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The wind's eye

Crows. Mythic trees. Windows opening to eternity. Mystery. These are the inspirations for Billy Myers art. The painter, who is a part-time nurse at the Franciscan Health Care Center as well as a stay-at-home dad for his two children, looks to his...

Crows.
Mythic trees.
Windows opening to eternity.
Mystery.
These are the inspirations for Billy Myers art.
The painter, who is a part-time nurse at the Franciscan Health Care Center as well as a stay-at-home dad for his two children, looks to his art as a way to express his thoughts and views of life.
"A painting is not interesting to me unless you can get something from it," he said. "The challenge is to put some meaning in it and not just be painting."
The objective, in this case, is evoking emotions and thoughts in people who look at the work, as well as expressing his own ideas.
"That's the big challenge," he said. "Getting a response, but not shaping that response too much. If the painting says everything, then why do it? You need to be in between whatever you're telling and getting someone who sees it to tell themselves what they're seeing -- that's what makes it interesting for me."
Certainly his work can evoke strong emotions.
Take his crow series, for example. Myers' watercolors of the big, black birds in various urban situations have evolved over the last few years and intrigue many who see them.
He did several for the first Perspective on the Hillside show two years ago.
"The Crow's Visit," for example, depicts the bird perched on a window sill of a hospital room, where a patient (we can just see his feet) is lying in bed.
"I think a lot of people's initial reaction was that the crow represents death," Myers said. "But during the show, people would come up to me and talk about someone in the hospital. And the painting brought out that it was not all death and despair, that there was hope."
It is this duality that intrigues Myers as well as his viewers.
Crows and ravens have mythological status, he said, partly "because they have this mixture of attributes, good and bad, and they're everywhere, especially here in Duluth. They're kind of a love/hate kind of bird. A lot of people hate crows just out of an initial reaction. They associated them with filth and death. But they also clean things -- they get rid of death and disease as scavengers. And they play."
They also fly and perch on trees and watch humans going about their business on the ground below. Myers painted this, too, in a work called "Crow's Eye View."
But crows are only one subject for this talented painter.
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Myers is intrigued by his Nordic roots and the myths and ideas that inform that tradition.
His self-portrait, for example, depicts a wood carving on the door post of an old stave church that was built in Norway about 1,000 years ago.
"You can actually see these old churches in Norway," he said. "My mother's side of the family is Norwegian and Swedish. My family came over in the 1800s, and while I was (in Norway) I did some research. It was quite an experience to be looking at church records and see the actual names and dates of these people. So Norse mythology has always been intriguing to me."
He calls up this knowledge and connections as he develops his work.
One of his oil paintings, for example, called Hodmimir's Holt, was inspired by an ancient ash tree that was downed by a windstorm at Camp Castaway in west central Minnesota a couple of years ago.
The ash plays an important role in European and Norse mythology, and this tree, like a tree in the Ragnorok myth, was hollow inside.
But this hollow tree wasn't used by mythological beings to seek shelter from a fire conflagration that destroyed the world.
Instead, it was used by a little American boy and his sister to hide toys and other things while they were growing up.
"The guy that worked on the grounds crew said he knew this tree, that he used to hide toys in the tree when he was a kid," Myers said, as he recounted the story. "He wanted to cut it open and see what was inside. When I saw the tree lying there, cut open, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I knew I wanted to paint it and maybe others, and I combined it with the Norwegian mythology of it."
That tree with its pregnant hollow is painted now and will be submitted to the new Perspectives on the Hillside show slated for the Duluth Art Institute in August.
The American version yielded fruit, too, actually, Myers said. The man found a few toys from his childhood inside.

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