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Mountain Home Magazine

The Artist's Voice

Jun 29, 2019 01:51PM
by Jennie Simon


His unique style has gained admirers around the world. True to his form, tested by a subjective audience, the artist remains inspired and unchanged by convention. Often his work sells out at shows, and he returns to the blank canvas to express more. The process, for painter Gary Myers of Horseheads, is challenging, rewarding, and a risk worth taking.

Popular with collectors on six continents, American embassies in Nepal, Kuwait, and Uganda have also shown his work. And that work is not just self-expression.

“I’m trying to find answers to questions, not knowing the questions,” Gary says, reflecting on his two decades as a full-time painter. “Every painting is a new inquiry. Artists are people with emotional responses, hoping to get the same connection from others.”

Growing up in rural Pine City, creating art wasn’t a popular vocation. He tried writing after his parents gave him a typewriter, and experimented creatively throughout his twenties, working various jobs, including waiting tables, and operating a successful pool installation business. In September 1993, at age thirty-four, a fall from a ladder was fateful. During recovery, he placed a brush in his cast and began stroking the blank paper. It clicked.

“I was in sync and immediately poured myself into it. Painting with acrylic inks, I was attracted to the intense, bold colors.” An admirer of stained glass, the ink matched his thoughts. “I used excessive ink on canvas, then shaved it off, creating texture. The luminous and transparent colors were similar to glass.” Gesso—a white paint mixture of various types of binders—became the texturing process for acrylic on canvas in later work.

Corning and Corning Inc. have also influenced Gary and his work. He and wife, Cheri, have long been supporters of the Crystal City’s venues and artistic endeavors. Gary credits Tom and Lin Gardner, founders of West End Gallery in Corning, with the first honest look at his work; he was ultimately invited to the gallery’s annual Little Gems show in February 1995, about a year and a half after the accident. Jesse Gardner, West End’s executive director, says GC Myers, as Gary’s body of work is known, is one of the Gallery’s best sellers.

“At his home gallery, it’s been incredible to watch the evolution of his work. It’s hard for an artist to break through barriers and create a style all their own,” Jesse says. “Gary has done this.”

The painter remembers bystanding during that first exhibit. There were nice comments and there were those who dismissed his work. He was not dissuaded.

“They fueled my passion. That raw emotion motivated me.” He resolved to bring people to his work—to make them stop! As he developed portfolios, he established relationships with collectors.

“I don’t couch the work in art terms,” Gary says, “I speak about the work as a person. My responsibility is to create something of personal value to share.” He muses over a talk given to third grade students who recently studied his Archaeology Series. The students expressed their feelings about adults not listening to them. They wanted a voice. “‘Yes, I understand,’ I told them. That is what painting does for me. It is my voice.”

A year after his first reveal at the West End, a youngster spoke to him over a crowded restaurant table. “Are you a painter?” she asked. “My mommy [artist Suzi Druley] says you are.” Suzi, on her way to a show at the Kada Gallery in Erie, Pennsylvania, introduced Gary to owners Kathy and Joe DeAngelo.

“There was no question if we would show GC Myers, but when,” says Kathy. “Twenty-three years later, Gary’s paintings sell out before the show.” The Kada currently exhibits numerous GC Myers, and the so-called “stylized internal landscapes”—with winding roads, waterways, and patterned farmlands—attract like a magnet. An isolated image or the exacting placement of light surrounded by intense warm hues draws the viewer in.

In 2000, the painter hung his first solo show at the prestigious Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia.

Challenged by fear and self-doubt prior to this show, Gary admits, “I painted out of pure emotion, wondering if I could carry a whole gallery. Creatively, I wanted to keep moving up the hill. New shows force new elements and techniques. As I was painting and preparing, a red tree appeared on the canvas. It became the focal point that I built the show around.” Again, something clicked. On June 7, the Principle celebrated two decades of GC Myers with “Red Tree 20: New Growth.”

That iconic red tree has persisted, sometimes accompanied by red chairs and simple windowless houses with red roofs, all with universal appeal. Gary refers to the tree as the heart of the painting. The chair may be the smallest memory. The rooftops optimistically direct, as in arrows to the sun. To his paintings’ viewer, movement is felt between an isolated memory, a present moment, and a hopeful destination. The art is alive, through color, texture, organic lines, light, and yes, red characters. The GC Myers niche is a unique cross between modern and folk art.

Self taught, Gary credits early twentieth century American painter Grant Wood as a major influence. At the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown in 2012, Gary’s work was placed in the gallery down the hall from an American Impressionists exhibit.

“I remember asking myself if I belong here,” he reflects. “I determined unequivocally, yes. Not that I can compare to the time-tested Masters. But having spent 70,000 hours in my studio, immersed in solitary work, I know my voice is no less than any other painter. That moment of realization was the greatest validation to being self taught.”

The West End Gallery opens the GC Myers exhibit, “Moments and Color,” with about fifty new paintings, July 12 to August 30. A free gallery talk with the artist is scheduled for August 17 from 1 to 2 p.m. Call (607) 936-2011 or visit westendgallery.net for updates.