it, I saw that it was a compilation of my work set to three pieces of music with photos of me along with what appeared to be biographical info, all gleaned from the internet.

It’s a strange sensation to see your work in this way, compiled and used by someone else. I am sure there are those of you out there who feel I should be upset over the unauthorized use of my imagery in this way and maybe you’re right. But I knew that once I began putting my work online as I do, it would possibly be subject to this sort of thing. I felt it was worth the risk in order to get my work out there.

I sometimes at gallery talks tell the story of the great photographer Brassai asking his best known subject and friend Pablo Picasso for advice on selling some drawings he had created. For how much should he sell them, for example. Picasso, who liked the Brassai drawings, told him to put a very low price on them because he needed them to get out into the world where they could be known and be seen. Where they could establish a name and achieve a noteworthiness that might one day make all his work valuable. Picasso claimed that had been his route.

It’s advice I still give young artists.

And that’s how I view this– a result of putting my work out into the world.

Actually, I am happy and flattered that my work has reached across the world and translates well into other cultures. You go into this hoping your work speaks to all people and to get a small bit of proof that it might doing that is gratifying.

There are worst things in this world.

Take a look, if you so desire. I could do without the photos of myself but I like the musical accompaniment’s different moods. Have a good day.

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