Friday, December 09, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Tobey, Graves, Callahan, Anderson - Northwest American Mystics ?

There were four artists who, in the late 1930s and 1940s, were known as The Northwest School, of modern art: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson. They sought to create art that consciously responded to world events around them. All saw art as a form of spiritual quest, and were influenced by the Northwest’s mix of Native American and Asian traditions.

On Morris Graves - an archived post of mine:

Google Image pages linked showing selection of their artwork:

Mark Tobey
Morris Graves

Kenneth Callahan

Guy Anderson

Snip from:
Iridescent Light:The Emergence of Northwest Art by Delores Tarzan Ament & Mary Randlett.
For "the Big Four" art was a token of their intellectual journeys - a visual dialogue based on their understanding of the self and its relation to the cosmos. Eastern concepts of consciousness and creation intrigued them (they were all smitten with Zen, Hinduism, or even Baha'i).

As mid 20th century American mystics, the senior members of The Northwest School can be considered a visual arm of the Beat Generation: the Beats introduced Eastern disciplines and sacred texts to American literature, the Northwest artists invented a visual vocabulary to accompany this collective search for meaning in our society. They helped initiate a new and healthier understanding of nature. Morris Graves was as important in introducing the aesthetics of Zen Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta to America as Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Gerald Heard and Christopher Isherwood.

Ultimately, Tobey and Graves became mannerists, employees of their old ideas. Only Guy Anderson in his later years showed any vitality. He continued to develop his forceful, gestural paintings - big circles and undulating bands of scaled-up brush strokes. Compared to the size of Tobey's small paintings. Anderson's oeuvre is Leviathan.

Finally, there's Ken Callahan. His paintings were Christian Apocalyptic revelations. One will find armies of humans and animals crowded into the tempera. Callahan used a kind of figurative "white writing," too It's like a bottle of White-Out, filled with Existential yearnings.
The key to this technique, one they all shared, involved a dusky background - the grays and browns and greens of the Pacific Northwest. The flora and fauna appear in white atop the darker colors. This iridescence is the exact opposite of Seurat: everything starts with the dark and goes to the light. Also, everything was painted with an economy of means, a technique borrowed from the famous Chinese and Japanese scroll paintings found at the Seattle Art Museum.

Rather than post individually on the other three members I'm going to simply take a look at the four natal charts to discover whether there's any obvious astrological linkage. Charts set for 12 noon, so ascendants remain unknown, as do exact positions of natal Moons.

Mark Tobey: December 11, 1890, Centerville, WI.

Morris Graves: August 28, 1910, Fox Valley, OR.

Kenneth Callahan: October 30, 1905, Spokane, WA.

Guy Anderson: November 20, 1906, Edmonds, WA

The link I'm seeking will most likely be through Neptune. Neptune, in astrology, has mysticism as one of its keywords. Mark Tobey, eldest of this quartet, has linkage to Neptune via his natal Venus (planet of the arts). Venus and a Neptune/Pluto opposition draws Neptune into his artistry, but also interesting is a Yod (Finger of Fate) linking Mercury and Uranus by helpful sextile, with both planets in quincunx aspect (150 degrees) to Neptune/Pluto, forming the Yod with Neptune/Pluto at apex. Astrologers usually see the Yod formation as unhelpful, but I like to interpret it as the apex planet "outlet" being "fed" by the joint sextiled planets - in this case the mental capacity of Mercury in helpful aspect to the futurism of Uranus developing into the mysticism of Neptune (and in Tobey's case with some Pluto intensity included).

The other three artists all had Neptune involved in an oppostion aspect:
Graves - Neptune opposite Uranus
Callahan - Neptune opposite Mars
Anderson - Neptune conjunct Jupiter opposite Uranus. This Jupiter conjunction is interesting in view of that remark in the quote above: "He [Anderson] continued to develop his forceful, gestural paintings - big circles and undulating bands of scaled-up brush strokes. Compared to the size of Tobey's small paintings. Anderson's oeuvre is Leviathan."
Jupiter = excess, largess, big stuff!


mike said...

Three have Saturn as part of their dispositor(s), the exception being Graves. Graves' chart-type is bucket, unlike the others, too. Graves' painting style is different from the other three. I like Callahan's Google portfolio, particularly some of his figurative paintings. I see that they favored the Skagit (county) Valley, which was the gateway to Anacortes, WA, where I lived a number of years. Wiki's page says that Callahan had a mural in the Anacortes post office, so I must have seen it numerous times. Small world sometimes.

Re-reading your Graves' post, I saw comments from LB, Sonny, and The Kidd (Mugsy). LB's still commenting occasionally, but other two are missing and missed...LOL.

I started this comment hours ago. GiGi has a mild case of diarrhea, probably from the antimicrobial-antifungal ointments she's been licking off, but last treatment was yesterday. Just gave her Pepto-Bismol, so she should be OK. Cold here for us, but you'd probably declare it warm compared to your temperature. Had a cup of steaming-hot coffee with a neighbor while out with GiGi. Nice to be back home and out of the elements...LOL. I graduated from WSU in Pullman, WA, which is in the extreme SE corner of the state, subject to the extremes. Coldest day I remember back then was -25*F, with blizzard, and the trees made unusual popping noises. I was a poor student and had to drive 25 miles to WSU, but the highway was shut-down and my little VW wouldn't start. Those were the days!

Twilight said...

mike ~ I'm not a big fan of this style of art, but I do admire the precision in some of Tobey's paintings.

Thanks for the additional astrology.

Re missing commenters - Sonny's last comment, quite some time ago, said she was busy, busy, busy. I do often wonder about "Kidd/Mugsy", I hope all is well with him/her.
If Mugsy happens to read this do let us know how y'are. :-)

Hope GiGi gets back to normal "service" soon. We're at 34 degrees just now, down to 17 degrees last night. As I said to the doc yesterday morning when I saw him for a follow-up on routine blood work (all in order thank g'ness), "It's always either too hot or too cold here." Felt like saying "too bloody cold"! Don't think I'd be able to manage in the northern states, not in winter anyway - probably have to be born to that kind of climate.

By the way, we've watched, on Netflix, Steven Fry's 6 episode tour of all 50 US states. Interesting, though they are very quick visits, and not always hitting places where one would have expected him to have gone. You might enjoy. I'm not a fan of Fry, usually, but he's quite inoffensive in this role. :-)

mike (again) said...

Off - An Apple rant:

"Over the years, Apple Inc. has become the poster child for U.S. multinationals accused of sheltering overseas profits to avoid the IRS. What’s gone largely unnoticed is that it’s been paid more than half a billion dollars by the U.S. government to do just that. Taking advantage of an exemption tucked into America’s Byzantine tax code, Apple stashed much of its foreign earnings — tax-free — right here in the U.S., in part by purchasing government bonds, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. In return, the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest, a Bloomberg review of its regulatory filings shows."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ TSK! That is a whole lot of dosh !!