Friday, March 06, 2009

Arty-Farty Friday ~ Alexander Calder

Last week's look at San Base, an artist who combined his art with modern technology to produce moving pieces of artwork, led me to investigate an earlier pioneer: Alexander Calder. He invented the mobile - the first example of art in motion, but using natural air currents instead of today's technology to provide movement. He said of his work:
"Each element can move, shift or sway back & forth in a changing relation to each of the other elements in the universe. Thus, they reveal not only isolated moments, but a physical law or variation among the elements of life. Not extractions, but abstractions. Abstractions which resemble no living things except by their manner of reacting."

I was reminded of Alexander Calder by an object shown on Antiques Roadshow last week. A woman took a piece of silver jewelry for the experts' assessment. She discovered that it was made by Calder. I don't recall the valuation put on it, but it was surprisingly high for such a small piece.

Calder was a pioneer in his era. As well as mobiles he produced huge and dramatic sheet metal sculpures for public spaces,

tiny pieces of jewellery and objets d'art made from precious metals, as well as more standard forms of abstract painting.
He is said to have been influenced by some of his contemproaries - Joan Miro and Mondrian, using the inspiration he gained from their work to bring forth a kind of "spin-off" -literally.

Born into a family of artists, Calder showed early aptitude for sculpture, but chose to study engineering.

"Despite his talents, Calder did not originally set out to become an artist. He instead enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology after high school and graduated in 1919 with an engineering degree. Calder worked for several years after graduation at various jobs, including as a hydraulics engineer and automotive engineer, timekeeper in a logging camp, and fireman in a ship's boiler room. While serving in the latter occupation, on a ship from New York bound for San Francisco, Calder awoke on the deck to see both a brilliant sunrise and a scintillating full moon; each was visible on opposite horizons (the ship then lay off the Guatemalan coast). The experience made a lasting impression on Calder: he would refer to it throughout his life.
Calder committed to becoming an artist shortly thereafter, and in 1923 he moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League. "

Before I looked at Calder's natal chart I decided there would have to be a goodly dose of Air in it - to account for his being drawn to produce artwork relying on air for its display. His inventive and futuristic style seemed to say Aquarius - or a strongly aspected Uranus. There'd also be some close Saturn connection to account for his choice to study engineering - not the obvious choice for someone with the soul of an artist. Let's see!

Born on 22 July 1898 in Lawnton, PA. I can find no note of his time of birth, so the chart shown is set for mid-day. Ascendant and exact Moon degree will not be accurate.

Well - no Aquarius but a nice close trine between Uranus in Scorpio and Cancer Sun, both at 29 degrees. And three planets in Airy Gemini, with Jupiter in Libra makes Air the dominant element in his chart. Saturn, which connects to metals and engineering is out of sign but conjunct Uranus, so also trines his natal Sun. The Moon would remain in Virgo with Venus whatever his time of birth - Virgo's insistence on attention to detail and exactness would be an important component in his ability to produce the kinetic artwork he's famous for.

“To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there's no such thing as perfect.

“The underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe, or part thereof. For that is a rather large model to work from.”

Finally, one to appeal to the astrologer in us all "Spheres Within a Sphere"

Alexander Calder died in 1976. More biography here.


anthonynorth said...

The quote from him is abstract thought described perfectly. It is this kind of deep thinking going on behind the creations that used to make us human and so creative.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm happy you've inducted him into the club, T. An extraordary artist and I've always been a fan of the mathematical spilling into the artistic.

Twilight said...

AN and WWW ~~~ Yes, he was an extraordinary man. From his words, as well as some of his art, he seemed to have sensed the wonder of the universe, back then, long before we know as much about it as we do now. :-)