One of the early highlights of my quest for the spiritual in art was the exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting from 1890 to 1985, presented at the Los Angeles County Museum in 1986. It was of particular interest to me because Alex Grey, the first artist I met on my quest, was the one to tell me about the show, already in the making in 1982. It was the first time that I saw the words art and spirit in one stroke. Finally, I thought, I am not the only one dreaming of this reunion.
One of the paintings chosen by the show's curators was by visionary Swedish artist Hilma af Klint. Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, 1915 (reproduced here) has a particular resonance for me. The most famous twentieth century artist to have connected with art and spirit was Wassily Kandinsky. It was at my prompting that in 2011, the hundredth anniversary of Kandinsky's publication of his seminal Concerning the Spiritual in Art, THE Magazine, a free fine art magazine published here in Santa Fe for many years, decided to approach the topic. (Volume XVIII, Number IX). THE then asked Diane Armitage, a fine local artist and writer, to do an article she titled A Glove Without a Hand. Diane begins the article with a quote by Kandinsky:
"At those times when the soul tends to be choked by material disbelief, art becomes purposeless and talk is heard that art exists for art's sake alone. Then is the bond between art and the soul, as it were, drugged into unconsciousness... It is very important for the artist to gauge his position aright... He must search deeply into his own soul, develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not remain a glove without a hand."
And Diane chose the beautiful painting by Hilma af Klint for its cover.
This recollection reminds me of William Stafford's poem, The Way It Is, which begins with the lines, "There’s a thread you follow./It goes among things that change./But it doesn’t change./People wonder about what you are pursuing./You have to explain about the thread." As a former weaver, I love Thread. And what interests me now is what is your thread?
Until next time, have a beautiful summer.
For more on the spiritual in art, I highly recommend the documentary film Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint. Also, check out my book, "The heartist's Secret," available through my website www.earthheartist.net or www.lulu.com.