Friday, November 29, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Michael Bowen, Beat & Flower Power

Searching for a Sun in Sagittarius painter I hadn't already investigated I found mention of one Michael Bowen, the name wasn't familiar. I discovered he was one of the Beat movement/Beat generation. Whenever I hear that term I think of Jack Kerouac - not much else. Beat was a purely American phenomenon. In Britain we had "angry young men" happening around the same time: 1950s into early 1960s. Neither group has ever appealed to me, in my view they were both what could be described as "up themselves". I've posted on the topic before - see Beat Generation.

Here's what has to say about the Beats:

American social and literary movement originating in the 1950s and centred in the bohemian artist communities of San Francisco’s North Beach, Los Angeles’ Venice West, and New York City’s Greenwich Village. Its adherents, self-styled as “beat” (originally meaning “weary,” but later also connoting a musical sense, a “beatific” spirituality, and other meanings) and derisively called “beatniks,” expressed their alienation from conventional, or “square,” society by adopting an almost uniform style of seedy dress, manners, and “hip” vocabulary borrowed from jazz musicians. Generally apolitical and indifferent to social problems, they advocated personal release, purification, and illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that might be induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or the disciplines of Zen Buddhism. Apologists for the Beats, among them Paul Goodman, found the joylessness and purposelessness of modern society sufficient justification for both withdrawal and protest.

Getting back to the artist, Michael Bowen, said to be an icon of the Beat movement, I found this enlightening snippet from The minute I saw the words "Theosophical Society" my feelings of "meh" doubled.
Bowen's grandmother, Alma Porter, was a member of The Theosophical Society in Ojai, California, where young Bowen was exposed to the significance of esoteric metaphysics and modern art. In Los Angeles, teenage Bowen's many visits to the mystical gatherings at Samson De Brier's house further solidified his early Asian philosophical studies. In the late 50s and early 60s, Bowen continued his spiritual training and research. He investigated and practiced a variety of occult topics, Eastern philosophies, and mysticism, and his artwork reflected these themes. Bowen is often referred to as a mystic artist. As a lifelong student of the Bhagavad-Gita, Bowen's entire career has emulated the spiritual warrior archetype of Arjuna, fighting for the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.

Michael Bowen moved to San Francisco in the late 50s, and along with fellow artist comrades Arthur Monroe and Michael McCracken, lived and worked out of 72 Commercial Street. Painting spontaneous, impromptu, hectic canvases, along with assemblage and collage, Bowen became an integral part of the San Francisco Renaissance.

I don't know why I have this antipathy to Beats and to the Theosophical Society, but I do - it springs up unbidden. I apologise to any fans of the movement who might pass by. Bowen did progress/morph into the hippie era, though, and even had a part in initiating the whole "flower power" thing - now this I do admire! It has been reported that during a Washington Mall war protest in 1968 Bowen drove a car filled with flowers into the Mall and handed the blooms out to all.

There's a good general article about Bowen at THIS BLOG.

Let's take a look at one or two of Bowen's paintings as well as a 12 noon version of his natal chart - his time of birth isn't known. The artist died, aged 71, in 2009, by the way.

His "out of the mainstream" nature is easy to find in the chart: Moon in Aquarius (whatever his time of birth Moon would be here between about 14 and 26 degrees). Additional energy to this facet of his nature comes from Mars close to his Moon - possibly even conjoined. Uranus, ruler of Aquarius in Taurus links by harmonious trine to Mercury in Capricorn. This reflects a mindset prone to eccentricity but blended and calmed with a strain of common sense, and gravitation to things artistic (Taurus is ruled by Venus, planet of the arts).

Venus in Sagittarius (along with natal Sun) forms an out of sign Grand Trine (harmonious circuit) with Saturn and Pluto in Water. Hmm. Odd one this. I get the Venus (and Sun) in Sagittarius, he was an enthusiastic traveller. From the article linked above:
"I travel, observe and paint," Bowen said. "The subjects select themselves based on my curiosity. I can't even say that I adhere to one specific style of painting. Each work evolves according to its need to be created."

When Bowen says he travels, that is an understatement. He has lived and worked in India, Thailand, Meso America, Florence, Italy and "half the world." He's studied American Indian symbology with Ram Dass and mysticism with Sufi masters. He's deeply rooted in the spiritual life.

I don't, as easily, see an interpretation of links to Saturn and Pluto. There's an opposition from Pluto in Cancer to Jupiter in Capricorn; and a trine from Neptune in Virgo to Jupiter.
It's as though some obsessive emotionality is being earthed.....possibly via his imagination and creativity (Neptune).

This snippet from HERE relates:
However, Michael Bowen’s name was never as well known as greatly glorified Beat names such as Allen Ginsberg, Tim Leary or Jack Kerouac were. Why did he not become such an iconic character of the Beat Generation as the previously mentioned characters? I can only speculate that Bowen was not as attention seeker and egocentric like for example Allen Ginsberg, who even said about himself: “Either I am a genius, I’m egocentric, or I’m slightly schizophrenic. Probably the first two.”
I've barely mentioned his Sun in Sagittarius, apart from his love of travel. Sagittarius' other well-known trait is a draw to philosophical thinking. Michael Bowen obviously manifested this in his paintings.

The best place to see many more of Michael Bowen's paintings online is at Royal Maze HERE

Looking Within

Flower Woman

Café Life

Earth Mandala

Let the Sun Shine In


mike said...

Bowen was an unknown to me prior to your post. I like his color palette, but I'm not overly fond of his compositions...a little too flat or something...a slight feel of novice, which in its own right can be appreciated.

You provide a very good description of his astrology. The only comment I'd make is his Jupiter-Saturn in sextile and also in mutual reception. So many aspects from other planets to these two planets would link them together very strongly in his chart. And, perhaps that's what I perceive in his art...flat, murky, dark hues (Saturn) mixed with his use of vibrant, bright colors (Jupiter, Sagittarius fire).

The beat generation was a strange event for me. I grew-up in a small, conservative, Kansas town that did have several beatniks that penetrated my sphere of existence. They scared me to a degree...they were their own "club"...too cool and into themselves...they seemed to find pleasure in excluding those that didn't "get it". I remember their coffee-house, bongos, cigarettes, very low-grade-quality marijuana use, and black attire...and their rather non-expressive, blank faces.

They were the precursors of much to come, however, so I have to hand it to them for that. They were a very bold statement against the VERY conservative era, with McCarthyism dwindling, and the average person looking like any other average person. They did stand-out, glaringly, defiantly. It was a bold movement for that time period when most people were afraid to be different. Oddly, the beatniks could be readily identified by their own internal conformity, too.

Twilight said...

mike ~ some of his paintings remind me of doodles - or maybe "stream of consciousness" output - which I guess is exactly what they were.
In the galleries linked at the end of my post there are a couple I like: Mango Angel in Gallery 1 (the one with an aqua coloured background) and Black Lake in II - far right 3rd row down.

Yes, Beats do have to be considered in context. In spite of what I see as their pretentious affections, without them what happened in the 60s might never have developed in quite the same way.

Good point about the beatniks' own internal conformity. They wanted to be different from everyone else, but didn't mind being/looking/acting in similar ways to one another. Safety in numbers, I guess.

Twilight said...

mike ~ An edit to my comment - I meant to type "affectations" not affections (5th line)!