Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the New Year...

There's been a true story circulating on the 'net about a famous and highly regarded violinist (Joshua Bell) who performed unrecognized in a Washington D.C. train station. Many people passed him by but few even paused to listen - except the very young who were fixated before being tugged along in the name of "time" and "schedules."

The entire event was a study organized by a writer at the Washington Post newspaper to find out if we are influenced by settings - "packaging." After all, it was still this amazing violinist playing very intricate pieces on a Stradivarius. Yet of the almost 1,100 people who passed, only 7 (seven!) stopped to listen.

Consider this: instead of resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, earn more money, and make better food choices, we could endow ourselves with the gift of time - time to listen, taste, see, and feel beauty. That would be my wish for all of us.

Here's to a beauty-savored 2010! R.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wishes for You...

Since many folks will be going out of town next week, I thought I get my greetings in now. Here's my sentiments and wishes for you... (Please click for enlargement)

Enjoy and savor the time spent with friends and family, R-Atencio

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mark Tobey v. Jackson Pollock

In an art publication, I read that Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract expressionist painter known for his "drip style," took great pains to deny that his work was influenced by the work of Mark Tobey. Evidence suggests otherwise.

Before describing the evidence, let me introduce you to Mark Tobey (1890-1976). If the name sounds familiar, I referred to him in last week's blog as one of the four "Mystical Painters of the Northwest" and a founder of the Northwest School (of art style).

As a young man, Tobey had converted to the Ba'hai faith. The study of his faith, as well as his travels through Europe and the Orient, led to his interest in Asian arts.
He studied haiku (Japanese essential poetry), Japanese brushwork, and Chinese, Arab and Persian calligraphy. He also stayed for awhile in a Zen monastery. In time, all of these experiences would influence his art and not only lead to abstract art work, but also to what Tobey referred to as "white writing."

Tobey experimented with combining painting and calligraphy for spiritual meaning. He would overlay the painting with white (or another light color) in an interwoven brush stroke style. His method would give rise to what is known as an "all-over" painting style.(His "Broadway" painting on right.)

Now, dear reader, back to Pollock... ...evidence shows that Pollock attended every exhibition of Tobey's paintings. Often, Pollock would attend an exhibit and then return to his studio and create a very large all-over canvas mural. Below on the left is a Tobey painting and on the right is a Pollock. What do you think? Do you think Pollock really was influenced by Tobey?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Morris Graves: One of the Mystic Painters

The assignment was to report on a dead 20th century Northwest artist who was accomplished enough to have a body of work and have been known in their lifetime. That's how I came to find out about Morris Graves (1910-2001).

He was native Northwesterner (Oregon) and a born artist. His parents had no idea what to do with the little artist. They were sure his fate was to be penniless.

Lacking guidance, Morris wasn't sure of his direction either, so at age 18 he joined the Merchant Marines. A voyage through the Orient would prove to be one of the most profound influences on his art.

Morris was largely self taught. His natural gifts meant that at age 23 he won first prize at the NW Annual Show held at the Seattle Art Museum. (By age 26, Morris had his first one-person show at that museum.)

From 1935 to 1954, Seattle had an informal art community. The artists group included Morris, Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. Together, these four artists heavily influenced each other. They were referred to as the Northwest School of Masters. During this time, Life magazine placed the four on the cover of an issue with the title: "The Mystic Painters of the Northwest."

They were called mystic painters because they all sought understanding of themselves and their relation to the cosmos including Eastern concepts of consciousness and creation. Morris studied and used Taoist, Buddhist and East Indian symbolism in his paintings.

Throughout his life, Morris would produce art that was sparse and beautifully illuminated. At the end of this life, he requested a painting titled, "Triumph" be brought to him. He looked at it and saw not tulips but angels rising to the heavens and so he, too, departed.
Right up to the end of life, Morris saw and created mystic symbolism.