A remarkable show
by JUDY HODGSON
I was looking over back issues this week on articles we have published in the Journal relating to Morris Graves, the 90-year-old world-reknowned visionary artist who has spent the last 36 years living and creating in the backwoods of Loleta.
The first piece was a cover story in 1991 (it's not on our website -- for a copy of the article, contact us). Former staff writer Marie Gravelle and I were invited to visit the reclusive artist at home, located on his own private Walden Pond. He wanted to discuss a story on the vision of establishing a regional fine arts museum. I left there that day thinking we were the ones being gently interviewed over a cup of tea. (Evidently we passed inspection. Graves cooperated fully with the story and generously let us use his art on the cover.) It was also the year Graves donated some of his own works and the bulk of his 50-year collection of fine art to the Humboldt Arts Council, giving the arts museum vision a firm foot in reality.
In 1996 the Carnegie Library became the home of the new arts museum, and Wally Graves -- a retired professor of literature, frequent Journal contributor and brother of Morris -- wrote a hauntingly beautiful piece for our cover on Morris' birth and his significance in art history. (Wally died in 1999.) (See Dec. 1996 cover story)
And last year the renovation of the Carnegie was completed and celebrated, due in no small part to a direct financial contribution by Morris Graves, and the building was renamed the Morris Graves Museum of Art.
Graves' triptych, a set of three panels titled, "The Great Blue Heron Yogi and the Rainbow Trout Yogi in Phenomenal Space, in Mental Space and in the Space of Consciousness," that appeared on our cover in 1991, has been on display at the museum since it opened, as have other Graves work and some of the art from the council's permanent collection. But this month is the first time the new museum will host a show spanning the career of Morris Graves (see cover story). It includes pieces from the arts council's collection as well as some on loan from private collectors in Humboldt County and Seattle.
It is a remarkable show for many reasons -- first, because of the stature of the artist. In an introduction to an exhibit celebrating five decades of his work ("Sky of the Mind: Morris Graves 1937-1987"), Maurice Block wrote:
"From that dramatic moment in his long career, when his work first appeared in a major public exhibition (New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1942), the distinctive originality of Graves vision and painting imagery has captured and held the attention of many distinguished critics and scholars. ... Graves is an American master whose work has been included in every standard text on American art published in the past 40 years. ... His work has survived the test of intense scrutiny and made him a legend in his own time."
The second reason this is a show not to miss? At age 90, Graves is still producing some remarkable work. There is a piece (on this week's cover) on display from a show called "Instruments for a New Navigation" that has been touring throughout 2000. Pieces in the show were conceived by Graves in the 1950s and fabricated from bronze, glass and crystals under the artist's supervision between 1959 and 1963. The various segments of the constructions were distributed about his living and work spaces at his home in Loleta and remained in view, but untouched, until the spring of 1999 when Graves set about to complete them.
The show's opening reception is Jan. 6 during Arts Alive! Come celebrate the life and works of Morris Graves.
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