Summary of Morris Graves
Graves was the first modern painter of the Pacific Northwest to gain national and international recognition. Gaining early notoriety for a series of spectacular Dadaist pranks, he is best known as an introspective and intensely spiritual artist who brought the influence of East Asian aesthetics and philosophy to bear typically through images of birds, flowers, chalices, and other symbols of Eastern spirituality. A one-time friend and enemy to Mark Tobey, he was (like Tobey) a member of the so-called Northwest School, and was celebrated by many of his followers as a modern day mystic who came to view art as an act of pure communion between man and the natural world.
- In an era when Abstract Expressionism was seen as the way to express the pure unconscious, Graves "inner eye" gave rise rather to a figurative style known as "symbolic consciousness". Paying homage to Eastern values, he turned to symbols of the natural world as a means of seeking absolute truth (or redemption) through art. Given the supremacy of the New York School, his painting stood out as the most original American art of its time.
- Deeply troubled by the "noise" of the modern industrial world, Graves pursued a life of "purposeful isolation". By devoting his paintings and drawings to the sights and sounds of the natural world, his aim was to tap into the part of the collective American psyche that draws the individual back to the beauty of their unspoiled environment.
- Known for his paintings and drawings, and to a lesser extent his Dadaist performances, it is often overlooked that Graves devoted an enormous amount of creative energy to building aesthetic living environments that would provide the ideal conditions for him to realise his artistic vision. His self-built homes - "The Rock", "Careladen", "Woodtown Manor", and "The Lake" - were, according to his biographer, Deloris Tarzan Ament, his "unsung works of art" and stood out as unique artistic havens of "exemplary beauty and serenity".
- By turning in his late career to the theme of wildflowers, Graves had come full circle from a childhood preoccupation. Graves produced minimalist paintings often featuring singular flowers in jars. Painted on un-primed surfaces using dark earth tones, with small bursts of light colors, Graves introduced the Zen ideal of beauty as an absolute concept to the register of modern American art.
Biography of Morris Graves
A deeply spiritual man Graves declared "I paint to evolve a changing language of symbols"; that is, to develop a language by "which to remark upon the qualities of our own mysterious capacities which direct us toward ultimate reality".